by Daniel on January 23, 2004

Not often I admit this, but this Spectator article makes a lot of the points I’ve been trying to make myself on this issue rather better than I did. I’m not sure myself about whether or not the military-industrial complex is a red herring (I think that the defence procurement industry is too small to be as important as most conspiracy researchers think it is), but the rest is dead on. Thanks to the chaps at Slugger O’Toole for the link.

By the way, while we’re on the subject of defence procurement, why is it that every Army surplus shop in the world appears to have rack after rack of German army surplus shirts? Is this the result of a monumental purchasing error by the German Army or something?



Steve Carr 01.23.04 at 9:11 am

The broad thesis that conspiracies do exist is inarguable, though frankly I thought you made the point perfectly well. But can we at least say that comparing 9/11 to a proposed staged attack on a naval ship (let alone to the Gulf of Tonkin, in which no attack took place at all) is not “dead on”? Somehow I think the difference between shooting up a boat (and presumably inflicting few or no casualties) on the one hand and murdering more than 2000 citizens while inflicting tens of billions of dollars in property damage on the other is a difference not of degree, but of kind.


Mrs Tilton 01.23.04 at 9:23 am

No, Daniel, I suspect it’s simply because lots and lots of German youth do their stint in the Bundeswehr and have no interest in holding onto to their uniforms afterwards. The real question is why the surplus shops aren’t full of French army shirts as well. Though, now I think of it, are you talking about the plain drab green shirts? All the soldiers I see these days wear camouflage-pattern uniforms. Perhaps the green uniforms have been superseded and existing supplies sold cheaply to the worldwide surplus shop cartel.

Incidentally, I can’t say much for the shirts, but German army trousers are just the thing for mucking about in the field, looking under rocks for interesting arthropods.


des 01.23.04 at 9:31 am

And German paratrooper boots are the Mercedes of army surplus boot, even if you can only get them used. The recent announcement that Germany is going to end compulsorary national service was a sad day for coddled feets everywhere.


dsquared 01.23.04 at 9:53 am

Yeh, it’s the green drab one’s I’m talking about And they don’t appear to be second hand … no wear on the collars etc. They’re just not very nice shirts and there’s millions of them.

I cling to the image of a purchasing clerk sitting in a dusty cellar office in Berlin, continuing to place orders because nobody’s told him that the Wehrmacht aren’t in business any more.


Mrs Tilton 01.23.04 at 10:29 am

Emm… that’s Bundeswehr. The Wehrmacht left off doing business quite some time ago (and in any event wore feldgrau).


Doug 01.23.04 at 10:48 am

And which outfit gives your run-of-the-mill surplus buyer a niftier frisson, French or German?


raj 01.23.04 at 11:56 am

I’m not sure where you get the idea that the military-industrial complex is a conspiracy. It is more of a phenomenon than a conspiracy, and as others have noted it is actually better refered to as the military-industrial-congressional complex. The number of prime contractors may be fairly small, but there are many sub-contractors that are scattered throughout many congressional districts.


dsquared 01.23.04 at 11:58 am

Emm… that’s Bundeswehr. The Wehrmacht left off doing business quite some time ago

Yeh that’s what I mean. I just imagine this little bloke in his office, hasn’t left it for fifty years, still in his uniform, saluting the portrait of Hitler on the wall every day and then placing more orders for shirts.

It’s more of a whimsy than a genuine theory I suppose.


Jeremy Osner 01.23.04 at 1:36 pm

A nice whimsy though — it brings to mind the story of Byron the Bulb. I was a bit surprised by the difference in magnitude between the US espionage budget ($30B) and weapons contracts ($hundreds of M) — that suggests that you are correct in thinking the m/i complex is not large enough to influence the conspirators at Langley.


Zarquon 01.23.04 at 1:51 pm

The $30 billion figure was per year, while the hundreds of millions figure was per day.


bryan 01.23.04 at 2:00 pm

I am prey to the powerful delusion that if a store has a great deal of a particular item in stock it is because that item is a big seller and they have attempted to the best of their ability to get as much of the item as they assume will meet their demands.



Davis X. Machina 01.23.04 at 3:28 pm

My son (14) wears US GI boots — pre-anti-pungee stake soles — that were made in June of 66, and bought new six weeks ago.

That’s nigh on forty years.

And they were unused, and unissued.

And someone’s absorbing the cost of storage for 40 years. At $30.00 US a pair, I don’t think it’s the retaileres

It makes the warehouse scene at The Raiders of the Lost Ark much more believable.

There are probably cavalry saddles out there someplace.


phil 01.23.04 at 3:51 pm

If you extrapolate from the army surplus clerk in the movie “Falling Down”, the abundance of German surplus shirts can be explained by the fact that all army surplus clerks are neonazis.


Matt Weiner 01.23.04 at 3:53 pm

bryan, I don’t think that theory can apply to surplus shops. At least, I’d like a little more of a story of how supply is supposed to meet demand here…


James 01.23.04 at 8:40 pm

I never dreamt there’d come a day when a CT poster would cite favourably a right-wing commentator at whom I personally feel strong antipathy towards. Is it just because you agree with him in this sole case, or is CT – where softies like Lileks and Reynolds are depicted as red sharp-tailed fork-carriers – undergoing one of those once-in-a-generation political transformations?


dsquared 01.23.04 at 8:50 pm

I presume it’s just because I agree with him on this one issue. A number of people who I associate with on conspiracy research mailing lists are, as far as I can tell, actual fascists, but that doesn’t stop me. I’m not very choosy about my friends (my enemies, however, I pick with a jeweller’s precision)


zizka 01.24.04 at 4:51 pm

People have commented on how cheap American politicans are to buy. A ten-billion dollar windfall can sometimes be bought with a few carefully-placed donations totalling well less than a million. These donations are speculative and multi-purpose (munitions, oil, space program, we got it) and don’t have a sure payoff (i.e. these conspiracies, if you want to call them that, are not closely coordinated and rigidly mechanical, but more opportunistic and adventurist.)

There’s a second multiplier too — just as political donations can be multiplied several thousand fold into of military spending, a few billion dollars worth of well-placed munitions can have economic and other effects of much greater scope than a measly few bil. It can add up to real money when the world economy collapses various nations pass out of existence, battleground nations experience sudden demographic transformatins, etc.

I suppose to get that, though, you also have to have a sincere war party which is not entirely crass and venal but just wants the death and creative destruction for its own sake, without any ulterior motive.


dsquared 01.24.04 at 7:35 pm

American politicians are much more expensive to buy than British ones; Bernie Ecclestone bought a multi-year exemption from a tobacco advertising ban for £1m ($1.8m), and Lakshmi Mittal bought a letter of recommendation to the Romanian government auctioneers of a steelworks for £200k ($350k). The going rate for asking a question in the House of Commons is three grand in a brown envelope. As I wrote at the time on D^2D, it’s only in good old Blighty that political corruption is within the pocket of the common man.


MarkS 01.26.04 at 5:39 pm

Steve- kind of picking a nit, but

“…the Gulf of Tonkin, in which no attack took place at all…”

is not quite accurate- there *was* an attack on 2 aug. ’64 against the Maddox- it was the report of an attack on 4 aug against the C. Turner Joy that was inaccurate. IIRRC correctly the captain of the ship interpreted radar returns as showing an attack, and commenced firing. A few hours later, he concluded he had misinterpreted what he saw, and there had not been an attack. Again IIRC correctly, the ships were both supporting SV commando raids against the north, and could have been considered “fair game”

Regardless, the events *were* lied about to gin up support for the GT resolution.

Regarding the article itself, the author writes :
“With similar mystic gnosis, Donald Rumsfeld has alleged that the failure to find ‘weapons of mass distraction’, as Tony Blair likes to call them, shows that they once existed but were destroyed.”

I point to Dr. Kay’s statements in today’s New York Times-

“I think they gradually reduced stockpiles throughout the 1990’s. Somewhere in the mid-1990’s, the large chemical overhang of existing stockpiles was eliminated.”

sounds like they in fact did once exist, and in were, in fact, destroyed.


Sigivald 01.27.04 at 12:00 am

No idea about Germany, but Sweden recently reduced their “reserve” from something like 1 million to 300k people (fuzzy on the details, but that’s the order of magnitude we’re talking about), so the market is flooded with cheap Swedish goods.

Their little alcohol-fuel cooksets are very nice.

Ah, surplus. Truly, a way to see the world.

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