BY DAVID H. HACKWORTH
14 December 1999
SEC DEFS AND THEIR GOLDEN PARACHUTES
Defense Secretary William Cohen has been in Europe doing his thing,
hustling U.S. arms.
The Sec Def is America's top salesman for all that deadly stuff
produced by his buddies in the U.S. arms business and then promoted
and authorized by his pals in Congress in their never-ending quest
for more pork and jobs for the folks back home.
These days he's got an uphill job. Made-in-the-USA fighters, bombers,
missiles and tanks sold briskly in Western Europe until the Iron
Curtain collapsed. But with no major military threats on the horizon,
some European nations have reduced their defense spending by as
much as half. Others, weary of the U.S. monopoly in arms, have
made it a point to take their shopping elsewhere.
For the U.S. military-industrial-congressional complex, this is
very bad news. The American defense industry gang, the world's
biggest arms supplier, misses the golden days of the Cold War,
not unlike the mob missed Prohibition when it was repealed back
in the 1930s.
So Cohen's been pushing the line that while the Soviets are no
longer an issue, Europe must be prepared for new threats from
rogue states like North Korea and Iran. With a straight face,
Cohen's putting out the word that Pyongyang, Tehran and a dozen
other meanies are assembling intercontinental ballistic missile
systems to blow everyone away. Long-range missiles capable of
putting a nuke weapon right splat on top of that wonderful little
cafe across from the Eiffel Tower and other fun spots in Western
His pitch is right out of the Cold War: Create a threat, fan the
fear that the bad guys are coming and then sell weapons to save
the "Free World." Hey, it's worked for 50 years. Why
not 50 more?
Take the recent case of the United States and Red China. First
the White House, Hughes and Loral give the Reds the high-tech
capability to whack an ICBM down in any front yard in the USA.
Then Cohen tells us we're once again nuclear targets and only
the creation of a multibillion-dollar protective umbrella will
save us from those nasty incoming Chinese missiles. There's no
mention that what triggered this new anti-missile arms race was
our providing Red China with the secrets of how missiles hit targets,
or that since Reagan kicked off Star Wars more than $100 billion
has been blown on this unworkable scheme.
But at the end of a bloody century where more money's been spent
on arms than in the complete history of humankind, most European
leaders aren't falling for Cohen's line.
Nor are they gung-ho about remaining dependent on the U.S. security
apparatus, especially since our bungles in Serbia. American leadership
both in Washington and among the top brass at NATO -- starting
with Gen. Wesley Clark, the biggest doofus since William Westmoreland
of Vietnam shame -- has made European leaders leery about being
led down the tubes by another American General Humpty Dumpty.
Going it alone with an all-European defense force commanded by
their own generals is looking better and better.
And it should. They're big boys and girls who can well defend
their own back yard. We've been propping them up for 55 years,
and it's time they did the Bosnias and Kosovos on their own while
we attend to our home fronts, beginning with securing our southern
Hopefully, then, NATO won't be around much longer to waste your
tax dollars. When this obsolete defense treaty disappears, we
can bring 100,000 troops back to the USA and save about $50 billion
One of life's ironies is that our government arms most of the
so-called Free World with horrific weapons. Meanwhile, the same
politicians are scheming to take away our peashooters in order
to make our country a more peaceful land -- just as we enter a
decade of the worst terrorism in history.
Perhaps we should all make a New Year's resolution to disarm the
world instead. We could start by putting an end to the mass exportation
of weapons. And we could also stop sticking our noses in everyone
Of course, this wouldn't be good for our Sec Defs. How could they
afford their post-Pentagon lifestyle? Since 1961, there hasn't
been one U.S. secretary of defense who didn't end up a multimillionaire.
Ever wonder where the money comes from?