Israeli soldiers fire missiles

Israeli soldiers fire missiles near Gaza-Israel border structure on January 3, 2024.

(Photo: Ilia Yefimovich/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Analyst Rips Biden Admin for Touting Record Arms Sales Amid Gaza Carnage

Arms industry researcher William Hartung argued the U.S. should focus on "the human consequences" of its weapons transfers instead of bragging about them.

An arms industry analyst criticized the U.S. State Department on Wednesday for bragging that American weapons sales surged to record levels in fiscal year 2023 as Israel continues to use U.S.-made bombs and other munitions against civilians in the Gaza Strip.

Earlier this week, the State Department announced that "the total value of transferred defense articles and services and security cooperation activities conducted under the Foreign Military Sales system was $80.9 billion" between October 1, 2022 and September 30, 2023, prior to the start of Israel's latest war on Gaza.

"This is the highest annual total of sales and assistance provided to our allies and partners," the department said in a statement, emphasizing the message with bold font. The "fact sheet" highlights the sale of Apache helicopters to Poland, battle tanks to Kuwait, helicopters to Qatar, and F-35 aircraft and munitions to South Korea.

The surge in arms sales last year led top U.S. defense contractors to boost their profit outlooks for 2024.

William Hartung, a senior research fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, called the State Department's celebration of record weapons transfers "tone deaf" amid mounting concerns over Israeli forces' use of American arms to commit atrocities in Gaza.

"Leaving aside the dispute about whether Israel is committing genocide or 'just' widespread war crimes, its military activities have killed over 26,000 Gazans, displaced 1.9 million people, and hindered the delivery of medical and food aid," Hartung wrote. "This could not be, and is not, in line with U.S. law or the Biden administration's stated policies."

On Monday, as Common Dreamsreported, a group of Democratic lawmakers and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) demanded that the State Department explain its rationale for bypassing Congress twice to expedite the sale of arms to Israel, including 155mm artillery shells that humanitarian groups have described as "inherently indiscriminate" when used in densely populated areas like Gaza.

A State Department spokesperson dismissed the lawmakers' concerns during a press briefing on Tuesday, insisting that the arms transfers followed established procedures for "emergency" circumstances.

The U.S. is far and away Israel's top arms supplier. An Amnesty International investigation released last month found that Israeli forces used U.S.-made munitions to carry out airstrikes on a pair of homes in the Gaza Strip, killing more than 43 people—including 19 children.

Amnesty is one of more than a dozen leading human rights organizations calling on the U.S. and other Western nations to impose an arms embargo on Israel, warning that "Israel's bombardment and siege are depriving the civilian population of the basics to survive and rendering Gaza uninhabitable."

"A good start would be to withhold further transfers to Israel as leverage to force a cease-fire in Gaza."

Hartung stressed Wednesday that Israel "has been routinely exempted from U.S. human rights strictures with respect to its use of U.S.-supplied weapons." Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate killed a Sanders-led resolution that would have required the State Department to produce a report on how the Israeli government is using American weaponry in the Gaza Strip.

"To make matters worse," Hartung wrote, "the Biden administration has made it harder for Congress and the public to know what weapons it is supplying to the Israeli military by circumventing congressional notification requirements and providing weapons from stockpiles without reporting on what is being taken and transferred."

Hartung argued that "instead of bragging about the enormous value of U.S. arms transfers and providing a sanitized view of their impacts, the Biden administration should take a hard, cold look at the risks of unrestrained arm exports on the reputation and security of the United States, as well as the human consequences of their use by U.S. allies."

"A good start," he added, "would be to withhold further transfers to Israel as leverage to force a cease-fire in Gaza."

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