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The Ordeal of the Lockheed 52

 

Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest and most profitable arms manufacturer, has been turned back in its attempt to squeeze $15,000 in “restitution” from peaceful protestors.

On April 22, 2003, fifty-two demonstrators were arrested for engaging in non-violent civil disobedience outside Lockheed’s Sunnyvale “campus,” with 6,000 employees its largest facility in California. The weapons giant initially demanded $41,000 in compensation for private security forces, but that fee was knocked down in initial court proceedings. The defendants never moved onto company property while protesting Lockheed’s profiteering off the war on Iraq, but sat and linked arms in front of vehicles entering the corporation’s domain. The more than 200 police present had no problems containing the demonstrators, who had earlier assured the authorities of their commitment to non-violence.

On the day of the protest, a company spokesperson told the Stanford Daily that the demonstrators “have been very cooperative, very communicative, letting everyone know their plans. They’ve worked with law enforcement officials. There’s been good communication and good cooperation on all sides.” He added, “we encouraged [employees] to stagger their arrival hours–everything is operating normally.”

Henry Norr, a San Francisco writer who was among the “Lockheed 52” defendants, points out that “most jurisdictions in the Bay Area haven’t pursued fines in civil disobedience cases” and that “restitution has a chilling potential to create a deterrent effect for dissent.” Norr adds, “an element of the victims rights movement was worthwhile, in that after all that victims go through, it’s not entirely fair that penalties should only be paid to the authorities. I think that it makes sense if somebody steals your stereo you should get money back. But we didn’t do a penny’s worth of damage–and the only time we set foot on company property was after we were arrested when they put us on a company tennis court.”

In her recent book “The New Nuclear Danger” Dr. Helen Caldicott calls Lockheed Martin “the world’s most powerful corporation, one that literally controls the fate of the earth.” The weapons giant certainly has a major presence in Washington, with a staggering 28 former executives now in the Bush administration. Lockheed ex-VP Bruce Jackson signed on to the founding letter of the infamous Project for a New American Century, the template for the current deranged U.S. uber alles foreign policy. Jackson played a pivotal role in front groups supporting war on Yugoslavia and the expansion of NATO (securing billions in weapons sales to the new member states), as well as the “Committee for the Liberation of Iraq,” which backed the campaign against this year’s reincarnation of Hitler. As the overall chairman of the Bush Foreign Policy Platform Committee, Jackson also wrote the Republican party foreign policy platform for Bush’s 2000 campaign.

Dick Cheney’s wife Lynne collected an annual $120,000 for years by sitting on Lockheed’s board. And though Republicans received the lion’s share of Lockheed dollars, Democrats are also complicit: Senate minority leader Tom Daschle’s wife is a paid lobbyist for the weapons giant, and former Texas governor Ann Richards and former California Representative Vic Fazio have lobbied for Lockheed in the past, while stalwart party hack Joe Lieberman is a favored recipient of Lockheed campaign donations.

Lockheed’s staggering profits have made the occasional multi-million dollar fine for graft just one more cost of doing business. The Project on Government Oversight found that from 2000-2001 Lockheed was cited for 84 instances of misconduct and pay outs of more than $426 million. In June, Lockheed paid the U.S. government $7.1 million to settle a suit over “false and fraudulent” claims made to NASA. In August, company spokeswoman Meghan Mariman explained that the payment of $37.9 million to settle charges of inflating costs on an Air Force contract was “to avoid the distraction of litigation.”

But in a political climate where John Ashcroft can tell his critics that “your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode national unity and diminish our resolve,” litigation against dissidents is obviously worthy of Lockheed’s corporate attention.

Given the range of weaponry the company produces, including anti-personnel landmines and depleted uranium weapons, it’s not surprising Lockheed wants to avoid scrutiny of its operations. Jennifer Hansen of the “Lockheed 52” argues that “to realistically acknowledge the vast numbers of civilians these weapons have killed, Lockheed should not just be fined for price gouging, it should be charged with war crimes under international law. Anti-personnel mines are inherently indiscriminate, maiming more than 26,000 people a year, mostly civilians. Though other companies have stopped producing these horrific weapons, Lockheed refuses to do so. It also continues to generate massive profits from the widespread use of depleted uranium, which the UN found to be in violation of the Geneva conventions, the Genocide convention, and the Convention against Torture.” Depleted uranium, widely used in the bombing of Serbia and Iraq, contaminates the soil and the entire foodchain, and is linked to the “Persian Gulf Syndrome” which killed thousands of U.S. veterans, and thousands more Iraqis, after the first Gulf war.

Shortly after the company crowed about a sale of F-16s to Israel, the Israeli Defense Forces dropped a 250 kilogram bomb from one of the war planes onto a crowded apartment building in Gaza City (miraculously, there were only 15 reported injuries, no thanks to the PR invention called “precision bombing”).

Arming Israel to the teeth helps feed Arab paranoia, leading to sales like the 2000 deal with the United Arab Emirates which will deliver 80 F-16s to the U.A.E. from 2004-2008, leaving Lockheed gleefully anticipating “what we expect to be a long and mutually beneficial partnership.” Egypt also ordered 20 F-16s in 2000.

Lockheed, whose first quarter sales for 2003 were $7.1 billion, an 18% increase from 2002’s first quarter, is poised to continue to reap gigantic profits from the Bush war on the world. According to the New York-based Arms Trade Resource Center, “the company has a greater stake in nuclear weapons and missile defense than any other U.S. arms maker”; Bush and his warmongers are pushing hard for expanded weapons contracting on both fronts for their version of “deterrence.”

After Lockheed agreed to drop the restitution claim, on October 3 Judge Kenneth Barnum sentenced 36 of the 52 defendants from the April anti-war action to a fine of $612.50 (none of which will go to Lockheed) or equivalent amounts of public service or jail time. The defendants also received two years’ court probation. Catholic Worker Larry Purcell agreed to plead no contest, but when Barnum asked if he would “obey all laws” during the probation period, Purcell responded, “I can’t predict what the government is going to do in the next two years, so I can’t promise not to engage in non-violent resistance again.” The judge called Purcell “a hero” for his work on behalf of the hungry and homeless, but sentenced him to 45 days in jail anyway.

BEN TERRALL is a writer and activist in Oakland. He can be reached at: bterrall@igc.org

 

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Ben Terrall is a writer living in the Bay Area. He can be reached at: bterrall@gmail.com

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