Bush Made U.S. Largest Arms Supplier, But Obama’s No ‘Peacenik’

By Penny Starr | December 10, 2008 | 6:52 PM EST

William Hartung talks about a report he co-authored that documents the U.S. as the top arms supplier in the world. (Photo by CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – The New American Foundation (NAF) released a report on Wednesday documenting how the Bush administration’s policies on transferring arms to foreign countries has made America the world’s leading weapons supplier, but one critic said he was not necessarily pinning his hopes for change on the incoming Barack Obama administration.
“I never viewed Obama as some sort of peacenik riding into the White House,” William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation, told CNSNews.com when asked about President-elect Obama’s plans to increase U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
“I mean, he said, ‘I’m not against war, I’m just against stupid wars.’ It remains to be seen if sending more troops into Afghanistan will be smart or stupid,” Hartung added.
The NAF’s report includes data from the U.S. Department of Defense that shows military sales to foreign countries increased from $12 billion in fiscal year 2002 to $32 billion in fiscal year 2008, making it the top arms supplier in the world. Russia is second and France third, according to the report.
The report also accuses the United States of supplying arms to countries that don’t have democratic governments and commit human rights abuses, including torture and lawless police and military.
Hartung, who co-wrote the report with NAF’s Frida Berrigan, said 13 of the top 25 recipients of U.S. arms fall into those categories including Afghanistan (No. 1), Egypt (No. 4) and Pakistan (No. 5).
The report recommends that the next administration “follow the leads set by Reagan, Carter and Clinton administrations” and put a new arms transfer policy in place in the first six months it is in office.
It also says Congress should set standards for transparency and accountability for the new policy and stop the trend of funding “security assistance programs” through the Pentagon instead of the State Department.
The report also calls for the U.S. to sign on to international treaties that ban land mines and cluster bombs.
Hartung, who called President Ronald Reagan “an enthusiastic arms dealer” at the event, said it is too soon to tell what the next administration will do on a wide range of policies, including arms transfers.
“In terms of the general take on the Obama administration, I think it’s kind of an open book,” Hartung said.
“I think that what he is grappling with in terms of fighting two wars at once, in terms of the economic crunch in the world, in terms of all that kind of leftover angst and aggravation and problems that have been caused by a unilateral policy of the current administration – I think there are opportunities there for doing very pragmatic things that don’t have to rely on force, that don’t have to rely on arms sales,” he added.