TELL THE U.S. GOVERNMENT NOT TO COUNTER TERRORISM WITH ARMS SALES

 

ACTION BACKGROUND

 

 

In response to the events of September 11, anti-terrorism legislation is currently being drafted by the Bush Administration and the House and Senate.  The current White House proposal, the "Anti-terrorism Act of 2001," contains a provision which would lift all restrictions on arms exports and military aid to India and Pakistan.  Legislation based on the Administration's proposal could be debated in the House and Senate Judiciary Committees as early as next week.

 

 

ACTION

 

Urge your members of Congress to uphold existing laws controlling weapons exports and military aid.  In phone calls and letters, remind your members that in the effort to reduce the threat of terrorism, the U.S. should not adopt policies which will lead to an erosion of freedom, democracy, and respect for human life abroad.

 

Tell your members that you strongly oppose lifting restrictions on arms sales to India, Pakistan, or any other country currently barred from receiving arms.  Lifting the ban on sales of weapons to India and Pakistan could inflame long-standing tensions between these two nuclear capable nations.  In your message, stress the importance that human rights - including respect for democracy - be at the center of U.S. weapons export policy.

 

Call your member of Congress using the Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121 or send a letter using the Friends Committee on National Legislation's (FCNL) website to make letter-writing easier. Start with an FCNL sample letter, personalize the language, and then send your message as an email directly from the FCNL site or, better yet, print it out and mail it. To view a sample letter, click on the link below, then enter your zip code and click “Go” in the “Take Action Now” box.

 

To write the President, click here:

http://capwiz.com/fconl/issues/alert/?alertid=57995&type=PR&azip=

 

To write your Members of Congress, click here:

http://capwiz.com/fconl/issues/alert/?alertid=57990&type=CO&azip=

 

 

BACKGROUND

 

Last week, the Bush Administration asked Congress, in the name of fighting terrorism, for authority to waive all current laws restricting U.S. foreign military assistance and arms exports.  The proposed language, which has since been withdrawn, could have allowed weapons transfers to countries now barred as suspected supporters of terrorism, such as Syria and Iran, as well as to states with abysmal human rights records, such Indonesia or even Burma.

 

On Monday, the administration stepped back from this broad request, proposing instead to lift all limitations on weapons transfers and military aid to India and Pakistan.  Both states had been under economic sanctions because of their active nuclear weapons development programs. President Bush waived the nuclear-related sanctions this weekend, but the proposed language would lift any other restrictions that still apply.  For example, without this requested legislative change, Pakistan would still be barred from receiving weapons and aid because of the military coup that took place in 1999.

 

It is disappointing that in this time of crisis, the administration wanted to forgo not just congressional oversight of foreign military ties, but also fundamental U.S. foreign policy principles.  Even though the initial proposal was later rescinded, this broad exemption could resurface in another form.

 

The current draft provision on India and Pakistan would set just as dangerous a precedent by pushing aside well-considered statutes designed to admonish states that test nuclear weapons and militaries that overthrow democratically-elected governments.  In addition, sending arms to India and Pakistan may do little to help us reduce the risk of terrorism, but will surely increase the risk of inflaming long-standing tensions between these two nuclear powers.

 

Lifting restrictions on the transfer of weapons may be politically expedient, but it is not good policy.  History has shown that sending weapons and military aid to regimes in regions of conflict often boomerang back on U.S. and U.N. interests.  In Panama, Iraq, Somalia, and Haiti, U.S. soldiers have faced previously-sold U.S. weapons or technology in the battlefield.  This could happen again in Afghanistan.  In countless other states, U.S. weapons sold with disregard for human rights have been used to displace, repress, or kill innocent civilians.

 

We must tell members of Congress and the administration that we are strongly opposed to lifting current weapon sales restrictions, which were put in place to protect lives and to support democracy and human rights. There are better ways to build an international coalition in support of the U.S. struggle against terrorism, such as economic aid packages or debt relief.  These inducements are much more likely to reduce the poverty that is often the breeding ground of terrorists and much less likely to end up arming terrorist groups or assist state-supported repression