“It sounds like the beginning of a Tom Clancy movie. One of the largest defense manufacturers in the United States is caught smuggling sophisticated weapon manufacturing technology to a military plant that builds missiles and combat aircraft for a potentially hostile nation.
Fiction-like, yes, but fiction? No.
Last week a federal grand jury indicted McDonnell Douglas on charges of secretly diverting just such technology to a Chinese plant that builds Silkworm cruise missiles and attack jets.
Remember China? That last great bastion of communism? That country with which our naval forces stood toe-to-toe just three years ago? That same country that has been rattling its saber off and on again in our direction ever since?
Makes you sort of expect to see Harrison Ford suddenly swing into action, doesn’t it?
Of course, McDonnell Douglas, now owned by Boeing Co., denies the grand jury’s charges. And we’re mindful that an indictment is not a conviction. But history shows such charges turn all too often turn out to be true.
Just five days before the indictment was unsealed, President Bill Clinton approved new export laws laying greater scrutiny on how U.S. businesses operated overseas. Those new laws stemmed from another scandal involving the delivery of sensitive technology to the Chinese military by American businesses.
American companies, of course, view China, with its bulging population growing in affluence, as the next great Holy Grail of marketing. It’s understandable, then, why a company might bend a few rules to favorably position itself with the Chinese authorities, right? Just this once?
Only it hasn’t been just this once. American history is replete with instances of America’s “Arsenal of Democracy” providing succor to the enemy whenever the price was right.
During the Civil War, Northern munitions manufacturers smuggled cannon and powder through the Union blockade of Southern ports, so the arms could be turned against federal troops. Why? The South, with no industrial base to speak of, was willing to pay a high price for any weapons it could get.
Recently declassified documents show that during World War II, as many as 300 U.S. companies secretly continued doing business with Germany. Keep in mind, this was at the same time the American Eighth Air Force was suffering the highest casualty rate of the war trying to bomb the Nazi industrial complex out of existence.
It was rumored during Vietnam that some of the metal being thrown at GIs in the form of shrapnel had its origins in the U.S. It was fact, not rumor, that much of the Iraqi war machine our service people stood against during the Gulf War was built with technology illegally acquired from American companies which turned a blind eye as long as their out-stretched palms were properly greased.
It’s become evident some in the American business world have placed profit above the lives of our service people, above the freedoms we all enjoy and which make possible the very act of choosing a career or owning a business.
There seems to a large, solid market for American products within our circle of friendly nations. Why countries hostile to the United States always seem to zoom to the top of industry’s client list can be debated. Some may call it, at the least, industrial treason. We sure do.”