Weapons make the world go round

By Perry Munyon

Read original article

Pittsburg Post-Gazette

Guns a-blazing, a well-informed South African nails the kingpins of the global arms trade

The title alone will grab you, once you’re cognizant of the fact that it is nonfiction. This is not a book about some guys straw-purchasing AR-15s, converting them to machine guns, and selling them to American survivalists or far-off rebels. This is the story of the big boys — the major (sometimes unknown) players working for or with the big guns at Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, BAE and Boeing, to name a few. And it is an eye-opener.

Andrew Feinstein, a 47-year-old former South African politician, is the author of a previous work of nonfiction, “After the Party,” a memoir detailing his stint in the African National Congress and as a very vocal MP in the lower house of South Africa’s Parliament from 1997 until his resignation in 2001. His departure was prompted by the ANC’s denial of his request that they investigate the 1999 South African arms deal, a $4.8 billion weapons purchase from the United States that was rife with corruption allegations.

In “The Shadow World,” Mr. Feinstein takes on the global version of the arms trade going back to the beginning, to a very different world that existed just a century ago. A world that actually had some politicians, and many citizens, speaking from a moral high ground against war profiteers.
As Europe stumbled into World War I, lots of opportunists got very rich and planted seeds of darkness that produced an abundant harvest even they could not have foreseen. Mr. Feinstein lays out this groundwork but places particular attention to detail on the modern era in which all the biggest and costliest deals were and are going on all over the world right under our very distracted noses.
Just the materiel for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr. Feinstein points out, cost us staggeringly large amounts of money: in 2004, procurement and supplemental budgets were at $7.2 billion. From then until 2010, $215 billion was budgeted and an additional $21.4 billion was requested for 2011. This is over and above the Department of Defense’s already gargantuan budget.

Africa is dealt with in great detail because it has been a playground of abuse for world powers for decades. Its stories are heartbreaking and horrifying.
Mr. Feinstein has taken on an immensely intricate tale with many players. Names such as Prince Bandar, Charlie Wilson, Helen Garlick, Charles Taylor, Randy “Duke” Cunningham and Darleen Druyun, along with the late John Murtha and his successor, Mark Critz. It’s the story of a 100 years of public and private wars (with guns and without), the powerful people moving the materiel across the global chessboard and unfathomable amounts of money changing hands.
The men and women involved were often shady or immoral, even if they weren’t doing anything overtly illegal (although they often were). Mr. Feinstein’s opinion comes through loud and clear throughout, but his opinion tends toward the aforementioned moral high ground of another era, when war profiteers, with no regard for the cost in human lives and money, were rightly scorned for their actions. His position, correctly, comes from the idea that there are things in this world that are right and things that are wrong. In this tale, many were caught and prosecuted but, sadly and infuriatingly, far too many weren’t, aren’t and won’t be.
This finely detailed, and sometimes dry, expose goes easy on no one, from President Obama to Sen. Mitch McConnell and Mr. Murtha, whom Mr. Feinstein refers to as one of the many hucksters who have worked hard to get their earmarks and make their deals for defense contracts for their respective districts, all while talking about the need for reform.

Mr. Feinstein’s tremendous work shows that we’re all players on some level, even if we’re just choosing ignorance and voting for someone just because he or she is pro-this or anti-that. Our elected representatives are acting in our name around the world, making deals with despots and arms manufacturers, paying off or taking payment, and the result being that far too many, as Mr. Feinstein has shown, have paid a high price, with money and blood. The global arms trade, “one of the most destructive and corrupting in human history,” he writes, “cannot be allowed to continue in its largely unregulated, unscrutinized current form.”
Everyone would do well to read this book and self-educate on what this world is all about, and then take some action in the voting booth.