September 13, 2018 David Swanson / David Swanson.org & Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies / CODEPINK
A new report by Medea Benjamin and Nicolas Davies focuses on the five largest US arms manufacturers -- Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics -- and their dealings with three repressive nations: Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt, all of which have used US-made weapons from the companies listed above to kill, injure, and traumatize huge numbers of innocent people, committing war crimes both in their own countries and in countries beyond their borders.
How Do Weapons Makers Sleep At Night? David Swanson / David Swanson.org & World BEYOND War
(September 11, 2018) -- A new report by Medea Benjamin and Nicolas Davies "focuses on the five largest US arms manufacturers -- Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics -- and their dealings with three repressive nations: Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt."
This may prove to be a very valuable approach. The three nations reported on use US-made weapons from the companies listed above to kill, injure, and traumatize huge numbers of innocent people both in other countries and in their own countries.
How Could Obama Sleep at Night?
The US government works to make sure the weapons sales and deliveries happen, knowing full well what the weapons will be used for, often training the militaries involved, and often actively participating in the killing as partners in a war.
Benjamin and Davies could, of course, have focused on what the US government itself does on its own with weapons from these companies. But then, who would have been able to lift the full report without assistance from heavy machinery? And how many people would have thrown up barriers to understanding it, in the form of flag-waving patriotic horseshit?
When the United States does something, it's by definition acceptable, even admirable. But when the United States does it, it's often justified by the excuse that some other country committed some outrage -- usually against its "own people," which is apparently far more terrible than against some other people. So, the US public is used to hearing accounts of just the sort of things that the Egyptian, Saudi, and Israeli governments do as justifications for bombing poor distant lands.
There is no danger of the United States bombing its top customers and proxies, but there is the potential for millions of US supporters of militarism, including millions of employees of weapons dealers, to lose the association of militarism with patriotism, and therefore the justification of mass murder as somehow good or noble. Foreign mass murder tends to look more like what it is.
Perhaps some weapons workers will find other employment. Or perhaps, as the authors intend, some funds will be divested from those profiting from death.
(September 2018) -- A growing body of research in recent years has focused on the companies supplying brutal military occupations and operations. This research aims to build upon this existing research, including the work of William Hartung, the American Friends Service Committee, BDS National Committee, whoprofits.org, Jewish Voice for Peace, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. We thank them for their pioneering work.
What Drives US Militarism?
After the Saudi bombing of a Yemeni school bus on August 9, 2018 that killed 44 children, CNN revealed that the bomb used in the attack was manufactured by Lockheed Martin. Nima Elbagir, reporting for CNN's Situation Room, showed a map of Yemen pinpointing several other attacks where large numbers of civilians have been killed by bombs from not only Lockheed Martin, but also General Dynamics and Raytheon.
It is a rare moment when a mainstream US media outlet makes the connection between US weapons manufacturers and the killing of civilians. Unfortunately, as this report makes clear, the killing and maiming civilians with US weapons is a regular occurrence. This is true not only when the US military uses these weapons, but when the companies sell these weapons to repressive regimes overseas.
This report focuses on the five largest US arms manufacturers -- Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics -- and their dealings with three repressive nations: Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt.
The United States is the leading purveyor of arms sales, global war and militarism. With 800 military bases in 80 countries around the world, the US has a larger military budget than the next seven countries combined, as well as an arms industry that dominates the global arms trade.
Officially sanctioned terms like "defense" and "security" act as a subterfuge to diminish and camouflage the deadly, dangerous and destabilizing role that the United States is playing in the world.
US policy has bastardized the true meaning and accepted concept of the word "defense." This has been true especially since the 1980s, as successive US administrations have increasingly used the US armed forces in an offensive rather than a defensive way, to attack other countries from Nicaragua and Panama to Iraq and Libya. Far from bringing security to people at home and abroad, these interventions have created more global insecurity, disrupting the lives of ordinary people and exacerbating tensions between nuclear-armed nations.
When international opinion and findings disagree with actions of the US military and government, the US typically finds its own rationale and way of doing exactly as it pleases, citing that its actions are "in the best interest of the United States."
For example, in 1986, when the International Court of Justice (ICJ) convicted the US government of using force illegally against Nicaragua by supporting the Contras and by mining Nicaraguan harbors, the US formally withdrew from the binding jurisdiction of the court. When the Nicaraguan government asked the UN Security Council to enforce the payment of reparations ordered by the court, the US predictably vetoed the resolution.
Since then, the US has committed increasingly regular and systematic violations of international law behind a carefully constructed wall of impunity, a pattern only exacerbated by the end of the Cold War and the crimes of September 11th:
* Since the 1980s, the US has vetoed more UN Security Council resolutions than the other four permanent members combined;
*The US rejects the jurisdiction of international courts, ignores binding international treaties and refuses to sign or ratify new treaties;
*The US Congress has abdicated its constitutional war powers;
*US diplomats and politicians promote political arguments for war to override formal and binding rules of international law that prohibit it. This includes formulating and then abusing new concepts like "humanitarian intervention" and "the responsibility to protect."
Far from bringing protection or "humanitarian intervention" to suffering people overseas, America’s wars have instead plunged country after country into seemingly endless violence, chaos and insecurity.
Once conscious of what the US government is doing in the name of its people, we must ask, what drives an already rich and powerful country like the United States to systematically violate international law in a destabilizing and dangerous bid for global military dominance?
A useful framework for understanding the forces driving US militarism is the idea of the "military-industrial complex," which President Eisenhower warned against in his extraordinary farewell speech to the nation in 1961.
"This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience," Eisenhower told the American public. "The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State House, every office of the Federal government. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
"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. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together . . . .
"Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose."
This was not the first time Eisenhower had warned Americans of the dangers of militarism. In 1949 in a speech in Saint Louis, before he ever ran for public office, the recently retired five-star general responded to growing calls for a nuclear attack on the USSR to prevent it building its own nuclear deterrent.
"I decry loose and sometimes gloating talk about the high degree of security implicit in a weapon that might destroy millions overnight . . . ," Eisenhower declared. "Those who measure security solely in terms of offensive capacity distort its meaning and mislead those who pay them heed.
No modern nation has ever equaled the crushing offensive power attained by the German war machine in 1939. No modern nation was broken and smashed as was Germany six years later."
Eisenhower was deeply conscious of his tragic failure to end the Cold War or rein in the military-industrial complex as President. He gave his farewell speech in the full awareness that his successors would be even more susceptible to these dangerous influences. In a meeting with his closest aides, he was even more blunt, telling them, "God help this country when someone sits in this chair who doesn’t know the military as well as I do."
God help us indeed! Not one of the eleven men who succeeded Eisenhower has stood up to these corrupting powers, and the American public has likewise failed to live up to his hopes that an "alert and knowledgeable citizenry" might restrain the power of the military-industrial complex and the resulting emergence of the United States as a global aggressor and weapons proliferator.
When the Cold War finally ended in 1991, the dominant influence of the military-industrial complex ensured that the "peace dividend" the whole world so desperately hoped for was quickly trumped by the "power dividend," an expansion of US military power to exploit the vacuum left by the fall of the USSR.
Small reductions in US military spending were offset by increased US arms sales to foreign governments. The Bush administration used the First Gulf War in 1991 as a showcase for the destructive power of US weapons, carpet bombing Iraq with 88,500 tons of bombs and hyping the accuracy of its new "precision" weapons. Only later did US officials admit that only 7%of the bombs and missiles they used against Iraq were precision weapons and that even their accuracy was only between 40% and 60%.
The US military then redeployed its planes and pilots from Kuwait to the Paris Air Show to launch a marketing blitz that led to record US weapons exports over the next three years, paving the way for President Clinton’s second term to be even more lucrative for US arms merchants.
Although no foreign country or government was responsible for the crimes of September 11, 2001, the US responded by unleashing its war machine on Afghanistan, Iraq and several other countries. Successive US administrations now seem committed to a perpetual state of war, oblivious to both the human cost in the countries targeted and the drain on US national resources.
Despite the incredible human and financial costs of Washington’s 17 years of war (and counting), the United States continues to cling to and even expand its military ambitions, repeatedly doubling down on catastrophic failure.
As of 2018, US forces were still at war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Syria and Somalia. In Yemen, they have been taking part in a Saudi-led war that has plummeted this already poor country into a humanitarian disaster.
Since 2009, the 70,000 troops of US Special Operations Command have been deployed to 133 countries on "secret" operations that Americans are not allowed to know about, although they are obviously no secret to people whose lives are impacted in those countries.
In other words, it is the militarized "war on terror" itself that is driving people to join these armed groups, by perpetuating the very terror it was conjured up to eliminate.
After 17 years of post-9/11 warfare that has cost trillions of dollars and millions of lives, the military madness that the US has unleashed is, predictably, as violent, chaotic and unresolved as ever.
The Military Industrial Complex Today
Despite catastrophic US military failures on every front, the Trump administration is threatening a war with Iran and, even more dangerous, potential military confrontations with Russia and China. Rival sectors of the US political class are recklessly stoking a propaganda war against Russia as a foil for their own political and geostrategic failures.
In a transitional time defined by political corruption, US-led wars and climate chaos, people around the globe rightly fear for the future of the human race and the Earth itself. And yet, no interest group has exploited this unstable and dangerous environment more consistently and successfully than the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about in 1961.
Eisenhower diplomatically described the "unwarranted influence" of the military-industrial complex as "sought or unsought." But, as that influence has grown, it has become more obviously "sought" than "unsought."
In 2002, in the face of broad opposition to a US invasion of Iraq among the international community and the American public, Lockheed Martin's vice president Bruce Jackson left the company to chair the "Committee for the Liberation of Iraq," an organization whose sole purpose was to build political support for a US invasion. The conflict of interest was flagrant, and the war eventually delivered trillions of dollars in sales and bloated stock prices to US arms manufacturers.
The US wars on Afghanistan and Iraq served as a pretext for a massive increase in US weapons spending. Between 1999 and 2011, the US spent $1.3 trillion on its wars, but even more, $1.8 trillion, was spent to buy new warplanes, warships, weapons and equipment, most of which were unrelated to the wars it was actually fighting.
Support for the weapons industry by US administrations has been bipartisan. A major beneficiary of President Obama’s record military spending was General Dynamics, whose CEO Lester Crown and his Chicago familyhad played a critical role as career-long patrons and fundraisers for Obama’s rise to power.
In office, Obama rewarded General Dynamics with contracts worth tens of billions of dollars for new submarines and destroyers. General Dynamics also made many of the over 100,000 US bombs and missiles that have reduced Mosul, Raqqa, Kobane and other parts of Iraq and Syria to rubble after they were occupied by the Islamic State.
Again, under the cloak of US primacy for the protection and advancement of democracy, there is no acknowledgment that the Islamic State is an outgrowth of the invasion of Iraq and the forces the Obama administration had itself armed and supportedto plunge Syria into chaos.
As Obama launched his 2012 reelection campaign on the strength of withdrawing US forces from Iraq and promises to end the Afghan war in 2014, General Dynamics' annual report presciently reassured its investors that there would be no peace dividend. "While the level of US defense spending will be impacted by...fiscal realities, there is not a foreseeable peace dividend," the report said.
Then, as Trump took office in 2017, the Wall Street Journal predicted, "the global aerospace and defense (A&D) sector is likely to experience stronger growth in 2017 after multiple positive but subdued years," thanks to a "resurgence of global security threats, anticipated increases in US defense budgets," and increased global arms sales. The Journal was right "on the money," and the stocks of major arms producers hit record highs in 2017.
What the Journal failed to mention was that for every weapon sold, every drone produced, every new weapons system under development, there is a family that has lost everything; a child whose school has been bombed; or a teenage boy who is dead, simply for being young and male and in the path of the war on terror.
It also failed to note the hidden price paid by Americans, as the lion’s share of their tax dollars are squandered on deadly weapons instead of being invested in education, healthcare and public services that would improve all our lives.
Outsourcing Death, Destruction . . . and Profits
Under the Obama administration, Department of Defense funding averaged $653.6 billion per year (in 2016 dollars), 3% more than under Bush Jr’s, and 56% more than under Clinton. But like Clinton in the 1990s, Obama also offset small reductions in Pentagon weapons purchases with expanding foreign arms sales. Many of the weapons sales Trump has boasted of since he took office are the result of contracts negotiated under Obama.
But the nature of today’s US arms exports is different from those in the 1990s, as the US is not supplying these weapons to allies like Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Arab monarchies for defensive purposes. Just as the US has used its own war machine to commit aggression around the world since the 1980s, and more systematically since 2001, it now sells offensive weapons to its allies with the clear, if unspoken, understanding that they will use them to attack and threaten their neighbors, thereby expanding the US’s aggressive war policy by proxy.
War crimes by US allies rarely lead to any loss of US logistical or diplomatic support, as we have seen after Israeli attacks on Lebanon and Palestine and in the Saudi-led war on Yemen. In fact, the US government has rallied to support its allies by quickly and quietly replenishing their weapons stocks and vetoing UN Security Council resolutions to investigate or respond to their crimes.
The US State Department has an appalling record of failing to enforce US laws that require the suspension of arms sales to countries that use US weapons to kill civilians or otherwise violate international humanitarian law.
The current regime of US arms exports is part of a deliberate strategy to outsource US war-making, projecting military power through alliances with US-armed client states as a substitute for direct US military action. This minimizes both domestic opposition from a war-weary US public and growing international resistance to the catastrophic results of US wars, while US military-industrial interests are well served by ever-growing arms sales to allied governments.
Hitching US interests and foreign policy to repressive regimes around the world is nothing new.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the US built the Shah of Iran’s military forces into the fifth largest army in the world, even as Amnesty International reported that Iran had 25,000 to 100,000 political prisoners and "the highest rate of death penalties in the world, no valid system of civilian courts and a history of torture that is beyond belief." The predictable result of the US’s cynical relationship with the Shah was to trigger the Islamic Revolution and lose all US influence over Iran’s future for decades.
For over a century, the US has installed and supported dictators and absolute monarchs on every continent, trained their torturers and secret police, and made enemies of their downtrodden people. The harvest of these catastrophic US policies still fills endless graveyards, from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Central America to Korea and Vietnam.
The vain hope that the US can use such "puppet" governments as reliable instruments of US policy has never been realized. As historian Gabriel Kolko astutely observed in 1988, "The notion of an honest puppet is a contradiction that the United States has failed to resolve anywhere in the world since 1945."
Does anyone believe that this latest generation of US allies will be any different? Israel’s Netanyahu? Sisi in Egypt? Saudi’s Bin-Salman? Will they really use the war machines the US has built for them to serve US interests instead of to pursue their own autocratic ambitions?
The sad truth is that we don’t need to speculate, as each of them is already using American weapons mainly to kill and terrorize their own people and their neighbors.
The Egyptian military used its American weapons to overthrow the fragile, fledgling democracy that the Egyptian people won in the Arab Spring in 2011, and then to massacre between 1,000 and 2,600 Egyptians in Cairo’s Rabaa Square, the deadliest massacre of peaceful protesters anywhere since China’s massacre in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Israel has used American weapons for decades to attack Lebanon, to maintain a 50-year-long hostile military occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories and to turn Gaza into a 21st century version of the Warsaw Ghetto, policed with bombs, missiles and bullets by F-16s, Apache helicopters and snipers.
The Saud family founded Saudi Arabia in 1932 to impose an absolute monarchy and a new form of Islam on the people of Arabia.
They have built a dystopia, where oil wealth fuels lives of luxury and absolute power for hundreds of princes, even as they publicly chop off the heads of ordinary men and women for thought crimes like political dissent, "blasphemy" and "sorcery."
Saudi Arabia has the third largest military budget in the world, after only the US and China, and is now using its "Made in the USA." war machine to bomb its neighbor, Yemen, into a humanitarian abyss that threatens millions of people with starvation, disease and death.
But the military-industrial interests driving these blood-soaked, failed US policies do not care who lives or who dies or what carnage and chaos they produce. They see only the revenues and profits on their balance sheets, which are always in the black, never in the red like the blood that flows from the real-world results of the weapons they produce.
This report is focused on the five largest US arms manufacturers -- Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics -- and their dealings with three repressive nations: Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt. Focusing on these three countries provides a revealing sampling of how these weapons are used. While Saudi Arabia purchases US weapons with its oil riches, most of the weapons provided to Israel and Egypt are paid for by US tax dollars. In both cases, it is the weapons companies that profit.
The five companies we researched dominate the global arms business and reap the lion’s share of US military contracts. The revenues from their arms sales totaled $140 billion in 2017.
Roughly $105 billion was paid for by US taxpayers, out of total Pentagon spending of $208 billion on weapons procurement and development. But they also earned about $35 billion in 2017 from their ever-growing arms sales to foreign governments, particularly Saudi Arabia.
This report is meant to delve deeply into those connections to show how the weapons industry, named by Pope Francis "the Merchants of Death," are indeed reaping enormous profits off the suffering of some of the poorest and more abused people in the world.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, for noncommercial, educational purposes.