Morning Report 4/7/05
Arms for the Poor

Bush regime sells Lockheed-style democracy to Pakistan and India

Buy American: An F-16 zooms over Egypt's pyramids (Defense Dept. photo)

CALL YOUR BROKER and tell him to buy Lockheed. Determined to spread American-style democracy beyond the Middle East, the Bush regime is busily arming India and Pakistan with F-16 fighter jets.

First customer is Pakistan, that military dictatorship run by our pal Pervez Musharraf, who isn't even looking for Osama bin Laden any more. (Osama gets a favorable rating from 65 percent of Pakistan's population, according to one poll.) And we're openly saying to India: Look, we're selling to Pakistan, so come on down!

It's just a game between rulers and corporations. No matter that hundreds of millions of poor people in India and Pakistan need food, water, shelter, safety, and education.

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As usual, we're marketing death and calling it democracy. Rarely, though, have we been so brazen.

The eloquent Praful Bidwai, writing from South Asia, breaks down the ramifications later in this item. But first, let's go to Fort Worth, Texas, where employees of America's biggest defense contractor (and top campaign contributor among defense aerospace firms) are whooping it up. A March 26 Washington Post story explains:

    Lockheed Martin Corp. has said it needs new orders for the jet before this fall, or it will have to take action to close the production line there that employs about 5,000 workers.

This is just proof that the system works. During the 2004 campaign, Lockheed handed out $1.7 million to members of Congress. For that pittance, it will sell hundreds of planes, each of which go for $30 million to $40 million—that's the economy model (no undercoating, either).

Even before this huckstering to Pakistan and India, Lockheed had a backlog of more than 200 F-16s that it still had to build for customers all over the globe. For all we know, Itchy and Scratchy have been talking to Lockheed.

Here's more from the deliriously happy defense industry, courtesy of the Post:

    Richard Aboulafia, an aircraft analyst with the Teal Group in Fairfax, called the sale of two dozen fighter planes to Pakistan "a happy juxtaposition of the wants and needs" of an ally in the war on terrorism and Lockheed's troubled F-16 line. The bigger issue for Lockheed, he said, is the chance to sell another 100 or more F-16s to India, Pakistan's rival in the Asian subcontinent.

    India, which uses some Soviet-era aircraft, has said it is in the market for new fighter planes. The imminent sale to Pakistan may cause the Indian government to consider the American plane.

    Aboulafia recalled that Lockheed's production of the popular plane was "saved" in 1992 when the administration of President George H.W. Bush announced the sale of 150 F-16s to Taiwan.

We had blocked sales of F-16s to Pakistan "as a sanction against its nuclear program," notes Iftikhar Ali, writing in the Pakistani publication The Nation.

But here in 'Merica, what the hell do we care about that? The industry analyst Aboulafia told the Post that the new deal with Pakistan, and likely deals with India, represent a win-win situation:

    "Two countries that have F-16s have never fought a war."

Well, Pakistan and India are basically at war right now, though they are currently experiencing a thaw and are talking. So we'll see if this latest peace move pays off. Maybe we ought to sell F-16s to the Shiites, Kurds, and Sunnis and then skedaddle. Or sell 'em to the Palestinians and Israelis. (Oops, Israel already has them, according to a list of proud F-16 owners.)

The brazen nature of Condi Rice's announcement of the sale of the jets to Pakistan was astonishing. She went to South Asia last month to peddle the jets, but the official announcement was put off until she returned. And here's what she said during a subsequent conversation on March 25 with writers and editors at the Washington Post:

    [We] have a broad and deepening relationship to both [India and Pakistan]. In that context, the F-16 issue with Pakistan which has been around for a while, we decided it was time to do that in the context of this relationship with Pakistan. And that it was time in the context of India to demonstrate to India that we would be a reliable defense supplier if they chose to have us do that.

    Therefore, we are going to respond to their requests for information, which means that on high performance they have a tender, they will have a tender for high-performance aircraft and by responding to the requests for information we intend to let our companies bid.

If Rice isn't careful, she's going to wind up on Lockheed's board even before she leaves her government job.

During the discussion at the Post, one of the writers asked:

    What message does that send when you're giving F-16s to a military government that ousted a democratic regime at a time you're trying to promote democracy?

This was part of Rice's reply:

    Pakistan has come a long way, it's on a better trajectory than it's ever been, or that it's been in many, many years, and our job is to support that trajectory and to help bring that along.

A better "trajectory." She's a natural huckster for weapons sales, isn't she?

It figures that the Bush regime leaves no defense contractor behind. Especially Lockheed. One of Lockheed's directors is Pete Aldridge, the Pentagon's Deputy Secretary of Defense for Acquisitions until 2003.

In October 2001, during the post–9-11 fever, Aldridge selected Lockheed to build the Joint Strike Fighter. The $200 billion deal was the largest in U.S. military history.

Aldridge's official bio is the very definition of D.C.'s revolving-door game between defense contractors and the U.S. government.

Now read what Praful Bidwai, former senior editor of The Times of India, has to say. (Thanx and a tip of the Bush Beat helmet to my colleague Uday Benegal for pointing me in the direction of the internationally known writer and peace activist.)

In Bidwai's April 2 piece, "Sleepwalking Towards Danger," he says India and Pakistan are "getting trapped in the U.S.'s arms-selling gambit." He continues:

    Pakistani and Indian responses and counter-responses to these U.S. maneuvers confirm and reinforce, on every count, the fear expressed in this column two weeks ago of a runaway South Asian arms race, fuelled this time not by two or more rival powers, but by the same state.

    It's as if Indian and Pakistani policy-makers were obsessively enacting the roles assigned to them in a tragic script, executing each step like half-zombies.

In his earlier piece, on March 16, Bidwai noted:

    Peace activists have long warned that any process of India-Pakistan reconciliation, however buoyant, would remain incomplete, fragile and vulnerable, unless the two states address their military and nuclear rivalry upfront. India and Pakistan, they argue, must reduce their defense spending significantly, e.g. by 10 percent a year, and take their foot off the nuclear accelerator to sustain and deepen the present, welcome, and yet reversible, thaw.

    However, not just peace activists, but all public-spirited citizens, should be alarmed at the recent increases in the military expenditures of both states.

In the more recent piece, Bidwai notes that the defense spending by both countries will now go even higher, at a cost, naturally, to their citizens:

    It's clear that Pakistan is about to spend some $35-40 million apiece on each of the 70 F-16s of the latest make. The total spending will be about 10 times what Islamabad commits to health and education. Likewise, India too will give up the opportunity to build several medium-size rural hospitals or scores of elementary schools for each of the fancy, lethal, toys it buys.

    This colossal expenditure will ultimately help neither India nor Pakistan. It will only help Lockheed Martin, the F-16's manufacturer, which has already sold more than 4,000 planes to 24 countries, and raked in billions of dollars in profit.

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