War. What (or who) is it good for?

24 Oct

http://thehoopla.com.au/war-good-2/24th October 2014


October 24, 2014

The catchcry of the 1970 protest anthem is that war is good for absolutely nothing “’cause it means destruction of innocent lives … [and] tears to thousands of mothers’ eyes.”

This may have been the answer by popular culture during the Vietnam War, but many profiteers would now answer the same question by rubbing their hands.

While the most obvious beneficiaries are the weapons manufacturers, many others may join their counter-chorus “war is absolutely good for us.”

In this largely untold ‘success’ story, which requires the joining of many dots, the numbers are staggering and make a mockery of our morals.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, global military spending in 2013 reached about (US)$1.75 trillion. The biggest slice is eaten by the USA (37 per cent), followed by China (11 per cent) then Russia (5 per cent).

This lopsided ledger is more glaring when seven of the world’s top 10 weapons exporters are based in the USA such as Boeing, Raytheon and General Dynamics. The biggest of these is Lockheed Martin, whose sales reached $36.3 billion in 2013 and whose stock price reached an all-time high at $180.74 on 19 September 2014. While they make the

Hellfire missiles used in drone strikes, other US giants such as Northrop Grumman make the Global Hawk surveillance drones.

When US President Barack Obama declares war on ISIS militants, these stakeholders and their shareholders queue up for the “humanitarian mission”. In the first night of airstrikes on ISIS targets in Syria on 22 September, the US dropped about 200 munitions and cruise missiles that were ‘Made in USA.’ They gave a new meaning to ‘launching’ new products on the market. As Operation Inherent Resolve intensified, costing the US $7.5 million per day, this created immediate demands for restocking arsenals and maintaining aircraft, manned and unmanned.

The White House now requests a further $500 million from the Pentagon to train, arm and resurrect the ‘rebel’ groups in Syria – the same motley crew would be called ‘insurgents’ across the border in Iraq. The extra funds would lead to requests for tender where the same defence companies bid for government contracts.

With the wars involving Afghanistan, Iraq and Israel, Middle East spending on weapons has increased by 56 per cent over the last 10 years. While thousands lost their lives and homes, there is no prize for guessing who won the selling prize.

Within the same supply chain, intelligence contractors are vital partners and profiteers.

They provide “ground based and airborne reconnaissance and electronic intelligence collection.” Their high resolution satellite imagery provides the eyes and ears to US pilots and drones to find their targets. The US has an annual intelligence budget of $70 billion, of which about 70 per cent is outsourced to private contractors such as Booz Allen Hamilton for counter-terrorism, homeland security and mining data.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has also pledged a $630 million boost to security agencies. When he signals that the commitment may “take an unspecified and potentially quite long period of time”, contractors may hear ka-ching.

Further down the same supply chain, governments may receive secondary benefits. A war may be an effective distraction from domestic issues (blocked budget bills) and may provide politicians a bounce in the polls. Political parties also benefit from political donations ahead of elections, such as the $130 million spent on ‘lobbying’ by US defence companies in 2012.

A dark profiteer of war is encapsulated by the 2003 slogan “No blood for oil” during the invasion of Iraq. This country had some of the world’s largest oil reserves which were nationalised and closed to Western companies.

Prior to becoming US vice president in 2001, Dick Cheney was chairman of the Texas based oil company Halliburton. Soon after assuming office, he warned that the US was facing “unprecedented energy price vulnerability” caused by “Iraq turning its taps on and off when it felt such action was in its strategic interest to do so.”

Similarly, visiting UK officials concluded that Iraq should be “open and attractive to foreign investment, with appropriate arrangements for the exploitation of new fields.” Indeed, exploit was the apt word as the “weapons of mass destruction” pretext led to privatisation of Iraqi oil production by foreign firms such as Halliburton, ExxonMobil, Chevron and Shell.

In 2007, former US Senator Chuck Nagel conceded: “People say we’re not fighting for oil. Of course we are.”

This is akin to rape of a nation’s natural resources so that foreigners can reap the financial rewards. Although Iraq’s oil production has increased by over 40 per cent over the last five years, about 80 per cent is exported out of the country, along with the potential benefits to Iraqis.

This begs the question: are the US troops stationed in the region to ward off insurgents, or to ward off anyone who approaches their oil supply chain and sea lanes?

If these are the winners of wars, who are the losers? In Iraq, it is the citizens as one in four still live in poverty, if they survived the spiralling wars.

What is war good for? Even if it appears good to line people’s pockets and good to stimulate sophisticated technologies, anything that means destruction of innocent lives can never be ‘good.’

The song still stands: war is ‘good’ for absolutely nothing.

868 Responses to “War. What (or who) is it good for?”

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