With survival at stake, can weapon makers change course?
Today, the 75th anniversary of the atomic attack on Hiroshima, should be a day for quiet introspection. I recall a summer morning following the U.S. 2003 "Shock and Awe" invasion of Iraq when the segment of the Chicago River flowing past the headquarters of the world's second largest defense contractor, Boeing, turned the rich, red color of blood. At the water's edge, Chicago activists, long accustomed to the river being dyed green on St. Patrick's Day turned the river red to symbolize the bloodshed caused by Boeing products. On the bridge outside of Boeing's entrance, activists held placards urging Boeing to stop making weapons.
This summer, orders for Boeing's commercial jets have cratered during the pandemic, but the company's revenue from weapon-making contracts remains steady. David Calhoun, Boeing's CEO, recently expressed confidence the U.S. government will support defense industries no matter who occupies the Oval Office. Both presidential candidates appear "globally oriented," he said, "and interested in the defense of our country."
Investors should ask how Boeing's contract to deliver 1,000 SLAM- ER weapons (Standoff Land Attack Missiles-Expanded Response) to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia "defends" the United States.
Here are excerpts from Jeffrey Stern's account of a missile's impact on the town of Arhab in a remote area of Yemen. In this case, the missile was manufactured by Raytheon:
- Now, as Fahd walked into the hut, a weapon about the length of a compact car was wobbling gracelessly down through the air toward him, losing altitude and unspooling an arming wire that connected it to the jet until, once it had extended a few feet, the wire ran out and ripped from the bomb. Then it was as if the weapon woke up. A thermal battery was activated. Three fins on the rear extended all the way and locked in place. The bomb stabilized in the air. A guidance-control unit on the nose locked onto a laser reflection -- invisible to the naked eye but meaningful to the bomb -- sparkling on the rocks Fahd walked over.
At the -- well, at the moment of impact, a series of events happened almost instantaneously. The nose of the weapon hit rock, tripping a fuse in its tail section that detonated the equivalent of 200 pounds of TNT. When a bomb like this explodes, the shell fractures into several thousand pieces, becoming a jigsaw puzzle of steel shards flying through the air at up to eight times the speed of sound. Steel moving that fast doesn't just kill people; it rearranges them. It removes appendages from torsos; it disassembles bodies and redistributes their parts.
Fahd had just stepped into the stone shelter and registered only a sudden brightness. He heard nothing. He was picked up, pierced with shrapnel, spun around and then slammed into the back wall, both of his arms shattering -- the explosion so forceful that it excised seconds from his memory. Metal had bit into leg, trunk, jaw, eye; one piece entered his back and exited his chest, leaving a hole that air and liquid began to fill, collapsing his lungs. By the time he woke up, crumpled against stone, he was suffocating. Somehow he had survived, but he was killing himself with every breath, and he was bleeding badly. But he wasn't even aware of any of these things, because his brain had been taken over by pain that seemed to come from another world.
In 2019, the UN Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen observed "the continued supply of weapons to parties involved in Yemen perpetuates the conflict and the suffering of the population."
These experts say "the conduct of hostilities by the parties to the conflict, including by airstrikes and shelling, may amount to serious violations of international humanitarian law."
A year and a half ago, were it not for a presidential veto, both houses of the U.S. Congress would have enacted a law banning weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.
Another end-user of Boeing's weapons is the Israeli Defense Force.
(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).