Arms Industry and U.S. Government Have Now Practically Merged
The United States’s imperial foreign policy has been evident since day one, but especially starting with the Gilded Age and the arrogant doctrine of Manifest Destiny of the mid-19th century. The imperial “cause” continued through the decades leading up to today.
And today, the U.S. arms industry and the U.S. Congress have a reciprocal relationship. Because of this relationship, many members of Congress have grown rich off of war and death.
The Russia-Ukraine conflict has presented the latest opportunity for profiteering off of war. The arms industry is certainly making big bucks, with policies that fuel the conflict with the selling of an array of weaponry. There are politicians who have bought stock in the arms industry just before Russia invaded Ukraine. Nothing like perfect timing to secure one’s profits.
Never to turn down a “good” military intervention, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) invested in Lockheed Martin shares the day before the invasion. The amount was small, between $1,001 and $15,000, compared to some investors. But Greene could not resist.
Greene incidentally opposed giving military aid to Ukraine. So, Greene blatantly contradicted herself. It goes to show that she does not have any set of principles. It was a cynical move on her part.
Greene wrote the following: “War is big business to our leaders. Tragically, America’s foreign policy strategy over the past 20 years has been more for corporate profits than America’s security and our own national interest.”
First, the U.S., as an empire, has made money off of war and military interventions worldwide for decades. Second, it is not far-fetched to question her concern for U.S. security and its national interests when she probably sees all this as a justification to use the military for imperial debacles. On February 23, 2022, Taylor Greene tweeted, “War and rumors of war is profitable and convenient.” This contradicts her complaint about war profiteers.
Of course, Greene is not the only politician who has invested in the arms industry. As of 2020, “fifty-one members of Congress and their spouses own [a total of] between $2.3 and $5.8 million worth of stock in Boeing and other major defense contractors,” wrote Donald Shaw and David Moore in The American Prospect.
There are members of Congress with investments that are part of committees that decide what amount of funding defense contractors and weapons contractors get. “In the Senate, nearly one-third of the members of the Defense Subcommittee own stocks in top defense contractors.” Some major contractors of the arms industry that are recipients of funds from this subcommittee are Boeing, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics.
The subcommittee decides the allocation of funds for the Defense Department “and specifies weapons systems and other goods for the department to purchase from private contractors.”
The arms industry has, of course, given campaign funds to both Republicans and Democrats. Open Secrets published a list of the top contributors to politicians, dated 2021-2022. Here are the top 10. The amounts shown are totals among Republicans and Democrats:
• Lockheed Martin – $3,016,901
• COLSA Corp – $2,417,016
• Northrop Grumman – $2,152,828
• Raytheon Technologies – $2,102,133
• General Dynamics – $2,060,735
• General Atomics – $1,946,032
• L3Harris Technologies – $1,772,900
• Anduril Industries – $1,195,451
• Leidos Inc – $1,109,068
Specifically, members of the House Armed Services Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee are targeted by the arms industry since both decide on the amount of funds to be distributed to the Pentagon budget. There is constant pressure on members of these committees by the lobbyists of the industry to give as much as possible. In turn, the private contractors pour money into the re-election campaigns of the members to ensure they receive the campaign contribution amount they want.
The following are the amounts of campaign contributions going to both Republicans and Democrats who sit on the committees:
• Republicans – $5,688,908
• Democrats – $4,476,436
• Total – $10,165,344
Compared to other sectors, the arms industry gives far less money in contributions, but it is one of the most powerful and influential sectors interfering in politics. While both Republicans and Democrats are ideologically the same (both are parties of capital), Republicans receive more funds than Democrats.
The largest U.S. company within the arms industry is Lockheed Martin. Located in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin had annual revenues of $67 billion in 2021. Its purpose is to research, design, develop, manufacture, integrate and sustain the technology systems it produces.
This makes Lockheed Martin a major player in the arms industry. It is called a global security and aerospace company (although one could question its role in global security, considering the U.S.’s foreign policy agenda). And it does most of its business with the Department of Defense, but also with other government agencies, and international customers.
As Jeffrey St. Clair of CounterPunch put it, “Lockheed Martin stands almost alone. It not only serves as an agent of U.S. foreign policy, from the Pentagon and the CIA; it also helps shape it.” St. Clair quoted Lockheed’s CEO Robert J. Stevens from a piece in The New York Times: “We are deployed entirely in developing daunting technology.” Unfortunately, this objective has succeeded so far. Profiting off of death and suffering are irrelevant to Stevens and Lockheed Martin, being a major contributor to U.S.-provoked wars and interventions worldwide.
The reciprocal relationship between government and the arms industry has resulted in former Lockheed associates being a part of government, and former government officials being a part of the arms industry. For example, Norman Mineta, the Transportation Secretary of the Bush Jr. regime, and Otto Reich, former Deputy Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, were previously employed by Lockheed as lobbyists. On the reverse side, E.C. Aldridge, Jr., formerly of the Defense Department, was on Lockheed’s corporate board, having been elected one month after he retired from government service.
The U.S. is the biggest arms dealer in the world. It has held “that top spot for 28 of the past 30 years,” wrote William Hartung in CounterPunch, “posting massive sales numbers regardless of which party held power in the White House or Congress.” While this is good news for Lockheed Martin and the rest of the arms industry, “it’s bad for so many of the rest of us, especially those who suffer from the use of those arms by militaries in places like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, the Philippines, and the United Arab Emirates.”
Hartung provided an example: “It is well-known that the United States provides substantial aid to Israel, the degree to which the Israeli military relies on U.S. planes, bombs and, missiles. Washington’s support for the Israeli state goes back [decades].” Total U.S. military and economic aid to Israel exceeds $236 billion (in inflation-adjusted 2018 dollars) since its founding —nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars.”
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia had gotten into the military trough. During the Obama administration, Saudi Arabia received $115 billion in arms offers. But after repeated Saudi strikes on civilian targets in Yemen, Obama foreign policy officials had doubts about supporting the Saudi-coalition’s war. In December 2016, a multimillion-dollar bomb sale was stopped. When Donald Trump became president, the deal was revived and finalized. In 2019, Congress tried to block an $8.1 billion arms package but Trump vetoed the attempt. Included in the package was support for the Royal Saudi Air Force, which would continue to bomb Yemen.
In a June 19, 2018, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) release, it was revealed that Trump planned to have the United States withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU’s Human Rights Program, was quoted as saying, “Trump is leading a concerted, aggressive effort to violate basic human rights of those who are in most need of protection while at the same time undermining the legitimacy of international bodies in charge of holding all governments accountable.” Trump did not care about violating human rights. He wanted to make sweet deals with other countries instead.
Sensing their tarnished reputations worldwide given the consequences of their actions, private contractors in the arms industry have tried to prop up a better image of themselves. Referring to Lockheed Martin again, it was doing television ads to try to show that it produces high-tech weapons to provide security, according to Michelle Schudel in Liberation News (October 5, 2007). To do this, it devised a slogan in an attempt to show that it is doing the right thing: “We never forget who we are working for.”
Are they working for the public? Ha, no. Schudel: “The company, a fixture in the military-industrial complex, exists only to enrich its owners and to appease its backers in the Defense Department.” Schudel goes further: “Lockheed Martin does not serve the working class. It is, in fact, our enemy. In the capitalist system, corporations like Lockheed make profits by building bombs and technology used in imperialist wars to kill workers abroad. This is all in service of its bottom line–profits.” Schudel went on to write that Lockheed’s role in providing weapons to the military is responsible for “hundreds of thousands of deaths in Afghanistan, Iraq, and worldwide.”
Map Liberation, a project created by activists and organizers in eastern Massachusetts, published a paper entitled “Mapping U.S. Imperialism” on June 3, 2022. It contains an appendix showing the death toll in countries victimized by U.S. imperialism since World War II. It is quite long indeed:
Afghanistan – 176,000; Bosnia – about 25,000; Bosnia and Krajina – 250,000; Cambodia – 2-3 million; Chad – 40,000 and about 200,000 tortured; Chile – 10,000 (CIA-backed Pinochet coup); Colombia – 60,000; Congo – 10 million (U.S. support for Belgian colonialism); Croatia – 15,000; Cuba – 1,800; Dominican Republic – at least 3,000; East Timor – 200,000; El Salvador – about 75,000; Greece – about 50,000; Grenada – 277; Guatemala – 140,000 to 200,000 killed or disappeared (U.S. support for right-wing junta); Haiti – 100,000; Honduras – about 316 (CIA support involved); Indonesia – 500,000 to 3 million; Iran – 262,000; Iraq – 2.4 million (in Iraq war, 576,000 children by U.S. sanctions, more than 100,000 in Gulf War); Japan – 2.6-3.1 million; Korea – 5 million; Kosovo – 500 to 5,000; Laos – 50,000; Libya – About 2,500; Nicaragua – about 30,000 (U.S.-supported Contras); Pakistan – 1.5 million; Palestine – about 200,000 (U.S. support for Israeli military); Panama – 500 to 4,000; Philippines – more than 100,000 (executed or disappeared); Puerto Rico – 4,645-8,000; Somalia – about 2,000; Sudan – 2 million; Syria – 350,000; Vietnam – 3 million; Yemen – more than 377,000; Yugoslavia – 107,000.
So, it can be accurately said, according to Professor Jose Maria Sison in Demokratik Modernite (October 1, 2021), that “the U.S. stands as the supreme terrorist power in accordance with the Nuremburg principle for having produced both conventional and unconventional weapons of mass destruction and used them for blackmail, military blockade, and wars of aggression in ways similar to or even surpassing those used in Hitlerite Germany.” Sounds too far-fetched? Exploring the topic will reveal some inconvenient truths.
How do Joe Biden and his administration stand on the issue of the arms industry creating so many weapons for profits that it has gone well beyond self-defense? William Hartung, writing in Counter Currents, expressed it this way: “At first glance, it appeared that Joe Biden might take a different approach to arms sales. On the campaign trail in 2020, he had labeled Saudi Arabia a ‘pariah’ state and implied that the flow of U.S. weaponry to that kingdom would be reduced, if not terminated. He also assured voters that this country wouldn’t ‘check its values at the door to sell arms.’”
Hartung goes on to write that Biden paused arms sales to Saudi Arabia and even suspended one bomb sale. But eight months into his presidency, “arms sales had resumed.” Further, Biden’s administration “offered arms to other repressive regimes from Egypt and Nigeria to the Philippines.” Why the switch by Biden? There are “misguided notions about the value of arms sales.” The Biden administration, like past administrations, saw the U.S. stabilizing key regions, deterring Washington’s enemies, building military partnerships with allies, expanding the U.S.’s efforts to further establish diplomacy and political influence worldwide, as well as creating jobs at home.
Regardless of whether an administration is headed by a Republican or a Democrat, all that jargon means in the bottom line is to maintain and expand a monetary empire. That is why a press statement by Biden’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken on February 24, 2021, about prioritizing human rights in U.S. foreign policy rings hollow. Blinken made an assurance that the “United States is committed to a world in which human rights are protected, and those who commit rights abuses are held accountable [except U.S. citizens who commit rights violations].”
Blinken did mention that “the administration took an important step by announcing the U.S. intent to seek election to a seat on the UN Human Rights Council.” This was scheduled for January 2022. So much for Trump’s isolationism. But Blinken copped out, making the remark that there are “challenges at the Council as well, including the unacceptable bias against Israel.” It is not unacceptable bias. Israel is guilty of imposing apartheid on Palestinians. And it is not surprising that Israel does not get called out on this by the United States. Israel is virtually a “spoiled child” of the U.S.
The United States, as an empire, has come a long way in imposing its goal of protecting U.S. “interests” worldwide. It is long overdue that a social movement emerges which fights to dismantle the U.S. empire and untangle the relationship between government and the arms industry.
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About the Author
David Starr acknowledged his interest in politics in 1986 when he lived in Hawai’i.
From there, he became active, joining such groups as the Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Association (LACASA), the Hawai’i Union of Socialists (HUS) and Ka Lehui Hawai’i (The Hawaiian Nation).
Starr also created a publication entitled Voices of Change, and had articles published in the Honolulu Weekly and Toward Freedom during the 1990s.
Now Connecticut-based, Starr has published many pieces in Reader Supported News, the Daily Kos, and has been published in the LA Progressive.