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Blowback: Weapons of Mideast oppression, 'Made in U.S.A.'

Patrick Connors, a member of Adalah-NY: The New York campaign for the Boycott of Israel, a New York City-based group advocating for Palestinian rights, takes on a Feb. 22 Los Angeles Times article. If you also have a bone to pick regarding a recent Times article, editorial or Op-Ed and would like to participate in Blowback, here are our FAQs and submission policy.  

Tear Gas

The Times' Feb. 22 article, "Britain, Italy condemned for Libya ties," provides helpful insight into the uproar caused by British and Italian military aid to Libya. However, readers would be well served by further information on how, with our government's support, U.S. companies have provided military and crowd-control equipment that has propped up authoritarian governments throughout the Middle East.

Rather than seeing the U.S. as spreading freedom, Arabs who have taken to the streets have experienced "Made in U.S.A." tear gas used by repressive governments to kill and maim unarmed protesters and crush popular movements for justice.

For unarmed Arab protesters in Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Tunisia and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Pennsylvania may seem to be the tear-gas capital of the world judging by the labels on the canisters fired at them. Combined Systems Inc. (CSI) is headquartered in Jamestown, Pa., and NonLethal Technologies Inc.'s home is in Homer City, Pa. The apparently defunct Federal Laboratories was based in Saltsburg, Pa.

The recent wave of deaths and injuries from tear gas began in the West Bank. Jawaher Abu Rahmah died on Jan. 1 after she was overcome by tear gas the day before at a protest against Israel's construction of its illegal wall and settlements on the farmland of the village of Bil'in. CSI tear-gas canisters littered the village. Jawaher's brother, Bassem Abu Rahmah, was killed in 2009 in Bil'in when he was shot directly in the chest during a peaceful protest by an Israeli soldier with an extended-range CSI tear-gas canister.

Also in 2009 in the neighboring village of Ni'ilin, American citizen Tristan Anderson was left partially disabled after he was shot in the head by an extended-range tear-gas canister from CSI. In May 2010, New York art student Emily Henochowicz lost her left eye when she was shot in the face by an Israeli soldier with an aluminum tube tear-gas canister, very likely made in the U.S.

In Tunisia, Lucas Mebrouk Dolega, a 32-year-old photographer from France, died on Jan. 17 after being hit by a tear-gas grenade fired at close range by Tunisian police. On Feb. 6, a Tunisian protester was killed when he was shot in the head with a tear-gas canister. Photos and news reports have shown that CSI is a major tear-gas provider for Tunisia.

In Egypt, Agence France Press reported on Jan. 28 that "Dozens of the canisters made by [CSI subsidiary] Combined Tactical Systems in Jamestown, Pennsylvania, were fired at crowds on one Cairo street on Friday … with the security forces sometimes firing them straight at demonstrators." Human Rights Watch staff reported seeing dead protesters in Alexandria with "massive head wounds from tear-gas canisters we were told had been fired directly at their heads at close range."

In Bahrain, according to news reports and photos posted online, peaceful protesters have been shot at with tear gas from NonLethal Technologies and Federal Laboratories. In Yemen, CSI tear gas has reportedly been used on protesters.

The U.S. gives billions in military aid annually to these countries — $3 billion to Israel, $1.3 billion to Egypt, $155 million to Yemen, $20 million to Bahrain and about $15 million to Tunisia. The U.S. State Department at a minimum approves the export and sale of tear gas by U.S. companies to these governments.

The American-made tear gas is a symbol of U.S. policy in the Middle East that has supported repression and cheap oil at the expense of human rights, and has favored Israel and Arab autocrats who tempered criticism of Israel's many abuses of Palestinian rights.

Americans should follow the example of people in Britain and France and demand that the State Department stop approving the sale of tear gas and other weapons that are being used by repressive governments in the Middle East, including Israel, to deny basic freedoms and rights.

We also need to demand that U.S. companies such as CSI and NonLethal Technologies ensure that their products are not being sold to governments that will use them to violate basic human rights. Death, injury and the denial of freedom and basic human rights in the Middle East should no longer be made in the U.S.A.

--Patrick Connors

RELATED:

Blowback archive

Photo: An Israeli soldier (not pictured) fires a tear gas canister towards Palestinian protesters during a demonstration against Israel's controversial separation barrier in the West Bank village of Maasarah, near the biblical town of Bethlehem on Feb. 18, 2011. Credit: Abed Al Hashlamoun / EPA

 

Comments () | Archives (20)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Mephis

I would like to know who supplies countries with 'cluster' bombs and phosphorous / incindiary bombs?

David

I find the argument weak, since crowd control devices are standard issue in I dare say every country in the world. Wether the end user uses them against rioting protesters in say Athens, Greece ( good ) or in Aden, Yemen ( bad ) or in the West Bank is neither here nor there.
I would rather see a quality non-lethal product made in the West being used in Europe or anywhere else, than some third rate CS gas/bang-grenade that may cause serious injury or kill. At least we know that non-lethal devices from the USA or EU are the best there are.
Since demonstrations are a reality the police/army will contain them, regardless how one sees the politics at hand.
I'd rather get CS gassed by a UK CS gas or one from the USA than one from China or Iran. Asking Patrick Connors to make a point in which he has a clear and biased stake in is not the best way to start this discussion me thinks.

Another way of putting this is, I'd rather see non-lethal crowd control tools used than have some badly trained Middle Eastern police force AK-47/machine gun people in public. Connors's is a luxury only few have. The situation on the ground is brutal. CS gas is the most realistic option.

Doug

He should also write about how the U.S. trains the secret police in Saudi Arabia, and arms their police as well. The Muslims don't hate us for our freedoms, they hate us because we're complicit in denying theirs.

Mike

Well said, Patrick. It is time for us to have a foreign policy that adheres to Ameican values and interests.

Bud

I've been tear gassed before. It's really not that bad but anytime you are hit with a 3 pound projectile it's going to do some damage.

802mrbill

@Doug:
The Muslims hate us, if they do, because we are not Muslim. It's got nothing to do with freedom, because I'm not so sure they place the same value on, or have the same definition of, "freedom" that we do.

Governments must deal with governments. If the government is a king or a dictator, that is who we must deal with. The alternative is for us to,what, go in and force an election, etc? Is it up to us to choose the winners and losers in other countries?

I think the same people who don't like us "supporting" dictators would howl and scream at the alternative.

Foreign policy is no place for people who want easy choices.

Coriolana

Fairy tales can come true. Just as a fanatic.

Andrew

More LA Times garbage

Werner Lange

To make matters worse, folks should know that CSI regularly flies the Israeli flag outside its manufacturing site in Jamestown, PA.

Ayham Dahi

Title is not accurate, there is no blowback here. The U.S. knew quite well when selling what these weapons would be used for!!! The U.S. has backed dictators and endorsed torturing behind doors while preaching democracy and human rights on tv

Joe White

If the US didn't produce the stuff and sell it, China would.

Alexandra Le Tellier

@Ayham Dahi

"Blowback" is the name of the feature, in which readers have the opportunity to take on Los Angeles Times articles, editorials or Op-Eds. More info about Blowback here: http://lat.ms/fwmTLF

Jesse

The US State Department will stop approving the sales of tear gas to oppressive Arab regimes, when the Arab people stop supporting terrorism!

Stephen

Ike and JFK warned the American people about the military industrial complex. The cost plus contracts to these corporations to manufacture weapons is not in the best interest of the US and the American people. Our defense contractors should be concerned with defending our nation, not exporting arms and conflict around the globe. To them, war is good for business. They profit off death and destruction. It's blood money and Americans should not be forced to pay them for their evil deeds.

chatmandu

Islam, the most dangerous thing on earth. More dangerous than any or all weapons.

Jan

When Martin Luther King pronounced that the United States was the greatest purveyor of violence in the world he was absolutely correct.
I suspect that were King alive today he would be even more horrified by the US provision of military weapons to countries around the world who often use these weapons in blatant disregard of the fact that they are supposed to be used only for self-defense.
When the victims of tear gas see Made in America on the canisters, when the planes dropping bombs or missiles on them are Made in America they know that America is not their friend but the friend of the oppressor.

xexon

@Jessie,

"The US State Department will stop approving the sales of tear gas to oppressive Arab regimes, when the Arab people stop supporting terrorism"

Why don't you address the REASON for them supporting terrorism? Like our support of a rogue apartheid nation called Israel? That's also the State Dept's responsibility. But then again, our State dept has been under zionist control for decades now. Hilary Clinton has been an AIPAC darling for a long time.

Go to youtube and search for JhS6B9U13aY. It's called "Do ZIONISTS/ISRAEL Control the US Government?" Watch it.

You have to go back almost a 100 years to get to the root of this conflict. And it began when the zionists landed in Palestine like they owned the place.
How the United States got stuck as a nursemaid for this child from hell is beyond me.

They've been good for the arms trade though, haven't they?As always, follow the money...

We've been playing one side against another over there for a long time. We are now in line to reap what we've sown.

x

dangermouse

Tear gas canisters are such lethal weapons.

No one talks about the Chinese terror threat.... do you know how many Chinese drivers are in Kalifornia? The death, destruction potential is huge.

If I really want to kill someone, why would I use tear gas projectiles? I think buy tear gas as a non-lethal alternative to out and out opening up with bullets which are explictly designed to kill people.

Ohhh watch out for those lead tipped tear canisters!!!!

dangermouse

Why would I buy and use tear gas if my intent was to kill people?

I do think bullets are more effective and cheaper. Duh

Mephis has good point.

Martinez

Its sad and all... but how can the US control what other governments do with what they buy from the US. How can they prevent that these guns are used to harms human rights?... the only solution would be not selling it at all. This might result in some political issues, who knows... so might as will keep selling it.


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