I’ve been to hundreds of depressing media trade shows, and SOFEX’s salespeople are no different from the rest, except that their wares are designed to destroy things and kill people. I witnessed representatives from almost every nation spending millions of dollars on heavy munitions; I was wondering if the transactions were padded by foreign aid from the US and other countries. I heard high-ranking soldiers say things like, “When I retire I’m going to be on the other side of the table—ha ha ha ha.” What this means is that it’s not uncommon for generals with government-controlled salaries around $100,000 a year to spend the twilight of their careers purchasing billions worth of munitions from arms companies who, in turn, offer these same senior officers state-side “consulting” gigs with multimillion-dollar salaries. It’s blatant payola, the whole thing so corrupt it borders on absurd. Absurdity, as it turned out, was a running theme of the conference.