Donald Trump, who fancies himself as the grand artist of deal making, just made a series of terrible deals with the radical Wahhabist government of Saudi Arabia. Trump signed a deal with the Saudis, which was negotiated largely by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, to provide the kingdom with military hardware, including advanced fighter jets, tanks, artillery, precision-guided munitions, and radar systems. The package could be worth as much as $360 billion. The Saudis will undoubtedly use their American-provided weapons to continue atrocities against the people of Yemen, Syria, and Bahrain, where Saudi military forces have been involved in internal rebellions on behalf of radical Sunni interests.
In return for the weapons, Trump was pressed by the Saudis to rescind the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, which has permitted some 800 families of victims of the 9/11 attack to sue Saudi Arabia for its involvement with the 9/11 attackers. Passed by Congress in September 2016, JASTA was vetoed by President Obama, who was under significant pressure by the Saudis to nix the bill. Congress responded by overriding Obama’s veto. The Saudis now hope that in return for their billions of dollars in military purchases, Trump will move to rescind JASTA and bring the 9/11 families’ lawsuit to an end.
Although Trump’s base would be incensed if the president moves to kill JASTA, he has shown his willingness to hit his nationalistic voting bloc very hard in his budget. Trump has taken a sharp scalpel to programs popular with his base, including unemployability benefits for service-connected disabled veterans who are over 65, Medicare and Medicaid funding, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), crop insurance, and rural housing loan programs.
For Trump’s supporters in the “rust belt” who helped deliver the White House to the president, he has a very special gift from Saudi Arabia. Trump hammered out a deal with the Saudis that would see the Wahhabist kingdom sink $200 billion into infrastructure projects in the swing states of Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin. And what type of investments are the Saudis prepared to make? The Saudis, as well as other potential investors, realize that a major capstone of Trump’s current and future budgets is the advent of a major “privatization” scheme that will see publicly-owned infrastructures sold off to the highest foreign bidders. Trump ran against “globalization,” but he has no problem in presiding over a U.S. austerity program that will plunge the United States into the same economic despair that has ravaged Greece, Spain, Italy, and Portugal.
A major investment target for the Saudis includes, believe it or not, publicly-owned airports that Trump’s budget foresees being privatized. Currently, there is only one privatized airport in the U.S., Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in austerity-ravaged Puerto Rico, where everything in the public domain was put up for sale to corporate privateers.
Among the airports most likely to be privatized, with the help of Trump Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, are those originally targeted for privatization in the Airport Privatization Pilot Program, which was authorized by the Federal Aviation Reauthorization Act of 1996. Along with San Juan airport, the only other airport that saw privatization was Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, New York. There were so many problems with the privatization scheme, the airport reverted back to public ownership after the private operator, National Express Group PLC of the UK, decided there was better profits in running school buses in the United States. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey took over control of the airport. The British company’s renaming the airport “New York-Hudson Valley International Airport” did nothing to increase traffic and they pulled out of the deal.
The right-wing and pro-business Heritage Foundation, which has practically written Trump’s federal budget, continues to see airport privatization as the way of the future. And Trump’s administration can offer up to the Saudis those rust belt airports that are seen as deal sweeteners. The airports, all targeted for privatization by the Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute, are Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Dayton International Airport, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, Columbus Rickenbacker International Airport, Indianapolis International Airport, Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Grand Rapids Gerald R. Ford International Airport, and Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport. Other airports suggested for privatization include Lambert International Airport in St. Louis, Midway International in Chicago, and Pittsburgh International Airport.
Adding more sugar to the rust belt privatization scheme are Trump’s plans to privatize the FAA’s air traffic control operations and the Transportation Security Administration. The Saudi Wahhabist jihadis must be rubbing their hands with glee, just thinking about all the possibilities for future “9/11s.”
Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.
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Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).