Friday, May 28, 2010

"The US is Number One in War" by Bill Quigley

No End in Sight: U.S. is Number One in War




US law officially proclaims Memorial Day "as a day of prayer for

permanent peace."


However, the US is much closer to permanent war than permanent peace.

Corporations are profiting from wars and lobbying politicians for

more. The US, and the rest of the world, cannot afford the rising

personal and financial costs of permanent war.

No doubt, the USA is number one in war. This coming year the US will

spend 708 billion dollars on war and another $125 billion for Veterans

Affairs – over $830 billion. In a distant second place is China which

spent about $84 billion on its military in 2008.

The US also leads the world in the sale of lethal weapons to others,

selling about one of every three weapons worldwide. The USA’s major

clients? South Korea, Israel and United Arab Emirates.


Our country has 5 percent of the world’s population but accounts for

more than 40% of the military spending for the whole world.




Our nation does not respect our soldiers by engaging in permanent war.

War is grinding up our children. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have

cost over 5000 US lives and tens of thousands more lives of people in

those countries. Over 20% of those in our military who served in these

two wars, 320,000 people, have war-related traumatic brain injuries.

Suicide rates are up by 26 percent among 18 to 29 year old male

veterans in the latest Veterans Administration study. Mental health

hospitalizations are now the leading cause of hospital admissions for

the military, higher than injuries. On any given night, over 100,000

veterans are homeless and living on our nation’s streets.


Rising Costs of War


Since 2001, the US has spent over $6 trillion (a trillion is a million

millions) on war and preparations for war. That is about $20,000 for

every woman, man and child in the US. Iraq and Afghanistan alone have

cost the US taxpayer over a trillion dollars since 2001.


No End in Sight


Earlier this month, Marine General James Cartwright, the Vice-Chair of

the military Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Army Times that the US

can expect continuing war "for as far as the eye can see."


In the name of this perpetual war against terrorism the US still jails

hundreds without trial in Guantanamo, holds hundreds more in prisons

on bases and in secret detention world-wide, tries to avoid

constitutional trials for anyone accused of terrorism, admits it is

trying to assassinate an American citizen Muslim cleric in Yemen, and

launches deadly drone strikes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and

Yemen killing civilians and suspects whenever we decide.


Who benefits from permanent war?


One support for permanent war is that there are corporations in the US

which openly lobby for more and more money to be invested in war. Why?

Because they profit enormously from government contracts.


President Dwight Eisenhower, who believed in a strong military, warned

the US about just this in his farewell address to the nation in 1961.


"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition

of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the

military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of

misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight

of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes."


War is Big Business


War is very big business. People know that private companies are doing

much more in war. In January 2010, the Congressional Research Service

reported that there are at least 55,000 private armed security

contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, and maybe many more - as many as

70,000 in Afghanistan alone.


But much bigger money is available to defense contractors. In 2008

alone, the top ten defense contractors received nearly $150 billion in

federal contracts. These corporations spent millions to lobby for

billions more in federal funds and hired ex-military leaders and

ex-officials to help them profit off war.


For example, look at the top three defense contractors, Lockheed

Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman. They demonstrate why perpetual

war is profitable and part of the reason it continues.


Lockheed Martin


Lockheed Martin is the largest military contractor in the world with

140,000 employees, taking in over $40 billion annually, over $35

billion of which comes from the US government. Lockheed Martin boasts

that they have increased their dividend payments by more than 10

percent for the seventh consecutive year – perfectly in line with the

increase in war spending by the US. Its chairman, Robert Stevens,

received over $72 million in compensation over the past three years.


Lockheed’s board of directors includes a former Under Secretary of

Defense, a former US Air Force Commander of the U.S. Strategic

Command, a former Deputy Director of Homeland Security, and a former

Supreme Allied Commander of Europe. These board members receive over

$200,000 a year in compensation. Its political action committee gave

over a million dollars a year to federal candidates in 2009, and is

consistently one of the top spending PACs in the US. They appeal to

all members of Congress because they strategically have operations in

all fifty states. And, since 1998, Lockheed has spent over $125

million to lobby Congress.

Northrop Grumman


Northrop Grumman is a $33 billion company with 120,000 employees. In

2008, it received nearly $25 billion in federal contracts. Its

chairman, Ronald Sugar, received over $54 million in compensation over

the past three years.


Northrop’s Board includes a former Admiral of the Navy, a former 20

year member of Congress, a former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,

a former commissioner of the Security and Exchange Commission and a

former U.S. Naval officer. The members of its board of directors

received over $200,000 each in 2009. Its Pac is listed as making over

$700,000 in federal campaign donations in 2009. Since 1998, it has

spent over $147 million lobbying Congress.




Boeing has 150,000 employees and took in over $23 billion in federal

contracts in 2008. With revenues of $68 billion in 2009, its chair,

James McNerney, was paid over $51 million over the past three years.

Its board members are paid well over $200,000 a year. Boeing’s

directors include a former U.S. Secretary of Commerce, a former White

House chief of staff, a former vice chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of

Staff, and a former U.S. Ambassador and U.S. Trade Representative. It

hosts the 10th largest political action committee, giving away more

than one million dollars to federal candidates in 2009. Since 1998, it

has spent $125 million lobbying Congress.


Time to Terminate the Permanent War


These corporations take billions from the government and profit from

our perpetual state of war. They recycle some of that money back into

lobbying the same people who gave it to them, and hire ex-military and

government officials to help smooth the process. Their leaders make

tens of millions off this work.


The trillions of dollars that it costs to wage permanent war are

taxing the US economy. Yet where are the voices in Congress, Democrat

or Republican, that talk seriously of dramatically reducing our

military spending? President Obama and the Democrats are effectively

continuing the permanent war policies of the Bush years. It is past

time for change.


Remember this Memorial Day that, while thousands have been laid in

their graves and hundreds of thousands wounded, private military

contractors are prospering and profiting as the business of war booms.


The US should not only remember its dead but work to reverse the

profitable permanent war that promises to add more names to the dead

and disabled in this country and around the world.



Bill Quigley is legal director of the Center for Constitutional

Rights and

a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans.

No comments: