The United States has given tens of billions of dollars in military aid to Egypt over the last decades. Lockheed Martin, Boeing and General Electric have provided tanks, missiles, engines and more to the Hosni Mubarak regime. Following the massive popular uprising, U.S. foreign aid continues to flow to Egypt, although the Obama administration has placed the program under review. We speak with William Hartung, author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex, and Samer Shehata, assistant professor of Arab politics at Georgetown University.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking about the uprising in Egypt that continues to swell, with more than a million people expected out tomorrow. Joining us here in New York, Bill Hartung. He is director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation, has closely examined how the United States has propped up the flagging Mubarak regime, largely with military aid. William Hartung is author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.
Can you lay out for us — when we say tens of billions of dollars has been given to the regime, one of the highest recipients of foreign aid in the world, behind Israel, actually that money doesn’t necessarily go to Egypt, right? It goes to U.S. military contractors.
WILLIAM HARTUNG: It’s a form of corporate welfare for companies like Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics, because it goes to Egypt, then it comes back for F-16 aircraft, for M1 tanks, for aircraft engines, for all kinds of missiles, for guns, for tear gas canisters, as was discussed, a company called Combined Systems International, which actually has its name on the side of the canisters that have been found on the streets there. So these companies — for example, Lockheed Martin has been the leader in deals worth $3.8 billion over that period of the last 10 years; General Dynamics, $2.5 billion for tanks; Boeing, $1.7 billion for missiles, for helicopters; Raytheon for all manner of missiles for the armed forces. So, basically, this is a key element in propping up the regime, but a lot of the money, as you said and Juan Cole mentioned on this program, is basically recycled. Taxpayers could just as easily be giving it directly to Lockheed Martin or General Dynamics.
AMY GOODMAN: So, the U.S. has tremendous power, wields tremendous power here, right? And I want to also put this question to Professor Shehata, and that is the issue of U.S. law. I mean, I remember well, in covering the Indonesian occupation of East Timor, that the issue for Indonesia, when they invaded — this, one of the worst genocides of the 20th century — was to get the approval of the United States, because otherwise the U.S. would cut off aid. You can’t use U.S. weapons for offensive acts — at least, that’s the law. And they illegally invaded East Timor. What about the Mubarak regime using these weapons on the people who are rebelling?
SAMER SHEHATA: Right. I mean, it’s a very important and timely question. I should just add that those planes that were flying over Tahrir Square, flying low over the thousands of peaceful protesters in the center of Cairo yesterday, appeared to be F-16s made in the United States of America. And the tanks on the streets in Egypt, in Cairo, in Alexandria and other cities, are either Abrams tanks or tanks that are American tanks but made in Egypt. There’s an agreement that that can take place. And so, this is very much a serious issue, and the United States does have tremendous influence over President Mubarak.
It doesn’t seem like he’s listening to the calibrated change in statements coming out of Washington, because it seems now, in the diplomatic language that’s been used, that the United States is saying it wants a peaceful transition. They haven’t said explicitly — and governments don’t say this — "Mubarak has to leave right now," but I think that’s the implication. I certainly don’t think it’s gone far enough, but right now it doesn’t seem like Mr. Mubarak is really listening or understands the severity of the situation or is just incredibly stubborn and wants to hold on until the last minute.
AMY GOODMAN: So, the military weapons that are going, Bill Hartung, the support that goes to U.S. corporations, they won’t be pleased with cutting off aid to Egypt, because it’s actually going to them.
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Exactly, because they don’t know what a new regime will want to do. Will they want to maintain that huge armed forces that was made in the U.S.A.? How might they use those in defense of the country? So it’s unlikely, if you had a new regime, that they would come in for big multi-billion-dollar deals for a bloated military when there’s needs for their own people.
AMY GOODMAN: According to lists of arms sales notifications compiled by the Pentagon’s Defense Security Assistance Agency, in the last decade alone, the Department of Defense has brokered over $11 billion in U.S. arms offers to the Egyptian regime on behalf of weapons manufacturers Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Boeing, Raytheon and General Electric.
WILLIAM HARTUNG: And that’s just the last little while. In fact, Mubarak has been getting $1.3 billion per year, like clockwork, since the beginning of his regime. So that’s about $40 billion, that a lot of which has gone to these companies. So they, of course — you know, they’ve met with lobbyists. They’ve met with Egypt over the years. They’ve tried to keep the United States on good terms with Egypt, because they profit from this relationship.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much, Bill Hartung, for joining us, Bill Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation, and Samer Shehata, who is assistant professor of Arab politics at Georgetown University.