Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Tom Engelhardt: Selling Death

Washington is complicit in the ravaging of Gaza in these last weeks, just as it has been in the devastation of Yemen.

Think about this: on Saturday, May 12th, with barely an hour’s notice, Israel took out the al-Jalaa Tower, a high-rise building in Gaza City that housed the Associated Press, al-Jazeera, and other media outlets. That act of destruction, among so many others, caused shock globally and protests not just by those media groups but by previously Israeli-supporting Democrats in Congress. As it happens, the weapon that destroyed that tower was a GBU-31, a Joint Direct Attack Munition, or JDAM (aka a “smart bomb”) that was manufactured in the United States. Not only that, but in the midst of the ongoing carnage in impoverished, increasingly devastated Gaza (as well as in Israel), the Biden administration has been pushing through a new $735-million package of just such weaponry for Israel, ensuring more of the same to the horizon.

This has even disturbed key pro-Israeli congressional figures like Representative Gregory Meeks (D-NY), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who, according to the New York Times, “told Democrats on the panel… that he would ask the Biden administration to delay a $735 million tranche of precision-guided weapons to Israel that had been approved before tensions in the Middle East boiled over.” Later, he would pull back on his threat, but Bernie Sanders has actually introduced a resolution in the Senate aimed at halting the future delivery of that weaponry (as several Democrats have already done in the House).

As the invaluable Pentagon specialist William Hartung notes, the U.S. leads all other nations on this planet by a country mile in selling the latest weaponry globally, as has been true for almost three decades. In other words, this country has been number one (U.S.A.! U.S.A.!) when it comes to such weapons sales (and so future destruction) forever and a day. In the case of Israel, those sales, however, are a secondary matter. For years, the U.S. has annually been giving — yes, giving — nearly $4 billion in military aid to Israel, a relatively wealthy country.  Since 2001, Israel has, in fact, received more than half of all the “military financing” approved by this country. Imagine what those tens of billions of dollars might have done had they been used instead for America’s fading infrastructure or other domestic investments.

In other words, Washington is complicit in the ravaging of Gaza in these last weeks, just as it has been in the devastation of Yemen in these years (thanks to similar sales of weaponry to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates). It’s a money-making, military-industrial tale from hell.


Copyright 2021 Tom Engelhardt. First published in Tom Dispatch. This article appeared as the introduction to William Hartung’s long essay America Dominant Again published in Tom Dispatch.

A thick column of smoke rises from the al-Jalaa Tower as it is destroyed in an Israeli airstrike on May 15, 2021. The tower housed the Associated Press, al-Jazeera, and other media outlets. (Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

One comment on “Tom Engelhardt: Selling Death

  1. Rose Mary Boehm
    May 26, 2021

    Indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

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