How Lockheed Martin is lobbying Canadian politicians to back the F-35 fighter deal

How Lockheed Martin is lobbying Canadian politicians to back the F-35 fighter deal

Ottawa : Canada | Apr 24, 2012 at 12:31 PM PDT
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Lockheed Martin's F-35 promo in The Hill Times Online...

The Times They Are a Changin’

Back in the golden era of social activism—those Happy Days of the 1950s—it was not considered inappropriate in the slightest to refer to the military-industrial complex (with a tip of the egghead-shaped hat to Texan elite theorist C. Wright Mills) and its various private sector constituents collectively as “The Merchants of Death.” In fact, it had a certain ring to it that made the phrase a favourite in “left” circles, ad-biz cocktail parties, and the odd Yorkville coffee house.

Today, we have become a far more circumspect and conservative lot and the idea of tarring an entire industry with the cynical brush of nihilistic sarcasm is viewed by the corporate elite and their concentrated media outlets—including the so-called “social networking” platforms like Facebook—as an overt act of anarchism, if not, anti-capitalist, bite-the-hand-that-feeds-and-protects-you-against-foreign-terrorists evil.

With that prefatory disclaimer duly entered, it behooves LOON to warn those of you who are still naively imbibing your news like hooved beasts at the waterhole by reading the morning newspapers or trying to stay awake for the entirety of Peter Mansbridge’s dry interplay with weather prognosticator Claire Martin, that you may be missing the big picture.

More graphically, you are missing out on the kind of cutting-edge state-of-the-art “multimedia” propaganda that is being discreetly made available to the non-schlubs and social elites who comprise our elected federal representatives in Ottawa and their phalanxes of executive and parliamentary assistants and advisors.

We’re talking about the highly intensive and expensive ads that the Lockheed Martin corporation has been deploying in Canadian media–and notably, that powerhouse of Parliamentary punditry, The Hills Times online edition–like Joint Strike Fighter Jets to persuade our MPs and their underlings (and even the odd literate member of the Senate) and bolster what they presumably perceive to be flagging support for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter which some of us have been reading about in the last couple of weeks. That’s the magnificent, screaming “Fifth-Generation” (huh?) lethally-weaponized warbird that our U.S. cousins are intent upon selling at an as-yet-to-be nailed down “sticker price” for the future defence of Canada’s northern frontier, Vancouver islands to the Alberta highlands, etc.

And now a word, er, multimedia aerial assault from our sponsors…

Far be it for a veritable new kid on the parliamentary block like LOON to tell the likes of the Nation’s Capital’s “hot” and “feisty” tip-sheet how to conduct its ethical business. Still it does raise the extremely tiny feathers above our perspicacious, truth-seeking, ever vigilant eyes (as we don’t have eyebrows) to see a self-avowed “independent” journal such as the Hill Times accepting this kind of corporate largesse in the same edition in which it purports to “independently” report upon the plight of the F-35 funding boondoggle.

Not that the U.S. or global aerospace industry is inherently corrupt or sinister (Airbus), or its lobbyists and shadowy agents in league with some demonic host of capitalist avarice (Karl-Heinz Schreiber), but it behooves us to point out that an organ with the overwhelming preponderance of its readership situated in “The House on the Hill,”-some of whom have pledged themselves to the aims of “peace, order and good government” without regard to the selfish agendas of deep-pocketed lobbyists—should perhaps have had greater pause before accepting this ad revenue windfall at the precise moment when the F-35 debate is resurging in the House of Commons.

And before you grab your Hudson Bay blanket and limited-edition Tim Hortons® Canadian Forces camo-ball cap and head for the door with your unregistered long-gun to “stand your ground” against this seemingly unpatriotic and anti-Canadian vitriol, consider that Lockheed Martin is so practiced in this art of mass persuasion manipulation that its latest Canadian propaganda on behalf of the F-35 cash-cow is patterned on its tried-and-tested star-spangled Homeland template.

William Hartung is director of the Arms Trade Resource Center at the World Policy Institute.

LOON Book Review: William Hartung warns of the Lockheed Martin siren call

In that regard, LOON, as a civil defence counter-strike of sorts, heartily encourages readers to peruse a copy of author William Hartung’s eye-popping history of the policy-dictating and flags-waving behemoth Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex (Nation Nation Books, 2010), an excerpt from which we reproduce herein:

It is a striking ad. An intimidating combat aircraft soars in the background, with the slogan up front in all capital letters: “300 MILLION PROTECTED, 95,000 EMPLOYED.” The ad – for Lockheed Martin’s F-22 “Raptor” fighter plane – was part of the company’s last gasp effort to save one of its most profitable weapons from being “terminated,”as they say in standard budget parlance. The pro-F-22 ad has run scores of times,in print, on political web sites, and even in the Washington, DC metro. One writer at the Washington Post joked that at a time when many companies have been cutting back on their advertising budgets, Lockheed Martin’s barrage of full page ads were the main thing keeping the paper afloat.

When an arms company starts bragging about how many jobs their pet project creates, hold onto your wallet. It often means that they want billions of dollars worth of your tax money for a weapon that costs too much, does too little, and may not have been needed in the first place. So it is with the Raptor, which at $350million per plane is the most expensive combat aircraft ever built. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates suggested that the F-22 needed to be cut because even with wars raging in Iraq and Afghanistan,it has never been used in combat. In fact, in its most daunting mission to date – flying to Japan for deployment at a U.S. air base there – the plane had technical difficulties and had to land in Hawaii, far short of its final destination.

But if Lockheed Martin insists that the Raptor’s unique capabilities more than justify its eye-popping price tag. For example, did you know that it is the “First and only 24/7/365All-Weather Stealth Fighter”? That it has a radar signature “approximately the size of a bumblebee”? Or that it provides “first-look, first-shot, first-kill air dominance capability”? I thought not. But keep listening. Lockheed Martin has a lot to say and they are serious about selling you their most profitable plane. How else to explain the statement from the F-22 Raptor web page stating that “When we meet the enemy, we want to win100-0, not 51-49”? It is hard to take this claim seriously. The Raptor has never seen combat – and is unlikely to do so given that it was designed to counter a Soviet plane that was never built – so at best the score is zero to zero. But the statement has a grain of truth – it describes Lockheed Martin’s lobbying efforts a whole lot more accurately than their fighter plane’s mission success rate.

They may never get to 100-0support in the Senate, but as soon as there was even a whisper of a possibility that the F-22 program might be stopped at “only” 187 planes – about what the Pentagon wanted, but only half of what the Air Force and Lockheed Martin were striving for – the company started racking up big numbers on their side.

By early 2009, months in advance of President Obama’s first detailed budget submission to Congress – which would decide the fate of the F-22 —- Lockheed Martin and its partners in the F-22 project (Pratt and Whitney and Boeing) had lined up 44 Senators and 200 members of the House of Representatives to sign onto a “save the Raptor” letter. Also signing the letter were 12 governors –including prominent Democrats like David Paterson of New York and Ted Strickland of Ohio– joined by R. Thomas Buffenbarger, the president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). The governors’ letter reads as if it was drafted by Lockheed Martin, starting off by saying “We urge you to sustain 95,000 jobs by certifying continued production of the F-22 Raptor – a defense program that is critical to our defense industrial base.” After describing it as “the world’s only operational 5thGeneration fighter” – a popular Lockheed Martin description of the Raptor – the letter returns to the jobs argument asking the president to “consider carefully the economic impact of your decision.”

At the heart of the lobbying campaign was the mantra of “jobs, jobs, jobs” – 95,000 jobs in44 states, to be exact. The company barely mounted an argument that the F-22 was needed to defend the country – it was there in the background, but it wasn’t the driving force. Lockheed’s ads for the plane got more and more specific as time went on, with a series showing people at work on components of the plane with legends like “2,205 F-22 Jobs in Connecticut;”“125 Skilled Machinists in Helena, Montana;” “50 Titanium Manufacturing Jobs in Niles, Ohio;” “30 Hydraulic Systems Specialists in Mississippi”; and “SteelForgers in Chicago” [no number given]. All that was missing were ads for “Pencil Pushers, Anywhere, USA” or “132 Lobbyists, Washington, DC.”

There was only one problem with this impressive flurry of job claims: they were fraudulent.

Utilizing standard techniques that estimate the numbers of jobs per billion generated by different kinds of economic activities, the $4 billion or so per year that the federal government was spending on the F-22 would create at most 35,000 to 40,000 jobs. The estimating method – known as input-output analysis – measures all of the jobs involved, from directly working on the plane, to working in plants supplying components, to working in the restaurant across the street from the plant were workers spend their wages, and so on. And it clearly demonstrates that the F-22 creates less than half as many jobs as Lockheed Martin claimed in its promotional campaign.

As for those geographically specific assertions about the locations of the jobs, when pressed the company refused to provide more detailed documentation of those claims. When a USA Today reporter asked for details on where F-22 supplier plants were, the company claimed that information on the locations of the F-22-related facilities represented proprietary information,and refused to provide it. Never mind that Lockheed Martin gets over 80% of its business from the federal government – from taxes paid by millions of Americans – when it comes to coming clean about the claims it is using to get its hands on more of our money, it’s none of our business.

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Can a newspaper that's been covering the heated debate in the Canadian House of Commons over the Harper Government's announced deal to buy $25 billion worth of F-35 jets remain objective while running amultimedia ad platform for the weapon's manufacturer, Lockheed Martin?
looncanada is based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, and is a Stringer on Allvoices.
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