State of the Union

Antiwar.com Editor Demands FBI File Fix

Eric Garris, co-founder and editor of Antiwar.com, says he filed a request this week demanding the FBI fix a fraudulent story in his file that says he once threatened to hack the FBI’s website.

That there is an FBI file on Garris dating back to the 1970’s should be cause enough for alarm. He has been charged with no crime, and is suspected of no criminal nor domestic terrorist activity. But thanks to recently released documents (the result of a lawsuit launched last spring by Antiwar.com and its attorneys at the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California), we know that the FBI has been monitoring Garris, his co-founder Justin Raimondo, and other staffers of the website (full disclosure: I am a columnist for Antiwar.com) for several years.

And here’s the punch line: it turns out that the agency has been spying on Antiwar.com as a potential “threat to national security,” because, in part, Garris once asked the FBI for help.

Internal, un-redacted documents obtained in October by Antiwar.com show that in 2001, Garris passed along a threat he received on Sept. 12, 2001 from a Antiwar.com reader obviously disgruntled with the website’s coverage of 9/11. The subject line read, “YOUR SITE IS GOING DOWN,” and proceeded with this missive: “Be warned assholes, ill be posting your site address to all the hack boards tonight … your site is history.”

Concerned, Garris forwarded the email to the FBI field office in San Francisco, where he is based. Garris heard nothing, but by January 2002, it turned up again, completely twisted around, in a secret FBI memo entitled, “A THREAT BY GARRIS TO HACK FBI WEBSITE.”

It turns out this “threat” went on to justify, at least in part, the FBI’s ongoing interest in monitoring the website, as a potential “threat to national security on behalf of a foreign power,” beginning in 2004. TAC reported on the secret surveillance in July after Antiwar.com, along with the ACLU, launched their suit for full disclosure of all FBI records pertaining to Garris and co-founder Justin Raimondo.

Up until that point, all the two men had to go on was a heavily redacted, 94-page FBI memo passed along by a intrepid reader in 2011. The file is illuminating, to say the least. It shows the FBI secretly taking stock of  what Raimondo had published on the site, particularly on the issue of the arrest of five Israeli nationals who were ostensibly celebrating and taking photography of the burning World Trade towers in 9/11. Raimondo wrote about their arrests and release in 2002, and linked to versions of at least two government watch-lists already published on the Web by others.

His reporting of this alleged Israeli spy angle to the 9/11 story was handed out by peace activists in UK, and an alleged neo-Nazi group here in the U.S., according to the FBI. These examples, and the fact that an unnamed FBI suspect had supposedly browsed Antiwar.com, “among many other websites,” and that “many individuals worldwide” view the site, “including individuals who are currently under investigation,” were all noted in the 2004 memo.

The agents authoring the memo also questioned Antiwar.com’s funding, and pointed to the website’s criticism of U.S. war policy. All of this apparently led them to conclude that further surveillance of Antiwar.com was warranted, “to determine if  [redaction] are engaging in, or have engaged in, activities which constitute a threat to national security on behalf of a foreign power.”

The newly acquired documents flesh out much of the missing or redacted material from the 2004 memo. Now Garris and his ACLU attorney, Julia Mass, have a better idea about the FBI’s interest in the website. Not only was Garris’ “threat” revealed in the un-redacted portions of the file they received in October, but so was an accounting of Garris’ participation in a 1972 war protest.

Garris insists the FBI’s depiction of him as “threat” does not bother him as much as the fact that it’s quite clear Antiwar.com has been targeted solely for its First Amendment protected activities. There was never a suggestion that Raimondo or Garris committed any crime. But it was hinted that their (free) speech was a threat nonetheless.

Mass tells TAC that when the story broke in The Guardian last week, reporters honed in on the “sloppiness” angle regarding the agent who wrote the first mangled account of Garris’s “threat” and the agents who decided to run with the “mistake” years later.

“It seems a little more purposeful than that,” she said, noting that there was never any attempt to investigate the so-called threat. Yet it was used by other agents in 2004 as a justification to monitor Garris and Raimondo (the San Francisco office eventually declined requests by the Newark, N.J. office for an official investigation into the website, according to the memos).

“The obviousness of the original mistake really causes you to question whether the 2004 memo’s reliance on it was also an honest mistake,” she told TAC. “And if it is not an honest mistake, then it really makes it look like an intentional targeting of Justin and Antiwar because of their speech and their critique of the government’s actions.”

When contacted by The Guardian, the FBI said it would not comment due to the ongoing litigation. Mass said that if the FBI does not move to fix the file, they will be bringing their demands back to the court.

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Gulf War Panel: We’re Being Purged for Contradicting the VA

Members of a heretofore independent panel on Gulf War Illness are accusing Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki of “shooting the messenger” by gutting their committee and slashing half its members in a recent charter rewrite.

A member of the Research Advisory Committee (RAC) on Gulf War Illness told The American Conservative over the weekend that Shinseki was retaliating against them for their unvarnished, public criticism of the agency—in the press and on Capitol Hill. Most recently, members Anthony Hardie, a Gulf War veteran and advocate for the estimated 250,000 vets suffering with Gulf War Illness (GWI), and Dr. Lea Steele, a longtime GWI researcher, testified with former VA scientist Steven Coughlin on the Hill. Both RAC members complained that bureaucrats and researchers in the agency were driven by an agenda that preferred viewing GWI as a psychological rather than physical condition.

TAC interviewed Coughlin and Hardie after the hearing. Coughlin said his bosses manipulated and ignored data that did not coincide with their agenda. Hardie concurred, saying that the RAC had been forced to deal with this VA bias for some time and that complaints about it had been ignored. In 2008 for example, the committee released a report saying that GWI was a physical condition caused by toxins, including pesticides and the pills that the soldiers were given to counteract the effects of nerve gas. Since then, committee members have accused the VA of trying to undermine their findings. (The VA’s critics say it is trying to avoid the massive expense of liability, a charge the VA has adamantly denied. Officials have also denied that the VA is trying to push the psychological explanation over the physiological one.)

The damage done to the 15-year-old RAC last month by Shinseki’s hand might forever take the teeth out of the scrappy committee, which is supposed to convene for a regular meeting this week in Washington. The changes to the RAC charter would ax six of its 12 members and replace them “in accordance with VA policy,” according to a letter to RAC chairman James Binns signed by Shinseki’s interim chief of staff, Jose Riojas. The letter was provided to reporter Kelly Kennedy, who wrote about it at USA Today on Friday. The measure also removes Binns—whom the committee called their “principled, fair, just, non-partisan, longstanding champion” of veterans—after a one-year “transition period.” The letter does not identify which other members will have to go. Read More…

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Not a Good Night for Islamophobia

Tuesday was not a good day for the Muslim-baiting wing of the GOP, with the defeat of Rep. Allen West (R-FL) and with onetime presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann holding her House seat in Minnesota by a razor-thin margin. They have been among the most high-profile members of Congress to spend a goodly amount of their political capital chasing down the bugaboo of Muslim jihad in America.

Bachmann won her re-election by barely 4,200 votes. Her spotlight-grabbing antics, a laundry list of kooky comments and presidential campaigning, probably played into that, but the Associated Press noted that her recent attempt to tie Hillary Clinton’s top aide to the Muslim Brotherhood, which earned Bachmann a smackdown from John McCain and other Republicans, contributed to her unpopularity among constituents. As for one-term West, who left his 18th District in south Florida for an ostensibly more GOP-friendly one in the 22nd District, he seems to have lost to Democrat Patrick Murphy by only 2,500 votes. He has filed injunctions for a recount and an examination of the electronic voting machines, citing “irregularities” and violations on the part of local election officials.

West is one most Islamophobic pols around, a compatriot of  jihad hunters Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, who not only claim that Islam is evil, but insist that Muslim radicals have infiltrated the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and top levels of government. Geller recently made headlines when her group sponsored pro-Israel New York City subway ads that suggested Palestinian Muslims are “savages.” Read More…

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Marijuana Legalized in Historic Referendums

Marijuana – smoking it, eating it, growing it in modest amounts — is legal. To even be writing those words is historic. But don’t light up just yet. The new pot laws passed in state referendums Tuesday night only apply to Colorado and Washington, and as far as the feds are concerned, smoking pot is still a criminal offense and a critical threat in the decades-long War on Drugs.

But enough of the buzz kill. There have been small steps toward ending marijuana prohibition — state medical-marijuana laws being the most radical — in the last several years. Recently the tide has turned against draconian laws that have sent pot offenders to prison while drug smugglers and gangs thrive off the black market. Thus more mainstream attention and credibility has been given to plans like the ones passed Tuesday that would regulate, tax, and sell marijuana to adults, just like alcohol, in both Colorado and Washington.

If not for establishment support, including from government figures, law enforcement and the medical community, these measures would never have passed. A medical-marijuana initiative in Arkansas and a legalization plan in Oregon did not pass last night because they did not have the same kind of support.

What does this all mean? First off, Colorado and Washington have a lot of work to do to establish the infrastructure to make this happen (the state of Colorado, by the way, hopes to make anywhere from $5 million to $22 million yearly by taxing marijuana sales). Read More…

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The Early Post-War Deaths of Texas Vets

The Austin American-Statesman spent six months inspecting state records of young veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who have died since returning from the war.

What they found was stunning: among the 266 dead for which they were able to gather information (there were 345 overall — almost two-thirds of Texas’s casualties in both wars!), one in three died from a drug overdose (a fatal combination of prescription pills or suicide), and nearly one in five were killed in a motor-vehicle crash, half involving alcohol and speeding.

These are by no means all the veterans who’ve died after coming home (the state sent a total of 53,000 men and women to the wars), just the vets who had sought VA care before their demise. But from what the paper was able to glean, 80 percent of the veterans who had died from drug overdose, suicide or in a motor accident, had been preliminarily diagnosed with PTSD.

The investigative team at the Statesman did not merely hunt down down toxicology reports, autopsy results, accident reports, inquests and obituaries, but also reached out to families for the veterans’ personal stories. What a painstaking reporting job this must have been! But thanks to the digging, the VA now has better information about Texas veterans than its own limited data could provide (the VA does not consistently keep track of individual causes of death). Now that the newspaper has shamed the government by doing its work for them, some positive systemic change may come about.

Despite cutbacks, state and local papers have continued to cover extended military communities. These communities stretch from giant Army bases and spill over into outlying cities and towns and the nearest VA hospitals or clinics. Some of the best coverage has come from reporters in these areas, like Dave Philipps at the Colorado Springs Gazette. In 2009 he published an intensive examination of the troubled 4th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team — chillingly dubbed the “Lethal Warriors”— at Fort Carson in Colorado. The series made him a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and helped bring the fallouts of combat stress into mainstream consciousness.

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Romney on Citizens United: Limit Contributions from Teachers’ Unions

Mitt Romney, who once said yes, “corporations are people, my friend,” and has defended  the Supreme Court’s decision that unrestricted — and now unprecedented — spending by corporations and unions on campaigns is protected under the First Amendment, is now whining that teachers’ unions may be giving too much money to Democrats, who are likely to be more sympathetic “at the bargaining table.” From the Washington Post this morning:

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said Tuesday that he thinks teachers unions should be banned from making political contributions because union leaders often negotiate contracts with Democratic politicians they’ve helped elect, a situation he called “an extraordinary conflict of interest.”

“I believe that we simply can’t have a setting where the teachers unions are able to contribute tens of millions of dollars to the campaigns of politicians, and then those politicians, when elected, stand across from them at the bargaining table, supposedly to represent the interest of the kids,” Romney told host Brian Williams in a 45-minute appearance at NBC’s Education Nation Summit in New York.He said it is “a mistake” to allow unions to make such donations, which he argued represent “an extraordinary conflict of interest.”

“I think we’ve got to get the money out of the teachers unions going into campaigns,” he said. “It’s the wrong way for us to go. We have got to separate that.”

Add to that the silly charge that “the largest contributors to the Democratic Party are the teachers unions,” which can easily be refuted by a few clicks on OpenSecrets.org, and you’ve got a profoundly disturbing picture of how Romney understands politics in Washington — and the Constitution. Like it or not, the Supreme Court said campaign contributions independent expenditures were the same as “speech” and ruled that corporations and unions are afforded the same free speech rights as individuals. This is something that Romney has said he supports, and he should know better than picking and choosing which organizations deserve the right just because he doesn’t like their politics. Are we getting just another glimpse of the real Mitt Romney, a man who doesn’t seem to believe in anything unless it is politically (if momentarily) expedient? Shame on him #1.

Shame on him #2: if Romney is going to start grousing about how money in politics is affecting the decisions politicians make in government he need not look farther than his own backyard. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, which runs OpenSecrets.org, the largest contributions to the 2012 federal election are coming from the Finance/Insurance/Real Estate industry (FIRE), which primarily comprises insurance companies, securities and investment firms, real estate interests and commercial banks, according to CRP. The industry has given a whopping $422,907,981, so far, between 2011-2012.

Of this group, the biggest contributor is Goldman Sachs with a running total of $6.3 million this cycle. The second top contributor is Bain Capital, Romney’s former company, which has given $4.6 million, mostly to undisclosed outside groups. That’s a little more than the American Federation of Teachers, which represents 1.5 million teachers nation-wide. It gave $4 million, with about half to Democrats and half to outside groups. The “evil” National Teachers’ Education Association contributed $7.2 million. These two unions pretty much represent the whole of the teachers’ unions’ influence on politics today. Meanwhile the entire labor industry contributed  $78.4 million — far less than the FIRE industry which, with the generous assistance of their political friends on Capitol Hill, recently helped plunge this country into greatest economic disaster since the Great Depression.

Let’s move on to the defense industry, which Romney has promised to reward with heaps of new money in the form of contracts once he wins the White House. So far this industry — represented by top contributor Northrop Grumman ($2.3 million), followed by Lockheed Martin ($2.3 million), Boeing ($2.1 million) and Raytheon ($1.7 million), has given a total of $19.7 million, mostly (60 percent) to Republicans this year.

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Veterans “Retreating” from Obama?

Politico reports this week that veterans are “retreating” from Obama, showing that “back in May, Obama had the lead among Afghanistan and Iraq veterans,” but that recent polling indicates that the lead has “evaporated,” with Romney now up 48 percent to 34 percent among veterans.

First of all, the assertion that the president was ever “leading among veterans” is generous. With no links provided in the report it is hard to immediately identify which poll reporter Darren Samuelsohn was referring to, but I’ll assume it’s this Reuters/Ipsos poll from early May that had Obama over Romney 44 percent to 37 percent among veterans. The accompanying story here weaves an ambitious Obama-friendly narrative that does an effective job underscoring how unhappy veterans are over the recent wars, the poor economy and government in general — no huge surprises there — but it doesn’t quite explain why or how recent vets would prefer the president over Romney in the fall.

It’s possible that the Reuters poll was an outlier. A major Gallup Poll that same month showed Romney far ahead of Obama among veterans, 58 to 34 percent. And all polling since, both nationwide and in some key battleground states (including Colorado Florida, Virginia, and Ohio) indicate that things are falling into the usual pattern, with veterans and military families preferring the Republican by a comfortable margin.

In any case, the use of “retreat” in the Politico headline is unfortunate, given that it has been both parties who have retreated from their duty to military men and women and veterans in the last 10 years. Romney’s edge is likely due to the fact that military voters tend to be more conservative and vote Republican, as evidenced in the last three presidential elections: Vets favored George W. Bush over Al Gore in 2000, Bush over John Kerry in 2004, and John McCain over Barack Obama in 2008.

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Campaign Surrogates Davidson, Zakheim Offer Warmed-Over Foreign Policy

The Arizona State University foreign policy debate on Wednesday — with former Pentagon official Janine Davidson pitching for the Obama administration and long-time neoconservative Dov Zakheim swinging for Gov. Romney — offered a rare opportunity to get the measure of the two campaigns on pressing military and national security issues, which up to now have been relegated to the back seat.

Unfortunately, Davidson seemed determined to make President Obama sound like the candidate we thought we were getting back in 2008, while Zakheim insisted on building Romney up to be the Frankenstein President Bush we supposedly got rid of that year.

If Wednesday night was any indication, the foreign policy discussion in this race has devolved into a rehashing of the 2008 election — or even 2004 — as Zakheim blew the dust off the old GOP playbook and guilelessly tossed about meaningless victuals like: “you are likely to be more successful if you are strong, not if you are weak,” and, “there is talk and there is action … [the Democrats] are all talk and no action.”

“An America that is perceived as weak is one that will be despised. Right now we don’t look very strong.” Obama has lost all respect in the Middle East, he noted: “people who respect us don’t destroy our embassy and kill our ambassador,” a jab at last week’s attack in Libya.

And so on and so forth. Zakheim – when you Google his name the pantheon of Bush-era warhawks appear next to him like the Legion of Doom: Feith, Kagan, Perle, Cohen, Chertoff – blustered and bluffed through the 90-minute debate before a largely college audience, brushing off both reality and the history of last four years for the sake of the aggressive sound bite.

“You cannot keep the peace if you are not strong and when you look at our military today you see our strength dissipate before our eyes,” he said, referring to the threat of defense budget cuts. Zakheim had better get a new prescription for those glasses. Despite what the Cassandras over the budget want to say, the U.S continues to have the largest, best-equipped, most disciplined and capable military on earth, and of course the most-generously funded.

This is where Davidson, who assumed her former position as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Plans after the last election — an erstwhile COINdinista who enjoyed at least a few years in the Petraeus-ordained Washington in-crowd – was best equipped to call Mr. Zakheim out on playing fast and loose with facts that one could easily dispel with two taps on a smartphone. But for whatever reason Ms. Davidson did not, or could not, rise to the occasion.

Instead, she seemed bent on defining Obama not just in the broadest possible terms, but more importantly, as though he did not spend his term pursuing a foreign policy and national security posture more aggressive and yes, more militaristic than even his predecessor’s. The word “drone” was not mentioned even once (by any participant on the panel).

Davidson offered no response to Zakheim when he accused Democrats of “rah-rah-ing Afghanistan” and “politicizing” the killing of Osama bin Laden. She let him reduce the U.S-fortified regime change in Libya to “leading from behind.” She neglected to mention the dramatic expansion of U.S Special Forces under President Obama’s watch to more than 100 countries across the planet, not only expanding Bush’s Global War on Terror, but also doubling down on the idea of the U.S as the world’s police with a growing presence in Africa. Meanwhile, Obama has brought executive power to new heights of audacity, operating off a reported “kill list” that invariably includes American citizens, with no publicly offered, legal justification. The only “weakness” here seems to be in congressional and judicial oversight and the lack of public outrage.

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TSA Report Pulls Punches on Privacy

Woman enters full-body scanner at airport. CRozeman / Flickr.

Congressman Mike Rogers (R-AL) should be commended for raising two issues near and dear to civil libertarians in the majority report on the Transportation Security Agency’s performance since 9/11, released Tuesday: the troublesome increase in intrusive security measures, i.e. “enhanced” pat-down searches, and the pervasive deployment of so-called full body scanners for the traveling public:

In many ways, TSA has become its own worst enemy by underestimating the privacy impact of its operations, and limiting lines of communication and the flow of information to the public.    The American people could be more supportive of TSA if they understood why TSA was implementing a particular policy or procedure and what threat or vulnerability it was addressing. Instead, in the last eleven years the American people have become increasingly more critical of TSA.

That is an understatement. For the last 11 years the TSA has been besieged by a litany of scandals and bad news stories that it brought upon itself, all concerning passenger rights and its inability to treat fliers as customers and human beings and not criminals or worse, cattle being prodded to the slaughter:

  • Last summer a 95-year-old woman suffering from late stage leukemia and in a wheelchair was told she had to remove her Depends diaper or not fly home after an enhanced screening at a Florida airport. TSA defended the screening. She certainly isn’t the only elderly or disabled person to have been humiliated by these inconsistent and let’s face it, unjustified, draconian searches. Links here, here and here.
  • In March, a three-year-old boy in a leg cast and wheelchair was given a physical pat-down at O’Hare Internation Airport in Chicago on his way to Disney World with his parents and siblings. He is just one in a string of appalling reports and You Tube videos of small children — including babies! –being touched and prodded by screeners to the shock and disbelief of their parents. Links here, here and here.
  • In 2010, an experienced flight attendant and breast cancer survivor was forced to show screeners her breast implant in an aggressive pat down. Supposedly, outfitting female suicide bombers with bombs in their boobs has been a problem. The result, a rash of complaints by horrified cancer victims who showed no other signs of being a flight risk other than carrying the prosthetic reminders of their painful illnesses.
  • In 2008 a woman was forced to remove her nipple rings with pliers before she could fly.
  • In 2002, a women was forced to drink her own breast milk before she could fly.
  • A 31-year-old New York marketing executive was charged with “obstructing justice” but disorderly conduct charges were dropped after this disturbing incident, caught on tape, in 2010. Makes one wonder why four beefy security guards were necessary to constrain her, slam her into a chair and then onto the magnetometer, handcuff her and eventually throw her into the clink. Needless to say, she missed her flight.
  • Sen. Rand Paul engaged in a brief “stand off” with TSA screeners in January after he refused a pat-down. He wasn’t the first lawmaker to feel the indignity of post-9/11 airport security. I remember talking to Rep. Bob Barr several years ago after he mixed it up with screeners at a Washington airport.

As chairman of the transportation subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rogers has had a front row seat for all of the agency’s bumps and scrapes since it was created in the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist hijackings. While there has been no similar attack on U.S. soil since then, TSA has maintained a mixed to dismal record across a number of key metrics, which the report duly points out. The agency spends and wastes too much money (its budget at this point is $8 billion a year). Oversight of its most critical job — screening passengers and cargo for explosives, weapons and contraband — is constantly missing the mark. TSA invests too much in lame technology that doesn’t work ($29 million for “puffer” machines that ended up in the garbage) and not enough in the tactics that do work (canine units). Its attempt at behavior screening has been a joke, and it has not implemented promised programs that would expedite checkpoint security for frequent travelers.

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No Mask on This Beltway Bandit

There is a reason why they call them Beltway Bandits, that species of defense consultants, contractors and assorted think tankers who shrewdly facilitate contracts and support for the industry, wielding influence over legislative agendas and politicians on the Hill. Like the bandits of our pop-culture past, they wear “masks,” so everything looks proper, straightforward.

Think tanks are non-profit, for example, but they are often associated with political action committees (PACs) under a different shingle. Ex-generals and admirals serve as vice presidents or board members for defense contractors or as heads of industry associations, not for their sage experience but as non-registered lobbyists and skid greasers for the companies’ Washington interests. The associations themselves are masks, storefronts really, for fielding political funds and battalions of lobbyists who fight for appropriations and contracts on the Hill every day. Much has been written about these “pay to play” machinations but too much is invested on both sides of the political aisle to put an end to them.

From time to time what’s underneath the mask is exposed and tactics change. A couple of years ago, it was reported that more than 100 ex-generals and admirals had taken jobs as paid “mentors” within the services, even though many had extensive ties to the defense industry. Nonexistent disclosure requirements hid the fact that these “mentors” were advising the services on weapons systems and other contracts near and dear to their private employers’ hearts. Once exposed, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates put in new disclosure rules. As a result, the number of mentors has decreased from 158 to 20 as of 2011, according to USA Today.

All told, the Washington Beltway very much resembles the intro to the old “Tales from the Darkside” TV series: there is another Washington just below the surface, “which is just as real, but not as brightly lit” as the one most visible to the public eye.

That is why it was so bombastically audacious for “military analyst” Loren Thompson, CEO of the non-profit Lexington Institute (which gets funding from defense contractors), and CEO of the for-profit Source Associates, which represents defense contractors seeking access on Capitol Hill, to write a column for Forbes this week called “Five Reasons The Defense Industry Is Still A Better Investment Than Other Sectors.”

Thompson’s read on defense industry stock is a lesson in pure venality and cynicism: global turmoil and war keep the the industry humming and stock prices jumping. Market domination by a few big fish and the Pentagon’s insatiable appetite for expensive new things insulate the real players from serious downturns, making their stock an attractive bet, too. And “the politics” — we cannot forget that. Here is Thompson’s cringe-worthy take:

Although military contractors complain endlessly about the drawbacks of doing business with a political system, there are also big benefits.  The Pentagon is relatively insensitive to price increases and Congress tries to protect jobs at defense facilities even when performance is sub-par.  So the defense industry is insulated from market forces in a way that few other industries can ever hope to be.

This political aspect to the business is especially important in protecting U.S. defense contractors from foreign competition at home.  The Pentagon tells a good story about welcoming foreign suppliers, but the simple truth is that most overseas companies can’t get past the cultural and security barriers.  Trade treaties exempt military purchases from most of the rules applied to other international transactions, and thus U.S. arms merchants seldom need to worry about foreign competition on their home turf.  Imagine how General Motors would be doing if it operated under those conditions.

Translation: thanks to all of the lobbying and “consulting” by Thompson and his ilk (Harper’s took an expert crack at Thompson in 2010), politicians are too fat with contributions and too paralyzed with fear they’ll be labeled “soft on defense” to hold the line on spending or to cancel major projects. Furthermore, the MIC (military-industrial complex) has been designed such that there is a little piece of the industry in nearly every state and congressional district, making it that much more difficult for lawmakers to make a stand.

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