(MintPress)-The United States came under fire by rights group Amnesty International on Thursday as a shipment of U.S. weapons and explosives headed towards Egypt’s shoreline. Amnesty International hopes to block the shipment, expected to dock early next week, out of fear that the weapons will be used by Egyptian security forces to commit human rights violations as has been done by numerous U.S. military aid recipients in the past.
From 1986 to 1995 alone, the United States – the world’s largest weapons exporter – gave $42 billion worth of armaments to parties to 45 ongoing conflicts. The current shipment of U.S. weapons will be received by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), a group of senior military officers who assumed control of Egypt after the step-down of former President Hosni Mubarak, which has procured a hefty list of human rights violations over the past year.
The organization also sent a letter to Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, asking her to prevent Egypt from receiving U.S. military aid. As part of the 2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act, signed into law by President Obama on December 23, 2011, the Secretary of State must certify to the U.S. Congress that the Government of Egypt is “implementing policies to protect freedom of expression, association, and religion, and due process of law.”
Without certification or a waiver from Clinton, the Egyptian government cannot receive the $1.3 billion in military aid promised by the United States.
“The United States should not place more weapons in the hands of the Egyptian security forces that have shown ongoing disregard for the rights of the Egyptian people,” said Suzanne Nossel, executive director, Amnesty International USA. “It would be flat-out wrong and shameful for the United States to falsely certify that the Egyptian government is protecting human rights – and would send a dangerous signal to waive that certification requirement.”
SCAF and Egyptian security forces have been accused to killing dozens of Coptic Christians, subjecting women to virginity tests and brutally attacking peaceful protesters in Tahrir. Amnesty International reported that in the past five months, the Egyptian military and security forces have killed more than 100 mainly peaceful protesters.
During those five months, from December to February, the U.S. shipped 349 tons of military and dual use equipment valued at $35 million to the Egyptian Ministry of Defense. According to Amnesty International, some U.S.-made tear gas canisters used against protesters in Suez had an August 2011 manufacture date, suggesting they were part of a recent U.S. shipment of tear gas delivered to Egypt last fall.
Other countries including Saudi Arabia and Iran have also stepped up aid to Egypt and various Arab Spring states recently in hopes of quieting protesters and influencing regime change in the region.
Brian Wood, Amnesty International’s head of arms control, said:
“There is a clear pattern that weapons from previous ships have recently been used to commit serious human rights violations by the Egyptian security forces, and yet the United States is recklessly sending a constant flow of arms to Egypt.”
History of US Weapons Used in Crimes Against Humanity
It should come as no surprise that the United States is providing a “constant flow of arms” to Egypt considering the long history of U.S. military aid and arms trade with countries apt to human rights violations from Latin America to Asia.
In 1999, anti-independence Timorese militias invaded East Timor killing 1,400 people and displacing 300,000 more with U.S.-origin M-16 rifles. The militias obtained weapons from the Indonesian military, which received over $1 billion in U.S. arms and training since invading and illegally occupying East Timor in 1975.
Public outcry after the massacres in East Timor forced the Clinton administration to officially cut off all U.S. arms and training to the Indonesian military. By the time the U.S. withdrew support, an estimated ⅓ of the East Timor population – over 200,000 people – had been killed by the Indonesian military using American weapons.
Also in 1999, the Clinton administration gave $1.5 billion in weapons to Turkey. From 1984 to 1998, the U.S. gave $10.5 billion in U.S. arms and training to Turkey in its war against Kurdish rebels. Human Rights Watch as well as the State Department reported that these weapons were used to bomb and burn Kurdish villages in southeastern Turkey.
Even Israel, the largest recipient of U.S. military aid since World War II, has been scrutinized for using U.S.-made weapons to attack Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. In 2008, “Israeli forces used white phosphorus and other weapons supplied by the USA to carry out serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes,” said Donatella Rovera, who headed Amnesty International’s fact-finding mission to southern Israel and Gaza.
“To a large extent, Israel’s military offensive in Gaza was carried out with weapons, munitions and military equipment supplied by the USA and paid for with US taxpayers’ money,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East.
Israel receives an average of $3 billion in U.S. military aid each year. Just last week, Israeli forces used U.S. military equipment in a skirmish that broke out along the Israel-Gaza border. So far 27 Palestinians have been killed and dozens more injured, including a handful of Israelis.
U.S. Military Exports Highest in World
The United States is the world’s number one exporter of conventional weapons as well as small arms and light weapons exports, which result in the majority of civilian casualties worldwide. According to the Swedish International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the United States sold 31% of the share of total arms transfers from 2004-2008 worth $51.4 billion dollars.
U.S. arms sales have actually increased since Sept. 11, 2001 – and show no signs of stopping – as a way to reward allies, forge relationships in the war on terror, and influence local politics. Since 9/11, the U.S. has lifted bans on arms sales to several several countries including Pakistan, India, Tajikistan, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
In the decade before 9/11, Yemen, Djibouti and Uzbekistan bought $16.4 million combined, and $73 million of American weapons since. Most recently, the Obama administration is attempting to sidestep Congressional approval on an arms trade to Bahrain, where mass anti-government protests erupted last week.
Despite arms trade mandates that prohibit security assistance to countries whose governments engage in consistent violations of internationally recognized human rights, the United States continues to provide military weapons to these governments, inevitably undermining its own interests by fueling instability.
Over the years, U.S. arms and military technology have made their way into the hands of U.S. adversaries in Panama, Iraq, Somalia, and Haiti. A significant portion of the $6 billion in covert U.S. arms and training that went to Afghan rebel groups in the 1980s was funneled to right-wing Islamic fundamentalist forces including the Taliban, which is now engaged in the controversial U.S. War in Afghanistan.
In 2013, the State Department anticipates spending $5.1 billion in military assistance to support ongoing partnerships worldwide, including $3.1 billion for Israel, $1.3 billion for Egypt, $300 million for Jordan, and approximately $400 million for 70 other countries. The budget proposal also designates $93.1 million for military training programs.
As Jimmy Carter said in 1976, “we cannot have it both ways. We can’t be both the world’s leading champion of peace and the world’s leading supplier of arms.” It appears the U.S. has chosen the latter.