Hastert, Helicopters, Textron, Turkey, Cash...

Sun Aug 14, 2005
Posted by: Christopher Deliso on Aug 14, 05 | 7:24 am |

First of all, my new interview with former FBI translator turned
whistleblower Sibel Edmonds- a very interesting read- will be out soon on
Antiwar.com. If you aren't familiar with her case, read last year's
interview, as well as this and this.

Corruption in high places was alleged in a recent Vanity Fair article that
surveyed government whistleblowers, including Edmonds, and unnamed
congressional sources. The most sensational one was that House Speaker
Dennis Hastert was paid up to $500,000 five years ago by the Turkish lobby
to derail a bill that would have recognized the Armenian genocide carried
out in the dying days of the Ottoman Empire.

While it cited FBI wiretapped phone conversations from 2000 mentioning
Hastert, the magazine conceded that there was no way of proving this

For his part, Hastert had always claimed that his eleventh-hour decision to
quash the bill in October, 2000 owed directly to the intercesson of
then-President Clinton, who sent a letter to him personally requesting that
maintaining good relations with Turkey were more important than Armenian
heritage: "We have significant interests in this troubled region of the
world: containing the threat posed by East and Central Asia, stabilizing the
Balkans and developing new sources of energy."

Indeed, the potential ill effects of irritating Turkey were vocally stated,
not least of all by the Turkish authorities themselves. And this pressure
probably meant the end regardless. But if Hastert was able to bluff the
Turkish lobby into giving him 500G unnecessarily, hey, more power to him.

But the tale is more complex. Consider this contemporary report on human
rights and military sales to Turkey:

"...Once House leaders decided to move the resolution, it easily passed in
committee and headed to the House floor. Outraged representatives of
Turkey's government threatened to halt negotiations with Textron and instead
buy helicopters from a Russian-Israeli consortium, according to Bloomberg
News Service. Worried that the $4.5 billion deal might collapse, Textron
lobbied the congressmen who represent the area surrounding the company's
Fort Worth plant to kill the resolution. 'We felt it was important to
support Turkey,' explains [Textron Spokesman Gene] Kozicharow."

It's also very interesting to look at the context, five years ago. From the
same article:

"...President Bill Clinton warned earlier this year that angering Turkey
could have 'far-reaching negative consequences for the United States.'

Eager to bolster its stock price, which has lost more than half its value in
the last 18 months, Textron is using Clinton's views to its advantage. 'We
agree with the State Department,' says Gene Kozicharow, Textron's
Washington-based director of public affairs, referring to Clinton's warning.
But when asked whether Textron agrees with the State Department's damning
assessment of human-rights abuses in Turkey, Kozicharow responded, 'I think
I'm going to cut this off, Steve [the journalist]. Talk to you later,' and
hung up."

Another contemporary report put the deal in context- and raised further
serious questions about whether it would result in short-term profit and
long-term loss:

"...In July 2000, the Turkish government chose Bell Helicopter Textron's
AH-1Z KingCobra over the other four finalists: Boeing, Kamov Helicopter
(Russian-Israeli consortium), Agusta, (Italy), and the Europcopter
(Franco-German). But to maintain pressure to receive a U.S. export license
and the best possible contract terms, Turkey is keeping the Russian-Israeli
model in the competition until the deal is signed, sealed, and delivered. At
issue is the amount of local production and technology transfer that Turkey
will receive. Ankara has plans to become an independent producer of attack
helicopters, just as it used to manufacture and export F-16s under license
in the 1980's and 1990's. Anxious to seal this lucrative deal, Bell Textron
may be willing to give away the store, including not just a license to
produce the exterior of the aircraft, but access to the technology needed to
build, alter and improve upon the software operating the gunships' high-tech
instruments. While the loss of jobs to overseas production is deemed an
unavoidable cost of doing weapons business today, the U.S. government has
refused in the past to allow the transfer of software "source codes" and
other sensitive technology for reasons of national security.

Turkey's negotiations with Bell Textron are scheduled to conclude in March
2001, at which time the State Department will need to decide whether to
issue an export license. The new administration has signaled that it will
look favorable upon this sale, paying less attention to human rights
considerations than its predecessor. However, the sale might still be held
up in the administration over the question of technology transfers, which
has prompted concern by both Republicans and Democrats in similar past
cases. Certain members of Congress are also likely to raise questions about
the sale based on questions of regional stability, U.S. security, and the
protection of human rights. Because the deal involves a NATO member,
however, Congress will have only 15 days to officially review the sale."

A massive corporation active in a variety of industries, Textron is also a
top-tier "Golden Horn" donor to the American-Turkish Council, the lobbying
giant that has repeatedly come up in the Sibel Edmonds case. The ATC figures
prominently in the Vanity Fair article which mentions Hastert and other
unnamed officials in the pay of the Turkish lobby.

So in other words, looks like Textron is looking forward to the
"international competition" that Turkey's Undersecretariat for the Defense
Industry announced on August 9, preliminary to "...the purchase of 32
military helicopters and 20 fire fighters worth around $700 million."

Textron's subsidiary, Bell Helicopters, was at the time of the Armenian
resolution embroiled in controversy, as an US Customs undercover operation
had concluded two months earlier that the company had laundered hundreds of
thousands of dollars of drug money in order to sell a copter to a Colombian
emerald mogul, Victor Carranza, who according to PBS "...has links to the
drug trade and the right wing paramilitary groups in Colombia." Whoops!

The PBS report provides a good example of the kind of cooperation between
business, politics and the more sordid spheres of free enterprise- and why
Textron had such headaches throughout Clinton's second term.

However, with the ascension of Bush II, happy days were here again. And
indeed, there seem to be no existential problems these days for Textron. On
July 29, Bloomberg reported that

"...Textron Inc.'s Bell Helicopter unit beat Boeing Co. in a contest worth
as much as $3 billion to build a new class of armed reconnaissance
helicopters for the U.S. Army, according to people familiar with the award.

Bell will develop and build the first installment of what could be 368
helicopters from largely commercial parts so they can be fielded as early as
2008 to replace aircraft lost in Iraq."