by Gary Ferdman and Myriam Miedzian
Published on Wednesday, August 23, 2006 by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Washington)
"During the Civil War, President Lincoln stated that those profiteering from defective weapons 'ought to have their devilish heads shot off.'"
Pop quiz: Who founded the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq?
A. A prominent Iraqi political exile.
B. Bruce Jackson, former Lockheed Martin vice president
C. Neoconservatives William Kristol and Paul Wolfowitz.
What does this mean? To understand our nation's foreign policy, including military interventions, follow the money.
This should come as no surprise. Our country is built on the profit motive; we proved its effectiveness by outlasting the Soviet Union.
While Americans understand that making money motivates McDonald's or Wal-Mart, and some are concerned about businesses donating large sums to influence politicians, most are unaware of how the profit motive helps shape U.S. foreign policy.
This is caused in part by our leaders draping decisions, especially wars, in patriotism. Take Iraq; President Bush leads Americans to believe that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11, has weapons of mass destruction, and threatens our national security. Once he invades Iraq, any questioning is portrayed as endangering our troops and homeland.
By the time most Americans realize that none of it is true, thousands of young soldiers are killed or maimed and hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars are flowing to often incompetent, politically connected Pentagon contractors.
For most decent, caring Americans it is almost unthinkable that the profit motive played a significant role in putting our soldiers in harm's way. It is painful to acknowledge that we have been lied to, and to ask, why? Why was this war started? What role did our president's, vice president's, and secretary of state's close ties to the oil industry play? Which powerful American companies stood to profit?
Bruce Jackson founded the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq in 2002, a few months after retiring from Lockheed Martin. In 2001, he and other members of the neocon Project for a New American Century wrote to President Bush stating that "American forces must be prepared to back up our commitment to the Iraqi opposition by all necessary means." A year earlier, Jackson had chaired the subcommittee that produced the Republican Party's foreign policy plank that George Bush ran on in 2000.
Any chance that the views Jackson promoted had something to do with the billions that Lockheed Martin pockets thanks to the war?
For war profiteers, soldiers returning maimed or in caskets, and a $500 billion Pentagon budget paid for by the taxes of ordinary citizens, are externalities -- costs and consequences borne by others.
There is nothing new about weapons manufacturers encouraging wars and profiteering from them.
During the Civil War, President Lincoln stated that those profiteering from defective weapons "ought to have their devilish heads shot off."
The role of weapons manufacturers in creating the tensions that led to World War I is well documented, and no doubt influenced President Roosevelt's 1934 message to Congress that "the uncontrolled activities of the manufacturers, and merchants of engines of destruction," were a menace to world peace.
Profiteering was so common during WWII that then-Sen. Harry Truman became a national hero by bringing to heel war contractors whose waste and inefficiency threatened the war effort.
In his famous farewell address, President Eisenhower warned the nation of the "undue influence" of the military-industrial complex, and the need to control it.
As the war in Iraq grinds on at a cost of more than $250 million per day, and another contractor-heavy organization, the Iran Policy Committee, calls for a pre-emptive strike against Iran, there is a dire need to act on his warning.
Just as government food inspection and child labor laws were enacted to protect us against the worst excesses of capitalist exploitation, our government must assure that corporate interests do not trump the national interest in foreign policy.
Pentagon contractors' congressional allies routinely defeat or bury in committee initiatives that could curtail war profiteering. This June, for example, all 55 Senate Republicans voted to kill an amendment strengthening laws governing waste, fraud and abuse in defense (43 of 45 Democrats voted for it).
In his farewell address, Eisenhower called for "an alert and knowledgeable citizenry" to stand up to the military industrial complex. Isn't it time to heed his call and demand that our representatives rein in the war profiteers?
Myriam Miedzian is the author of "BOYS WILL BE BOYS: Breaking the Link between Masculinity and Violence." Gary Ferdman is former executive director of Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities, dedicated to increasing federal support for education and health care using funds spent on Pentagon weapons.
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