How the Military/Industrial Complex evades responsibility

(10 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Corporations in the United States are treated in the legal system as “people”, legal entities with rights. That’s a problem addressed in Thom Hartmann’s book, “Unequal Protection”, and he touches on it again in Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class”. These legal loopholes make it easy for corporations to get out from under taking responsibility for their actions, because a corporation, unlike a human being, can change it’s identity and move it’s assets to that new identity very, very quickly. As we are finding out with AIG. AIG and other corrupt corporations are frantically moving their assets out of the company (and out of the country) as fast as possible. Some of the places they’re moving the money to are corporate allies, others are just shell corporations that will allow them to keep the stolen loot in the family.

Incidentally, AIG was the primary insurer for the World Trade Center complex, and arranged a very lucrative policy on those towers one month prior to 9/11 with the site’s owner, Larry Silverstein, who was made a billionaire by the attacks. Just thought I’d mention that here. It’s fascinating how many of these corporations currently exhibiting suspicious behavior had their pattifingers in the World Trade Center on 9/11, and not an Islamic extremist to be found anywhere near them in the bunch. But I digress.

This essay will cover my own personal experiences with large corporations, in particular DoD contractors, and what they do to evade taking responsibility for their actions. Like any predator, the predatory corporation is constantly on the move, it’s shifting identities used to camoflague the identities of those who are on the mercenary warpath against their unsuspecting own. Jon Stewart wasn’t far off when he called it a “Sherman’s March” – in many ways it has been exactly that.

The pattern of behavior touches everyone sooner or later but the degree to which it is experienced is minimized at the individual level. So your average middle class member only sees “the factory fold” once in their lifetime, finds another place to work (sometimes another place to live), out of necessity downsizes their standard of living unaware of what has been stolen from them, and moves on with their life. Unless the pool of people affected gets larger than an individual’s social or professional circles, people simply chalk it up to a hard hand dealt them by fate, deal with it and move on.

The problem is the corporations are repeating their behavior more often. They have to. The herds they are preying on are thinning – ironically as a result of their own success. And their own babies are still hungry, and now there’s a lot more of them.

The first DoD contractor I had any exposure to was Sperry Gyroscope in Great Neck, Long Island. Elmer Sperry, inventor of the gyroscope, put the United States on the map as a major air power between World Wars I and II. Without the gyroscope, stable flight as we know it today would not have been possible. Gyroscopic compasses were also installed in ships and trains. The Navy was very interested in them because it also made submarine warfare possible.

Long Island, as the area of the US closest to Europe, became incredibly strategically important to the US military, especially with the advent of the two World Wars. Naturally, the military was interested in this technology first, and DoD contractors like Sperry and Grumman started popping up all over Long Island to support this interest, mostly for the Navy and Air Force. It’s one of the reasons it’s still a stronghold or Republican iconoclasts decades after the fact. It’s why right wing hatemongers like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity can live and thrive here. The DoD presence on Long Island has been enormous for decades. Two directors of the CIA hail from here, George Tenet and William Casey. Sperry’s facility in Long Island was used to house the U.N. Security Council for five years starting in 1946, before Rockefeller gave them the property to build the UN Building in Manhattan.

My father worked for Sperry for a total of 25 years, first at their headquarters in Great Neck and later at their radar testing facility in Ronkonkoma. That site and others which were mostly under Grumman’s control happened to be important from an engineering perspective – it was possible, due to the curvature of the earth, to pick up stuff flying over England from there. As a matter of fact, during a 72 hour burn-in test of a naval destroyer’s radar systems, my father’s engineering team at Sperry picked up three Russian bogeys flying over Great Britain.

The hostile takeover of Sperry by Burroughs Corporation in the late 1980s was legendary for the amount of money it made those, like my father, who had been holding shares in the company for decades. To give you an idea of how much money my father made, he had been hired in 1959. He brought the entire family to Europe for a two week vacation – I obtained two weeks of leave from my duty station at Ramstein and met them in Rome. The new company was called “Unisys”. My father continued working for them as an engineer, as did my (ex-Navy) uncle, who was in charge of managing all their contracts.

It was ironic that I had joined the Air Force in a specific effort to avoid conflicts of interest. My father (and as far as I was aware, my uncle) mostly worked with the Navy and I expected that joining a different branch of service would keep me out of projects and contracts that their company would be involved in. But my second assignment placed me at the same HQ USAFE office that was on the other end of approving the “Desktop III” contract with Unisys. This contract was to replace all the unclassified 286 desktops and laptops that USAFE had in theater with 386 based versions. Mind you, as a little grunt Sergeant providing tech support I had little, if anything, to do with any contract approval that was going on, but the fact that I just couldn’t seem to get away from dealing with the place where my dad and uncle worked should be as disturbing to the reader as it was to me.

Unisys had a lot of trouble fulfilling it’s end of the bargain. The Air Force was ordering the 386s faster than they could be produced, and they were not combat hardened machines so they had to be frequently replaced. While my coworkers were bringing back stories to me of having to dump two pounds of sand out of the case of a laptop, I was being told by my dad and uncle that the design specs were difficult to meet – this was during Desert Storm and they were on the technical bleeding edge of trying to produce laptops and desktops hardened for combat in that environment. In the end, the AF pulled the contract away from Unisys and gave it back to Groupe Bull, the French corporation which bought Zenith.

You may notice a theme here. One corporation buys another. Big fish eats little fish. It’s a very common theme – because when the little fish is naughty, but gets eaten, nothing worse can happen to it, right?

Here’s a writeup I did on my personal blog about how Sterling Software used contractors to gut the Air Force for technical support on the classified message handling system I was tasked to maintain during my first military assignment. When Sterling lost the contract due to incompetence and willful neglect of their duties, the company that won the contract, McDonnell Douglas, simply hired over all the same people. It was easier, they said. Everyone already held the right clearances and knew the software. This personal historical perspective clearly shows that the groundwork for using DoD contractors to undercut the military and circumvent the societal rules they need to play by was well-laid decades before anyone ever heard of Blackwater or Halliburton.

Eventually Sterling Software itself disappeared into the cavernous recesses of Computer Associates. Want some fun? Pick a DoD contractor – ANY DoD contractor – and try to find out any history about them. Go ahead, try it! You’ll find few to no photos of their facilities or information about where they were located – EVEN THE ONES FROM THE COLD WAR – and a labyrinth of mergers and acquisitions that will make your head spin. Look at Blackwater USA, which morphed into Blackwater International, which now calls itself Xe, while another Erik Prince corporation with the innocuous-sounding name Greystone continues to fly under the public’s radar. Always on the move. Always shifting identities or creating new ones. Always preying on the unsuspecting. This is your military industrial complex. These are your tax dollars at work – and if you think they’re working for you, think again.

I challenge anyone who reads this to re-create an accurate history of DoD contracting in the United States from 1945 onward. They’d need a very high clearance to do it, and a ferret as their totem animal. Most of the people they’d need to interview are either dead or not talking for other reasons. Dwight D. Eisenhower was in a position to know what was happening and he infamously alluded to it in his farewell address to the nation on January 17, 1961:

A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction…

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Unisys eventually closed their plants in Long Island, including the one in Great Neck. The site now lies under a shopping mall parking lot. The reservoir pointed out to me by my father, once designed as an emergency water supply source in the most paranoid days of the Cold War, cheerfully emulates just another suburban sump – and I daresay if you tossed a few fish in it their babies would come out funny colors and grow a few extra eyes. Nobody notices this, though, because the multitude of sins that should have been cleaned up are under a shopping mall parking lot.

Oh yes, DO let’s talk about the way DoD pollutes, shall we? One of the reasons DoD contractors are always on the move is the fun chemical stuff they leave behind as they do their dirty work. Bony Joni Mitchell is dead on with “Big Yellow Taxi”, except by the time they’re paving it over, it’s not paradise. Most folks on Long Island are familiar with Roosevelt Field. Not too many people know that there’s still a military base there, and fewer still know what’s under THAT mall’s parking lot because it’s been sitting under there for decades. There’s a guy I know – Army Major – who was assigned some very nice base housing at the facility in Garden City. Decent guy, did his 17 months in Iraq, couple of kids – and wife with a double mastectomy. I’m SURE it’s just a coincidence that for two years and change they lived a whole two houses away from that parking lot. Long Island has one of the highest incidences of breast cancer in the nation. They say it’s something in the water. No SHIT, Sherlock!

I had a friend whose son, born at Hanscom AFB in Massachusetts, was born autistic. One of a ring of such birth defects surrounding a Foster Grant eyeglass plant near the base that was leaching chemicals into the groundwater. Foster Grant was near the airbase for a reason. The same chemicals they were using to make their “uncompromising” eyeglasses were being used to make helmet shields and sunglasses for pilots. She told me that when a group of families got together to sue the company, they “went bankrupt” and were bought out by another corporation which wasn’t liable for their actions.

Let’s talk about Photocircuits, or as I like to call it, “Photocircus”. Here’s a another Cold-War era DoD contractor that began operations in the fifties, played a bit of corporate shell game with places like Kollmorgan and Multiwire; was financially fleeced by it’s executives twice; and then left behind a legacy of 23 acres of neglected, chemically toxic mess within walking distance from my house. We folks living here in Glen Cove are supposed to ignore Photocircuits. It’s almost easy to do – the place was designed from the beginning not to be noticed by the general public. Most of the eyesore factor abuts private land that it would be naughty to be caught on – coincidentally, a country club that caters to the area’s wealthy.

I have found while doing my research that this is very frequently the case on Long Island – DoD stuff right next to the private golf courses and country clubs of the rich. If that golf ball has a funny glow to it, Mr. Millionaire, best leave it in that fourteenth hole. The military/industrial complex has no scruples when it comes to who they prey on and where they leave their messes. Rich, poor, Republican, Democrat, immigrant, citizen – THEY DON’T CARE. THEY EAT THEIR OWN. Liberals understand this from the beginning, but now the right wing idiots are finally catching on – because they’re caught in the downward spiral now, too.

So anyway, back to Photocircuits… the place officially doesn’t exist. No one will buy it from it’s current owner because it would cost millions to clean up the pollution there. And there’s a creek that runs right through the property – a creek that empties out into Long Island Sound, that for years was used as a means for dumping industrial toxic waste.

The people who currently own Photocircuits are patiently waiting for everyone to forget about it so that eventually the buildings can be razed and they can bring in some sweetheart deal developers who will build a nice shopping mall there.

All over Long Island – all over the country, in remote, forgotten corners of towns and suburban communities, you can find places exactly like Photocircuits. Abandoned DoD contractor sites like Grumman in Bethpage, or the AVIS/Cendant building in Garden City which was once a World War II era munitions plant with walls three feet thick in places and it’s own private railroad infrastructure. In Long Island, many of them date back to World War II or the Cold War. They’re heinously polluted. Cleanup is expensive.

What the military/industrial complex does is try to erase the memory of their presence from the community. The miscreants get into their “Big Yellow Taxis” and move on elsewhere. The buildings are boarded up. The favored sons are given their corporate crony jobs elsewhere within the maze of corporate shells. The ignorant grunts are left to fend for themselves and find jobs elsewhere. In today’s economy, it’s even easier for the DoD to hide their corporate sins – that boarded up, abandoned building is just another company that went down in the economic morass.

And after a few years have passed, they pave it over with a shopping mall parking lot. Lots of folks living around the shopping mall come down with mysterious ailments after varying exposure to the toxic environment, but the news of their sickness is confined to them and theirs. Always on the move, always changing their names to protect the guilty leaving behind a swath of sickened, impoverished people; broken laws; stolen money and raped, forgotten land. The only ones who ever see a pattern are the ones who have been close enough to it all their lives. Like me, and the other “fortunate sons”.

Well I am fortunate no longer, and it is in no small part because I know their secrets and the lies they tell. I know how dirty THEIR hands are, I am well aware of how they eat their own. I ain’t no fortunate son. I wouldn’t be if you paid me.


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  1. greedy corporatists, and military types, we are also dealing with actual, authentic, genuine criminals in Corporations and in the Financial Markets, can we understand how massive and complex this issue is.  

  2. Thanks for connecting the dots to situations I think many of us have some grasp of, but lack the details of how these manipulations are achieved by “monster” corporations, such as you have pointed out.

    It seems that all the way around, whether it’s Wall Street, the banks, monster corporations, etc., there are insufficient regulations and certainly, for whatever regulations there may be, there is little or no enforcement of them.  There is no “policing” of their activities, so to say!  All of these huge entities will do whatever they wish and can, so long as there is nothing to stop them from doing it. Therefore, behaving in a morally and principled way under their own auspices, just cannot be trusted period. Greed has no conscience,  

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