The Business of War: SOFEX

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
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
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
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
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
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:
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
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]

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