Action Alert:

1999 Code of Conduct

Action || Background


The U.S. Code of Conduct on arms sales and military assistance was re-introduced June 17, 1999 by sponsors Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) and 65 other original co-sponsors. Now is the time to demonstrate popular support for the Code and the principle of restraining U.S. arms exports to dictators and human rights abusers by getting other Members of Congress on board.

Past grassroots activism got the Code of Conduct passed by the House of Representatives during the last Congress. This success helped advocates across the Atlantic to pass a European Union Code of Conduct in June 1998.

Now the ball is again in the court of the United States, as the world's largest arms exporter, to further strengthen arms export controls. American failure to act now may stall global momentum for an international Code and stifle attempts to make the EU Code a strong control mechanism.

Members of the House of Representatives, where the bill has so far been introduced, need to know that their constituents care about U.S. arms export and military aid policy. Defense industry lobbyists and others with vested interests in promoting exports will try to influence Congress-- help balance their messages by expressing your concerns as a citizen about where US arms exports and military aid are going.


Action: Take a little time out right now to let your Representative know that you think they should stop or curtail U.S. arms sales and military aid to dictators, human rights abusers, and areas of armed conflict. Take a look at the list of co-sponsors of the "Code of Conduct on Arms Transfers Act of 1999." If your Representative is on one of those lists, express your appreciation and ask them to continue their support for the Code. If they are not on the list, include more background in your communications by explaining exactly what the Code is and would do-- and then encourage them to contact the office of Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney to become co-sponsors themselves.

Write to: Your Representative, House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515. Call the House switchboard at (202) 225-3121. If you can, schedule an appointment with your Representative or his/her aids during the holiday recesses. For more ideas and information, contact organizations in the Arms Transfer Working Group.



Background: The Code of Conduct on Arms Transfers Act establishes four eligibility criteria for countries to receive American arms: democratic form of government; respect for the human rights of its citizens; non-aggression against neighboring states; and participation in the U.N. Register of Conventional Arms. The President could still export arms to governments that don't meet these criteria, if he certifies that doing so is a matter of U.S. national security interest.

The Code's requirements are all primary foreign policy tenets of past and present U.S. administrations. Nevertheless, 85% of U.S. arms transfers during 1990-95 went to states which do not meet these criteria. For more about the Code, including talking points and legislative history, go to the U.S. Code of Conduct home page. For more information, check out some profiles of top U.S. arms customers.

April 8, 1999, arich@fas.org.


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