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United States: The World's Leading Merchant of Death

SYNOPSIS: In the 1980s, global arms-spending rocketed to nearly $1 trillion annually-or about $2 million a minute. The two leading arms merchants were the United States and the former Soviet Union. Now the Soviet Union is gone, but its place has been taken by others with the U.S. leading the pack.

With the end of the Cold War, some Americans hoped U.S. arms production and sales would be reduced and arms plants converted to civilian factories. This has not happened; instead, the U.S. has kept its arms factories humming with exports. Some facts from the Center for Defense Information include the following:

The U.S. is the world's top weapons supplier.

1) The U S. has provided more than $128 billion in weaponry and military assistance to more than 125 of the world's 169 countries since 1982.

2) The U.S. continues to provide arms to a number of nations with chronic records of human rights violations.

3) In Latin America, El Salvador's bloody regime garners the largest share of U.S. military sales.

Meanwhile, there are reports of increasingly hostile world opinion against militarization, which the U.S. appears to be ignoring. Critics say the continued pathology of U.S. arms-spending, exacerbated by the decline in U.S. productivity in the '70s and '80s, can only further intensify the problems in America.


UPDATE: A well-documented analysis by the British Medical Journal (10/14/95) reported, "In 1986 the United States accounted for 13 percent of worldwide arms exports, but today its share of the weapons market is an astounding 70 percent. Furthermore, 66 percent of all United States arms exports are to developing nations, many with fragile autocracies that are easily destabilized." The Journal also noted that the risk of worldwide mass violence can be reduced if global arms sales are restricted. This is something the President can do unilaterally. The New York Journal (8/22/95) reported that the United States Arms Export Control Act of 1976 gives the President the power "to control the import and the export of...defense articles and defense services."



Pentagon's Post-Cold-War Black Budget is Alive and Prospering

SYNOPSIS: Today, and every day, close to $100 million flow through underground pipelines from the U.S. Treasury to the Pentagon to fuel the national-security machinery of the United States. The "Black Budget" is the secret treasury of the nation's military and intelligence agencies. It is appropriated and spent with only the scantiest public debate or media scrutiny.

Of the roughly $36 billion in the secret budget, about $5 billion goes to build and develop weapons programs, many of which remain so highly classified that only the two most senior members of the congressional armed services and appropriations committees know anything about them.

Why isn't there more publicity? After all, public pressure and congressional anger forced the lid off the now infamous B-2 bomber. But the realization that the Cold War has ended apparently has not yet penetrated the inner catacombs of the Pentagon.

The solution is not difficult. Congress could demand disclosure of data on the cost and character of secret programs but has only done so on a piece meal basis, nor has Congress ever confronted the underlying fact that the secrecy system itself defies the Constitution, which requires the government to publish a complete and accurate account of all federal spending.

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