Sun-Times Op-Ed on Boeing’s Role in Rendition

Boeing as amoral as firms that aided Hitler

July 4, 2008

When Boeing chose Chicago over Seattle, Dallas and Denver as its corporate headquarters, there was rejoicing in the city. The Boeing symbol on our West Loop Skyline is one sign that we have made it as a global city.

We regret Boeing losing key defense contracts as we do losses by the Cubs and Sox.

Boeing pretends to be a good corporate citizen supporting Chicago arts groups and community organizations with grants. The company is listed prominently in playbills and annual reports.

But Boeing also abets torture. It is, after all, a defense contractor as well as a provider of civilian passenger jets. It is locked at the hip and the bottom line with the U.S. government.

Despite our pride in Boeing as a global corporation, it is as amoral as the German corporations that aided Hitler. Only money and contracts count with Boeing.

Boeing’s subsidiary, Jeppesen Dataplan, since 2001 has provided flight and logistical support for at least 15 aircraft making 70 clandestine flights for the CIA. Jeppesen allows the CIA to transport prisoners such as ACLU plaintiffs Binyam Mohamed, Abou Elkassim Britel, and Ahmed Agiza to secret locations where they were tortured as part of our government’s “war on terror.”

The fact that kidnapping and torture is given the more benign name of “rendition” changes nothing. The CIA uses civilian planes and Boeing’s and Jeppesen’s planning and collaboration to avoid legal procedures in other countries. It is illegal to use European facilities such as airports to spirit prisoners away to be tortured without due process. U.S. taxpayer money is being paid to Jeppesen and Boeing for “travel services” to transport prisoners, some kidnapped and others turned over for bounty payments. All of the CIA prisoners were tortured in countries such as Jordan, Egypt, Afghanistan and Morocco.

Other American companies, such as phone companies, help the government monitor our “private” phone calls. These companies and Boeing, like German companies 70 years ago, help our government undermine human and civil rights.

On April 28, Boeing stockholders met at the Field Museum. They were greeted by a small band of protesters, including Chicago author Sara Paretsky. She wrote about the protest in her blog, “At the end of [a good] novel, justice somehow triumphs. At the end of the morning [protest] in Chicago, money won.”

For now, Boeing continues to aid in rendition and torture. And the stockholders, mostly unknowingly, go along.

A few days before the stockholder meeting, an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against Boeing was dismissed in federal court. The CIA claimed the need to protect “state secrets.” But the basic facts are disputed by neither Boeing nor the CIA. As ACLU attorney Ben Wizner argued in court, “No interrogation method . . . is secret. Every one of those has been disclosed and confirmed and in the public record.” And the record implicates Boeing. As Meg Satterwaite, an attorney for one of the tortured prisoners has said, “Corporate complicity is actually a crucial part of the CIA program.”

While management won the stockholder meeting and first court confrontations, the Coalition to Ground Boeing Torture Flights was born. The next steps in the anti-Boeing campaign will be teach-ins on college campuses and demands for the sale of Boeing stock by pension funds and universities. The coalition is calling on Congress investigate Boeing’s role and on the Chicago City Council to pass a resolution condemning Boeing.

Boeing is a giant global corporation, a Goliath. It is opposed by a handful of protesting Davids. I, for one, want to be counted among the Davids.

Like any other citizen, our Chicago corporate citizens should oppose, not abet, torture.


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