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Trump’s Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia: An Impeachable Offense?

June 2, 2019

Trump pulled an end run around Congress when he declared a national emergency letting him sell arms to Saudi Arabia. We speak to RootsAction's David Swanson about whether the move is an impeachable offense

Trump pulled an end run around Congress when he declared a national emergency letting him sell arms to Saudi Arabia. We speak to RootsAction's David Swanson about whether the move is an impeachable offense


Trump's Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia: An Impeachable Offense?

Story Transcript

SHARMINI PERIES: It’s The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore.

Donald Trump declared a national emergency in order to push eight billion dollars worth of arms sales to Saudi Arabia even though Congress had blocked the sale. But it is going through. All this has us wondering; what is the emergency? Is it the need of U.S. arms manufacturers to sell arms to Saudi Arabia and the UAE to help us and their bottom line?

David Swanson joins us to discuss. He is a journalist, activist, organizer, educator, and agitator. His books include War is a Lie, which is published in 2010. Also, the second one is When the World Outlawed War, published in 2011, and The Military Industrial Complex at 50 in 2012. He’s also the host of Talk Nation Radio. Now, David, you must have other books since 2012. Do you?

DAVID SWANSON: I have quite a few books. Go to DavidSwanson.org/books. They include a second edition of War is a Lie and many others.

SHARMINI PERIES: Okay, great. David, in the website RootsAction.org, in which you are one of the contributors, there’s a list of impeachable offenses that Trump has created. And number 21 on that list is declaring an emergency to bypass Congress to sell arms to the Gulf, this very issue we want to take up. Explain why this is, in your opinion, an impeachable offense.

DAVID SWANSON: Yeah. When everybody sort of gets over the Mueller extravaganza and decides it’s finally time for impeachment, I think the important thing is to impeach for the right reasons. That is, documentable outrageous, abuses of power that are beyond dispute; the financial corruption, the wars, the discrimination against immigrants, the abuse of immigrants, the separation of families, the instigation of bigoted violence, the abuse of the pardon power, and repeatedly, these declarations of false emergencies. These are among the 21 Articles of Impeachment that we have drafted, ready to go at RootsAction.org.

And you know that Trump declared an emergency in the absence of any emergency in order to spend money on a border wall that Congress had forbidden him to spend money on. Here we have Trump declaring an emergency in the absence of any actual emergency in order to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia that Congress had been blocking. So again, blatantly violating the will of Congress, not to mention the Geneva Conventions. This would be illegal even if Congress approved of it. And the question is whether Congress will finally, given this confluence of forces–the Mueller extravaganza coming to an end, a couple of Republicans expressing outrage along with a handful of Democrats–will this be enough to finally start an impeachment process and an impeachment process focused on legitimate impeachable offenses?

SHARMINI PERIES: Good point for us to take up, the impeachable offenses. As you say, there are many reasons, and RootsAction.org has identified many, and this is 21. Arms companies are of course looking for war zones where they can find new markets, but usually they make sure to donate also to presidential candidates, congressional people, and they of course want to make sure that members of Congress support their market and their bottom line. So when it comes to the interest of these companies, how do they actually go about maneuvering through Congress? And in this case, they weren’t successful.

DAVID SWANSON: Well, I think weapons dealers are happy to sidestep Congress and go around Congress and have presidents claim the power to sell weapons to anyone anywhere in violation of international law and without Congress. I think this is preferable to the weapons dealers as a precedent. And should Congress allow it to stand following Nancy Pelosi’s forbidding impeachments of anyone, anytime, anywhere, for any offense, I think most weapons companies will be delighted. And the big weapons companies–there have been numerous studies done of all the profits that are there waiting, should there be a war on Iran. This is a highly profitable enterprise, at least short term–possibly disastrous for the earth and the human species and various other species, but profitable short term for the weapons dealers. As you say, the emergency is the need to sell more weapons.

The actual emergency in Yemen is millions of people at risk of dying from direct violence and starvation and disease imposed by direct violence and blockade, and a lack of aid as a result of Saudi Arabia not running out of weapons, not a shortage of weapons. And there are countries in Europe that have forbidden selling weapons to Saudi Arabia. There are countries in Europe attempting to ship weapons to Saudi Arabia and the loading of the ships is being blocked by labor unions, labor unions worthy of the name, which exist in Europe to this day. But in the United States, you have a president who is sidestepping a Congress that for once has slowly–ever so slowly–stood up on its hind legs and said “no” ever so gently, and a Congress that’s passed a bill to end U.S. military participation in this war and had it vetoed, but failed to pass it in another form that would not be vetoable. And so, the question is really when Congress will see it in its interest to set aside the partisanship and defend itself as a branch of government.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right. You said something very important in that answer David, and that is the pending war with Iran which is being talked about, fueled, and everyone is very tense about this taking place. And there’s nothing more important to the Trump administration than to keep fueling that talk about Iran. And of course, the arms companies–and particularly companies that might be interested in fueling this tension with Iran–is of course interested because of the arms they would sell in this war. Again, we are also in an election year coming up, and this will of course help the Trump administration stay in office and of course the Republicans, as well as the Democrats, I must say, because many of them are also being financed by the arms industry. Help us build the blocks here, how this kind of tension with Iran is actually supported by the arms industry. In fact, not too long ago, Trump actually himself says in a Fox News interview–I think two Sundays ago–where he says, “Don’t forget there is an arms industry, and they want a good war.” So help us build the connection here.

DAVID SWANSON: Well, I guess I mentioned Iran because of course Secretary of State Powell used Iran as the supposed emergency in his statement. In his written statement, he said that there was an emergency and it was the need to confront Iranian aggression. He didn’t include a single speck of evidence of Iranian aggression, and of course the Trump administration has been taking numerous steps that would seem intended and possibly likely to provoke so-called Iranian aggression, including labeling part of the Iranian military a terrorist organization, threatening Iran, sending troops and weapons and ships and bombers to the region, and in fact selling more and more weapons to Saudi Arabia. These are all steps that create this supposed emergency, not that help alleviate it or deter so-called Iranian aggression.

But Trump backpedaling and claiming that it’s everyone around him who is trying to push him into war with Iran, this is a man who appointed all of these people, the worst war mongers he could find on Earth to surround him and who has the power to fire them. This is a man whose entire career and fame is based on him firing people, yet he seems incapable of firing John Bolton or any of these other people and asserting his supposed desire to achieve peace. Now we’re in this situation of course where whether Trump likes it or not, a small incident could lead to a larger incident and we could have an escalating war as big as the world. So we need not only for Trump to Tweet something good every once in a while, but to remove troops from the region, remove the threats, engage in aid and diplomacy and cooperation, and join the world community as a citizen under the rule of law. This is what’s needed from the United States.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right. And then I guess on a more positive note, a majority of Congress does oppose further arms transfers to Saudi Arabia because of the war in Yemen. And I know that required a lot of work, good work from a lot of good people. And realizing this, do you think Congress is able to do anything about this emergency status?

DAVID SWANSON: Well, it’s unclear what it’s willing to do or contemplating doing. When someone like Congressman Steny Hoyer puts out a statement that says, “I am against this, I will do unspecified things, whatever I can against it but doesn’t use the forbidden I word, I don’t know.” Because when you promise a president that you won’t impeach him and then you beg and plead and whine that he comply with subpoenas, that he cease violating laws, you’ve sort of tied two hands behind your back, you’re not really engaging in the checks and balances that you’re constantly Tweeting and whining about the threat to from the White House. As far as I can tell, the wisest bit in this antique document called the U.S. Constitution was the impeachment process. It was very well created, and if it’s used it can be very effective. But we have a Congress that apparently is not willing to use it and has intentionally focused the question of using it on this counterproductive distraction of Russiagate.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right, David. Let’s leave it there for now. I’ve been speaking with David Swanson, the author of The Military Industrial Complex at 50. Good to have you here.

DAVID SWANSON: Thanks, Sharmini.

SHARMINI PERIES: And thank you for joining us here on The Real News Network.