As George W. Bush’s dreams of finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq faded away, his reasons for toppling Saddam Hussein changed on an almost daily basis. The weapons of mass destruction he had worked so hard to delude the world into believing existed in Iraq included nuclear arms, biological weapons, and chemical weapons. The sought after but never found weapons are called weapons of mass destruction because they are capable of killing large numbers of people.
But, where is the hue and cry about the true weapons of mass destruction – those weapons such as assault weapons and other smaller firearms traded in the international market? Arms suppliers play a game of oneupmanship – you sell to my enemies and my allies’ enemies, and I will sell to your enemies and your allies’ enemies. And, if the situation changes, I will sell to those who were once my enemies because they are now your enemies and are now my allies. And on and on and on – the madness never ends.
The arms trade is a deadly, corrupt business. It supports conflict and human rights abusing regimes around the world while squandering valuable resources. It does this with the full support of governments around the world with the majority of small arms and light weapon production facilities operating legally with the consent of a host state. The point at which a weapon becomes part of the illicit trade, therefore, takes place after the weapon has left the factory.
Legal small arms and light weapon producers range from large state-owned companies, which manufacture a wide range of small arms and light weapons; to large, privately owned companies; to small, specialist producers of weapons. Since the end of the Second World War, tens of millions of people have been killed by these conventional weapons – weapons which do not incorporate toxic chemical, biological, or nuclear payloads. Conventional weapons, those that can be transported, managed, and carried by a single individual, consist mostly of small arms such as hand guns, pistols, rifles, sub-machine guns, mortars, landmines, grenades, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and light missiles.
However, sales of advanced weaponry – fighter jets and high-tech electronics, sophisticated long-range artillery and warships, and “weapons of mass destruction” – tend to receive the most press coverage. Yet, these costly, sophisticated weapons have not proved as deadly as ordinary guns and grenades that are easy to buy, easy to ship, and easy to use.
Since 1992, the United States has exported more than $142 billion dollars worth of weaponry to states around the world. U.S. weapons sales help outfit non-democratic regimes, soldiers who commit gross human rights abuses against their citizens and citizens of other countries, and forces in unstable regions on the verge of, in the middle of, or recovering from conflict. The United States supplied arms or military technology to more than 92% of the conflicts under way in 1999.
A report from the Congressional Research Service (CSR) indicates that from 2001-2004, the United States and Russia have dominated the arms market in the developing world, with the United States ranking first and Russia second each of the last four years in the value of arms transfer agreements. From 2001-2004, the United States made $29.8 billion in arms transfer agreements with developing nations, in constant 2004 dollars, 39.9% of all such agreements. Russia, the second leading supplier during this period, made $21.7 billion in arms transfer agreements, or 29.1%.
The real weapons of “mass destruction” are not chemical, nuclear, or biological. The true weapons of mass destruction are the arms suppliers of the world – whether it be the United States, Russia, or any other government that makes money from selling these instruments of death.
They are the major arms players in the international market of conflict and death. Focusing on the chemical, nuclear, and biological aspect of weaponry simply deflects attention from a profitable and lucrative business aimed at instigating conflict and keeping alive the game of oneupmanship.
What a pity that governments speak out of both sides of their mouths – praising peace and entering accords all the while shipping massive amounts of small arms which keep the world in a perpetual struggle to the death.