Thursday, January 19, 2006

Hooked on Books - Merchants of Death

Merchants of Death
by Richard E. Noble
‘Merchants of Death’ is a book published in the 1930’s dealing with the history of the Arms industry. It is rather shocking, but not surprising. It has made me ask the question; What is treasonous in Arms selling - and if not “treasonous” how about simply immoral.

In the beginning no one would consider selling arms or weapons to anyone but their own clan. But in 1576 (and I am sure we can go back earlier than this) we find arms makers in Liege, Belgium, selling arms to the Spanish which were being used to kill their own countrymen. The Germans and Austrians acted similarly during the French Revolution.

Well, next we might ask how about selling defective arms? How about selling defective arms to your own people?

During the Civil War, J. P. Morgan bought rejected, known defective carbines from a government arsenal out west. He paid $3.50 each. Then he sold them as new, to General Fremont for $22.00 each. When the soldiers tried to shoot the Carbines, their thumbs were blown off. Consequently the Government refused to pay Morgan. But after the war, J. P. took the nasty old Government to court, and in a U.S. court of law, J. P. Morgan won his claim to payment on the grounds that a contract, even one involving the purchase of a defective, misrepresented product, was “sacred.” It goes without mentioning that no Civil War soldier was repaid a penny for the loss of his not so sacred thumb.

In 1893 Andrew Carnegie sold defective armor plating to his country; plating that was rejected by government inspectors during the day, and then shipped out at night.

He was caught.

He didn’t go to jail but was fined 15% of the total sales.

After Andrew had a little talk with his good buddy President Cleveland, the fine was cut in half. Again no payment or compensation was made to any of the soldiers and sailors who went down with their unprotected ships.

During the American Revolution a guy by the name of Deane was sent to France to negotiate with the French for weapons for the continental, revolutionary army. He got plenty, and for free.

The French who were, as usual, at odds with the British, gave Deane, for free, all that he wanted. He, in turn, sold them to the Continental Congress for six times their current market value and only added, patriot that he was, a 5% service charge or commission.

This scandal was exposed by Tom Paine and others. But Deane was “exonerated” with the help of some of his other patriotic friends, like both Gouvernor and Robert Morris. In fact, after the smoke cleared, Paine's head was the one put on the block for breaking the code of secrecy the French had demanded in return for their gift of ’free’ arms to the colonies.

During W.W.I and W.W.II numerous companies in the U.S., France, and England conducted business in arms as usual before, DURING, and after these wars with no disgrace to their status, and virtually no public exposure (See Trading with the Enemy by Charles Higham and The American Axis by Max Wallace).

These days American weapons companies are selling to both the Arabs and the Israelis, and if we can project from past history, to the Chinese, the Russians, the Taiwanese, Japanese, and whoever has the where-with-all to purchase them, while we here at home argue over hand gun control, and the morality or immorality of getting a “Lewinski” in the oval office.

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