“General Dynamics (GD.N), Raytheon (RTN.N), and Lockheed Martin (LMT.N) all hit record highs before easing to trade up between 0.4 percent and 1.6 percent,” Reuters reported. “Boeing (BA.N) was up 1.3 percent and the second-biggest boost to the Dow.”
In Donald Trump’s world, that counts as another win. “Tremendous day,” the President said on Saturday, when the arms deal was first made public, “hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs. So I would like to thank all of the people of Saudi Arabia.”
Of course, the “people” of the desert kingdom didn’t have anything to do with making the deal. It was done by the ruling House of Saud, which has had intimate ties to the Pentagon, U.S. intelligence agencies, and American defense companies since 1943, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared, “The defense of Saudi Arabia is vital to the defense of the United States.” During the past seventy years, the Saudi monarchy has struck many, many arms deals with the U.S., including a $60.5 billion agreement with the Obama Administration, in 2010.
So what, if anything, is different this time?
First, the agreement marks another policy U-turn from Trump. During his election campaign, he described the Saudi government as “people that push gays off buildings,” and said they “kill women and treat women horribly.” Trump also suggested that Saudi Arabia was behind the terrorist attacks on 9/11. “Take at look at Saudi Arabia, open the documents,” he demanded. Instead of following up this declaration now that he is President, Trump has agreed to supply the Saudi defense forces with more U.S.-made tanks, planes, helicopters, ships, bombs, and other weapons systems.
The second notable aspect of the agreement is its scale. The Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, wasn’t exaggerating when he described it as “huge.” As Tillerson explained, it covers five broad categories: air-force modernization; air and missile defense; border security and counterterrorism; maritime and coastal security; and communications and cybersecurity.
Third, and perhaps most perniciously, the deal means that the United States is stepping up its support for Saudi Arabia’s proxy war against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East, in which more than ten thousand civilians have already been killed, an unknown number of whom were blown to pieces by American-supplied bombs. In a piece published at the Hill, Kristine Beckerle, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, said her organization had documented eighty-one attacks by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen over the last two years, many of which were “possible war crimes. In almost two dozen of these cases . . . we were able to identify the U.S. weapons that were used.”
Tillerson, who is familiar with the Saudi government from his years as the chief executive of ExxonMobil, didn’t refer to any of this in his remarks on the deal, of course. Instead, he said that the arms sale was intended to help Riyadh counter the “malign Iranian influence and Iranian-related threats which exist on Saudi Arabia’s borders on all sides.” One of these threats, in the Saudis’ telling, is the Houthi rebel movement that seized Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, in 2015, forcing the Saudi-backed government of President Abdo Rabo Mansour Hadi to take refuge in the port city of Aden.
Yemen’s civil war is a complicated conflict, rooted partly in tribal rivalries and religious differences: the Hadi government and most of its supporters are Sunni muslims, while the Houthis are Shiites. A couple of things are clear enough, though. The support that Saudi Arabia and Iran have supplied to their respective proxies has only intensified the conflict. And conditions on the ground are getting worse. Because the Saudi coalition has destroyed key bridges, airfields, and ports, many Houthi-controlled areas are running desperately short of food and medical supplies. ”With almost 19 million reliant on aid, #Yemen is the world’s single largest humanitarian crisis,” the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a tweet a few days ago. “Now it’s in the grip of a cholera outbreak.”
Members of the Obama Administration must bear some of the responsibility for allowing the Saudis and their allies to hit civilian targets with U.S.-supplied bombs, but they did eventually impose some restrictions. Last May, after issuing repeated verbal warnings that went mostly unheeded, the Administration suspended sales to Riyadh of cluster munitions, which release dozens of small bombs over a wide area. In December, after the Saudi coalition bombed a funeral in Sanaa, killing about a hundred and forty people, the Obama Administration announced that it would no longer allow the Saudis to buy some precision-guided heavy bombs. Trump has now reversed this policy, agreeing to supply the Saudis with the very types of weapons they used in the deadly attack on the funeral. “Lifting the suspension on precision-guided munitions is a big deal,” William Hartung, the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, told Mother Jones. “It’s a huge impact if it reinforces the Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen, and also the signal that it’s okay with us. It’s saying, ‘Have at it. Do what you want.’ ”
The Saudi-sponsored spread of Wahhabism, a fundamentalist brand of Islam, surely demonstrated that what the House of Saud wants isn’t necessarily good for the United States and other Western countries. In Yemen, the problem isn’t fundamentalist Saudi preachers; it is Saudi pilots dropping American-made bombs. An obvious concern is that, as a result of this deal, terrorist groups will find more recruits eager to strike the West.
“As we speak, millions of Yemenis are being radicalized against the country they blame for the civilian deaths,” Senator Chris Murphy, the Democrat from Connecticut, pointed out in a piece at the Huffington Post. A bill that Murphy has co-sponsored with Senator Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican, would restore some limits on the sorts of weaponry that can be sold to Saudi Arabia, but it seems very unlikely to become law. “By selling the Saudis these precision-guided weapons more—not fewer—civilians will be killed because it is Saudi Arabia’s strategy to starve Yemenis to death to increase their own leverage at the negotiating table,” Murphy went on in his piece. “They couldn’t do this without the weapons we are selling them.”
Trump and his colleagues are too busy boasting about, and exaggerating, the economic benefits of the new arms agreement to pause and consider its broader implications. But, as President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned more than half a century ago, what’s good for the military-industrial complex isn’t necessarily good for America, or the world.
By pulling out of the Paris climate deal, Trump has not only betrayed the whole of humanity including future generations, he has also isolated and weakened the US.
Denying that human activities have damaged and are further damaging the environment is akin to believing the world is 4000 years old and was created in a few days by a mythical super being – utterly ludicrous insanity.
While the rest of the world pushes ahead with developing new, cleaner and less environmentally harmful technologies, Trump’s America will still be mining and burning coal, destroying it’s ecosystem by fracking anywhere they get a sniff of oil and driving around in ludicrous gas guzzling cars. Trump has consigned the future of the US to the past, destroying it’s hopes for progress by shackling it to obsolete, dirty and damaging industries.
Make no mistake, Trump isn’t smart enough to work out for himself what is what when it comes to the planet’s ecosystem and the negative impact of human activity; he has made this decision based purely on the simple fact that he is a creature of the monied elite and serves that elite, regardless of the consequences for everyone else.
When he appointed Exxon chief Rex Tillerson, the writing was on the wall – Trump was for big business, big oil, big banking, big criminality and big profits for his cronies; the losers would be the people of this world, in particular those in the US.
While Trump’s presidency is unlikely to survive 2017, a sinking ship being blown towards the sharp rocks of impeachment, the damage he can do to the international standing of the US before he is brought down is all too obvious, made only moreso by this lunatic move to withdraw from the Paris climate deal.
The sooner this orange buffoon is no longer criminal-in-chief the better for everyone, especially those in the US.
Opinion: Trump’s betrayal of humankind
It’s a blow to emission reduction efforts: Donald Trump has pulled the US out of the Paris Agreement. But climate protection will carry on – there may even be a bright side.
It’s official – Donald Trump has withdrawn the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement.
Even though I’m not surprised, I am still shocked.
With this move, the US president has turned his back on the rest of the world – and on future generations of humankind.
The stranger part of the story is that, in pulling out of the Paris Agreement, Trump has also gone against fossil fuel firms, hundreds of major businesses and investors, a large number of Republicans and half of his own cabinet.
With the move, Trump has catered to a small but vocal extreme-right constituency – one that is overrepresented among his cabinet and advisors.
In essence, he’s sealed his own fate as isolated – and cemented the decline of the US.
And although this is in fact very bad news for the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, there are possible advantages – even for the climate.
Climate protection will carry on
Since the US generates about a fifth of all global greenhouse gas emissions, the country stepping out of the treaty is indeed a blow to efforts to reduce them. According to analyses, America could add around half a degree Celsius to global warming by the end of this century, if it does nothing to reduce emissions.
Half a degree in global climatic terms is a big deal – we’re talking more severe storms, sea level rise and accelerated species extinction, among the impacts – not all of them even known.
But the US pulling out of the Paris Agreement is far from the end of it. Other nations – most notably China, European Union countries and India – are already taking the lead in showing the way to a clean energy future.
Climate protection and the transition to renewable energy will carry on, regardless of the whims of one powerful – though clueless – man.
Making America weak
In pulling the US out of the Paris Agreement, Trump is not only betraying humankind – he is betraying America.
China, India and the EU will take over on developing renewable energies, including benefiting from the jobs and business opportunities this offers.
The US will be left behind; it will be disadvantaged economically in the long run. Pulling the US out of the Paris Agreement makes America weak.
And diplomatic fallout will be extensive. Germany has already said that the US is no longer a reliable partner, due among other things to Trump’s stance on climate change.
Free to be ambitious
The Paris Agreement foresees limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius, preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Although not everyone knows it, there is broad understanding that unless greenhouse gas emission reductions are dramatically scaled up over the next five to 10 years, we are already on a path to surpass the 1.5 degree goal within a decade or so.
Luckily, the Paris Agreement has a built-in “ambition mechanism” that requires countries to review their targets every five years.
If the US had stayed in the Paris Agreement, there was concern that Trump and his fossil fuel cronies would have watered down any such aspirations.
Without the US, other countries are free to ramp up their goals free from the climate deniers dragging them down. In this context, some argue that the Paris Agreement would actually be stronger if the US did not participate.
But none of that makes Trump’s betrayal any less significant. It will stand as a folly throughout the ages.