Social Media Fake News: The Kenyan Arms Sales

There is a story making the rounds on social media about a suspicious, last minute deal between the United States and Kenya in the last days of the Obama administration.  The logic goes something like this: the deal is suspicious because it (1) was announced the Monday after Trump’s Inauguration, (2) it involves Kenya, and (3) because it involves Kenya and since Obama is really a Kenyan, the deal is suspicious.

The sale is for 12 Air Tractor AT-802L light attack planes valued at $418 million.  These are basically modified crop dusters armed with guided munitions that special operations found useful in Yemen and which Jordan and Kuwait also currently use.  Kenya wants the planes to combat al-Shabbab terrorist rebels in that country.

These claims on social media from a plethora of questionable news sites invariably link back to a Breitbart article on the issue. That article notes that a non-partisan attempt to stop the sale is underway by several Congressmen.  The sale was announced the Monday after Trump’s inauguration.  The Breitbart article and the others that followed up seem to intimate that Obama possibly intervened himself because… you know- he’s Kenyan and all that.

In fact, Breitbart like the members of Congress found out after the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) posted State Department approval of the sale on their website.  Also posted was a $525 million sale of missile threat warning systems to Saudi Arabia, $400 million from Kuwait for Apache helicopter logistical support, another $110 million from Kuwait for air-to-air missiles and $400 million from the United Kingdom for C-17 logistical support.

There is ample evidence from more reliable sources that the Kenyan contract was approved by lower level operatives in the Air Force.  So why the Congressional “investigation” and resulting alleged scandal?  The effort is being spearheaded by Ted Budd (R-NC) and several other Congressmen (Meadows of NC, Hunter of CA, Duncan of SC, Ros-Lehtinen of FL, LaMalfa of CA and Palmer of AL).  What makes it “non-partisan” is that a lone Georgia Democratic Congressman also signed onto the letter.

After the DSCA issues these clearances, sales can still be blocked by Congress at the request of members.  This likely happens all the time, but Congress has not blocked any such sale of arms since 1986- that is more than three decades ago.  The reason this is a “scandal” in the eyes of purveyors of fake news is the fact that IOMAX, a veteran-run company based in North Carolina, told Budd that they could make the 12 planes for $200 million less than what L3 Technologies- the company that got the contract- is charging.

First, there is NO proof Obama was personally behind approval of the transaction.  Four other transactions were announced that day with nary a word from anyone.  To the moronic birther element of the Right out there, the word “Kenya” raised red flags.  In fact, a more reliable source- Defense News- notes that there still may be more arms sales to be announced on the DSCA website in the coming weeks which are deals pending while Obama was in office that have yet to be cleared, but are in the process.

Instead, the “scandal,” if it exists is in the internecine warfare between competing congressional districts and their representatives for lucrative arms contracts.  The lone Democrat is Sanford Bishop of Georgia and it makes sense since IOMAX has some employees and a plant in Georgia also.  L3 Technologies said most of the work will be done at their plant in Texas.

This is simply much ado about nothing other than some North Carolina representatives upset that a company in their state did not get the contract.  While it may be true that IOMAX can perform the job for $200 million less than L3 Technologies, we- and they- do not know the specifications for the planes worked out between the DSCA, Defense Department and State Department and the Kenyan government.  In fact, Defense News states that even after approval and before anything is delivered, specifications change all the time.

If any party should be suspicious it should be the Kenyan government who should be upset that they may be getting ripped off to the tune of $200 million.  These sales of weapons and arms to foreign countries are not under a commitment to competitive bidding.  Perhaps the Kenyan government is a bad shopper, or L7 technologies could deliver the product quicker or their plants do not have to be retrofitted.  Speaking as an American, I would rather have Kenya pump $400 million into our economy rather than $200 million, but Congressmen are supposed to look out for their districts and one supposes Ted Budd is doing that.

As far as this being yet another Obama scandal, this is much ado about nothing.  On a scale of 0-5 in terms of fake or exaggerated news, this one gets a 0.

{SPECIAL NOTE:  I would link to one of these stories, but when researching it directly, my computer was twice attacked by viruses or malware when I opened some of the sites.  A link to the Defense News article is here: http://www.defensenews.com/articles/saudi-aerostats-kenyan-aircraft-headline-last-major-obama-admin-weapon-sales. }

As these stories pop up, this writer hopes to research and debunk or confirm them.  I will end each article with this disclaimer:

It is bad enough that the liberal press engages in exaggeration and, at times, fake news.  It is even worse when conservative outlets do the same.