by William Skink
If one is concerned about the proliferation of guns domestically, it would make sense to extend that concern to weapon sales abroad. Democrats have the former issue in the partisan cross-hairs (see what I did there?) with the impending executive action coming from the White House, but the latter is a more difficult issue to tackle.
It has been a very good year for weapons dealers, reports the New York Times, with a $10 billion dollar increase in 2014 (latest available figures). That’s a 35 percent jump over the previous year.
Here are some of our biggest customers: our Saudi Arabian friends (who recently shot or beheaded 47 “terrorists”) and Qatar (ranked first in wealth and 166th in size). We also sell a lot of arms to South Korea to help offset all the Kia, Samsung and Hyundai products we buy.
Anyway, this story came out earlier in the month but has been gnawing at me, so much so that instead of my usual Montana political fodder, I’m tackling this worldly issue.
I am more than happy to see some attention being directed by a local Democrat to the glut of weaponry being peddled to head-chopping theocrats and psychopathic sultans, but I can’t help thinking the would-be tackler got suckered by a play-action pass that sailed over his head.
Not that this issue isn’t worth taking on, but what would it actually take? First, how to deal with the track-record of the next President of the United States, Hillary Clinton:
In 2011, the State Department cleared an enormous arms deal: Led by Boeing, a consortium of American defense contractors would deliver $29 billion worth of advanced fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, despite concerns over the kingdom’s troublesome human rights record. In the years before Hillary Clinton became secretary of state, Saudi Arabia had contributed $10 million to the Clinton Foundation, and just two months before the jet deal was finalized, Boeing donated $900,000 to the Clinton Foundation, according to an International Business Times investigation released Tuesday.
The Saudi transaction is just one example of nations and companies that had donated to the Clinton Foundation seeing an increase in arms deals while Hillary Clinton oversaw the State Department. IBT found that between October 2010 and September 2012, State approved $165 billion in commercial arms sales to 20 nations that had donated to the foundation, plus another $151 billion worth of Pentagon-brokered arms deals to 16 of those countries—a 143 percent increase over the same time frame under the Bush Administration. The sales boosted the military power of authoritarian regimes such as Qatar, Algeria, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman, which, like Saudi Arabia, had been criticized by the department for human rights abuses.
Should one who is ashamed of American arms dealers make Hillary’s corruption a point of contention in the primary, or does partisan consideration for lesser-evilism trump criticism of the heir-elect?
But what about Bernie Sanders? Alas, even the wild-haired socialist has a compromised relationship with weapons manufacturers:
In January 2010, Sanders led a delegation to Sandia’s New Mexico lab for a closer look. The group included the CEO of Green Mountain Power, the state’s leading private utility; the vice president for research at the University of Vermont; the co-founder of successful alternative energy companies; and the head of the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, which runs Efficiency Vermont.
At the end of the same year, ten days after the mini-filibuster that jump-started the “draft Bernie” for president campaign, Mayor Bob Kiss announced the results of his own Lockheed negotiations, begun at billionaire Richard Branson’s Carbon War Room. It took the form of a “letter of cooperation” to address climate change by developing local green-energy solutions.
Lockheed’s proposal to the city focused on “the economic and strategic challenges posed by our dependence on foreign oil and the potential destabilizing effects of climate change.” Their partnership would “demonstrate a model for sustainability that can be replicated across the nation.” Meanwhile, the Vermont Sandia lab, simultaneously being developed at UVM with Sanders help, would focus on cyber security and “smart grid” technology. Yet Kiss and Sanders denied knowing about the partnership being negotiated by the other. Both Burlington’s Progressive mayor and its famous former mayor-turned-Senator apparently saw no need to consult. Yet somehow everyone was on the same page.
By 2011, Sanders was also supporting the Pentagon’s proposal to base Lockheed-built F-35 fight jets at the Burlington International Airport. Despite his past criticisms of the corporation’s serial misconduct and excess, he joined with Vermont’s most enthusiastic booster, Senator Patrick Leahy, signing on to a joint statement of support. If the fighter jet, widely considered a massive military boondoggle, was going to be built and deployed anyway, Sanders argued that some of the work ought to done by Vermonters, while Vermont National Guard jobs should certainly be protected. Noise impacts and neighborhood dislocation were minimized, while criticism of corporate exploitation had given way to pork barrel politics and a justification based on protecting military jobs.
And that’s where the merchants of death win: jobs.
I know, reality can be a total bummer. But if you want to tackle something, it’s probably smart to take a look at just how big a beast you’re fixin’ to take down.