By FRANK CARINI
The U.S. government is really nothing more than a taxpayer-funded brothel, except its prostitutes are well protected, its pimps lavishly pampered and neither will be arrested.
The number of defense contractors and bomb makers who work directly and indirectly with our elected officials is staggering. The amount of money made by building weapons of mass destruction is criminal, or at least should be, and most of the johns our congressional pimps and stock-market-traded prostitutes sell arms to are war criminals, dictators, terrorists, or some combination thereof.
Among the corporations that manufacture these weapons of mass destruction is a Rhode Island-based company that donates generously to Sen. Jack Reed, a ranking member of the Committee on Armed Services, which is empowered with legislative oversight of the nation’s military might.
In 2013, Reed helped Textron Defense Systems, a unit of Textron Inc., win a U.S. contract valued at $641 million to build 1,300 cluster bombs for Saudi Arabia. At least 16 Yemen civilians, including nine children, have been killed by cluster bombs since Saudi Arabia started bombing its neighbor last year, according to a May 2016 Amnesty International report.
Textron describes its CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapon (SFW) as a “smart air-to-ground area weapon designed to defeat moving and fixed targets.” The Department of Defense classifies the weapon as a cluster bomb. Defencyclopedia calls it a “deadly weapon.”
Textron, headquartered in downtown Providence, is a Fortune 500 company that last year generated $13.4 billion in revenue and $697 million in profit. In 2015, the company’s CEO, Scott Donnelly, made about $12 million. Three other company executives made more than $8.5 million combined. The front page of the Textron website keeps track of the company’s current price on the New York Stock Exchange.
The Rhode Island corporation is the last North American producer of cluster bombs, and the only manufacturer of these weapons for the U.S. military. Saudi Arabia is also bombing Yemen with cluster bombs that were made in the United Kingdom and Brazil.
Much of the world considers cluster bombs — designed to explode into hundreds of pieces of razor-sharp shrapnel that rip through bodies — an unnecessary military tool. Nearly 120 countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan, have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions — an international treaty that prohibits the use, sale and stockpiling of cluster bombs.
The United States doesn't share the same concern about the destructive nature of these brutal weapons that are deadlier than land mines. Elected officials and wealthy CEOs resort to scare tactics and claims of national security to keep these bombs bursting.
Sadly, our elected officials and their deep-pocketed friends value profit over life. The United States exports misery. This made-in-America product makes politicians powerful and CEOs rich. Besides, women and children in Yemen can't vote here, and dead or alive they don’t impact the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
Textron and its subsidiaries also build military aircraft, such as the Bell AH-1Z Viper, which the company brags is the “world’s most advanced attack helicopter.”
Before last year’s 14th Dubai Airshow, Textron sent out a press release touting its line of military hardware.
“Textron is bringing a broad range of products and technology to this event — including some of our most successful and well-known systems,” Donnelly is quoted in the release. “Whether they are interested in precision weapons, unmanned aircraft, tactical turboprop and jet aircraft, or advanced rotorcraft — our chalet will be sure to offer customers and attendees an experience unlike any other.”
And don't forget to load those helicopters and jets with the company's 21st-century cluster bombs. An amendment this year to a House military spending bill to stop the sale of these bombs to Saudi Arabia failed. Rhode Island Democrats David Cicilline and Jim Langevin supported the amendment, but Reed told RI Future that the internationally banned bombs “should still be provided under strict conditions. I think we should still be selling those weapon systems that comply with the law.”
Reed also acknowledged that the U.S. military has a stockpile of cluster bombs in its arsenal.
Textron is among the top contributors to Reed’s campaign war chest — pun intended. The Rhode Island business has donated $68,250 to Reed’s election/re-election efforts — about $4,000 more than another U.S. defense contractor, the Raytheon Co.
Earlier this year, when people began protesting outside Textron’s Westminster Street office, upset with profits being made by the sale of bombs many other countries have banned the use of, the company's CEO wrote an op-ed for the Providence Journal, explaining that companies like his "provide defense products that are often the only barrier between a peaceful population and an invading force."
Saudi Arabia is indiscriminately bombing Yemen and killing peaceful civilians, according to both the United Nations and human-rights organizations, with bombs provided by a Fortune 500 company — No. 209 to be exact — based in Rhode Island.
Donnelly wrote that his company’s new-age cluster bombs release “smart munitions equipped with advanced sensors that precisely target enemy tanks, armored vehicles and marine craft.” In fact, this country's army of defense contractors like to claim their killing products are smart, precision-guided tools that hit specific targets and minimize what they call "collateral damage."
Of course, these weapons are bought by governments and regimes that define "collateral damage" differently.
Donnelly also noted that the misguided protestors — unlike Textron’s smartly guided bombs — were confusing old-school anti-personnel cluster munitions with his company’s new weapons of mass destruction. Textron’s cluster bombs don’t kill innocent people, antiquated cluster bombs built by others do.
His defense of cluster-bomb warcraft essentially blamed the protestors for being ignorant and human-rights organizations for supplying bad information.
“The protesters rely on reports that SFW remnants have been found in certain conflict areas They conclude that these remnants can be linked to civilian deaths and injuries long after the battle,” he wrote. “It’s simply wrong. The presence of these remnants demonstrates that a munition did not locate a target vehicle while in the air, and then disarmed itself on the ground — exactly as designed and with no threat to civilians.”
That kind of reasoning highlights the problems created by spending $70 billion (6 percent of the fiscal 2015 federal budget) on education and $599 billion (54 percent) on the military.
Bombs bursting in the air, the earth rattling from explosions, destroyed infrastructure, leveled homes, pollution, contaminated drinking water and Godzilla-like destruction threaten no one expect bad guys, who are also likely using precision-guided weapons built in the U.S.A. Those are some wicked-smart bombs.
In 2014, the United States led the universe in military spending at $610 billion, accounting for 34 percent of the world total, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. U.S. military expenditures were nearly three times higher than China, the second-highest nation with an estimated $216 billion in spending. Russia was third, at $84.5 billion.
The sale of the 1,300 Textron cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia was part of a $60 billion years-long transaction that featured the ninth-wealthiest country selling the 11th-wealthiest nation Boeing F-15 aircraft and Apache attack helicopters, to name just a few of the U.S.-built war machines.
All this firepower is needed to protect Saudi Arabia from enemy combatants hiding out in Yemen — one of the poorest countries in the world, where 20 percent of the population didn’t have enough to eat before smart bombs began bursting, and a third of the population was unemployed. Yemen ranks No. 139, out of 185 countries, when it comes to national wealth.
Saudi Arabia began making it rain U.S. munitions in March 2015. Andrew Cockburn, Washington editor for Harper's, reported in the September edition of the magazine that this campaign “has destroyed warehouses, factories, power plants, ports, hospitals, water tanks, gas stations, and bridges, along with miscellaneous targets ranging from donkey carts to wedding parties to archaeological monuments."
He also reported that “thousands of civilians — no one knows how many — have been killed or wounded.”
The U.S. exportation of misery helps manufacture even more enemy combatants, often from peaceful families destroyed by U.S.-backed violence perpetrated by an oil-rich ally hoping to ethnically cleanse itself of people it doesn’t like, or by "freedom-fighting rebels" trying to put someone our Washington pimps like into power.
In fact, Textron’s smart bombs may actually help create additional enemy combatants, and thus more power and wealth for the select few. The company’s no-threat-to-civilian bombs leave more innocent people wandering around a bleak landscape in a power vacuum.
For some, their despair and pain turns into anger against those who ruined their lives, for, say, nothing more than a campaign ad, another vacation home or a bigger yacht. Donnelly, Reed and our drone-loving president will label these people terrorists. They will note, as Donnelly did in his Providence Journal op-ed, that "we live in dangerous times."
But who is actually creating the danger?
From 2004-2013, 80 Americans were killed in terrorist attacks, according to a national consortium supported in part by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Of those, 36 were killed in attacks that occurred in the United States. Last year, by comparison, at least 30 people were killed in accidental U.S. shootings in which the shooter was 5 years old or younger, according to Everytown for Gun Safety.
Since taking office President Obama has approved 373 drone strikes in Pakistan alone, according to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Those strikes have killed 424 to 966 civilians and 172 to 207 children, according to estimates from the independent not-for-profit organization.
The organization also estimates that at least another 643 U.S. drone strikes in Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan have killed up to 298 civilians and 42 children.
Three months after Donnelly’s May op-ed defended the manufacturing and use of cluster bombs, Textron announced it would stop making the lethal weapons by March 2017. Its reason, it seems, is more about money than morals.
“The process of selling this product internationally has become complex to the point that the company has decided to exit the business,” Textron spokesman David Sylvestre recently told RI Future. “Under a different political environment it would have been a sustainable business for us.”
Frank Carini is the editor of ecoRI News.