The war business

War profiteering has a long and loathsome history. However, in the age of neo-liberalism - during which large-scale privatisation has been taking place - war profiteers have found new opportunities to rake in enormous profits. In particular, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the launching of wars of aggression by the US and its allies, both military and non-military corporations have enriched themselves to an extent never seen in history. For example, Halliburton made $39.5 billion as a result of no-bid contracts, gross overcharging and worker exploitation during the war against Iraq. There is a view that Dick Cheney, who had been Halliburton's CEO until 2000 and was US vice president at the time of the invasion of Iraq, supported the war in order to rescue his struggling oil company.

War profiteers come in many guises such as arms dealers, commodity dealers, politicians, scientists in the service of the military, and civilian and military contractors. According to Stephen Lendman, “War profiteers are in a class by themselves. They thrive on war. They depend on it. Their businesses require conflicts and instability to prosper. The more ongoing, the greater the potential profits.” (“Making the world safe for war profiteers,” Global Research, December 16, 2013.)

The victims of war profiteers are not only the citizens of countries against whom war is waged, but also the taxpayers in the aggresor country. By playing on the security fears of citizens and by appealing to their sense of nationalism, war profiteers achieve their ambitions with relative ease. Recall Tony Blair’s claim that the Iraqi military was capable of launching chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes of receiving an order.

How can we put an end to war profiteering? The obvious answer is to abolish war, but this is an unrealisable goal for now. Our challenge then, is to find creative ways to oppose war profiteers, and to expose their greed and corruption. Most importantly, it is necessary to relentlessly campaign for demilitarisation at home and abroad which would deprive war profiteers of their undeserved bounties.

To a very large extent, wars can only be waged and sustained through public support. Warmongering politicians - in collaboration with the corporate media - manipulate public opinion to promote their ulterior agendas. Despite having been hoodwinked repeatedly through propaganda and appeals to patriotism, the military-industrial media complex continues to successfully fleece taxpayers and use the youth as cannon fodder. An important factor that enabled both the British and US empires to grow and survive for so long was the brainwashing of their citizens. Our task is to explore ways to encourage citizens to stand up against an uncritical acceptance of war rhetoric spouted by politicians and media, who are in reality the agents of war profiteers. In other words, the reach of War Resisters’ International needs to be extended globally, so that the organisation has a presence and influence well beyond its present spread.

On 15 February 2003 an estimated ten million protesters took to the streets in many countries to oppose the invasion of Iraq. Such mobilisation showed us that that there was strong, global opposition against war, but the decision-makers/war profiteers were not dissuaded from their course of action. We need to consider what lessons have been learnt from our past experiences, and what can be done to be more effective in opposing those who profit from war.

Gunvant Govindjee and Seungho Park