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U.S. Sells Death and Displacement Around the World

The U.S. provides arms to fuel violence abroad—then denies protection to the survivors.

By Josh Leach on April 18, 2024

UUSC’s work is grounded in partnership and global solidarity. These principles help us and our allies to see how seemingly separate instances of oppression and struggles for liberation are connected, helping us build and sustain stronger movements for change. Right now, in three countries in different corners of the world, United States government complicity and apathy are directly contributing to the death and displacement of thousands—yet our elected officials do nothing. 

U.S. politicians from both major parties decry the so-called “crisis” of people seeking refuge at our borders—but who made it and provided the weapons and supported the policies that forced them to flee in the first place? In one conflict zone after another, the answer is clear: “Made in the USA.”

A Haitian Humanitarian Crisis

In recent weeks, multiple reports confirmed that U.S.-made weapons are fueling the gang violence facing Haiti. U.S. policymakers have repeatedly used the resulting atrocities and disorder as an excuse to turn their back on a Haitian-led solution to the crisis; yet it is U.S.-made firearms—as well as decades of U.S. interference in Haiti’s politics—that have empowered the gangs who are now terrorizing the country. 

The violence and political chaos in Haiti are forcing a generation of Haitians to flee the country. In many cases, they are leaving with U.S.-made guns pointed at their backs. But despite the U.S. government’s complicity in fueling this crisis, the U.S. coast guard continues to respond by intercepting Haitian refugees at sea and forcibly returning them to the island they fled. How many of these innocent people will die as a result of the gangs’ U.S.-supplied gunfire? 

There are common-sense ways to prevent these horrors. Haitian human rights advocates have urged the Biden administration to 1) halt forced repatriations and 2) issue a new Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Haiti, so that recently-arrived Haitians in the U.S. will not have to fear removal to a country in turmoil. But U.S. officials have said they have “no plans” to take either step, leaving Haitian refugees in limbo. 

Selling Death in Gaza

Elsewhere, the United States government is providing financial assistance to the Israeli military, funds that are being used to commit atrocities. The United States is giving Israel nearly $40 billion, according to a 2018 aid agreement. After six months of war have left tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians dead and much of Gaza in ruins, the U.S. government has still not put any conditions on further arms transfers to Israel’s military—even as the evidence grows daily that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are using these weapons to harm civilians

The Biden administration in recent weeks has grown more critical in its stance toward the Netanyahu government’s conduct of the Gaza war. But official U.S. policy nonetheless remains unchanged, and U.S. weapons continue to flow to Israel, despite laws designed to prevent U.S. arms from being used to deny humanitarian aid to civilians.

It is welcome that the Biden administration has amped up verbal pressure on the Israeli government to stop its indiscriminate strikes on civilian targets. But if these words are going to make any difference in the conflict, they must be backstopped by action. The U.S. government must cease all arms transfers to Israel until the IDF meets human rights conditions, including by respecting civilian lives in Gaza and ceasing its unlawful occupation of the West Bank. 

Pouring Gasoline on a Fire in Burma

These conflicts are not the only places overseas where U.S. companies are complicit in fueling atrocities. In Burma (Myanmar), U.S. oil giants like Halliburton and Baker Hughes have provided a profit stream for the ruling military junta. U.S. aviation fuel has also helped propel the junta’s fighter jets, even as they carry out indiscriminate air strikes against the country’s civilians. 

In the past year, the U.S. has moved to restrict jet fuel sales to Burma; but such fuel is still flowing to the junta, including through the ports of allied nations. UUSC has noted that current sanctions are plainly inadequate to cut off the supply of jet fuel to the junta entirely. (UUSC members can take action to call for more effective measures against the junta’s jet fleet here.

Meanwhile, Chevron’s recent exit from Burma—while welcome and long overdue—leaves the company’s stake in the hands of a junta-controlled oil and gas conglomerate that will almost certainly siphon off more profits to fuel their atrocities. For years, Chevron blocked more effective sanctions against the Burmese military’s oil and gas interests. Now that they are out of the country, it is vital that the U.S. government take stronger action against the junta’s gas-fueled profit streams by fully sanctioning the junta’s oil and gas conglomerate. 

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In one country after another, therefore, U.S. policies systematically fuel the conditions forcing people to seek refuge at U.S. borders. It is time to end this hypocrisy. The United States must bring its arms policy into line with its own stated values; and it must provide refuge with dignity—rather than hatred and scapegoating—to the people who have survived these U.S.-made atrocities. 

These are just three separate yet resonant examples of how U.S. complicity in other nations’ crises establishes a clear moral mandate for this country to do better by those who are victimized by its actions. Weaving these threads together, we are left with a clear call to show solidarity with those who are facing an inordinate amount of oppression—whether it be Haitian civilians, the people of Gaza, or the men, women, and children of Burma who are regularly assailed by their own government. U.S. nationalism and economic interests cannot—and should never—trump the basic human right to life and liberty. 

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