The Arsenal of Genocide

Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J.S. Davies report on the U.S. weapons that are destroying Gaza.

Israeli airstrike devastation in El-Remal area of Gaza City, Oct. 9, 2023. (Naaman Omar, Palestinian News & for APAimages, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

By Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies

On May 8, as Israel escalated its brutal assault on Rafah, U.S. President Joe Biden announced that he had “paused” a delivery of 1,700 500-pound and 1,800 2,000-pound bombs, and threatened to withhold more shipments if Israel went ahead with its full-scale invasion of Rafah. 

The move elicited an outcry from Israeli officials (National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir tweeted “Hamas loves Biden”), as well as Republicans, staunch anti-Palestinian Democrats and pro-Israel donors

Republicans immediately prepared a bill entitled the Israel Security Assistance Support Act to prohibit the administration from withholding military aid to Israel.

Many people have been asking the U.S. to halt weapons to Israel for seven months, and of course Biden’s move comes too late for 35,000 Palestinians who have been killed in Gaza, mainly by American weapons.

Lest one think the administration is truly changing its position, two days after announcing the pause, the State Department released a convoluted report saying that, although it is reasonable to “assess” that U.S. weapons have been used by Israeli forces in Gaza in ways that are “inconsistent” with international humanitarian law, and although Israel has indeed delayed or had a negative effect on the delivery of aid to Gaza (which is illegal under U.S. law), Israel’s assurances regarding humanitarian aid and compliance with international humanitarian law are “credible and reliable.” 

By this absurd conclusion, the Biden administration has given itself a green light to keep sending weapons and Israel a flashing one to keep committing war crimes with them.

In any event, as Colonel Joe Bicino, a retired U.S. artillery officer, told the BBC, Israel can “level” Rafah with the weapons it already has. The paused shipment is “somewhat inconsequential,” Bicino said, “a little bit of a political play for people in the United States who are… concerned about this.” 

A U.S. official confirmed to The Washington Post that Israel has enough weapons already supplied by the U.S. and other allies to go ahead with the Rafah operation if it chooses to ignore U.S. qualms.

The paused shipment really has to be seen in the context of the arsenal with which the U.S. has equipped its Middle Eastern proxy over many decades.

Deluge of US Bombs 

US Air Force F-15E fighter jet aircraft releases a GBU-28 “Bunker Buster” 5,000-pound laser-guided bomb over the Utah Test and Training Range in 2008. (Michael Ammons, USAF, DoD, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

During the Second World War, the United States proudly called itself the “Arsenal of Democracy,” as its munitions factories and shipyards produced an endless supply of weapons to fight the genocidal government of Germany. Today, the United States is instead, shamefully, the Arsenal of Genocide, providing 70 percent of the imported weapons Israel is using to obliterate Gaza and massacre its people.

As Israel assaults Rafah, home to 1.4 million displaced people, including at least 600,000 children, most of the warplanes dropping bombs on them are F-16s, originally designed and manufactured by General Dynamics, but now produced by Lockheed Martin in Greenville, South Carolina. Israel’s 224 F-16s have long been its weapon of choice for bombing militants and civilians in Gaza, Lebanon and Syria.

Israel also has 86 Boeing F-15s, which can drop heavier bombs, and 39 of the latest, most wastefully expensive fighter-bombers ever, Lockheed Martin’s nuclear-capable F-35s, with another 36 on order. The F-35 is built in Fort Worth, Texas, but components are manufactured all over the U.S. and in allied countries, including Israel. 

The F-35I Adir, left, accompanied by a 253 Squadron F-16I Sufa, on its debut flight in Israel, December 2016. (Major Ofer, Israeli Air Force, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 4.0)

Israel was the first country to attack other countries with F-35s, in violation of U.S. arms export control laws, reportedly using them to bomb Syria, Egypt and Sudan.

As these fleets of U.S.-made warplanes began bombing Gaza in October 2023, their fifth major assault since 2008, the U.S. began rushing in new weapons. By Dec. 1, 2023, it had delivered 15,000 bombs and 57,000 artillery shells.

The U.S. supplies Israel with all sizes and types of bombs, including 285-pound GBU-39 small diameter glide bombs, 500-pound Mk 82s, 2,000-pound Mk 84s and BLU-109 “bunker busters,” and even massive 5,000-pound GBU-28 bunker-busters, which Israel reportedly used in Gaza in 2009.

General Dynamics is the largest U.S. bomb manufacturer, making all these models of bombs. Most of them can be used as “precision” guided bombs by attaching Raytheon and Lockheed Martin’s Paveway laser guidance system or Boeing’s JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) GPS-based targeting system.

Street view of the General Dynamics headquarters in Reston, Virginia. (Nwalser7, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Little more than half of the bombs Israel has dropped on Gaza have been “precision” ones, because, as targeting officers explained to +972 magazine, their Lavender AI system generates thousands of targets who are just suspected rank-and-file militants, not senior commanders. Israel does not consider it worth “wasting” expensive precision munitions to kill these people, so it uses only “dumb” bombs to kill them in their homes—obliterating their families and neighbors in the process.

In order to threaten and bomb its more distant neighbors, such as Iran, Israel depends on its seven Lockheed Martin KC-130H and seven Boeing 707 in-air refueling tankers, with four new, state-of-the-art Boeing KC46A tankers to be delivered in late 2025 for over $220 million each.

Ground Force Weapons

Another weapon of choice for killing Palestinians are Israel’s 48 Boeing Apache AH64 attack helicopters, armed with Lockheed Martin’s infamous Hellfire missiles, General Dynamics’ Hydra 70 rockets and Northrop Grumman’s 30 mm machine guns. 

Israel also used its Apaches to kill and incinerate a still unknown number of Israelis on Oct. 7, 2023 — a tragic day that Israel and the U.S. continue to exploit as a false pretext for their own violations of international humanitarian law and of the Genocide Convention.

Israel’s main artillery weapons are its 600 Paladin M109A5 155 mm self-propelled howitzers, which are manufactured by BAE Systems in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. To the layman, a self-propelled howitzer looks like a tank, but it has a bigger, 155 mm gun to fire at longer range.

Howitzer with IDF designation Doher on display at Independence Day exhibition at Yad la-Shiryon Museum, Latrun, Israel, May 2006. (Bukvoed, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.5)

Israel assembles its 155 mm artillery shells from U.S.-made components. One of the first two U.S. arms shipments that the administration notified Congress about after Oct. 7 was to resupply Israel with artillery shell components valued at $147.5 million.

Israel also has 48 M270 multiple rocket launchers. They are a tracked version of the HIMARS rocket launchers the U.S. has sent to Ukraine, and they fire the same rockets, made by Lockheed Martin.

U.S. Marines used the same rockets in coordination with U.S. airstrikes to devastate Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, in 2017. M270 launchers are no longer in production, but BEA Systems still has the facilities to produce them.

Israel makes its own Merkava tanks, which fire U.S.-made tank shells, and the State Department announced on Dec. 9, 2023, that it had notified Congress of an “emergency” shipment of 14,000 120 mm tank shells worth $106 million to Israel.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in Tel Aviv, Nov. 30, 2023. (State Department/Chuck Kennedy)

U.S. shipments of artillery and tank shells, and dozens of smaller shipments that it did not report to Congress (because each shipment was carefully calibrated to fall below the statutory reporting limit of $100 million), were paid for out of the $3.8 billion in military aid that the United States gives Israel each year. 

In April, Congress passed a new war-funding bill that includes about $14 billion for additional weapons. Israel could afford to pay for these weapons itself, but then it could shop around for them, which might erode the U.S. monopoly on supplying so much of its war machine.

That lucrative monopoly for U.S. merchants of death is clearly more important to Members of Congress than fully funding Head Start or other domestic anti-poverty programs, which they routinely underfund to pay for weapons and wars.         

Israel has 500 FMC-built M113 armored personnel carriers and over 2,000 Humvees, manufactured by AM General in Mishawaka, Indiana. Its ground forces are armed with several different types of U.S. grenade launchers, Browning machine-guns, AR-15 assault rifles, and SR-25 and M24 SWS sniper rifles, all made in the USA, as is the ammunition for them.

For many years, Israel’s three Sa’ar 5 corvettes were its largest warships, about the size of frigates. They were built in the 1990s by Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi, but Israel has recently taken delivery of four larger, more heavily-armed, German-built Sa’ar 6 corvettes, with 76 mm main guns and new surface-to-surface missiles.

Gaza Encampments Take on Merchants of Death

Pro-Palestine encampment at Stanford University on April 28. (Suiren2022, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 4.0)

The United States has a long and horrific record of providing weapons to repressive regimes that use them to kill their own people or attack their neighbors. Martin Luther King called the U.S. government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world,” and that has not changed since he said it in 1967, a year to the day before his assassination.

Many of the huge U.S. factories that produce all these weapons are the largest employers in their regions or even their states. As President Dwight Eisenhower warned the public in his farewell address in 1960, “This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry” has led to “the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

So, in addition to demanding a ceasefire, an end to U.S. military aid and weapons sales to Israel, and a restoration of humanitarian aid to Gaza, the students occupying college campuses across our country are right to call on their institutions to divest from these merchants of death, as well as from Israeli companies. 

The corporate media has adopted the line that divestment would be too complicated and costly for the universities to do. But when students set up an encampment at Trinity College in Dublin, in Ireland, and called on it to divest from Israeli companies, the college quickly agreed to their demands. Problem solved, without police violence or trying to muzzle free speech. Students have also won commitments to consider divestment from U.S. institutions, including Brown, Northwestern, Evergreen State, Rutgers and the Universities of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

While decades of even deadlier U.S. war-making in the greater Middle East failed to provoke a sustained mass protest movement, the genocide in Gaza has opened the eyes of many thousands of young people to the need to rise up against the U.S. war machine. 

The gradual expulsion and emigration of Palestinians from their homeland has created a huge diaspora of young Palestinians who have played a leading role in organizing solidarity campaigns on college campuses through groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). Their close links with extended families in Palestine have given them a visceral grasp of the U.S. role in this genocide and an authentic voice that is persuasive and inspiring to other young Americans.

Now it is up to Americans of all ages to follow our young leaders and demand not just an end to the genocide in Palestine, but also a path out of our country’s military madness and the clutches of its deeply entrenched MICIMATT (military-industrial-congressional-intelligence-media- academia-think-tank) complex, which has inflicted so much death, pain and desolation on so many of our neighbors for so long, from Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan to Vietnam and Latin America.

Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies are the authors of War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict, published by OR Books in November 2022. 

Medea Benjamin is the cofounder of CODEPINK for Peace, and the author of several books, including Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Nicolas J. S. Davies is an independent journalist, a researcher for CODEPINK and the author of Blood on Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.

The views expressed are solely those of the authors and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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9 comments for “The Arsenal of Genocide

  1. Tony
    May 18, 2024 at 07:57

    At around the same time as Martin Luther King made his speech against the Vietnam War, James Earl Ray escaped from prison in Missouri.

    William F. Pepper writes:

    “The FBI, having profiled Ray and identified him as a potential scapegoat that could be easily manipulated, bribed the warden with $25,000 delivered from Director Hoover to his right-hand man, Clyde Tolson, and taken to the prison by the Bureau’s Dixie Mafia collaborator, Russell Adkins, Sr. From there, it was a question of directing Ray, now an escaped convict, in a way that he could be framed for their ultimate strike against King.”

  2. wildthange
    May 16, 2024 at 20:57

    We supply the arms in order to control their use or it that we encourage their use for out Military industrial complex to be constantly productive and profitable. Our funding of warfare is now a runaway process that threatens all of humanity because we can’t restrain our maximizing of profit motives.
    This 20th century strategic planning for full spectrum dominance is playing world roulette. Often it is the defenseless countries that bear the brunt of out new weapons testing. The Cold War itself was folly for a permanent arms race to starve out the USSR but this time we may be starving ourselves. We expect the less of our allies to assist our deficit spending or else face economic sanctions too.

    • ingamarie
      May 18, 2024 at 11:56

      YES….AND ITS LONG PAST TIME, AMERICA’S REAL WAR GAMES WERE MADE PUBLIC……the classic ploy of pointing a finger at your enemies, to distract people from what it is in fact you are doing, manufactured the consent that let America bomb Iraq into dust…and now the Israeli’s are doing the same to Gaza.

      American proxy wars, fought by local boys but with American made weapons, is the real story in Ukraine I suspect, as well as the real culprit behind Neten yahoo’s belief he can bomb Gaza into very fine desert sand.

      Shame on everyone who shills for this capitalist game. You have become death, destroyer of worlds.

  3. Megan
    May 16, 2024 at 19:43

    There are much worthier recipients of U.S. tax dollars than Head Start, which is morphing into an arm of the early childhood education machine. The latter, housed largely in public pre-K classrooms, deprives children of play time in order to prepare them for the resume-building that now starts in Kindergarten. If we’re going to indict structures of American politics and culture that harm ordinary Americans and their quality of life–as we should, and as Davies and Benjamin do here–let’s not leave out the Educational-Industrial Complex, whose profits and nasty goals are realized primarily through our public school system. (Money for education, yes! Money for industrial schooling, no!) Children deserve, not just as much advocacy as adults, but more, but you’d never know it from h0w consistently the left fails to think critically about their lives and the people and institutions that control them. This is unforgivable, for 13 years of obedience training have a lot to do with why Americans are so accepting of the misuse of our tax dollars and the current shedding of our constitution.

    • ingamarie
      May 18, 2024 at 12:01

      The American right is a patriarchal cabal if you ask me. I see it from outside your borders, but it is dreaming in technicolour to expect right wing men from giving a rat’s ass about children……………..unless they can see them as future soldiers, repugs, worker bees.

      There is a consistency to the military industrial complex……….it needs technicians, engineers, pilots. Excellent teachers of the young that are our collective future, NOT SO MUCH.

      As a retired teacher, I hear what you are saying….and don’t disagree. But even with your capital driven system, you have those young people camping on university grounds……..and asking for divestment.

      To right wing XY’ers………..your education system is already too progressive!

  4. shmutzoid
    May 16, 2024 at 13:27

    ‘Arsenal of Democracy” —– this propaganda slogan from WWll has been revived by Shawn Fain, pres. of UAW.– Anticipating the conversion of industrial plants, including automotive plants, to military production, Fain has offered up the workers to Biden’s war to “win the 21st century” in it’s imperial quest for ‘Full Spectrum Dominance’. —— Trade union bureaucracies are all on board with the war agenda. Fain is probably auditioning for Secretary of Labor in the next (possible) Biden admin.

    Union bureaucracies are more extensions of management, who hope to trap/contain the class struggle and keep the workers within the D-Party fold.

    • WillD
      May 16, 2024 at 22:46

      Remove the letters ‘nal’ from ‘arsenal’ and it makes more sense. Sorry to be so crude, but……..

    • Share
      May 17, 2024 at 08:07

      Fain also is trying to keep a lid on the voted in strike protesting the treatment of the encampments in CA, saying IF they strike, it will be the ineffectual “stand-up” type (like rolling blackouts from a power company to keep the process as painless for The Customers as possible).

  5. vinnieoh
    May 16, 2024 at 12:57

    Excellent referencing of MLK and Eisenhower. During WWII the US created (or matured?) its military industrial economy, and it was so lucrative that it could not (bribery, extortion, kickbacks) and would not (fear mongering, the arms race, and the “Red Scare”) be abandoned or even reduced.

    Some years ago I learned quite accidentally that during the Korean conflict the US dropped more bombs there than all that the Allies dropped in the European theater during WWII; the US then exceeded that total with the ordinance it dropped on Viet Nam; that total was then exceeded by the amount dropped on Iraq during the first (US) Gulf war.

    During the recent Syrian conflict begun during Obama’s presidency the US still publicly reported expenditures by its military. During that time there was a large expenditure of both aerial ordinance and artillery ordinance. No other overt conflicts were ongoing at the time, and looking at the destruction of the Syrian cities I sincerely doubted that Assad or even the Jihadists were responsible for that destruction.

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