Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
President Donald Trump on Monday accused military leaders of perpetuating wars to boost profits for arms manufacturers, but his administration has made expanding arms sales a top priority throughout his tenure — exacerbating devastating conflicts in the process.
“I'm not saying the military's in love with me — the soldiers are, the top people in the Pentagon probably aren't because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy,” Trump told reporters at a White House press conference.
Trump's comments — as he faces criticism over a widely-corroborated report that he referred to America's war dead as “suckers” and “losers” — ignored his long record of boasting about arms sales to other countries facilitated by his administration. He also seemed unaware that more U.S. troops said they're likely to vote for Biden than him in recent polling.
After the brutal killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by agents of the Saudi government, Trump touted arms sales to the kingdom in defense of maintaining relations with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“If you look at Saudi Arabia, they're an ally and they're a purchaser of military equipment among other things,” Trump said in October 2018, just weeks after Khashoggi was killed and dismembered in the Turkish consulate in Istanbul. “When I went there, they committed to purchase $450 billion worth of things, and $110 billion worth of military. Those are the biggest orders in the history of this country, probably the history of the world.”
The CIA reportedly concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed ordered Khashoggi's killing, which catalyzed bipartisan calls in Washington for the U.S. to reevaluate its relationship with the Saudis. But Trump has consistently rejected any efforts to cut ties with Riyadh, vetoing a bipartisan bill that called for the U.S. to end support for the Saudi-led coalition in the devastating war in Yemen. The Yemen conflict has fostered what has widely been characterized as the world's worst humanitarian crisis and led to over 100,000 deaths since 2015.
America's fingerprints are all over the war in Yemen, as U.S.-made bombs have been used in incidents that led to mass civilian casualties in the Middle Eastern country.
Even still, Trump has bypassed Congress to allow the sale of billions of dollars in arms to the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates, and last July vetoed several resolutions aimed at blocking the sale.
Amid the impeachment proceedings earlier this year, Trump and his GOP allies boasted about the sale of Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine (though did not mention that Ukraine could not actually use the missiles under the stipulations of the deal).
More recently, the Trump administration has moved to circumvent a decades-old arms control pact to sell weaponized drones to the Saudis and other Middle Eastern countries, prompting bipartisan pushback in Congress.
Arms sales have increased dramatically under Trump's watch, with Saudi Arabia as a top customer.
Exports of major arms from the U.S. grew by 23 percent between 2010–14 and 2015–19, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
“Half of US arms exports in the past five years went to the Middle East, and half of those went to Saudi Arabia,” Pieter D. Wezeman, Senior Researcher at SIPRI, said earlier this year on the latest data.
The U.S. is the top exporter of arms in the world, and there's no question that U.S. weapons sales fuel conflicts across the globe. In that sense, there was truth in what Trump said on Monday.
But Trump's effort to blame military leaders, which includes people nominated by him, is at odds with his administration's well-documented record of arms sales.
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