Sunday, September 18, 2011

Why Solyndra and Not Boeing?

President Obama faces increased scrutiny over a solar energy company, Solyndra, that received half a billion dollars from the administration, only to go belly up months later. As Democracy Now suggests, Solyndra might find itself "a household name" in the 2012 election cycle, as well as an excuse to scrap the notion of an economy fueled by green jobs.

But, where is the scrutiny of Boeing, one of whose subsidiaries
has long been linked to extraordinary rendition flights that received many billions of dollars since 2000? Where is the political fallout over the Pentagon's recent awarding of a $35 billion contract to the aerospace giant? The half a billion the Obama administration approved for Solyndra pales in comparison with the $35 billion Boeing received in 2010.

And, where are those who, with religious zeal, call for spending cuts when the Pentagon gifts more than $30 billion to one company? Moreover, is there no is congressional oversight into how that money is being spent by the Pentagon?

Since George W. Bush's first term in 2001 through 2010, according to Public, campaign contributions to Boeing came to $10 million; lobbying expenditures were $115 million. And, from 2000-2008, government contracts awarded to Boeing were a whopping $169 billion.

In one year alone, 2008, as a going away present, Mr. Bush gave Boeing $24 billion in government contracts. Not to be outdone, the Obama administration pitched in another $35 billion last year.

So, why all the fuss about Solyndra and not a peep about Boeing? Where is the public outrage over the complicity between the world's largest aerospace company and the Central Intelligence Agency's transportation of detainees to countries that allow for torture? Given the level of global warfare now, what better time to make Jeppesen a household name instead of Solyndra? What better time to call attention to taxpayer funds going to finance a company that ships detainees to black sites around the world where it is permissible to do things that have long been abjured, and criminalized both here in the United States and abroad?

Okay, but where does the idea that Boeing is involved in detainee rendition come from? It was Jane Mayer who first wrote in The New Yorker, back in 2006 about Jeppesen International Trip Planning. As Mayer reports, Jeppesen, a subsidiary of Boeing, lists the CIA as one of its clients. Keep in mind that, fully two years before Mr. Obama was took office, Ms. Mayer brought to light Boeing's involvement in planning for clandestine CIA renditions.

In her article, Mayer asserts that, while a tiny charter airline actually flies the planes, a division of Boeing handles "many of the logistical and navigational details" for the trips including "clearance to fly to other countries."
Jeppesen is, in her words, the "C.I.A.'s travel agent."

And, the following year, 2007, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in which they formally charged Jeppessen Dataplan of "providing flight services" that enabled for the rendition, and ultimate torture of detainees.

ACLU lawyer, Ben Wizner, noted then that "This is the first time we are accusing a blue chip American company of profiting from torture." According to the suit, four years ago, Jeppesen made 70 rendition flights. Oh, by the way, the suit was dismissed in February, 2008, and then dismissed again by an appeals court in 2010. The Supreme Court reportedly declined to review the case.

The Pentagon's awarding last year of $11 billion more than was awarded in 2008 should make the hair on the back of everyone's neck stand up at the thought of how many more rendition flights Jeppesen must be making now, not only with impunity, but with the full backing of the Pentagon, and government. This practice, and the fact that we're paying for it, should be a wake-up call for all concerned about overriding international proscriptions against torture by covertly rendering what amounts to high value suspects to countries that have no legal obligation to adhere to international law, which amounts to outsourcing enhanced alternative interrogation techniques.

Notably, Boeing purchased Jeppesen in 2000 and government contracts expanded by 170 billions in the eight years of George W. Bush's presidency. The war on terror for some became a war of terror. There was nothing controversial in the mainstream media about the Boeing contracts. Not like there has been over the past week or so with the Obama administration's connections to Solyndra.

Why no fuss about the $115 million spent in lobbying for Boeing during the Bush years? And, where is the Solyndra affair really going? Is it to be compared with where the vast majority of Pentagon funding to Boeing has gone?

Moreover, why the failure on the part of Republicans and Democrats both to mention that it was back in 2007, under the presidency of George W. Bush, that a conditional loan guarantee was issued to Solyndra by the Department of Energy?

There are some who might say that the controversy over Solyndra is not so much about the failure of solar energy, or green jobs, but failure in the marketplace, and that had Boeing met the same fate, they'd be in the news, too. But, those who profess that are making such a cynical statement about our values, and saying, in effect, it doesn't matter what you do as long as you make money at it. The silence on the subject of Boeing's connection to extraordinary rendition by the mainstream media is deafening.

There are some in the Obama administration, including many in Congress, according to the New York Times,who would like now to try all terror suspects in military courts, even those arrested on U.S. soil, but the president and his top counter-terrorism advisors are not about to allow that to happen, or so they say. Mr. Obama must also stand up to those congressional factions that want to cut Medicaid and not take a dime of taxpayer money away from military contractors like Boeing.

After all, there is nothing radical about civilian command of the military. Isn't that what the struggle has been from the McChrystal debacle going forward? Wasn't that Mr. Obama's core argument, and the reason Gen. McChrystal was asked to step down? The president can best assert himself now by taking the reins again, investigating, and defunding any military contract that is, even subliminally, inimical to international law. It's one thing to say the U.S. doesn't torture, but to allow for the awarding of billions of dollars by the Pentagon to a company that facilitates the outsourcing of torture is a cynical misuse of the public trust.

Make no mistake, this is by means intended to be a condemnation of Mr. Obama. There is a huge difference between the rendition program under Obama and that of George W. Bush. For openers, it was George W. Bush's administration that first stated the practice of illegally rendering suspects to countries that allow torture to circumvent international law. Remember, Boeing's connection to secret CIA flights began in 2000, and the actual flights began in 2001.

Today's White House was gifted with a whole lot of baggage from the Bush years. The president has tried to focus his energies on keeping the economy from total collapse which he's done, and history will be kinder to him than his contemporaries in that yes, Obama's stimulus did prevent an economic catastrophe the likes of which we've yet to see.

Having said that, the president has chosen to surround himself with hawks---deficit hawks and military hawks, and he turned the CIA over to a former high octane general, Petraeus, Stanley McChrystal's mentor, which means even more military political influence on government decisions.

Every president has to delegate. Mr. Obama must start to pay attention to what slips between the cracks on his watch, and cut off Boeing's $35 billion a year contract until, and unless, they demonstrate that they're no longer involved in secret terror flights.