The human stories at the bottom of America’s military and arms supply chains are being told only to those who know where to look
Our leaders know how to bang the war drums and, by and large, we go along with them. The US threatens Iran with war – so will Iran close the Strait of Hormuz and attack American warships in the Gulf? Israel strikes Iranian targets in Syria after rockets fall on Golan – so does an Arab-Israeli conflict loom closer than at any time since the 1973 conflict? Jared Kushner plans to reveal Trump’s “deal of the century” for peace in the Middle East – but is it dead in the water?
Meanwhile the real stories get pushed down the page – or “to the back of the book”, as we journalists used to say.
Take Donald Trump’s desire to furnish Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates with billions of dollars of extra weapons so that they can increase the ferocity of their war in Yemen against the Houthis – whose support from Iran, such as it is, prompts much of the international abuse against the Islamic Republic. French intelligence officers in Washington have apparently discovered that this is no routine request from Riyadh but a desperate appeal to Washington, because so promiscuous has been the Saudis’ use of US munitions against Houthi rebels (and civilians, hospitals, aid centres, schools and wedding parties) that they are running out of bombs, guided and unguided missiles, drone parts and other “precision” arms to be used on one of the poorest countries in the world.
Thus when Trump found himself confronted by congress, which wanted to halt the supplies – not least because its members are still very angry about the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi – the destination of the weapons supplies was broadened to include America’s plucky little ally, King Abdullah II of Jordan. Yes, we all missed that bit, didn’t we? We added the words “and Jordan” to the headline, but didn’t ask why. And the munitions will come not from direct sales to the Gulf, with a possible congressional cap of $25m (£19.7m), but from US government military stocks and – so the French suggest – a very large part of these weapons will go to Jordan.
Which is very odd, because Jordan is not at war with anyone right now, and is certainly not part of the Saudi “coalition” forces bombing Yemen.
So how much of the $8.1 billion worth of missiles, bombs and so on will be sent to Amman? And how much of that will be unloaded from US military aircraft and reloaded onto Saudi military aircraft once the stocks arrive in Jordan? Only one small but traditionally brave little publication, the unputdownable French weekly Le Canard enchaine picked up this story. Its Washington sources have always proved correct in the past, and the whole wretched arms transfer was summed up by the paper as: “Very smart, if not moral, [just] a few trifles for new massacres.”