The Business of War: SOFEX


Uploaded by vice on 05.07.2012

Transcript:
[RADIO STATIC]

[MUSIC PLAYING]

SHANE SMITH: Nearly every industry in the world has a
trade show.
You have car shows, electronics shows, even comics
have their own trade shows.
But here in Jordan for the last 14 years, in huge tents
in the middle of the desert, they have a massive
trade show for war.
It's called the Special Operations Forces Exhibition,
or SOFEX for short, and it's hosted by Jordan's King
Abdullah II, one of America's only allies
in the Middle East.
I wanted to know exactly what was for sale and just who was
selling it at the world's largest special-forces
supermarket.
But I'm a magazine guy, not a gun guy, so I brought along an
ex-Marine and an Iraq War vet, Matt Ruskin, to help me sort
through all this stuff.
SHANE SMITH: It gets interesting, because when you
walk through security and you come to this, it's sort of
like a trade show out in the middle of the desert.
And the first thing you see are like any other trade show,
advertising.
But here it's like, F-16 with sniper targeting pod, the
Hellfire missile, the Javelin missile.
It's crazy.
It's the first thing you see.

And all this advertising is aimed at
one audience, generals.
So we're here at the beginning of SOFEX.
They're going to have the keynote speeches.
As you can see, there's pretty much every general in the
world here.
It's crazy.

SHANE SMITH: The arms industry is estimated at anywhere
between $350 billion to $500 billion a year, one of the
largest industries in the world.
And these are all the guys, the military advisers, the
generals, who come here to buy weapons systems.
Where are you guys from?
MALE SPEAKER 1: From Jordan.
SHANE SMITH: Jordan?
The hometown boys.
Where are you guys from?
MALE SPEAKER 2: Togo.
SHANE SMITH: Togo?
MALE SPEAKER 2: Yeah.
SHANE SMITH: Nice to meet you.
Tanzania, very good guys.
MALE SPEAKER 3: Lebanon.
SHANE SMITH: Lebanon.
[LEBANESE]
MALE SPEAKER 2: [LEBANESE]
MALE SPEAKER 4: [LEBANESE]
SHANE SMITH: When I was a kid, they used to talk about the
military-industrial complex.
Well, this is it right here, the business of war.
All the generals coming with billions upon billions of
dollars of taxpayer money to buy weapons to fuck shit up.
[MILITARY MARCH MUSIC]

SHANE SMITH: Here we go.
It's all going to kick off now.
King Abdullah's arriving.
So here come some of the special ops forces.

Jordan has a profound, almost pathological, fixation with
special ops.
Why?
Well, one, because it borders with Syria, Israel, Saudi
Arabia, and Iraq.
And two, because "special ops" is code for taking down
terrorists, insurgents, or anyone else that the
government deems to be undesirable.
And since 9/11, if you join the fight against global
terrorism, it also means that Uncle Sam will cut you a nice
big check for weapons, especially if they're
American-made.

So we just saw the show of force.
They took over the building.
They dropped the people in.
There was a hostage crisis.
They did it all, they killed everybody.
And now SOFEX is going to begin.
And if you didn't know that the military industrial
complex was a party, you'd be wrong.
So we're going to go in with all of the generals, see what
everybody's buying.

It's like a parody.
I kind of feel like Austin Powers is going to jump out at
some point, because it's like a million Dr. Evils getting
their special laser weapon systems.
It's like kids at a candy store.

[SINGING]
For your eyes only.
I think that's the wrong Bond.
And it's not just arms you can buy at SOFEX.
If you make a big enough purchase, they'll train you on
just how to use them, too.
To this end, they've created a state-of-the-art military
training facility where you can learn how to raid an
airplane, or assault a gas station, or not freak out
while all around you, bodies are burning.
And all of this is brought to you
courtesy of General Dynamics.

CHARLES REDLINGER: This is a coordinated effort between the
US and Jordan.
It's about a $200 million facility as it stands right
now, all constructed in the effort to, basically, have a
one-stop shop for
special-operations-type training.
So you can come and you can work on your urban skills.
You can work on your aircraft assault skills and just the
whole gamut.
SHANE SMITH: Who trains on it mostly?
CHARLES REDLINGER: Well, a number of countries, I won't
say exactly which ones.
What we have here is a Airbus 300.
What it allows us to do is various types of training as
it relates to special operations, whether it's a
hostage situation inside of an aircraft or if we want to
replicate some sky marshal training.
[FLYING NOISES]
[MACHINE GUN FIRE]
CHARLES REDLINGER: Because in the aircraft here, we can
simulate certain battlefield effects.
We can initiate smells and sounds of the battlefield that
may go along with a certain kind of scenario.
What we can do is we can pull out the mannequins--
[RECORDED BABY CRYING]
CHARLES REDLINGER: And actually put--
SHANE SMITH: Don't shoot the baby.
CHARLES REDLINGER: That's right.
The mindset's a big factor for each operator.
And the more you can expose them to in a controlled
environment like this, the better operator he's going to
be, the more surgical he's going to be.
SHANE SMITH: Right.
I understand why, because the baby sound
just freaked me out.
CHARLES REDLINGER: Yeah.
SHANE SMITH: Yeah.

CHARLES REDLINGER: This is the 100-meter range, and the
100-meter range has a system built by Saab.
It's basically a pop-up target system.
SHANE SMITH: Saab, the car manufacturer?
CHARLES REDLINGER: Yeah, I believe it's the same guy,
Saab Systems.
SHANE SMITH: Right.
I never see any press on this stuff ever, so I think I'm
sort of a maverick, although not a
maverick like John McCain.

SHANE SMITH: Now Jennifer does PR for these General Dynamics
war villages, which must be the weirdest job for a soccer
mom ever created.
So they bring people from SOFEX here, why?
JENNIFER MONTESANO: Oh, to see it.
Gotta see it to believe it.
SHANE SMITH: So they like it.
They see the plane.
They get afraid by the baby, and then they go come to you
and say, I want it.
Now what's next?
JENNIFER MONTESANO: Great, well, we go, and we talk to
them, and say, they either want it in their country, or
they can come here and train.
SHANE SMITH: Right.

I'm going in.
Live hostage situation.
[MACHINE GUN FIRE]

SHANE SMITH: He got them all before I even got in.
I wonder what the Jordanians think about these guys being
the bad guys.

CHARLES REDLINGER: We're approaching the urban area.
The urban area consists of about 52 structures.
The structures range from banks to small/large villas.
We have an embassy complex over on the right, gas
station, and just all kinds of other structures.
There's a machine gun--
simulated machine gun in that window.
We have wave cannons on all the rooftops.
SHANE SMITH: Are wave cannons real things?
CHARLES REDLINGER: They're--
[EXPLOSION]
SHANE SMITH: Whoa, shit.
Is that a wave cannon?
CHARLES REDLINGER: That's a wave cannon.
SHANE SMITH: [LAUGHS]
[MACHINE GUN FIRE AND EXPLOSIONS]

SHANE SMITH: They're after us.

CHARLES REDLINGER: I've been told that in the building,
they've initiated some kind of an odor, as well as probably
some smoke and so on.
[HISSING SOUND]
I smell something.
I don't know what it is.
[EXPLOSION]
This is like the worst thing I could possibly think of right
now, being hung over, and they're going to make it smell
like rotting flesh.
MALE SPEAKER 5: Burnt hair, oily machinery, dead body.
[LAUGHTER]

SHANE SMITH: Is there ever a worry that baddies would come
and use the area as training?
Because you know, you have Israel, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria,
all those neighbors, and you just wonder who
gets to come train.
CHARLES REDLINGER: Well, Jordan's in a tough
neighborhood.
There's no doubt about it.
SHANE SMITH: Jordan is in a tough neighborhood.
In fact, both Egypt and Syria are currently trying to put
down popular rebellions, and Iraq is basically in a full-on
special-ops civil war.
And where are they getting all these weapons?
SOFEX.
How hard is it to come and buy arms on the open market?

SHANE SMITH: And we noticed that they sell kits.
For example, you can buy a regular helicopter, but you
can buy a kit to upgrade it to add in a missile system or
Gatling gun system quite easily.
RAPHAEL DE SUPERCAZE: Yes, of course.

SHANE SMITH: So I can buy a helicopter from one country,
and I can buy a weapons system from another country, and then
have an attack helicopter?
RAPHAEL DE SUPERCAZE: Yes.

SHANE SMITH: So North Korea's bought some of these?
RAPHAEL DE SUPERCAZE: Yes.

SHANE SMITH: Can I have a key chain?
FEMALE SPEAKER 1: Yeah, sure.
SHANE SMITH: Thank you.
Where are you guys from?
SHANE SMITH: Kazakhstan.
Czech Republic.
Is that made in Azerbaijan?
FEMALE SPEAKER 2: Yes.
SHANE SMITH: Yeah?
So Azerbaijan makes the biggest, longest
rifle I've ever seen.
Where are you guys from?
MALE SPEAKER 6: Germany.
SHANE SMITH: Germany.
Turkey is here.
China is here.
Jordan is here.
The Russians are here, all selling weapons systems to
whoever wants to buy them.
You want jets?
You want rockets, helicopter grenade,
RoboCop killer systems?
[ROBOT VOICE]
You have 20 seconds to comply.
You got it.
That's an automatic grenade launcher.
MATT RUSKIN: That's my favorite weapon in the entire
Marine Corps arsenal there.
SHANE SMITH: No one's stopping him.
No one's saying, hey, you shouldn't be actually playing
with the grenade launcher.
Now fucking around with these dudes and their guns was fun.
But after a while you start to freak out, because you realize
that they're selling weapons the same way that you'd sell
next year's car model.
MALE SPEAKER 7: The world's most demanding
shooters demand SIG.
This is the world's most revolutionary pistol.
We have the resources and the energy to solve
any small-arms problem.
SHANE SMITH: Javelin would be one of the most innovative
weapons systems.

SHANE SMITH: And when he says successful, what he really
means is that it's great at destroying stuff.
And we weren't the only ones to notice, like the Marine we
ran into who had just finished his second tour in Iraq.

SHANE SMITH: And the biggest sellers by far are the
American companies.
In fact, 16 of the 20 largest arms manufacturers are based
in the United States.
And being the biggest store in the mall means selling a lot
of weapons to a lot of people.
What's crazy about this is that America gives a lot of
these countries foreign aid so that they can come here and
buy weapons systems from their companies.
It's kind of like a parent giving their kids the credit
card and saying, go to the mall that I own and just buy
whatever you want.
So the last time you were in the Middle East, you were in
Iraq as a Marine.
Does it spin you out to see like Northrop Grumman, General
Dynamics, all these American companies making tons of money
off of war?
MATT RUSKIN: What's the trip is you see Norinco right here
next to an American arms display.
And they used to launch 9-foot Norinco rockets on us.
SHANE SMITH: Really?
MATT RUSKIN: Yeah.
SHANE SMITH: The insurgents would buy Norinco rockets and
then use them against you.
And they're right next to the American military companies.
Interesting.
So we went over to the Norinco booth to see if they could
explain how their weapons ended up in the hands of Iraqi
insurgents.
Hi.
[CHINESE]
MALE SPEAKER 9: Hi.
[CHINESE]
SHANE SMITH: Hi.
How are you?
MALE SPEAKER 9: Where are you from?
SHANE SMITH: From America, Vice.
BBS?
News.
MALE SPEAKER 9: Oh, news.
SHANE SMITH: News, news.
MALE SPEAKER 9: I'm sorry.
Maybe I'm not [INAUDIBLE].
SHANE SMITH: Oh, OK.
MALE SPEAKER 9: OK.
SHANE SMITH: OK.
Thank you.
MALE SPEAKER 9: I'm sorry.
Sorry.
SHANE SMITH: [CHINESE].
I must have bad BO.
They're all walking away very rapidly.
[CHINESE].
MALE SPEAKER 10: [CHINESE].
SHANE SMITH: Everyone just left.

While we couldn't get an answer from the Chinese,
sitting right there on display in the next booth over were
shells that were exactly the same as the ones Iraqi
insurgents used to make roadside bombs, or IEDs.
MATT RUSKIN: All right, they take the tips off of these,
and you can see it's pretty hollow in there.
And they'll pack this whole thing full of C4, and it
creates some hellacious shrapnel.
SHANE SMITH: And here you can just buy it like you would a
chocolate bar.
MATT RUSKIN: Exactly.
[GUNSHOTS]

SHANE SMITH: We're just outside of Amman, Jordan, at
the King Abdullah Special Operations Training Center for
the Ultimate Warrior Competition.
There's some Marines here.
There's some Tanzanians here.
There are some people from Saudi Arabia.
And then the hometown heroes, the Jordanians.
They're part of the special branches.
It's basically bragging rights for who's the biggest badasses
in the world.
[GUNSHOTS]
And so these are the best of the best, counter-terrorist
special-ops groups.
CHARLES REDLINGER: Yes.
SHANE SMITH: And so if they win, they're like, we're the
biggest badasses, basically.
CHARLES REDLINGER: Yeah.
I guess it does give you a little bit of
bragging rights if--
SHANE SMITH: Well, that's good.

CHARLES REDLINGER: So as you can see, it's designed to hit
on as many of the skill sets that these guys possess, and
challenge them in all those, stamina,
endurance, shooting skills.
[GUNSHOT]
SHANE SMITH: Do they do Indian leg wrestling?
CHARLES REDLINGER: Indian leg wrestling?
No.
Maybe--
SHANE SMITH: Because I could compete on that.
CHARLES REDLINGER: What about potato-sack racing?
SHANE SMITH: I could compete on those two.
Now I have to admit, watching these special-ops guys strut
their stuff was pretty impressive.
MALE SPEAKER 11: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
SHANE SMITH: But when you start thinking about the
countries that some of these guys come from, you can't help
but wonder the circumstances in which these urban assault
skills are going to be put to use.
And if the recent uprisings in the Arab world are any
indication, the answer is simple, at home.
[GUNSHOTS]
SHANE SMITH: How you guys doing?
Good.
You going to win?
MALE SPEAKER 12: [INAUDIBLE]
SHANE SMITH: Yeah?
Now how you boys doing?
You going to win?
MALE SPEAKER 13: If they don't win, then I'll put my
boot in their ass.
I'm happy.
And what do you think about competitions like this?
MALE SPEAKER 14: Friendly competition's always a great
thing, because it lets you know what you need to work on.
And you should get up, get to meet new people.
Because connections around the world right now is a big deal.
So getting to know guys you might see down the road in
Afghanistan and recognize faces
definitely goes a long way.
[GUNSHOTS]
SHANE SMITH: And recognizing faces is important.
In fact, facial recognition technology is just the latest
feature being built into many unarmed aerial vehicles, which
are also known as drones.
You know, when you were a kid, you used to have those little
model airplanes.
And there'd be like, somebody's dad would be a real
nerd and have the model airplane.
Now, it's all model-airplane-style drones
that can take pictures or drop bombs.

The sad thing is that countries who actually buy
this stuff rarely end up using it against foreign militaries.
More often than not, they're turning it
against their own citizens.
And thanks to the number of governments who are afraid of
their own people, business is booming.
ADAM THOMAS: We've just made an assessment of the global
security market spending.
And our assessment this year is we think spending on
security's between $180-190 billion.
We now see that doubling to $400 billion in
the next four years.
SHANE SMITH: $400 billion just on--
ADAM THOMAS: That's everything, from border
security, homeland security, anti-immigration, anti-drug,
protection of oil fields, and everything else.
SHANE SMITH: So even in a recession--
ADAM THOMAS: Yep.
So you can see two to three times more on security
spending than there's going to be on
defense tactical spending.
Hence, the importance of SOFEX.

SHANE SMITH: So we just left SOFEX.
We're pretty spun out.
A lot of generals, a lot of weapons systems, missiles,
tanks, planes, helicopters, and it's kind of a bummer.
And as we left SOFEX, the magnitude of what we
just saw hit us.
If the arms markets are doubling every year in sales,
it means that the armies are actually using and expending
their weapons, which means, quite simply, that they're
killing people.
MALE SPEAKER 15: 260's--
MALE SPEAKER 16: Come on, fire.
[MACHINE GUN FIRE]
MALE SPEAKER 17: Roger.
[MACHINE GUN FIRE]
MALE SPEAKER 18: Keep shooting, keep shooting.
Keep shooting.
Keep shooting.
[MACHINE GUN FIRE]
[MIDDLE EASTERN POP MUSIC]