Nathan Hosler, director of the Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy in Washington, D.C., was one of the ecumenical leaders to sign a letter on the militarization of the Middle East. Some 15 Christian leaders signed the letter, dated March 14, that was sent to members of Congress.
The letter expressed concern about increasing US arms sales and military aid to Middle Eastern nations, citing a record-high amount of arms sales approved in 2017, doubling that of the previous year. “Of these approved sales, $52 billion were to countries in the Middle East,” the letter noted.
“These sales are lucrative for US defense corporations, and purportedly promote US security interests, but they come at a steep cost,” the letter said, in part. “As a result of our organizations’ long-term relationships and engagement throughout the Middle East, and our longstanding commitment to justice, peace, and security for all, we know all too well the price that the people--especially civilians--have paid and continue to pay for the ongoing conflicts that are fueled by these arms sales. In Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Palestine and Israel, Libya, and elsewhere, thousands of civilians have died with countless more wounded.”
Here is the full text of the letter:
March 14, 2018
Members of Congress,
As Christian denominations and faith-based organizations working in and concerned about the Middle East, we write to express our serious concern regarding increasing U.S. arms sales and military aid to the Middle East.
In Fiscal Year 2017 the amount of U.S. arms sales approved worldwide was a record-high $75.9 billion, doubling that of the previous year.1 Of these approved sales, $52 billion were to countries in the Middle East.2 A Congressional Research Service report notes that “the United States is the single largest arms supplier to the Middle East and has been for decades.”
These sales are lucrative for U.S. defense corporations, and purportedly promote U.S. security interests, but they come at a steep cost. As a result of our organizations’ long-term relationships and engagement throughout the Middle East, and our longstanding commitment to justice, peace, and security for all, we know all too well the price that the people--especially civilians--have paid and continue to pay for the ongoing conflicts that are fueled by these arms sales.
In Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Palestine and Israel, Libya and elsewhere, thousands of civilians have died with countless more wounded. More people are displaced worldwide than at any other time since World War II. Basic infrastructure such as roads, water and electrical systems have been destroyed and young people are growing up with trauma and fear. Sadly, these conditions, coupled with the high volume of weapons that will remain long after a conflict ends, will lead to instability and insecurity for generations to come. No amount of corporate profits or so-called “security interests” can possibly be worth this.
The United States provides more than $8.5 billion in military and security assistance to the Middle East and North Africa, with most of it going to Israel, Iraq, Egypt and Jordan.3 Among these countries, peace treaties already exist between Israel and Egypt, and Israel and Jordan. U.S. assistance to this small geographical region represents more than half of all U.S. military assistance worldwide. Countries such as Israel and Saudi Arabia already rank among the highest spenders worldwide per capita on their militaries,4 and Israel is not only a recipient of U.S. military aid but is also an arms exporter.
We firmly believe that stability and long-term security in the Middle East will only come about when the United States and other countries move away from a militarized approach and the profits that come from perpetual conflict. In the meantime, and at a minimum, we strongly recommend the following steps:
-- Immediately suspend U.S. arms sales to those countries not in compliance with international humanitarian law. The Foreign Assistance Act (Section 502B), Arms Export Control Act and Presidential Policy Directive (PPD-27)5 already provide some limitations on arms sales related to human rights concerns but stop short of full conditionality.
-- Fully enforce existing human rights conditions (“Leahy law”) for U.S. military assistance to all recipient governments. This will require increased funding and capacity to robustly carry out the vetting process.
-- Strengthen and expand end-use monitoring. The Foreign Assistance Act (Section 505) requires nations receiving defense articles and defense services to “permit continuous observation andreview by, and furnish necessary information to, representatives of the United States Government with regard to the use of such articles or related training or other defense service.”
-- Oppose the transfer of oversight of the export of small arms and ammunition from the United States Munitions List to the less-restrictive Commerce Control List. This change would decrease transparency and make it much more difficult to enforce human rights conditionality.6
-- Ratify and fully abide by the terms of the Arms Trade Treaty. The treaty, which entered into force in 2014, establishes international standards for regulation of trade in conventional weapons. It is vital that the United States, as the world’s largest arms exporter, join the treaty.
The continued provision of military aid and arms to the countries of the Middle East, it has been clear, does not result in greater peace, but rather greater conflict, casualties, and loss of life. The U.S. has not advanced its own security or interests through military aid or arms sales.
More than 50 years ago, Congress enacted the Arms Control and Disarmament Act, which says that, “An ultimate goal of the United States is a world which is free from the scourge of war and the dangers and burdens of armaments; in which the use of force has been subordinated to the rule of law; and in which international adjustments to a changing world are achieved peacefully.” We urge you to do all that you can to make this vision a reality.
Joyce Ajlouny, General Secretary, American Friends Service Committee
J Ron Byler, Executive Director, Mennonite Central Committee U.S.
Sister Patricia Chappell, Executive Director, Pax Christi USA
Rev. Paula Clayton Dempsey, Director of Partnership Relations, Alliance of Baptists
Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, General Secretary, General Board of Church and Society, The United Methodist Church
Marie Dennis, Co-President, Pax Christi International
Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Nathan Hosler, Director, Office of Public Witness, Church of the Brethren
Rev. Julia Brown Karimu, Co-Executive, Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ
Gerry Lee, Director, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Rev. Dr. James Moos, Co-Executive Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ
Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Rev. Teresa Hord Owens, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Don Poest, Interim General Secretary, Reformed Church in America
2 “Arms Sales in the Middle East: Trends and Analytical Perspectives for U.S. Policy,” Clayton Thomas, Congressional Research Service, October 11, 2017.