HIGHTOWER: US Military Sales To Latin America

In the madcap world we call Washington commonsense is made to stand on its head and raw stupidity is celebrated as virtue.Witness the current push by top Pentagon brass to convince the Clinton Administration to lift the 20-year ban on the sale of high-tech weapons to Latin America. The ban was put in place to combat widespread human-rights abuses by military dictators in the region. The juntas buy our guns, missiles and other high-tech gadgetry to use against their own people, especially insurgents struggling for democracy.Now comes William Perry, though, the Secretary of Defense, arguing on behalf of US military contractors that democracy is in bloom throughout Latin America and that today's Latin rulers are all sweet pussycats. Has this guy checked-in with Guatemala recently? Or Chile? Or El Salvador? Or, for that matter, Mexico? They all have militaries that are engaged in much more than patty-cake conflicts with their own people. And of all the things that these and other developing countries need -- is a fleet of multimillion-dollar F-16s really a priority? And if so, why?OK, you say, it's not our business what they need or don't need. Maybe not, but it is our business what kind of business our country engages in. Perry speaks piously about the number of U.S. jobs these sales could mean, but he doesn't point-out that not all the arms would be made in the USA, that more than half of the cost would be paid not by the Latin rulers but by us taxpayers or that we ought to be converting our military industry to building high-speed trains and other projects America needs.Did you know that Perry himself used to work for some of the same contractors he is now trying to get business for? To fight his whorish madness, contact Campaign for New Priorities: 202/544-8222.

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