The list of U.S. exhibitors so far, available from contact person Cara Boulesteix in the Commerce Department, runs 16 pages and more than 200 companies. Many subsidiaries, partnerships and cooperative agreements are not mentioned. Prominently featured are giant military contractors General Electric Co., Boeing, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon. Indeed, the list is a virtual who’s who of our corporate federal contractors who are also feverishly hawking (no pun intended) their wares abroad, including Kaiser Aluminum, Goodrich, Teleflex and Bell Helicopter. A glossy tradition of cosmopolitanism in arms and “dual-use” transactions has long been established here, of course: You may recall that Honeywell, Rockwell and Bell Helicopter also were among the dozens of U.S. corporations whose products ended up in Saddam’s Iraq. (www.thememory-hole.org/corp/iraq-suppliers.htm)
Some of the merchant-of-death networking might surprise the public. Several states, including Virginia, are exhibiting at the venue, including Jeb Bush’s Florida, which will be amply represented by “Southwest Florida,” and “Enterprise Florida,” each advertising cheap Florida labor. Speaking of security, Tampa International Airport also is an exhibitor. But then, the Federal Aviation Administration itself attends the air show, as does the American Association of Airport Executives. So any purchases of security systems, military data recorders, night-vision searchlights, cargo and baggage handling systems, communications systems and other devices designed to elude them, take place figuratively under their noses.
Thus far, the FAA has not been grounded. This year, though, the administration is limiting the number of officials attending the show to 150.
Not that the rubbing elbows is confined to current officeholders. Another U.S. exhibitor is Aviall Inc., a giant aviation-parts distributor owned partly by the Carlyle Group, in which the Bush family possesses a substantial interest through former President George H. W. Bush. Not much new there. This would be the same Carlyle Group formerly associated with Saudi Arabia’s giant industrial complex, the Bin Laden Group.
Mr. Limbaugh, I know what you may say: These corporate networks are so intertwined in our lives that no person, even equipped with a conscience, can avoid entanglement. You may point out that even Clear Channel, the communications behemoth whose hundreds of radio stations proudly advertise your talk show, does multimillion-dollar business in France annually. Clear Channel itself, you will say, which banned the Dixie Chicks’ songs on its channels, has radio hosts boosting I-hate-France Web sites and puts you and your boycott on the airwaves, has live entertainment venues in France, and recently won a 12-year, $35 million advertising contract in France. The company owns French subsidiaries (www.clearchannel.ie/ccworldwide.htm) that, in turn, do business with French performers, distributors and sponsors. In fact, Clear Channel does enough French business yearly to buy almost any of the small towns over which your program broadcasts.
Clear Channel also owns six radio stations in Richmond, Va., including WRVA-AM (1140), home of host Michael Graham — yes, the same Michael Graham who vilified the Byrd Theatre for flying the French flag during VCU’s French Film Festival and encouraged Richmonders to complain. (“Now, the two largest flags flying in Carytown are both French!”) Now might be a good time to call Graham and remind him that his employer does more business in France than the theater does.
Mr. Limbaugh, I have a promise for you: If you will demand through your outlets that the public boycott Clear Channel, I shall willingly give credit where credit is due. I will fully and fairly disclose, if someone tells me about it, that you went beyond your immediate self-interest, to take a position on grounds of conscience. I shall even join with you in calling for the boycott.
Best of luck to you in every good thing.
Sincerely, Margie Burns
Margie Burns is a freelance writer in D.C. and she teaches in the English department at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Opinions expressed on the Back Page are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Style Weekly.