For the Pentagon, Xmas is an everyday affair. And the wonderful thing for those who make its presents is that there’s never a December 26th. Unlike the rest of us, the Pentagon, which evidently doesn’t keep its sales slips, never rushes to its nearest arms manufacturer and returns that crush of unwanted or defective gifts the day after; nor does it hit the sales tables. In fact, its top officials stand on principle in their unwavering belief that nothing should be purchased at less than full price or higher if possible. (After all, some under-armed despot somewhere on Earth is bound to want the arms system sooner or later.) So, as we’ve discovered only this week, in a rush of secret seasonal buying I guess they really wanted to surprise the American people! the National Reconnaissance Office, a joint Pentagon/CIA operation, has picked up a new $9.5 billion spy satellite system, possibly slated to become “the largest single-item expenditure in the $40 billion intelligence budget,” that evidently can take its photographs “only in daylight hours and in clear weather.” (Maybe the Pentagon’s weather forecasters know something we don’t!) I guess they’re already planning the next series of purchases after all, what’s another 10 billion or so dollars? that crucial satellite slicker and radical laser surgery for satellite night vision.
So, it’s with particular pleasure that TomDispatch presents the second annual opportunity for you, the Xmas gift-giver, to partake in some small way of the Pentagon’s globally generous spirit. Let Nick Turse guide you through a landscape of gifts worthy of any tale from the Arabian Nights (think oil and sand). Tom
Make It a Merry Military-Corporate Christmas
by (Little Saint) Nick Turse
It’s that time of year again, folks. The moment to begin the mad scramble to fill those Xmas stockings and so time for the second annual TomDispatch list of gifts that will make this a jolly “military-corporate complex” Xmas for you and yours!
Yes, an entire year has passed since TomDispatch first brought you its list of “Hot as Depleted Uranium Toys for a New Imperial Age.” This year, we’ve got great new gift ideas from the Complex. So, if you didn’t get that Abrams tank under the tree last year and the neighbors rubbed their new Hummer in your face (before using it to crush your puny “girlie-man” car), don’t despair. This Xmas offers a wealth of possibilities, a shot at getting all the games, gadgets, gear, and guns the Complex has to offer.
Heroic Action Figures, Patriot Games, and Terror Toys
Last year, a mangled, bloodied son of Saddam, the Talking Uday doll, topped the list of most wanted evildoer toys, while “mission-accomplished” Elite Force Aviator George W. Bush led the way for the US of A. This year, the Herobuilders “Hero Action Figures” line has out-Udayed itself, unveiling a plethora of new villains and American icons.
Why not buy that special little someone the weirdly muscled-up Rudy Giuliani (“America’s Mayor”) figure, the “Talking British Ally” Tony Blair doll, or that Green-Zone favorite, the “Talking Bush in Baghdad,” whose startled expression perfectly matches his ill-fitting military garb. Any one of these dolls er, action figures should be more than a match for the military-fatigues-wearing “Crack Head Saddam,” the T-shirt clad “Captured Saddam,” or the “Dick, the American Taliban” figurine, let alone those near-terrorists (already heading for the discard pile) like the Talking John Kerry, whose shirt might as well say “flip-flopper;” the “Michael ‘No’ Moore” figure, which, according to the company, “makes a perfect voodoo doll or pin cushion;” or, looking forward to a hateful 2008, the Hillary Clinton doll found lounging sybaritically (and a bit incomprehensibly) on a couch with a mint julep!
Okay, dads, we hear you! Sure, you want to steep junior in the military experience, but skip the dolls, right? Then you’ll definitely want to invest in the Military Role Play Set from “Manley” (I kid you not). With recent top-brass pronouncements that U.S. forces are likely to be in Iraq for at least the next 5-10 years, you can’t start too early acclimating junior to the desert-camo-colored play set that includes a helmet, knife, gas mask, and a few grenades. You know he’ll grin when he pulls the pin!
But how about Sally? Think she’s got more in her future than mere grunthood in our imperial army? Not to worry, this Xmas she can begin training for a future Pentagon/corporate “revolving door” job with a game that combines all the fun of cutthroat capitalism and ruthless militarism Army Monopoly. Gone are those timeless tokens, the little Scottie dog and the top hat. Instead, try the tank and the attack helicopter! And what good would a little green plastic house or red hotel be when that tank comes rumbling down St. James Place? Fortunately, they too have been replaced by “custom battalions and divisions.” And while you might expect the board to be filled with Axis-of-Evil nations ripe for a U.S. invasion, you actually send your legions around the board capturing Army bases, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and even the Pentagon.
This year it’s more important than ever to rally kids ’round the flag because it seems a bearded figure other than ol’ St. Nick has been hard at work in his Tora Bora toy shop. You guessed it: Uncle Osama! First to appear was a toy that seemed to evoke the image of an airplane crashing into the Twin Towers. Then came the toy cell-phone sporting an image of Osama himself (with the word “king” above it). With direct-to-video star bin Laden competing for a share of the holiday toy market (and a half-brother of his hawking perfume to mom), what good parent wouldn’t immediately begin muscling up his or her kid’s toy arsenal?
Video Wishes and Warrior Dreams
Jumping up a bit in age, we find that one of last year’s hot gifts has returned to this year’s list by popular acclaim Kuma Reality Games’ “Kuma War.” With cable-news-style introductions by Kuma anchor Jackie Schechner and commentary from retired Marine Major General Thomas L. Wilkerson a tandem so fair n’ balanced they’d do Fox proud this video game’s ripped-from the-headlines missions, updated monthly, will take your youngsters directly into thrilling fire fights in Fallujah or right into the “filthy warrens of Sadr city.” If your boy or girl somehow made it through 2004 without “Kuma War,” you’re not gonna want to make that mistake twice. After all, it might be the only chance he or she has to see American troops and their $150 billion effort, backed by heavy armor, helicopters, fighter-bombers, spy satellites, and all sorts of high-tech weaponry, actually defeat resistance fighters using small arms and pickup trucks.
Or why not stuff a few stockings with the recently released third season of ABC’s hit Central Intelligence Agency-themed television series “Alias” on DVD? Too cheap to shell out the $65? Then just download the free public service announcement on the CIA’s Web site where the show’s star Jennifer Garner shills for the agency, burn it to a CD, and put it right under the tree.
Are video games and DVDs not quite right(-wing enough) for your list of giftees? Is that special someone always frothing at the mouth while watching Fox News? Then have we got the gift for you! A “Terrorist Hunting Permit” sticker that’s perfect for any “car, truck, RV, camper, or fleet.” After all, what exemplifies the holiday spirit more than making 2005 (and, according to the sticker, every other year right up to 2050) open season on all evildoers?
Or how about surprising your own special “security mom,” who wants to do something more than just put a sticker on the minivan, with an upgrade on the stickee? Especially since the Army and the International Truck and Engine Corporation have already ridden to the rescue. While it won’t have the Kevlar armor or night-vision equipment of the military model, the new civilian version of the 8,000-lb. SmarTruck III will blow away any terrorist’s puny 5,000-lb. Hummer H2, not to speak of the pathetically wimpy 4,100-lb. Jeep Liberty. Of course, what satisfying solution doesn’t also create new problems? So you’re gonna need to get one industrial-sized tree to park this bad boy beneath.
And lest we forget about Dad, here’s a lovely possibility for the man who has more socks than any drawer will allow an annual membership to the Kabul Golf Club, located in the beautiful, artfully unreconstructed suburbs of Afghanistan’s capital. Recently reopened, after being cleared of land mines (and the remains of a few old Soviet tanks), KGC may lack certain typical golfing amenities many of its “greens” are just oily sand but how many PGA courses boast a bombed-out army barracks or Kalashnikov-carrying caddies? With Afghanistan competitively teetering between being the world’s most-failed state and the globe’s leading narco-state success, it’s not surprising that the annual membership is within your reach! For a mere 7,500 Afghanis ($160), it’s a bargain as long as they can keep the Improvised Explosive Devices off the fairways.
Global Giving It Feels So Good!
When it comes to the Pentagon, generosity is an eternal byword and Christmas giving an all-year-round activity as well as something even those who don’t celebrate the holiday can still cash in on. Take Israel. As it happens, the Sharonistas evidently jumped the gun and wrote their first letter to Santa as spring was ending. On June 1, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency “notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Israel of Joint Direct Attack Munitions [JDAMs] as well as associated equipment and services.” With a total value that could reach as high as $319 million, its unclear exactly who will receive the bigger gift Israel or the jolly elves slated to fulfill the order: the McDonnell Douglas Corporation (a subsidiary of Boeing); Alliant Techsystems; Lockheed-Martin; Northrop Grumman; and the Honeywell Corporation.
In addition to “smart” weapons technologies and fuse components, the Israeli request included such spirit-of-the-season gifts as:
2,500 MK-84 live bombs a general purpose 2,000-lb. bomb
1,500 MK-82 live bombs a 500-lb. general purpose blast/fragmentation bomb
500 BLU-109 live bombs a 2,000-lb. penetrator and blast/fragmentation bomb
500 MK-83 live bombs a general purpose 1,000-lb. bomb
In this seasonal spirit, Israel has been far from alone. The American military-corporate complex has gotten a flood of letters from all the good little nations of the world. While Johnny may want Kuma War and Sally, Army Monopoly, the government of Canada asked to be allowed to buy “2,000 Radio Frequency (RF) TOW-2A and 600 RF TOW-2B Anti-Armor Guided Missiles, [and] 400 RF Bunker Buster Missiles” from Raytheon. Turkey requested a modest 225 AIM-9X SIDEWINDER Missiles (also from Raytheon); while Brazil asked Uncle Sam to bless its request to Sikorsky Aircraft and General Electric for 10 UH-60L BLACK HAWK helicopters, along with 22 7.62mm M134 Mini guns and other accoutrements, for an estimated $250 million.
The holiday wish list most in the spirit of the season, however, has got to be Hungary’s. Back in October, CUBIC Defense Applications Inc. of San Diego, Calif., through the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command, Training Systems Division, was awarded a $7.7 million contract for a “Combined Hungarian Range Instrumentation and Simulation Training Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System” a laser-tag-like setup for Hungarian military training exercises. The jolly acronym for this project is wholly in the spirit of the season: CHRISTMS!
The Ghost of Christmas Future
Still, make no mistake, no one can beat the U.S. military when it comes to wish lists! Theirs are routinely written for Xmas mornings many years ahead. So what are America’s Armed Forces asking Santa to deliver on Xmas morning 2008 and beyond? Let’s take a look at just a few of the literally hundreds of wish-list projects dancing in the heads of our top military command and their arms-dealing counterparts who make up the military-corporate complex.
The Army is hopeful that by Xmas morning 2008, Lockheed Martin will have delivered its Loitering Attack Missile (LAM) “an expendable loitering, hunter-killer” missile that sprouts wings after take-off and then flies over an area for up to 45 minutes waiting for a target to present itself for total destruction. How nice it will be for them to have a sweet LAM baa-ing under the tree in just a few short years! And, not wanting to be left out in the cold, the Air Force plans to take delivery that very same year of its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and the Navy to deploy the first of its DD-21 Zumwalt-class Land Attack Destroyers a “multi-mission destroyer tailored to maritime dominance and land attack missions.”
The Navy hopes to have electromagnetic rail guns under the Xmas tree by 2010. As you might guess, a “rail gun” isn’t exactly a Daisy BB rifle. Instead, imagine a gunpowder-less “gun” that uses electromagnetic propulsion to fire a projectile capable of reaching a speed of 13,000 mph in 0.2 seconds. The Navy yearns for this futuristic super-weapon, primarily because it raises sugar-plum-like dreams of potentially “extremely lethal effects.”
The Marine Corps is hoping Santa Claus will be coming to town with a full component of Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAAVs), armed with both Bushmaster II 30 mm cannons and M240 Machine Guns, sometime between 2012 and 2014. And Santa better mind his appointed flight path because the Air Force could possibly have a brand new FB-22 Fighter Bomber in the skies as early as 2013. Only two years later, if the elves cut down on their coffee breaks, the Marine Corps hopes its very own electromagnetic wish will come true, allowing them to field a Marine-Corps-made rail gun mountable on a Marine-Corps-only tank.
Meanwhile, in the post 2015-era, the Air Force is dreaming of Air-Launched Anti-Satellite Missiles that will blow low-Earth-orbiting objects out of the skies. And by Xmas 2037, the Air Force, already worried that their dear old bomber inventory may fall below desired levels, is briefing Santa on a proposed B-3 Long Range Strike Platform a futuristic fighter-bomber project projected to cost $35 billion in R&D alone. Meanwhile, at yet to be determined times in the future, DARPA projects like the MAgneto Hydrodynamic Explosive Munition (MAHEM), which promises “the potential for aimable, multiple warheads with increased lethality and kill precision,” and the High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS), a program to develop a high-energy laser weapon system, are also likely to found, wrapped in giant bows, under the military Xmas tree.
Make It a Merry Military-Corporate Xmas
While you obviously can’t ante up for 2,000-lb. bombs like Israel or shell out the $35 billion needed for a future customized weapons system, you can still do your part to make this Xmas a merry one for the military-corporate complex. And don’t think you necessarily need to buy military-engineered video games, women’s black “Standard-Issue Assault Shoes,” designed for the Special Forces by sunglasses manufacturer Oakley, or an officially licensed U.S. Army pocket calculator although it sure helps! You can simply buy run-of-the-mill products made by Department of Defense contractors. And don’t worry, no effort will be involved. Chances are such gifts are already on your list or waiting beneath the tree.
So, on Xmas day, after you’ve unwrapped some of our recommended gifts, or more standard fare like that new DVD player from General Electric (the 8th largest DoD contractor, which brought “good things to life” for the military last year to the tune of $2.8 billion), a new Xbox video-game system (from DOD contractor Microsoft); a high-tech Roomba Discovery SE robot vacuum cleaner (from iRobot, which sells “pack-bots” to the military and has partnered with DARPA to make swarming mini-robots), a new cell phone from Motorola (which raked in more than 283 million Pentagon dollars last year), or any gift sealed with Scotch tape (made by 3M, which has been working on weapons systems like the Army’s OH-58 Kiowa helicopter), and after you’ve polished off that Butterball turkey or Cook’s brand Ham (both from DOD contractor ConAgra Foods) and those Pillsbury Xmas cookies (from DOD contractor General Mills), you can sit back and relax with the knowledge that the military-corporate complex is having another happy holiday or you and your friends can gather around a roaring fire (or the glow of the new plasma TV) and sing this little ditty to the tune of “Let It Snow”:
Oh, the war in Iraq is frightful,
But for Lockheed and pals it’s delightful,
Since the Pentagon continues to pay,
Let ’em stay, let ’em stay, let ’em stay.
Insurgents show no signs of stopping,
Americans can’t stop AKs from popping,
Since it keeps Boeing’s prices high,
occupy, occupy, occupy.
When there’s a bombing or firefight,
It means moo-lah galore for GE,
And ev’ry IED laid at night,
means they’re buyin’ a brand new Humvee
As long as some Black Hawks keep crashin’,
The Complex can really cash in,
More war equals much more dough,
Let’s not go, never go, let’s not go.
Nick Turse is doctoral candidate at the Center for the History & Ethics of Public Health in the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. He writes for the Village Voice and regularly for TomDispatch on the military-corporate complex.