Nancy Lanza Was an NRA Pawn December 23, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Gun Control/Violence.
Tags: arms industry, arms market, gun control, marc ash, nancy lanza, Newtown, nra, roger hollander, sandy hook
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Roger’s note: Guess what , folks. It’s not about rights, it’s not about protection, it’s not about the second amendment; IT’S ABOUT MONEY. Whatever can be sold for profit will always take precedence over living human lives, men, women or children. Think of that the next time you are tempted to argue that capitalism can be “reformed.”
The National Rifle Association (NRA) is not spending millions of dollars per year to protect gun rights as much as it is protecting gun sales. Arms dealing, that’s where the money is. And that’s what justifies the length the NRA lobbyists go to, both at the federal and state level. The NRA has helped protect the questionable right of Americans to own firearms, but they have also helped to transform the United States into the most lucrative personal arms market in the world.
Arms dealing in America only differs from drug dealing in three significant ways: it’s more profitable, it’s more lethal and it’s legal. Guns, like crack cocaine, enter communities and have the same if not more destructive effect. Everyone has heard about the murders of 20 kindergarten children and six school administrators in Newtown, Connecticut. Who has heard about the year of death and pain in Chicago, or Oakland, California? Liz Goodwin reports for Yahoo, “Death by firearms are on track to surpass automobile related deaths by 2015 … Every day, 85 Americans are shot dead … 774 people were killed between 2006 and 2010 by a mass killer.”
There was no good reason that Nancy Lanza needed military-grade firearms in her home. She was taken in by NRA hype. “Guns are your right; buy guns.” … “They are making laws that are too restrictive in terms of what kind of guns, clips and ammunition you can buy, be free, buy what they don’t want you to buy.” … “They are coming to take your guns away, buy more.” She – bought – into it, lock, stock and barrel. All of this — all of it — plays to the NRA’s bottom line. Now, as in the aftermath of every mass killing, gun sales are soaring, profits spiking.
To the arms dealers, the people who get hurt are an acceptable if unfortunate consequence. They react no differently than the tobacco industry, they regret but they don’t stop. These are international arms dealers; it’s a rough crowd. It’s no different than Afghanistan or the Congo or Colombia to the flow of cash, money doesn’t care. Move the weapons.
A visceral reaction to the horrific events in Newtown is driving this dialog, but it isn’t just Newtown, it’s Everytown across America. If Americans were limited to hunting rifles and revolvers they would survive … literally. Profits would be down, but who cares about that?
|The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.|
America, arms-dealer to the world January 24, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in War.
Tags: arms exports, arms industry, arms race, boeing, drone missile, drones, lockheed martin, merchants of death., munitions, predator, roger hollander, weapons, william astore
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Tuesday, Jan 24, 2012 11:23 AM 20:32:35 EST
Munitions is the one U.S. industry that’s booming — with devastating global consequences
Assembly line workers work on a F-35 fighter aircraft at a production plant in Fort Worth, Texas (Credit: Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi)
Perhaps you’ve heard of “Makin’ Thunderbirds,” a hard-bitten rock & roll song by Bob Seger that I listened to 30 years ago while in college. It’s about auto workers back in 1955 who were “young and proud” to be making Ford Thunderbirds. But in the early 1980s, Seger sings, “the plants have changed and you’re lucky if you work.” Seger caught the reality of an American manufacturing infrastructure that was seriously eroding as skilled and good-paying union jobs were cut or sent overseas, rarely to be seen again in these parts.
If the U.S. auto industry has recently shown sparks of new life (though we’re not making T-Birds or Mercuries or Oldsmobiles or Pontiacs or Saturns anymore), there is one form of manufacturing in which America is still dominant. When it comes to weaponry, to paraphrase Seger, we’re still young and proud and makin’ Predators and Reapers (as in unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones) and Eagles and Fighting Falcons (as in F-15 and F-16 combat jets), and outfitting them with the deadliest of weapons. In this market niche, we’re still the envy of the world.
Yes, we’re the world’s foremost “merchants of death,” the title of a best-selling exposé of the international arms trade published to acclaim in the U.S. in 1934. Back then, most Americans saw themselves as war-avoiders rather than as war-profiteers. The evil war-profiteers were mainly European arms makers like Germany’s Krupp, France’s Schneider or Britain’s Vickers.
Not that America didn’t have its own arms merchants. As the authors of “Merchants of Death” noted, early on our country demonstrated a “Yankee propensity for extracting novel death-dealing knickknacks from [our] peddler’s pack.” Amazingly, the Nye Committee in the U.S. Senate devoted 93 hearings from 1934 to 1936 to exposing America’s own “greedy munitions interests.” Even in those desperate depression days, a desire for profit and jobs was balanced by a strong sense of unease at this deadly trade, an unease reinforced by the horrors of and hecatombs of dead from the First World War.
We are uneasy no more. Today we take great pride (or at least have no shame) in being by far the world’s number one arms-exporting nation. A few statistics bear this out. From 2006 to 2010, the U.S. accounted for nearly one-third of the world’s arms exports, easily surpassing a resurgent Russia in the “Lords of War” race. Despite a decline in global arms sales in 2010 due to recessionary pressures, the U.S. increased its market share, accounting for a whopping 53 percent of the trade that year. Last year saw the U.S. on pace to deliver more than $46 billion in foreign arms sales. Who says America isn’t number one anymore?
For a shopping list of our arms trades, try searching the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute database for arms exports and imports. It reveals that, in 2010, the U.S. exported “major conventional weapons” to 62 countries, from Afghanistan to Yemen, and weapons platforms ranging from F-15, F-16 and F-18 combat jets to M1 Abrams main battle tanks to Cobra attack helicopters (sent to our Pakistani comrades) to guided missiles in all flavors, colors, and sizes: AAMs, PGMs, SAMs, TOWs — a veritable alphabet soup of missile acronyms. Never mind their specific meaning: They’re all designed to blow things up; they’re all designed to kill.
Rarely debated in Congress or in U.S. media outlets is the wisdom or morality of these arms deals. During the quiet last days of December 2011, in separate announcements whose timing could not have been accidental, the Obama Administration expressed its intent to sell nearly $11 billion in arms to Iraq, including Abrams tanks and F-16 fighter-bombers, and nearly $30 billion in F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, part of a larger, $60 billion arms package for the Saudis. Few in Congress oppose such arms deals since defense contractors provide jobs in their districts — and ready donations to Congressional campaigns.
Let’s pause to consider what such a weapons deal implies for Iraq. Firstly, Iraq only “needs” advanced tanks and fighter jets because we destroyed their previous generation of the same, whether in 1991 during Desert Shield/Storm or in 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Secondly, Iraq “needs” such powerful conventional weaponry ostensibly to deter an invasion by Iran, yet the current government in Baghdad is closely aligned with Iran, courtesy of our invasion in 2003 and the botched occupation that followed. Thirdly, despite its “needs,” the Iraqi military is nowhere near ready to field and maintain such advanced weaponry, at least without sustained training and logistical support provided by the U.S. military.
As one U.S. Air Force officer who served as an advisor to the fledging Iraqi Air Force, or IqAF, recently worried:
“Will the IqAF be able to refuel its own aircraft? Can the Iraqi military offer adequate force protection and security for its bases? Can the IqAF provide airfield management services at its bases as they return to Iraqi control after eight years under US direction? Can the IqAF ensure simple power generation to keep facilities operating? Will the IqAF be able to develop and retain its airmen?… Only time will tell if we left [Iraq] too early; nevertheless, even without a renewed security agreement, the USAF can continue to stand alongside the IqAF.”
Put bluntly: We doubt the Iraqis are ready to field and fly American-built F-16s, but we’re going to sell them to them anyway. And if past history is a guide, if the Iraqis ever turn these planes against us, we’ll blow them up or shoot them down — and then (hopefully) sell them some more.
Our Best Arms Customer
Let’s face it: the weapons we sell to others pale in comparison to the weapons we sell to ourselves In the market for deadly weapons, we are our own best customer. Americans have a love affair with them, the more high-tech and expensive, the better. I should know. After all, I’m a recovering weapons addict.
Well into my teen years, I was fascinated by military hardware. I built models of what were then the latest U.S. warplanes: the A-10, the F-4, the F-14, -15 and -16, the B-1, and many others. I read Aviation Week and Space Technology at my local library to keep track of the newest developments in military technology. Not surprisingly, perhaps, I went on to major in mechanical engineering in college and entered the Air Force as a developmental engineer.
Enamored as I was by roaring afterburners and sleek weaponry, I also began to read books like James Fallows’s ”National Defense” (1981) among other early critiques of the Carter and Reagan defense buildup, as well as the slyly subversive and always insightful “Augustine’s Laws” (1986) by Norman Augustine, later the CEO of Martin Marietta and Lockheed Martin. That and my own experience in the Air Force alerted me to the billions of dollars we were devoting to high-tech weaponry with ever-ballooning price tags but questionable utility.
Perhaps the best example of the persistence of this phenomenon is the F-35 Lightning II. Produced by Lockheed Martin, the F-35 was intended to be an “affordable” fighter-bomber (at roughly $50 million per copy), a perfect complement to the much more expensive F-22 “air superiority” Raptor. But the usual delays, cost overruns, technical glitches and changes in requirements have driven the price tag of the F-35 up to $160 million per plane, assuming the U.S. military persists in its plans to buy 2,400 of them. (If the Pentagon decides to buy fewer, the cost-per-plane will soar into the F-22 range.) By recent estimates the F-35 will now cost U.S. taxpayers (you and me, that is) at least $382 billion for its development and production run. Such a sum for a single weapons system is vast enough to be hard to fathom. It would, for instance, easily fund all federal government spending on education for the next five years.
The escalating cost of the F-35 recalls the most famous of Norman Augustine’s irreverent laws: “In the year 2054,” he wrote back in the early 1980s, “the entire defense budget will [suffice to] purchase just one aircraft.” But the deeper question is whether our military even needs the F-35, a question that’s rarely asked and never seriously entertained, at least by Congress, whose philosophy on weaponry is much like King Lear’s: “O, reason not the need.”
But let’s reason the need in purely military terms. These days, the Air Force is turning increasingly to unmanned drones. Meanwhile, plenty of perfectly good and serviceable “platforms” remain for attack and close air support missions, from F-16s and F-18s in the Air Force and Navy to Apache helicopters in the Army. And while many of our existing combat jets may be nearing the limits of airframe integrity, there’s nothing stopping the U.S. military from producing updated versions of the same. Heck, this is precisely what we’re hawking to the Saudis — updated versions of the F-15, developed in the 1970s.
Because of sheer cost, it’s likely we’ll buy fewer F-35s than our military wants but many more than we actually need. We’ll do so because Weapons ‘R’ Us. Because building ultra-expensive combat jets is one of the few high-tech industries we haven’t exported (due to national security and secrecy concerns), and thus one of the few industries in the U.S. that still supports high-paying manufacturing jobs with decent employee benefits. And who can argue with that?
The Ultimate Cost of Our Merchandise of Death
Clearly, the U.S. has grabbed the brass ring of the global arms trade. When it comes to investing in militaries and weaponry, no country can match us. We are supreme. And despite talk of modest cuts to the Pentagon budget over the next decade, it will, according to President Obama, continue to grow, which means that in weapons terms the future remains bright. After all, Pentagon spending on research and development stands at $81.4 billion, accounting for an astonishing 55 percent of all federal spending on R&D and leaving plenty of opportunity to develop our next generation of wonder weapons.
But at what cost to ourselves and the rest of the world? We’ve become the suppliers of weaponry to the planet’s hotspots. And those weapons deliveries (and the training and support missions that go with them) tend to make those spots hotter still — as in hot lead.
As a country, we seem to have a teenager’s fascination with military hardware, an addiction that’s driving us to bust our own national budgetary allowance. At the same time, we sell weapons the way teenage punks sell fireworks to younger kids: for profit and with little regard for how they might be used.
Sixty years ago, it was said that what’s good for General Motors is good for America. In 1955, as Bob Seger sang, we were young and strong and makin’ Thunderbirds. But today we’re playing a new tune with new lyrics: What’s good for Lockheed Martin or Boeing or [insert major-defense-contractor-of-your-choice here] is good for America.
How far we’ve come since the 1950s!
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- William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel. He has taught cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy, officers at the Naval Postgraduate School, and currently teaches at the Pennsylvania College of Technology. He is the author of “Hindenburg: Icon of German Militarism,” among other books. He may be reached at email@example.com. More William Astore
The Campaign Cash Behind the Afghanistan Escalation December 1, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: Afghanistan, Afghanistan escalation, afghanistan surge, afghanistan troops, Afghanistan War, arms industry, boeing, defense budget, defense industry, democratic party, democrats, general dynamics, lockheed, northrop, obama speech, peace, peace movement, Raytheon, roger hollander, sue sturgis, war, war profiteers
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by Sue Sturgis
President Barack Obama is scheduled to deliver a speech to the nation tonight from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in which he’s expected to announce he’s sending up to 35,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.
Anti-war groups are already planning protests against the escalation. United for Peace and Justice, a coalition of more than 1,400 local and national groups, is holding numerous protest actions around the country today and tomorrow, as is the anti-war group Code Pink.Some are calling the president’s plan to ratchet up the war a betrayal of the Democratic base, which overwhelmingly opposes sending more troops. For example, a recent Gallup poll found that 60% of Democrats want the president to begin reducing troop levels in Afghanistan.
But while the president may be showing disloyalty to his political base, he’s remaining faithful to the defense industry interests that so generously funded his campaign.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSecrets.org database, the top recipient of defense industry money in the 2008 election cycle was Barack Obama, whose haul of $1,029,997 far surpassed Republican contender Sen. John McCain’s $696,948.
During the 2008 cycle, the industry contributed a total of $23.7 million to federal candidates — far more than the $17.4 million it invested during the 2006 cycle or the $18.1 million in the 2004 cycle.
The top five defense industry contributors during the 2008 elections were Lockheed Martin at $2.5 million, Boeing at $2.1 million, Northrop Grumman at $1.8 million, and Raytheon and General Dynamics at $1.7 million each.
And it appears their investment may be paying off: The Associated Press reports that analyst Howard A. Rubel of the global investment bank Jefferies & Co. sent out a client note today stating that the fiscal 2010 Defense Department Budget will likely boost demand for precision munitions, communications gear, helicopters, armor and surveillance systems.
Among the companies whose stock Rubel rated as “Buy”? General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman.