Sometimes events mirror a nation’s character so clearly it is hard to look closer. Repulsion happened last week when a journalist went through a government door to get his marriage license. His fiancé waited outside, but he never reappeared. We heard about the horrors inside because Mr. Koshoggi wrote for The Washington Post, not for a paper in his native Saudi Arabia.
More repulsive and revealing than the still open question of the Saudi Prince ordering his critic’s slaughter is our own government’s fake sympathy, held up in an ugly reflection. In the 1920s Sinclair Lewis wrote in cold satire about America’s Babbitt, an ad salesman who justified the soul’s sellout. Now Babbitt is resurrected in Mr. Trump, our Salesman-in-Chief, who says: We’d only “punish ourselves” if we interfered with the many US jobs that $110 billion in weapons manufacture for the Prince would create.
As with most things our Babbit says, there’s some question about the size of that sales number —but there’s no denying that “we the people” have long won jobs that lost other people their lives. No other country comes as close to depending on guns for its livelihood as we do. In his first proposed budget, Mr. Trump cut domestic spending, but he increased the military budget by 10 percent, points out Louis Uchitelle in a 2017 report in the NYT. Much of the capital that backs our manufacturing jobs comes from our public funds, he reminds us.
First, cities and states pour public money into tax breaks and other enticements to bring a factory in. Yet for every nine auto-fenders (or other non-lethals like shoes, clothing, or furniture), our factories put out one rifle barreI. It isn’t just the National Rifle Association’s corruption that makes weapons so profitable. About 10 percent of our manufactured products go to our Dept. of Defense, its purchases a dependable cash cow for corporations.
The military industrial complex that President Eisenhower first warned us about continues to be “good for the economy,” depending on how you define good. Since the Cold War, the US outstripped other countries with our weapons exports and sales amounts, selling to 100 different countries. It’s no coincidence that top weapons’ exporters, the US, Russia, China, France and Germany are all “permanent members” of the most powerful group in the United Nations: the UN Security Council. As such, the US and they have veto powers over other rotating national members—and also a damning conflict of interest.
In the chart above, based on the latest report from SIPRI (The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute), the five biggest exporter nations account for 74 percent of sales—but none comes close to the US. The five biggest weapons manufacturers are based in the US, says Business Insider, listing them in order: Lockheed Martin Corporation, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman.
Another report from Irina Ivanova with CBSN’s Moneywatch says our nation sold a total of $55.6 billion of weapons worldwide in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 — up 33 percent from the previous fiscal year, and a near record. Who is our biggest customer? Who else but the Saudis? In 2017, the U.S. cleared some $18 billion in new Saudi arms deals. Like our Babbitt, the Princes of the world use the press for glossy ads, but murder truth.