As George Wallace famously said, “There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the Democrat and Republican Parties.”
In recent years that difference has dropped below three cents and is still sinking.
I won’t vote for a Democrat for the foreseeable future, but yesterday’s AP story was a refreshing reminder that Ted Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi, and John Murtha aren’t the only people who represent the Democrat party at the national level:
The Pentagon said Tuesday it had stopped selling surplus F-14 parts, announcing the step after congressional criticism of security weaknesses that had given buyers for countries including Iran access to the aircraft parts and other valuable gear.
Sales of parts from the recently retired fleet were halted last Friday, Defense Logistics Agency spokesman Jack Hooper said, adding that marketing of the parts will remain suspended until a “comprehensive review” is completed. He did not immediately elaborate.
The decision comes as a Democratic senator moves to cut off all Pentagon sales of surplus F-14 parts, saying the military’s marketing of the spares “defies common sense” in light of their importance to Iran.
Sen. Ron Wyden’s bill came in response to an investigation by The Associated Press that found weaknesses in surplus-sale security that allowed buyers for countries including Iran and China to surreptitiously obtain sensitive U.S. military equipment including Tomcat parts.
U.S. law enforcement officials believe Iran can produce only about 15 percent of the parts it needs for its Tomcats, making the Pentagon’s surplus sales a valuable avenue for spares.
The Pentagon had planned to sell about 60 percent of the roughly 76,000 parts for the F-14, viewing them as general nuts-and-bolts-type aircraft hardware that could be sold safely without restrictions.
Well done, Senator Wyden.
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I’ve been following this story for a while. It’s one of those scandalous affairs that make you avert your eyes from the Republicans in disgust, the same way you did from Slick Willy’s deals with the Chinese.
But the Republicans — how could they?!
Now that the United States has retired the F-14, the only country still flying them is Iran; the planes are left over from the days of the Shah. The Iranian F-14s are quite decrepit, and are not really airworthy without those spare parts.
So here’s a Republic administration fighting a war against “terror” and selling spare aircraft parts to the biggest generator of terrorism in history. But the administration has a fig leaf to cover the deal — the parts are just generic parts, usable on other aircraft besides the F-14. Not only that, they’re selling them to third parties, and not to Iran itself.
When you dig deeper into the deal, it’s clear that F-14-specific parts are indeed included in the package. And airplane parts, like oil, are fungible. The supply will find its way to the demand. The Iranians are going to get their parts just in time to scramble their air force against us or the Israelis during the coming confrontation.
But Senator Wyden has a mind to stop them from flying:
The Oregon Democrat’s legislation would ban the Defense Department from selling surplus F-14 parts and prohibit buyers who have already acquired surplus Tomcat parts from exporting them. Wyden’s bill, the Stop Arming Iran Act, is co-sponsored by the Senate’s No. 2 lawmaker, Democratic Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois.
“It just defies common sense to be making this kind of equipment available to the Iranians with all that they have done that is against our interests,” Wyden said Monday in an interview, adding that constituents brought up the surplus-sale security problems at his town-hall meetings over the past few days. “I just want to legislate this and cut it off permanently, once and for all.”
Wyden said his bill would cut off the sale of all surplus F-14 parts. The legislation includes all parts to cut off all opportunities for Iranian “fishing expeditions,” spokeswoman Jennifer Hoelzer said, adding that GAO investigations have found valuable surplus accidentally getting included in boxes of what are supposed to be nuts-and-bolts-type hardware.
Wyden is confident he can get the bill through the Senate in the next few months. Wyden, a senior member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, also pledged greater Senate oversight of the surplus program.
In order for this kind of spare-parts deal to make it past the likes of Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Bush, someone would have stood to make a lot of money from the deal. A defense contractor, maybe? The government itself? Somebody needed the cash badly enough to be willing to put our own servicemen in harm’s way.
Or maybe the brass hats know something that we don’t know. Maybe they know that we’ll never have to face the Iranian air force. Maybe they know we’re not really ever going to war with Iran, that our nation doesn’t have the nerve to confront a nuclearized Iran, that we’re going to cut a deal with the mullahs, just like Reagan’s people wanted to back in the 1980s.
They say it took a Republican president to go to China. Does it take a Republican to do business with Iran?
There’s more than this caper than meets the eye. I’m sure we have Pentagon experts among our readers — if any of you want to weigh in with an opinion, please feel free.