View Full Version : Occupied Washington DC

Ed Jewett
04-10-2010, 11:54 PM
Occupied Washington DC by Stephanie Westbrook / April 10th, 2010
As a visitor to our nation’s capital, I cannot tell you how disconcerting it is to step off the metro and find yourself face to face with a F-35 fighter jet. Where you would normally expect to find ads for cell phones or museum exhibitions, Washington’s subway, the second busiest in the country, instead displays full color backlit billboards for some of the most deadly – and expensive – weapons systems ever produced.
The ads for such companies as Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest weapons producer, Goodrich, KBR, AGI, BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman can be found in many of the metro stations in the Washington metropolitan area. Not surprisingly, the heaviest concentration is at Pentagon City and near government offices at the Federal Center and Capitol South stations. Undoubtedly, the ads aim to influence key decision-makers, but they also serve the purpose of selling to the general public the concept that only our superior military prowess can protect us from a hostile world.
The billboards range from explicit ads for attack helicopters and combat vehicles to more subtle billboards for companies such as little-known DRS, owned by Italian weapons maker Finmeccanica and 26th among the top 100 Pentagon contractors, or for “rugged” Dell computers designed to meet Defense Department specifications for military-use.
Times New Roman;”>Far from subtle is Northrop Grumman’s marketing approach in the Capitol South metro station, the closest to Congress. In an all out assault on the visual senses, the station has been literally festooned by the country’s third largest military contractor. Apparently considering the usual ad space along the tracks to be insufficient, Northrop Grumman ads can also be found on all four sides of columns installed near the turnstiles, on banners strung up along the railings upstairs and even on the floor just before the escalators. CBS Outdoor, responsible for the ad space in DC metro stations, claims that “Capitol Hill Station Domination is an impactful way to get your message in front of the Congress and decision-makers in DC.”
An estimated 17,000 Capitol South metro passengers are confronted daily with Northrop Grumman Global Hawks and X-47 Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles, which boast a 4500-pound weapons bay, E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes, Viper Strike-armed Fire Scout unmanned helicopters and E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar Systems (STARS), all designed “for an unsafe world.” According to the centrist Brookings Institute, 90% of drone casualties in “targeted” strikes in Pakistan have been innocent civilians. Yet ads for these systems, which carry price tags ranging from hundreds of millions of dollars when factoring in development costs, are on full display.
Perhaps most startling of all the Capitol South billboards is the ominous scene of a bombed out apartment building above the slogan “By the time you find the threat, we’ve already taken it out of the picture.” Northrop Grumman fails to fill us in on what happened to the people living in those apartments.
Following the trend of major defense companies wishing to cozy up to powerbrokers in Congress and at the Pentagon, Northrop Grumman recently announced plans to relocate its California headquarters to the DC area. Officials from Washington, Virginia and Maryland have been falling over themselves trying to influence the decision of the $34 billion company. The District of Columbia has gone as far as offering a $25 billion incentive package for what Northrop Grumman estimates to be a measly 300 jobs, which will be filled primarily by company executives moving from Los Angeles!
The defense contractor presence on the DC metro is but one example of the ubiquitous signs of militarism in Washington. Standing out like sore thumbs, military personnel dressed in camouflage can be seen everywhere from the food court at the shopping mall to the line at the bank. Combat fatigues were ordered everyday wear for all service members, including those with desk jobs, following the September 11, 2001 attacks. I asked several camouflaged service members the reason behind the combat uniforms and all sheepishly replied that is was in support of the “troops in the field.” One woman told me, “That’s a good question. You feel kind of funny wearing this.” Looking down at her desert boots, she said, “It’s not exactly office wear.” But it is a clear and constant reminder that the nation continues to be on a war footing.
Signs calling for support of the troops can be found on everything from restaurant walls to dump trucks. Cheering on the “troops in the field” is also the Liberty gas station on Columbia Pike in Arlington. Directly above the gas pumps is a red, white and blue sign that reads “Support Our Troops.” This is either the result of disturbingly twisted logic or an astonishingly candid call for protecting U.S. access to Middle East oil reserves.
Walking the halls of Congress, you will find memorials at the offices of many representative and senators for the fallen troops from their district or state. What you will not find are any memorials for the 2,200 veterans who died in 2008 as a result of a lack of health insurance.
At Union Station, Amtrak passengers should not be surprised if a soldier or two cut in line. Signs in the station invite uniformed military personnel to skip to the head of the ticket line. According to Amtrak, which is the only Department of Defense approved rail passenger carrier in the US, it is a way for the company to “extend their thanks.” That’s all well and good but why wouldn’t Amtrak want to do the same for teachers, healthcare professionals, firefighters, librarians or non-profit volunteers?
Much of this is not necessarily new; the militarization of our society has been progressing for decades, permeating our schools, research and development programs, law enforcement and culture. And despite the heavy concentration in Washington DC, the phenomenon is certainly not limited to the nation’s capital. The signs of militarism in our country are ever-present to the point of becoming virtually invisible, while subconsciously persuading us to accept violence and war as not only a suitable solution to conflict, but the only one.
The fighter jets and missile-firing drones are anything but invisible to the people in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Let’s rebel against their apparent “normalcy” here in the US. As a start, contact Dan Langdon, CBS Outdoor’s Vice President and Regional Manager letting him know that ads for deadly weapons systems have no place on the DC metro, or anywhere else for that matter! Dan.Langdon@absoutdoor.com.

Stephanie Westbrook is a U.S. citizen who has been living in Rome, Italy since 1991. She is active in the peace and social justice movements in Italy. She can be reached at: steph@webfabbrica.com. Read other articles by Stephanie (http://dissidentvoice.org/author/StephanieWestbrook/).

This article was posted on Saturday, April 10th, 2010 at 9:00am and is filed under Culture (http://dissidentvoice.org/category/culture/), Military/Militarism (http://dissidentvoice.org/category/militarymilitarism/).


Paul Rigby
04-11-2010, 12:38 AM
Good to see I'm not alone.

I've only been twice to the States, in 1998 and 2008, and I must say the change in Washington DC - Dulles airport and the city itself - was very striking: outside of a war film, I've never seen so many uniformed personnel as I did in 2008. The impression is of a banana republic; and, thus, I suspect, a very accurate one. Remind me to take a few brown envelopes in the unlikely event I ever return. With luck, and a sufficiently large wedge, I might get through passport inspection in under 6 hours.


Ed Jewett
04-11-2010, 06:13 PM
The original post #1 was taken from Dissident Voice at the bottom of which was a link which purported to lead to a range of photos of the ads. When I clicked on it (after posting it), it'd hijacked me to a sexual compatibility quiz allowing me to hook up with ... well, never mind, I didn't think y'all were interested either so I went back in and deleted that link. I wrote to the author and notified her; she confirmed and notified Dissident Voice, and provided the real functional link for twenty-two "Ubiquitous signs of militarism in the nation's capital." Here it is:


Paul Rigby
04-13-2010, 03:02 PM
The impression is of a banana republic; and, thus, I suspect, a very accurate one.


A Banana Republic With No Bananas

Ed Jewett
04-13-2010, 06:03 PM

Ed Jewett
04-13-2010, 06:06 PM

Hide the deadly black tarantula
Daylight come and me wan' go home

Hostages Say Chiquita Funded Death Squads
April 10th, 2010

Via: Courthouse News Service:

Three U.S. citizens were held hostage by a Colombian death squad for 5 years, and one was murdered, while Chiquita Brands International gave the terrorists weapons and millions of dollars in “protection payments,” the former hostages and their families claim in Tampa Federal Court.

Former hostages of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) say Chiquita owes them treble damages under the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act, because the New Jersey-based company paid FARC up to $200,000 a year for 10 years.

In a March 2007 plea agreement, Chiquita admitted it had paid $25 million and funded the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) – a right-wing, anti-labor death squad – and other terrorist groups, according to the eight plaintiffs’ 82-page complaint.

The FARC and the AUC fought for control of land and lucrative cocaine crops for years, through open war, death squads and terror.

A February 2009 report from the Special Litigation Committee of the Chiquita board of directors found that the company began paying FARC “protection money” in the late 1980s.

In 2003 the FARC shot down a plane carrying Keith Stansell, Marc Gosalves, Thomas Howes and Thomas Janis, who were conducting a civilian counternarcotics surveillance mission for their employer, Northrup Grumman.

The plane’s five passengers all survived the crash, but FARC members shot to death the U.S. citizen pilot, Janis, and the Colombian host-nation rider, Sgt. Luis Alcides Cruz, within minutes of taking the group hostage, according to the complaint.

Stansell, Gosalves, Howes and Janis’ wife and four children demand damages from Chiquita for its giving money, arms and ammunition to FARC – “a foreign terrorist organization that has killed, maimed, injured, kidnapped and held hostage thousands of civilians, including many U.S. citizens,” according to the complaint.
The three hostages say they were held captive for 1,967 days, until they were rescued on July 2, 2008.

The FARC publicly took credit for the kidnapping and promised to release the Americans and 250 high-level Colombian citizens in exchange for certain political concessions, territory in a demilitarized zone for FARC’s base of operations, and the release of hundreds of FARC combatants apprehended by the Colombian authorities, according to the complaint.

“FARC supports its operations through kidnappings, extortion, drug trafficking and ‘war taxes’ it collects from residents, businesses and landowners,” according to the complaint.

Chiquita made its first “guerrilla payment” of $10,000 to Chiquita in 1989 – when the banana giant opened its Banadex export subsidiary in Colombia – and ultimately paid $100,000 to $200,000 a year through 1999, according to the complaint.

“Over time, the payments were fixed to a percentage of Banadex’s gross revenues, with as much as 10 percent being diverted to FARC,” the complaint states.

The former hostages say Chiquita knew about FARC’s practice of murdering and kidnapping Americans. At least 23 Americans were taken hostage between 1993 and 1997. But Chiquita benefited from its relationship with terrorists and spent years covering it up, according to the complaint.

“During the period relevant to this action, FARC held significant influence over, controlled, or was fighting other terrorist organizations for control of labor unions in Colombia’s banana-growing regions,” the complaint states.

The former hostages say Chiquita worked with FARC-controlled labor unions, such as Sintrabanano, and helped FARC subvert many local labor unions.

By helping FARC wrest control of local labor unions, Chiquita carved out “a competitive advantage over other banana growers facing less accommodating unions,” according to the complaint. Chiquita also allegedly benefited from FARC’s harassment of competitors in the region.

“Defendants knew that FARC engaged in acts of terrorism against U.S. interests in Colombia and knew the danger that providing material support to FARC would pose to the safety of other individuals and entities working within Colombia, but defendant ignored these risks in order to further their own narrow business interests in growing and exporting bananas in Colombia,” according to the complaint.

The former hostages and Janis’ family seek treble damages from Chiquita. They are represented by Newton Porter with Porter & Korvick of Miami.


Flashback: Lawyer for Chiquita in Colombia Death Squad Case May be -- Nope, He Is -- U.S. Attorney General


Paul Rigby
04-13-2010, 06:07 PM
Like it, Ed. But where oh where is the Chiquita sponsor's logo?

Jan Klimkowski
04-13-2010, 06:31 PM
Former hostages of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) say Chiquita owes them treble damages under the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act, because the New Jersey-based company paid FARC up to $200,000 a year for 10 years.

In a March 2007 plea agreement, Chiquita admitted it had paid $25 million and funded the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) – a right-wing, anti-labor death squad – and other terrorist groups, according to the eight plaintiffs’ 82-page complaint.

From the sums of money involved, "Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) – a right-wing, anti-labor death squad", was Chiquita's main interest.

The FARC and the AUC fought for control of land and lucrative cocaine crops for years, through open war, death squads and terror.

Chiquita paid smaller sums to FARC presumably to facilitate certain transactions and, more importantly, as part of a Strategy of Tension. :bandit: