Author Archive

War is (Still) a Racket

9 October 2009

Over seventy years ago, Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler wrote:

War is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

Sadly, little has changed since Butler penned those words. America continues sending its soldiers into harm’s way, while the likes of Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) and General Dynamics (GD) continue raking in the dough. Of course, none of this war profiteering would be possible without politicians, whose job it is to trick the public into believing that war, or at least the current war, really is necessary, that if we don’t keep bombing all those defenseless Cambodians or Iraqis or Afghans, then somehow the world won’t be safe for democracy, somehow the things Americans most value will be jeopardized.

Our politicians don’t actually believe that wars will make the world a better place. They start wars, they send other people’s sons and daughters into harm’s way, because they themselves stand to profit. According to an April 2008 study by the Center for Responsive Politics, members of Congress have between $79 million and $196 million of their own money invested in defense firms. (Because lawmakers are “only required to report their assets in broad ranges,” the exact amount is unknown.) The Congressmen with the most money invested are:

• Sen. John Kerry (D-MA): $28,872,067 to $38,209,020
• Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ): $12,081,050 to $49,140,000
• Rep. Robin Hayes (R-NC): $9,232,037 to $37,105,000
• Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI): $5,207,668 to $7,612,653
• Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA): $2,684,050 to $6,260,000
• Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI): $2,469,029 to $8,360,000
• Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV): $2,000,002
• Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI): $1,365,004 to $5,800,000

Not surprisingly, all of the above individuals are warmongers. All of them, for instance, voted for the Iraq War in 2002. (See Senate vote here, House vote here.)

Also not surprisingly, the above individuals receive money—lots and lots of money—from defense firms in the form of campaign contributions. For instance, Frelinghuysen’s top donor is Lockheed Martin, and four of Jane Harman’s top five donors are Northrop Grumman (NOC), Raytheon (RTN), Boeing (BA), and SAIC (SAI). The same is true of other congressional warmongers. If you don’t believe me, just go to OpenSecrets.org and look at all the money that such firms as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and General Dynamics have doled out over the years.

Now unless you’re a real idiot, it’s not tough to connect the dots here. Simply put, more war means more money for defense firms, which in turn means more money for members of Congress.

The answer to all this is, first of all, to get pissed, to get really pissed. I mean, let it all out. The system’s a fraud! You’re being used! Your sons and daughters are being sent out to die so a bunch of sleazy politicians can make a buck!

After you’ve gotten this out of your system, you need to do something about it. Follow Jim Davidson’s lead and divest from the death merchants. If you own stocks in any of these companies, sell them. If you have US Savings Bonds, cash them in. And, of course, do all you can to kick these sleazebags out of office.

And then tell others what’s going on. Blog about it, yell it out your window, whatever.

Look, I’m not exactly an optimist. I’m not saying we’re going to end the wars. But we at least have to try.

Profiting from the Israeli War Machine

25 August 2009

If I treated my dog as viciously as Israel treats the Palestinians, I’d be thrown into prison. And rightly so. For this is a government that regularly bombs civilian neighborhoods, steals water resources, and blocks basic humanitarian goods—things like pasta, school notebooks, and hearing aids—from entering the Gaza Strip.

All this death and destruction is made possible by numerous American corporations. Most of the usual suspects are to blame. For instance, Boeing (NYSE: BA), Raytheon (RTN), and Lockheed Martin (LMT) have long provided Israel with bombs, missiles, fighter jets, and attack helicopters. But there are many other American companies, some which you’d least expect, that also profit from the Israeli War Machine.

For example, there’s Motorola (MOT). Yes, you heard me right Motorola, maker of all those nifty little gadgets for your cell phones. Motorola, it turns out, also makes fuses for bombs. Those cluster bombs which Israel indiscriminately dropped in Lebanon in 2006 (many of which continue killing Lebanese children)—made with Motorola fuses. And those bombs it dropped throughout Gaza during Operation Cast Lead—also made with Motorola fuses.

But more than just making bomb fuses, Motorola, which once supplied South Africa’s apartheid government with mobile radios, supplies Israel’s military with a state-of-the-art communications system. And just as South Africa’s police used their radios to “suppress demonstration against the government,” Israeli soldiers are currently using their fancy “Mountain Rose” system to suppress the nonviolent demonstrations in Bil’in. (Bil’in, in case you don’t know, is a small Palestinian village where activists regularly protest the construction of the Separation Wall.)

Caterpillar (CAT) also profits from Israeli death and destruction. For years now the Israeli army has used [.pdf] Caterpillar bulldozers in its major military operations. A bulldozer, you see, is the perfect weapon for leveling Palestinian orchards and homes. It also comes in handy if you ever need to mow down a peace activist. It was with a Caterpillar D9R armored bulldozer, you might remember, that the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) killed American Rachel Corrie in 2003 while she tried to stop a Palestinian home from being destroyed.

For several years now, and especially since Corrie’s death, numerous human rights organizations have petitioned Caterpillar to stop selling this equipment to Israel. Not surprisingly, Caterpillar has refused, claiming that it has “neither the legal right nor the means to police individual use of that equipment.” What this really means, of course, is that it has neither the will nor decency to stop doing business with what very well might be its most lucrative client.

Next on the list is Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), followed by Ingersoll Rand (IR) and L-3 Communications (LLL). Hewlett-Packard’s subsidiary EDS-Israel built and continues to maintain biometric access control systems at several Israeli checkpoints, while the latter two companies have worked on various components for the systems. (See here for more about Ingersoll Rand, here for L-3 Communications.) Israel claims that it needs this technology to keep terrorists out, but the truth is that it’s been keeping all sorts of people out—including patients needing urgent medical care and law-abiding individuals trying to be reunited with their spouses.

Israel has even prevented many Palestinians who’ve been traveling abroad from returning to their homes in the Occupied Territories. And why, you might be wondering, would it do that? Because it seems to believes that all the land between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea belongs to it. Thus, it continues building settlements in the West Bank. Bad news if you’re an Arab. Not such bad news if you’re a RE/MAX broker selling one of the many beautiful properties available in Occupied East Jerusalem. (RE/MAX is not publicly traded).

Other US companies that profit from the settlements include Celcom (CEL), Cemex (CX), General Mills (GIS), Unilever (UN), and Veolia Environnement (VE). For a complete list, see WhoProfits.Org.