U.S. Sold $66 Billion in Arms to the World in 2011 — So Much for Gun Control


Think guns are a problem in the U.S.? Just look at the problem we’re starting overseas.

America is flooding the world with guns.

The United States led the pack in arms sales in 2011, according to a recent report by the Congressional Research Service, selling an astonishing $66.3 billion in armaments worldwide. Worldwide total sales doubled to $85.3 billion, making the United States accountable for nearly 78% of total arms deals.

In 2011, the United States ranked number one in arms transfer agreements with developing countries, conducting $56.3 billion or 78.7% of those pacts.

From 2008 to 2011, America made an astonishing $113 billion in arms sales. By comparison, Russia, long the target of international criticism for its reckless attitude towards arms sales, sold just $4.8 billion in arms internationally in 2011 and $31 billion between 2008 and 2011.

Who are these weapons going to? The answer isn't pretty.

Total fiscal year 2011 payments to Egypt: $1.5 billion. Egypt received shipments of tear gas from the U.S. until November 2011, long after Egyptian police forces had been implicated in massive human rights abuses both during the overthrow of the Mubarak regime and subsequently during the transitional period, a policy acknowledged by the State Department. In October 2011, Egyptian armored personnel carriers and police vehicles were videotaped running over protestors; “many” people were thought to have been crushed to death (fun fact: in 2009 and 2010 Egypt received some $15 million and $5 million in Category VII shipments respectively; that Category includes "tanks and military vehicles" as well as component parts and technical data).

Other autocratic regimes, such as Saudi Arabia, were the beneficiaries of generous arms sales as well. Saudi Arabia purchased 84 high-end F-15 fighters, contributing in part to its $33.4 billion sales totals. U.S. sales to the Saudis comprised over 99% of their weapon acquisitions, despite 26 executions ordered by the government in 2010 – all by beheading (3 people convicted of witchcraft had their sentences vacated). The country also suffers from "no right to change the government peacefully," and "torture and physical abuse," and "arbitrary arrest and incommunicado detention." In case you forgot, Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy.

The U.A.E. received $4.5 billion in arms. The 2011 Human Rights Watch report for the U.A.E. notes that in 2010, a member of the royal family was cleared of torture charges despite being caught on video, while 17 Indian migrant workers in Sharjah were arrested and convicted for murder despite evidence that their confession were extracted via sustained police torture over the course of 9 days.

Israel got $4.1 billion in arms, including $460 million in Category VII (military vehicles) and $570 million in Category VIII (military aircraft) during fiscal year 2011. The IDF's former Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, said in September that U.S. taxpayers contribute more to the Israeli defense budget than Israelis (a claim since refuted).

India acquired $6.9 billion in deals – despite a human rights record with significant problems, mainly "police and security force abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and rape; widespread corruption at all levels of government; and separatist, insurgent, and societal violence."

$1.6 billion in weapons including anti-missile batteries were shipped to Taiwan, in a move that angered the Chinese government and caused unnecessary tension during U.S.-China military cooperation talks last year.

So while we talk about how to deal with guns in the United States, we should also consider how many we pump into the world in general.