War, Profits and the U.S. Government
In 2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan. The invasion was purported to be a response to the Taliban’s refusal to surrender Osama bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks on the United States, but probably had a lot more to do with enabling the construction of an oil pipeline through Afghanistan. Today, thirteen years later, U.S. soldiers continue to fight there.
Two years later, the U.S, the most powerful country in the world, unleashed its terrorism on Iraq, due, it was said, to the dubious then and later unproven charge that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was moments away from using them to destroy the American way of life (whatever that is). It wasn’t until 2011 that something that President Barack Obama and his minions decided to call ‘victory’ was sufficient to withdraw U.S. troops.
One wonders why it takes the U.S. so long to win one of its immoral and obscene wars. World War I lasted from 1914 – 1918; World War II, from 1939 – 1945. Both of those wars involved all the major world powers, yet they were completed in four and six years, respectively. Why, in the twenty-first century, does the nation with top technology, and a ‘defense’ budget that dwarfs that of any other nation, seem unable to end its wars?
In order to solve this conundrum, we must look at what is always the bottom line for the people who run the U.S. government: the almighty dollar.
Democrats and Republicans are equal in beating the drums of war. While Democrats may pay lip service to wanting to conclude wars earlier than do their GOP counterparts, they are all willing to sit in their safe and comfortable homes and send young Americans to die for corporate profits.
A look at some war profiteers is instructive.
A recent article by Watchdog.org indicates that these and other defense-industry companies spent more than a staggering $65 million lobbying Congress in 2013. What they got in return was the elimination of $22 billion dollars in proposed cuts to the Department of Defense.
Senators and members of the House of Representatives from states where defense contractors are based will all say that they are simply watching out for their constituents; these firms employ thousands of people, so it’s vital they stay in business, and the U.S. military is their main, or only, customer. This argument is, at best, disingenuous. If keeping the defense contractors running were, in fact, in their constituents’ best interest, lobbying wouldn’t be necessary; elected officials would vote against cuts to the Defense Department budget without the need for lobbyists to spend $65 million to make it happen.
Additionally, if these elected ‘representatives’ are simply doing what is best for their constituents, why do they oppose any gun control, which the majority of the population favors? Could it have anything to do with the $20,825,286.00 that various pro-gun groups spent on lobbying between 2010 and 2013? Gun control groups during that same period only spent $3,037,765.00[iii]. Public opinion polls consistently show support for banning assault weapons, yet Congress refuses to do so. Is not getting these killing machines out of the hands of the general public not in that same public’s best interest? That is, or course, beside the point: members of Congress will never bite the hands that so generously feed them.
One might also ask why Congress does not increase the minimum wage. This is yet another issue that has wide public support. Perhaps the whopping $74,470,000.00 that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent on lobbying in 2013 is seen as more important than providing constituents with a livable wage.
While the Republican Party has backed away from its ‘Repeal Obamacare’ mantra, it’s interesting to consider why so many members of both parties opposed providing health care to U.S. citizens. A report issued prior to the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act (aka ‘Obamacare’) said this: “The (health care) industry and interest groups have spent $380 million in recent months influencing healthcare legislation through lobbying, advertising and in direct political contributions to members of Congress.[iv]” Continued lobbying for its repeal lasted for years. Only now that major provisions of the law have been implemented, have Republicans stopped calling for repeal.
So wars will continue because they are profitable for the people who start them: the U.S.’s elected representatives. All their wars are, of course, just and necessary wars in their own minds, despite what the facts may tell them. For example, there was no evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, yet for some large companies, including several with strong ties to members of President George W. Bush’s administration, that war was a financial windfall. So what if over 5,000 U.S. soldiers died? Who cares if over 30,000 were injured? And why talk about the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed in that war, or the millions who had to flee their homes for the relative safety of a refugee camp? Shareholders and CEOs raked in millions, and in the U.S., not much else matters.
An interesting Venn diagram shows the commonalities of the two very disparate groups, Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party. Occupy Wall Street, this comparison states, is concerned that “Large corporations have way too much power”. The Tea Party, according to this theory, believes that “the government has way too much power.” Where these two views cross is summarized thusly: “Large corporations lobby for the government to have more power, and in return the government enacts laws and regulations favorable to large corporations”[v].
This unholy symbiotic relationship is not likely to change soon. As Iraq descends into the bloody civil war spawned by Mr. Bush’s invasion and occupation, Mr. Obama has stated categorically that the U.S. won’t send soldiers. However, he didn’t eliminate the possibility of bombs, so while it’s unlikely that more U.S. soldiers will die there, the Iraqi death toll at the hands of the U.S. will continue to mount. But the corporate coffers will fill to overflowing, campaign contributions will continue to pour in, Senators and members of the House of Representatives will be able to maintain their high-paying, low responsibility jobs. All will be well in Corporate American and its wholly-owned subsidiary, the U.S. government.
[i]http://www.warcosts.com/2011/10/27/meet-the-0-01-percent-war-profiteers/. Accessed on June 13, 2014.
[iv]http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/oct/01/lobbyists-millions-obama-healthcare-reform. Accessed on June 13, 2014
[v]http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/1011/An_Occupy_Wall_StreetTea_Party_Venn_diagram.html. Accessed on June 13, 2014