U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy expressed fresh criticism this week over the Trump administration's proposed $23 billion arms sale to the United Arab Emirates, asking if selling "the most highly sophisticated killing machines in the world" will make the Middle East safe or simply "just make defense companies richer."
Murphy (D-Conn.), who's been a fervent critics of the war on Yemen, introduced along with Sens. Menendez (D-N.J.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) a package of resolutions last month to block the sales. The measures could face a vote as early as this week.
The proposed weapons transfer, which followed the Abraham Accords, includes F-35 fighter jets, armed drones, missiles, and other military equipment.
The sale has been met with sustained criticism from anti-war and human rights groups who point to the likelihood the arms will simply worsen the humanitarian crises in Yemen and possibly be used to violate international law.
The Saudi-led coalition, which includes the UAE and others, has been blamed for massive civilian casualties and destruction of essential infrastructure in the ongoing war in Yemen. Philippe Nassif, advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International USA, said in a statement last month the "startling fact that the United States government continues its unflinching support of providing weapons that risk adding to the devastating toll of Yemeni civilians unlawfully killed and injured by U.S.-made weapons should shake to the core every person living in this country."
The likelihood that the resolutions of disapproval will pass is unclear. "If every Democrat supports the resolution, they would need two Republican senators in addition to Paul to pass the resolutions of disapproval through the Senate," The Hill reported last week, though because "the measures are privileged they can come up for a vote despite opposition from GOP leadership."
In an 11-part Twitter thread Monday, Murphy pointed to billionaire brothers Neal and Linden Blue, saying the General Atomics owners "are about to make $3 BILLION from the UAE arms sales" and blamed drones for contributing to blowback and civilian casualties. The senator tweeted, in part:
6/ The investment worked. Soon, Congress started ordering the drones. GA's biggest booster on the House Appropriations Committee was Duke Cunningham, who went to jail for taking bribes from defense contractors.https://t.co/jVTug90CW5— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) December 7, 2020
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8/ And the Blue brothers' drones usually kill the wrong people. One study from drone usage in 2012-2013 in Afghanistan suggests drones hit the right target only 10% of the time. https://t.co/JuHhmW9PI4— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) December 7, 2020
10/ Now, the U.S. is on the verge of minting the Blues $3 billion by selling Reapers to the UAE, despite scant evidence these drones make the world safer, and a history of the UAE using U.S. military equipment in violation of both U.S. and international law.— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) December 7, 2020
"The story of the Blue brothers is a prime example of how the interests of defense contractors, not the actual security interests of the United States, too often guide our defense spending and our arms sales policy," wrote Murphy. "A cautionary tale for the incoming Biden team."
Murphy's tweets came as other anti-war voices added to the chorus of opposition to the arms sale. Among the voices was Paul Kawika Martin, senior director of policy and political affairs advocacy group Peace Action:
URGENT led by @SenatorMenendez, @ChrisMurphyCT, @SenRandPaul the Senate could vote tomorrow to block Trump’s attempt to sell $23bn of arms to the #UAE—a country known for war crimes, human rights abuses and causing famine in #Yemen. Please call your Senators (202) 224-3121! pic.twitter.com/BQDJOaW1jk— Paul Kawika Martin (he/him/his) #GlobalCeaseFire (@PaulKawika) December 7, 2020
Progressive advocacy group FCNL this week also reupped its call for a halt to the potential sale.
"Time to end U.S. complicity in the world's worst humanitarian crisis," the group tweeted Sunday.