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Death On The Doorstep
RAYTHEON, the armament-technology firm which manufactured Patriot and Sidewinder missiles, is establishing a plant in Derry and the local politicians couldn t be happier. EAMONN McCANN reports.
Eamonn McCann, 15 Sep 1999
Two Nobel Peace Prize winners have spoken out about a proposal to manufacture war materials in Ireland.
I am delighted, John Hume told journalists on August 24th, referring to the news that US firm Raytheon is to establish a plant in Derry. The plant, which will eventually employ 150 people, will make missile-guidance and defence radar systems.
A significant and very positive development, added Mr. Hume s fellow peace laureat, David Trimble.
The two leaders were speaking at a function in Derry Guildhall, where Raytheon chief executive Daniel Burnham explained why the $20 billion company the fourth largest defence contractor in the US had selected Derry for its new plant. He mentioned the high-tech skills of the local workforce, the persuasive influence of Mr. Hume and Industrial Development Board officials, and, crucially, the prospect of political stability and peace.
It would have been unthinkable for us to have made this decision some years ago, in the depth of the Troubles, he said.
And, just as peace helped bring the plant to Derry, the 150 new jobs would, in turn, help make peace permanent: We have the opportunity to participate in Northern Ireland s economic development, thus promoting peace.
Among Raytheon s top-selling products are the Patriot anti-missile missile, which became well-known to television viewers during the 1991 Gulf War when it was deployed against incoming Iraqi Scuds; the Hawk and Stinger surface-to-air missiles; the Sidewinder and Phoenix air-to-air missiles; and the Maverick air-to-ground missile.
Raytheon has been one of the fastest-growing companies in the US in recent years, with a workforce of 118,000 following 1997 takeovers of Hughes Aircraft and Texas Instruments. More than 60% of its revenue, and a higher percent of its profits, comes from arms and arms-related sales. It is the leading Western manufacturer of missile-guidance systems.
The company has a controversial reputation in the US, where it has been accused of intimidating workers, price-rigging and fraud. In March 1990, US courts imposed a $10,000 criminal fine and $900,000 in civil penalties on Raytheon on a felony count of illegally obtaining secret Air Force documents which gave it an edge on competitiors bidding for contracts. US attorney Henry Hudson declared that the single 1983 incident which formed the basis of the prosecution had been merely the tip of a huge iceberg.
The following year, Raytheon used the supposed success of the Patriot against the Iraqi Scuds as a platform for an intensive sales drive in the Middle East. However, the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Legislation and National Security was later to declare: There is little evidence to prove that the Patriot hit more than a few Scud missiles launched by Iraq during the Gulf War, and there are some doubts even about these engagements. The public and the Congress were misled by definitive statements of success issued by the administration and Raytheon representatives.
However, Raytheon s close relations with the US defence establishment have continued to stand it in good stead. In March this year, Defence Secretary William Cohen announced that Egypt would be buying the latest and most advanced Patriot model, the Patriot 3, from Raytheon. The bulk of the $1.3 billion cost will come directly from the US tax-payer as aid . The money will be transferred directly from the US Treasury to Raytheon, once the missiles have been shipped to Egypt. (A high percentage of Western aid to developing countries takes this form.)
Previously, Raytheon had been able to capitalise on its contribution to the Gulf conflict by securing orders from Saudi Arabia, which had benefitted greatly from the disabling of Iraqi oil production in the war, and from the imposition of sanctions afterwards. In the two years following the war, the Saudi dictatorship added Sidewinder heat-seeking missiles, Maverick air-to-surface missiles and Sparrow radar-guided missiles to its arsenal all Raytheon products.
Last April, Raytheon announced that it expected increased orders for missiles then being proved in the Kosovo conflict.
We are restricted in what we can say about activity in Yugoslavia, chief executive Burnham told a conference of arms manufacturers, but perhaps you have read that the Department of Defence has submitted a supplemental request for congressional approval . . . As an example, the Navy has requested about $113 million to accelerate the remanufacture of 324 Tomahawks.
According to J. Whitfield Larrabee, whose radical Massachusetts-based legal practice acts as a watchdog on corporate crime and commercial abuse, Raytheon, to an unusual extent, is driven not just by a thirst for profits but by belief in right-wing ideas, zealously promoting what used to be called Reaganomics . On a number of occasions in the mid- 90s the company assembled its workers, plant by plant, to view videos extolling the proposal for a North America Free Trade Agreement. It campaigns for tax breaks for big business and against State regulation, and contributes massively to politicians who espouse the same views.
Larrabee claims the company coerced a #21 million tax cut from Massachusetts in 1995 by threatening to move its operations elsewhere then, six months later, slashed its Massachusetts workforce by 4,400 anyway. He also details a case from October 1994 in which Raytheon quietly paid a penalty of $4 million for having fraudulently overcharged the US Department of Defence for an anti-missile radar system called PAVEPAWS. (Clearly, this misdemeanour wasn t enough to make the high-spending company non grata with top defence officials.)
Also in October 1994, Raytheon sacked 870 employees at two aircraft factories in England which it had bought from British Aerospace, despite the fact that, following the takeover, in a desperate effort to meet the company s requirements for keeping their jobs, the workers had cut overheads by 25% and raised productivity by more than 30%.
The British Labour Party, then in opposition, denounced the move: Eight hundred skilled workers are to be thrown on the dole despite a promise that their jobs were safe for many years to come.
Now in Government, British Labour was represented at the Derry ceremony by NIO minister George Howarth who joined Mr. Hume and Mr. Trimble in praising Raytheon as just the type of hi-tech investor areas like Derry need to attract.
Raytheon has customers all over the world, Howarth told the gathering, and is one of the phenomenal success stories of industry. As a company, Raytheon set themselves the highest standards. I am pleased to see that Northern Ireland, and Derry in particular, have met these standards.
The SDLP Mayor of Derry, Pat Ramsey, hit the same note, seemingly pleased that Raytheon had considered Derry worthy of contributing to the company s phenomenal success. Having Raytheon here will show other companies that Derry can support the leading high-tech companies.
Mr. Hume made clear what he believed Derry s posture should be: The city owes a debt of gratitude to Raytheon.
Those who had planned the press conference were unfortunate in their timing. The news of the new plant was swamped by a spate of stories about the crisis in the peace process Mo Mowlam s response to the IRA killing of Charles Bennett, the leak of the Patten proposals on the police etc. The company scarcely figured in journalists questions to Mr. Hume, Mr. Trimble and Mr. Howarth.
Said Mr. Hume, seated alongside Mr. Burnham: The atmosphere on our streets has been transformed by the ceasefires. The peace is very obvious . . . In recent times there has been a lot of confusion, but we ought not to be looking at the negative aspects. Let s look on the positive and do all in our power to promote peace.
Mr. Trimble said: There cannot be a licence to kill. The government cannot turn a blind eye to such wrong-doing . . . Are (the Republicans) genuinely committed to exclusively peaceful means, or are they just stringing the community along by retaining the capacity to inflict violence? These matters must be addressed seriously. n