Newsweek’s Mac Margolis Misleads on Who the World’s Arms Merchant Is

Mac Margolis, Newsweek‘s right-wing Latin America correspondent (Extra!, 1/10), has a small piece in the latest issue (3/1/10) that misleads in a big way. Under the headline “A Killer Deal for Russia,” Margolis declares:

Russia’s campaign to balance U.S. power and prestige around the globe has found a new and willing partner–Latin America–and Washington may be the unwitting facilitator…. Moscow is cutting deals across the region, selling the latest hardware, from rifles to fighter jets, in exchange for influence and access to the area’s plentiful oil and gas reserves.

And the United States has only itself and its pesky ethics to blame:

Ironically, one reason for the budding East/West axis may be Washington’s own rigid security agenda. The U.S. has imposed restrictions on arms sales to many nations suspected of being soft on terrorism or roiled by internal conflict. So, many on that watch list have turned to Moscow, which asks no questions. Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, for example, has snapped up some $4 billion in Russian weapons in recent years.

Reality check: The United States is by far the world’s largest arms dealer, making $37.8 billion in arms deals in 2008–68 percent of the world’s arms traffic for that year, according to the Congressional Research Service (New York Times, 9/6/09). Russia was a distant third with $3.5 billion.

And the United States did not actually limit its weapon sales to peaceful nations. Among countries “roiled by internal conflicts” that have bought U.S. arms in recent years are Colombia, Morocco, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Yemen, Armenia, Azerbaijan…. The list goes on. Apparently unlike Moscow, Washington does ask questions–like, “Is your credit good?”

Update: See Extra!‘s January 2010 cover story, “Newsweek’s Name-Calling Neoliberal: Meet Mac Margolis, Their Man in Latin America,” by Peter Hart–just released online.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.