American Twilight, Another War

American Twilight: A Memoir of Another War

by Steven Schmidt

Published by the Green Institute | 2004

Less than a generation ago, the U.S. war department was called “the War Department.” Now the war department is called “the Defense Department” and nuclear warheads are called “Peacemakers”.


Today I read neo-conservative Charles Krauthammer approving the President Bush’s decision to declare war on Iraq to be an act of “singular presidential leadership” and “political courage”. Krauthammer the writes harshly about Senator Edward Kennedy who, after the war’s commencement, gave a widely reported speech calling the President’s case for war a blatant lie – “There was no imminent threat. This was made up in Texas, announced in January to the Republican leadership that war was going to take place and was going to be good politically. This whole thing was a fraud.”

Krauthammer has a meltdown. “To accuse Bush of perpetrating a “fraud” to go to war for political advantage”, he writes, “is not just disgraceful. It so flies in the face of the facts that it can only be said to be unhinged from reality. Kennedy’s rant reflects the Democrats’ blinding Bush-hatred, and marks its passage from partisanship to pathology.”

I wonder about “pathology” as Krauthammer uses the term and I wonder about Krauthammer and a pathology assigning nuclear warheads names like “Peacemaker”. I wonder about a sane, rational definition of a “Weapon of Mass Destruction”? Is “Napalm” a WMD? Are “Daiseymakers”, the given name for mass ordnance that pulverizes everything and anybody with its arc of destruction, a WMD or just “ordnance”? Are anti-personnel weapons, thousands of dispersed bomblets that litter the ground, armed and primed, a WMD? Are nuclear- and chemical-residues of war, depleted uranium shells WMDs? Was “Agent Orange” a WMD? What really is a Weapon of Mass Destruction? The press reports 40,000 pounds of napalm being dropped by U.S. Navy aircraft at the beginning of the first Iraq war in support of a Marine howitzer front-line deployment. Is this the use of a WMD? The International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva responds that Napalm and fuel-air bombs are not illegal because the U.S. is not a signatory to the 1980s weapon convention which prohibits and restricts these weapons. By not signing on to international treaties, the U.S. may not be prohibited under International Humanitarian Law and related International laws from using defined and “prohibited weapons of mass destruction.” By not signing a broad range of international agreements, the U.S. has seemingly inoculated itself from being brought before international courts.




Raytheon’s Tomahawk system of missiles

Replenishing inventory is a key to profit


Kissimmee, I always pronounce the city’s name wrongly. It’s Ki-sí-me, not Kissa-me. It’s located in Osceola county Florida and adjacent to Celebration, advertised as a perfect little town in which to live. Kissimmee and Celebration and the local outskirts of Orlando and Disneyworld are Americana picture-perfect settings, ideal places to “raise a family”. Celebration, built by Disney’s Development Company, is a planned community where most every single design element and ordinance is intended to nurture a quiet ‘n’ happy life. It is described in brochures and advertisements as “the quintessential American town.”

Located not far from Kissimmee, Celebration and Disneyworld, is Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest weapons contractor. Lockheed Martin promotes itself in its online brochures, as having “a vision to be the best… the most respected global leader in every market and community we serve, through the pride, commitment and power of enterprising people.”

With missiles, air-to-ground and strike weapons with names like AGM-142, AUP, BLU-109, HAVE LITE, JASSM, LOCAAS, PYTHON 4 (and 5 and 6 on the way) and WCMD, Lockheed Martin has come a long way from its self proclaimed humble beginnings in 1956 as a missile factory located in a former cow pasture and orange grove. It draws it workforce now from the Kissimmee, Celebration, the Osceola area and, on the surface, all seems ‘good’ as industry growth is ‘up’.

The U.S. administrator for post-war Iraq, General Garner lived here before his relocation to Baghdad. For sales information on the product line of Lockheed Martin, visit the website, they’re evidently proud of what they do. The company claims “ethics is the essence” of their business… “Business without ethics is not the kind of business we want to be in. Business with ethics improves, strengthens, and clarifies all that we do. Ethics gives all our efforts a solid foundation and makes working at – and with – Lockheed Martin a pleasure.” Lockheed Martin cites its “Ethical Principles – Honesty, Integrity, Responsibility, Trust, Respect and Citizenship… [we’ll] obey all the laws of any country in which we do business, respect environmental concerns, and give back to the communities by improving and enriching community life.”

A thought here… are the products of Lockheed Martin ‘improving and enriching community life’? The colorful brochures present the upgraded MIM-104, PAC-3 and GEM+ Patriot missile systems being produced jointly by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.

Raytheon’s annual billion-dollar-plus revenue from the Patriot program keeps paychecks in pockets as does Lockheed Martin’s “multi-barrel, faster-than-a-speeding-bullet, kinetic” Patriot “upgrade” package. The problem with the Patriot, from a marketing point of view, is usage, not enough of them are being fired off. Raytheon’s Tomahawk system of missiles is much more profitable, due to much more usage. Replenishing inventory is a key to profit. The ‘depletion of inventory’ during the second Iraq produces profit proportionately greater than stand-at-ready defense systems.

One of the latest upgrades in the weapons arsenal are “kits” to turn “dumb” free-release bombs into “smart, precision” bombs, “precision guided” by GPS/Global Position Satellite. To get a feel of this ordnance, let’s consider the reported impacts of one guided bomb as it is dropped – a “small” 2000 pound Mark-84 JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition).



The software program directing the bomb to target is called “Bug Splat”. Following the JDAM as it hits the ground, its fuse ignites a priming charge which detonates 945 pounds of Tritonal, a silvery solid mixture of aluminum and TNT. The chemical reaction produces an expanding nucleus of gas the swells the bomb’s casing to double its size before the steel splits into a shower of white-hot fragments traveling 6000 feet per second and producing a shock wave of several thousand pounds per square inch. The fireball is 8500 degrees Fahrenheit and the explosion carves a 20 feet crater and hurls around 10,000 pounds of rock at supersonic speed. Some of the bomb metal fragments travel out three quarters of a mile, pieces of the bomb producing death and destruction within a radius of a mile and a half. This is a ‘small’ bomb dropped by nearly every aircraft that flew in the Iraq campaign. JDAMS can level a city block (as they did in Baghdad). It leaves a pile of rubble in a crater.

The reality of this resonates. I recall asking the engineer from Raytheon about the use of these weapons and “rationality” of destruction. I look back at his answer. “We go to war,” he tells me, “and we field test, we bring the test results back to the designers and engineers… upgrades are proposed to the Pentagon and Congress funds the upgrades… we learn as we go and we get better at war the more we go to war.” I realize he’s right. The U.S. has been conducting multiple “field tests”, to put it in engineering terms, and has had many opportunities to upgrade the arsenal over the past half century. The weapon designer agrees and points to the “Patriot” system as an example of the “benefits of going to war”. The Patriot’s failure rate against Scud missiles aimed at Israel during the first Iraq war led to an upgrade package of guidance enhancements and midcourse correction systems. He wouldn’t talk details, but the marketing teams at Raytheon and Lockheed later announce their new and better product to the world – field-tested and improved missile defense systems.