One of the US weapons making an appearance in Yemen are widely banned cluster bombs, specifically the CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapon from Textron Systems of Wilmington, Massachusetts. The bombs are not only lethal upon initial use but often the parts of the bomb do not explode as planned and spontaneously detonate later or by accident when scavengers stumble upon them while looking for scrap metal.
Each cluster bomb costs the Saudis $360,000, and they have so purchased $641 million worth, but, as a new article in Harpers shows, Textron Systems is hardly the only US defense contractor making a killing in Yemen.
A new arms deal between the US and Saudi Arabia, worth $60 billion and negotiated by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, became the largest in history. The deal included 84 Boeing F-15 jets and an estimated 170 helicopters, in addition to the cluster bombs.
As if that was not enough of a payday, the US also has a lucrative contract to service the weapons. From Harpers:
America’s adherence to its side of the deal is most concretely manifested in a housing compound a dozen or so miles outside Riyadh. Eskan Village is home to 2,000 Americans, military and civilian, dedicated to the security of the regime. For the U.S. military, it is a gratifyingly lucrative arrangement. Some inhabitants of the compound supervise the arming and training of the Saudi National Guard — a mission that has so far generated $35 billion in U.S. military sales. Others are attached to the U.S. Military Training Mission to Saudi Arabia, which services the regular armed forces. According to its website, this group is charged with enhancing American national security “through building the capability and capacity of the Saudi Arabian Armed Forces” — a task that absolutely includes acting as an “advocate for U.S. business to supply defense goods and services to the S.A.A.F.” In other words, the Saudis host a sales team dedicated to selling them weapons. Furthermore, they fund its upkeep, paying roughly $30 million a year for the privilege.
Cha-ching! No deficits here. But David Des Roches, a former Pentagon official who oversaw Saudi-related policy and now teaches at the National Defense University, really gave Harpers the money quote.
As [Professor David] Des Roches reminded me, the U.S. government is the official vendor for weapons sales on behalf of corporations such as Boeing and Textron. “We levy a surcharge for the U.S. government’s involvement,” he explained, reminding me that the sale of the F-15s and other assorted items ran to $60 billion. “Seven percent of that is a significant amount of money,” he continued. “That basically covers U.S. government operating expenses to run things like training for the Bolivian armed forces in counternarcotics, and stuff like that. Up until very, very recently, the Saudis pretty much subsidized everything. People do not realize how much benefit we get from our interaction with them.”
Not so hard to understand DC elites’ love for the Saudis and corresponding animus towards Iran now, is it? The Saudis are recycling those billions of petro dollars into US arms companies and related friends in PR and lobbying. Talk about aspecial relationship.
And this money is all on top of an annual Defense Department appropriation of roughly $700 billion. Which makes you wonder, if Saudi Arabia is “covering U.S. government operating expenses to run things like training for the Bolivian armed forces in counternarcotics,” why does the taxpayer need to be funding it also?
Aye, there’s the rub. While we know the price tag in the arms deals, no one really knows where all the money coming from the Saudis or Congress is going.
The weapons the US sold to the Saudis, on the other hand, are well within sight. They are ripping apart Yemen. As recently as today, a Saudi airstike hit a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders, killing at least seven.
So while the US defense industry gains billions selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, thousands of innocent civilians in Yemen lose their lives.
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