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The Threat of Exporting Arms

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Sunday, September 30, 2001; Page B06

Lifting restrictions on U.S. arms exports and military aid in the name of fighting terrorism [front page, Sept. 24] is a bad idea that surely would come back to haunt Americans. Past arms exports to governments and non-state actors in Panama, Haiti, Somalia, Iraq, Iran and especially Afghanistan have all turned into U.S. security threats. A renewed flow of arms to disreputable states or rebel groups, even in support of a worthy cause, probably would not be any different.

Controls on U.S. weapons exports and military aid are designed to ensure that the U.S. government does not support countries or groups that fundamentally oppose U.S. values and interests. According to draft legislation sent to Congress last week, President Bush would dismiss not only a country's human rights record but also its history of cooperation in fighting terrorism. If Congress gives the administration free rein to arm whomever it sees fit, it will hand a big victory to terrorists, who will be pleased to see the United States toss aside its most cherished principles and put in danger its own security.

TAMAR GABELNICK

Washington

The writer is director of the Arms Sales Monitoring Project of the Federation of American Scientists.

2001 The Washington Post Company