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Twisted logic of Entwistle

Entwistle was quoted as saying the U.S. government will not sell arms to Nigeria due to “notorious human rights abuses” by the Nigerian military.He said,…

Entwistle was quoted as saying the U.S. government will not sell arms to Nigeria due to “notorious human rights abuses” by the Nigerian military.
He said, “The U.S. government is against human rights abuse by any country in the world. So it will be ungodly for the U.S. to sell arms to Nigeria, a country that its military is notoriously known for human rights abuse. We cannot sell our arms to a country that will use our technology which is meant for defence of the helpless people to harass the helpless citizens.” I was impressed by the forcefulness with which Mr Entwistle stated his country’s position. I wondered however if he gave a little thought to his country’s arms export history, the number and types of regimes around the world which the US supplied with lethal weapons in the years since I began to read newspapers and listen to the radio.
Less than two months ago when Israeli bombs and rockets were raining on Gaza, many people around the world wondered why the US Government has been supporting Israel to the hilt to commit such atrocities in response to the firing of some rockets by Hamas, most of which in any case were intercepted by Iron Dome anti-missile defence. Nearly 2,000 Palestinians were killed, thousands more were injured, 20,000 homes were destroyed, 100,000 people were rendered homeless and property damage worth $4 billion was inflicted on Gaza but the US government never spoke of curtailing its military assistance to Israel. Pray, what is it that the Nigerian army did that remotely resembles this deed?
Reading Entwistle’s firm claims, I thought of all the despotic rulers and regimes across the world to which the US had sold arms. Mr Entwistle, your country sold arms to the Shah of Iran. That “policeman of the Persian Gulf” unleashed many of those weapons in Iranian city streets in order to put down a popular uprising against his regime and you guys saw nothing wrong with that. Your country sold weapons to General Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua and he did many horrible things with those. Your country sold weapons to the Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Because he gave you unfettered access to the Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base in his country, you guys saw nothing wrong with all his human rights abuses. Your country sold weapons to Chile’s Augusto Pinochet, to Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko and to El Salvador’s government that murdered thousands of its citizens. And that’s just a sample.
You might say that all those were in the past but it is not like the US government has undergone a tectonic moral shift with respect to its policy of arms exports. I am thinking of an article I read in the June 2012 edition of the journal Foreign Affairs. It was written Zach Toombs and Jeffrey Smith, both of the Centre for Public Integrity. The article was titled, “Why Is the U.S. Selling Billions in Weapons to Autocrats?” The headline had a rider, “The export of American arms to countries around the world — even those actively repressing their own citizens — is booming.”
The article’s opening paragraph stated, “Every May and June, different branches of the State Department paint contrasting portraits of how Washington views dozens of strategically significant countries around the world, in seemingly rivalrous reports by its Human Rights and Political-Military Affairs bureaus. The former routinely criticizes other nations for a lack of fealty to democratic principles, citing abuses of the right to expression, assembly, speech, and political choice. The latter tallies the government’s latest successes in the export of American weaponry, often to the same countries criticized by the former.” In other words, the US State Department speaks from both sides of its mouth when it comes to the matter of selling weapons abroad.  
The report added, “This year [2012] was no different. The State Department’s Military Assistance Report on June 8 stated that it approved $44.28 billion in arms shipments to 173 nations in the last fiscal year, including some that struggled with human rights problems. These nations include the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Israel, Djibouti, Honduras, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain.” It added, “Three nations with records of suppressing democratic dissent in the last year — Algeria, Egypt, and Peru — are listed in the report as recently receiving U.S. firearms, armoured vehicles, and items from a category that includes chemical and riot control agents like tear gas.”
Mr Entiwstle’s country is far and away the world’s leading exporter of weapons of all types. US arms exports in 2012 were worth $75 billion or three quarters of the world’s total. Now, it is strange to listen to a morality lecture by an arms trader. Forget all the hypocritical claims about “defence;” weapons are essentially meant to snuff out human life. How can someone who gives the tools to snuff out lives claim to worry so much about human rights and freedoms? This was why, as a primary school kid in the 1970s, I was very impressed to see that Egypt had a Ministry of War, what every other country hypocritically calls Ministry of Defence.
Now, Entwistle’s country sells weapons in two ways. There are commercial deals by arms companies which are overseen by the State Department, and there are government-to-government arms exports which are overseen by the Pentagon. While the former claims to apply human rights criteria before approving sales, the hard-nosed Pentagon brass strictly considers strategic national interests. To cite one example of the kind of contradiction that this arrangement breeds, the State Department’s Political Affairs Bureau declared as “progress” that the US sold $8 billion worth of weapons to India in 2003- 2012. At the same time, State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour said about India, “The most significant human rights problems were police and security force abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and rape; widespread corruption at all levels of government; and separatist, insurgent, and societal violence. Other human rights problems included disappearances, poor prison conditions that were frequently life threatening, arbitrary arrest and detention, and lengthy pre-trial detention.” If you can give weapons to the Indians despite all those human rights issues, why not to us?
Now, I am one of those Nigerians that spoke out against abuses by the military in the course of the Boko Haram war. The worst reported atrocity took place at Baga, northern Borno State in May last year. Soldiers apparently went wild after suffering some battlefield reversals and since it was not easy to distinguish enemy from friend, they shot many people in sight. More than a year after Baga, we have not yet heard the final official word on the matter. Although many officers and soldiers are now being court-martialled for mutiny or cowardice in this war, I have not heard that anyone is being tried for the events at Baga.
Or, for that matter, the earlier ones at Maiduguri. Up until mid last year, Boko Haram insurgents were embedded in cities and were conducting urban guerrilla attacks against military patrols. The army was frustrated by those tactics. It believed that the civilian populace knew who the attackers were and were hiding them for collaborationist reasons. Not until there was a troop surge in Maiduguri, which reinforced civilians’ confidence, leading to the rise of the Civilian JTF, which fished out the insurgents from various city wards, leading to their fleeing to the countryside, did such reprisal attacks abate. Now, all Nigerians were embarrassed and disgusted by those abuses while they lasted but we never took our eyes off the ball. Which is that the ultimate solution to the abuses is to end the insurgency once and for all.
Mr Entwistle, if your country will give our army some Apaches, Chinooks, howitzers and hell-fire missiles to blast Boko Haram out of Sambisa Forest, is that not a better solution?

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