Every time there’s a suggestion that the United States might step back from 100 percent support for Saudi Arabia, Donald Trump has a standard response—the Saudis are buying $110 billion in US weapons, and we wouldn’t want them taking their murder bomb business somewhere else. It’s a message Trump has deployed previously in defending the Saudi blockage of Qatar, and in cheering on the “fighting corruption” that’s included beheading more than 100 people. The bigger the Saudi crime of the moment, the louder Trump talks about the arms deal.
See if you can detect these subtle differences. Here’s Donald Trump talking about the arms deal on March 20.
Trump: What it does is it really means many, many jobs. We’re talking about over 40,000 jobs in the United States.
And here’s Donald Trump on Fox News Tuesday evening.
Trump: It’s 500,000 jobs. It’s be $110 billion. It’s the biggest order in the history of our country from an outside military.
Apparently Trump believes that murdering just one journalist generates 460,000 jobs. Or he doesn’t, and he’s just pulling out one bullshit number after another.
As NPR reported on Monday, the actual value of the arms deal is not $110 billion. It’s not even a fraction of that amount. In fact, it may be exactly zero of that amount.
… during the Obama administration, the Saudis bought about $112-billion-worth of U.S. weapons. So they - that was in the - that ballpark. But those contracts are mostly completed by now.
Since Trump took office, the Saudi have signed onto $4 billion in arms sales. Arms that have already been delivered. The actual amount of outstanding arms that Donald Trump has sold to the Saudis is nothing. The number of jobs being generated by those sales is zero.
That’s not to say that the Saudis aren’t employing a huge amount of US made weapons in their proxy war in Yemen. Just ask any of the school children who have so far evaded being blown apart by US cluster bombs dropped semi-randomly on civilian targets in a plan to reduce the whole country to ruins. It’s just that the Saudis haven’t made any deal to purchase more weapons.
Trump is presenting this arrangement as if getting tough on the Saudis would hurt the United States. The truth is that the leverage is all on the US side.
If tonight President Trump told the king he was cutting off spare parts to the Saudi Air Force, the Saudi Air Force would be grounded tomorrow morning.
But Trump is spinning the same elaborate lie, over and over, every time this comes up. Here’s Trump to Fox.
Trump: They have a tremendous order, $110 billion. Every country in the world wanted a piece of that order. We got all of it. And what are we going to do? I’ve had some senators come up and some congressmen, and they’ve said ‘You know, sir. I think we should not take that order.’ Who are we hurting? It’s 500,000 jobs. It’d be $110 billion. It’s the biggest order in the history of our country from an outside military. And I said we’re going to turn that down? Why would we do that?
Trump to the AP:
Trump: I do think this. I do think that they have ordered billions, one of the largest military orders in the history of the country. I think that we hurt ourselves far more than we hurt Saudi Arabia when we cancel an order like that.
Trump to 60 Minutes:
Trump: They are ordering military equipment. Everybody in the world wanted that order. Russia wanted it, China wanted it, we wanted it. We got it.
Stahl: So would you cut that off--
Trump: I tell you what I don't wanna do. Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon, all these com-- I don't wanna hurt jobs. I don't wanna lose an order like that.
There is no order. Trump has been pretending that he made this great deal with the Saudis on his first visit to the kingdom. It’s his go to example of how he can make “big deals.” But this deal does not exist. And that is a big deal. Why aren’t news organizations calling Trump out when he passes this story? It doesn’t matter what number he puts in front of the “billions” or what he inserts next to “jobs.” The truth is no money, no jobs, no deal.
It’s not mythical defense jobs that are keeping Donald Trump from taking action against Saudi Arabia. It’s something much simpler.
Trump: Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.
Trump has been pushing the idea that he made a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia since he first hit the ground in Riyadh. It’s been duly reported—here and elsewhere—ever since. But a look behind the rhetoric shows that it’s simply not true.
There is no arms deal. The press needs to challenge Trump and, at least on this one point, stop buying the fiction that he’s been peddling.