Even Ripley wouldn't believe this...
Even the official version of why U.S. taxpayers are subsidizing a Russian arms conglomerate that is supplying the Syrian regime with the tools of butchery is incredible.
New details uncovered by the Associated Press are even more so.
In 2011 the Pentagon bypassed U.S. manufacturers and ordered 63 Mi-17 helicopters for the Afghanistan military from Rosoboronexport, the Russian conglomerate that also is a principal arms supplier to the Syrian regime.
At the time Pentagon officials explained to incredulous members of Congress that the decision was based on a 2010 study finding that the Mi-17 was "the superior choice" based largely on the Afghans' familiarity with the model.
Now, however, the AP has learned that the report actually found that the U.S. Army's Chinook helicopter - built by Boeing in Pennsylvania - is "the most cost-effective single platform type fleet for the Afghan Air Force over a 20-year" period. The report went on to outline a transitional approach in which Chinook's being retired from the U.S. fleet could be refurbished by Boeing and used to gradually replace the Russian helicopters in Afghanistan's fleet.
Boeing told a congressional committee last year that the helicopters could be refurbished for between $12 million and $14 million each. The price of each Russian Mi-17 has increased since the start of the contract from $16.4 million to $18.2 million.
Afghanistan's mountainous terrain mandates the use of rugged helicopters, capable of carrying heavy loads higher than 15,000-foot peaks. In that regard the U.S. and Russian models are comparable, but the Chinook's payload capacity is twice that of the Mi-17.
Congress should find out what happened here and hold accountable the appropriate parties.
As Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat put it: "There was no redeeming value, no redeeming feature to this sale. An inferior product bought with American taxpayer money from a Russian export agency that was unconscionably selling to Assad. If you made it up, no one would believe it."