Who’s Driving the Global ‘Defense’ Racket
“Everywhere is war” – Bob Marley
Blake Lovewell | 21st Century Wire
War is a bad thing. Most people will agree. Often a war is perpetrated for an ostensibly good cause. It is seen as an unfortunate side effect that regular people are killed, maimed, scarred and diminished – whilst the ‘baddies’ somehow remain at large. Well then, if war is bad, and often ineffective, why does it continue?
In this article we will delve into the private corporations who insidiously overlap with their governmental and media counterparts to promote, fund and facilitate endless conflicts. We will also assess the case for acts of war and explore the theory that war is often perpetrated for financial profit rather than any moral cause.
‘Cui Bono’ is a fancy Latin phrase, that you might hear from Sherlock Holmes during an investigation. It means, ‘Who benefits?’. It is often used in political discourse as a knife to cut through the tangled webs of intrigue and speculation around events and get to the heart of the matter. Here we are discussing a global business, arms manufacturing and sales. It is a worldwide industry and has myriad influences. When it is presented in sound-bites by the corporate-owned media, we are seeing a glimpse, only a small portion of the picture. It is usually designed to make the reader or viewer think a certain thing – as we will discuss later. Yet when we take a wide-lens view the picture becomes cloudy with many different angles. We ask cui bono? – who benefits from violent conflict, in particular those hot conflicts of today: Ukraine/Russia, Israel/Palestine, Saudi Arabia/Yemen and so on?
It is an easy implication to lay at the door of the arms industry. More violence is more profit. Even mere instability in a country can lead to a ramping up of arms purchases by the military of a state. The massive price tags for weapons, the long lead-time of research and development coupled with the bottomless pockets of government budgets make for a fertile landscape for exploitation. It is not only the private military corporations who benefit, but the politicians and nation states too. The politicians get huge kickbacks from lobbyists, too much money to maintain that moral compass they may have once had. They also have a useful ‘casus belli’ – a ‘case for war’ which is a sure fire vote winner. Remember that Margaret Thatcher was set to lose her seat as leader of the UK until a miraculous military victory over Argentina in 1982 galvanised massive public support and a massive electoral victory. War for votes is nothing new. Yet these days, selling war is an uphill battle. I believe, perhaps naively, that most people don’t like suffering and violence. The Anglophonic destruction of Iraq through two wars ended up an unpopular decision, similarly the US’ failed conquest in Vietnam is viewed regretfully in hindsight. So we are left pondering, why must suffering the curse of armed warfare continue?
Before we delve too deep into the long grass, let us set our sights on our targets. We know the names of countries, sometimes politicians, but who are the arms dealers, the manufacturers of death who lurk in the shadows and create shiny new weapons of mass destruction?
“They call it warfare, but your wars aren’t fair
If they were there’d be suicide bombers in Arms Fairs
On a scam for the funds, they will mangle your son
If you try to speak out, they will stamp on your tongue
To your land they will come ’till you stand up as one”
Clocking in at $66bn in sales per year, Lockheed Martin is the biggest arms manufacturing corporation in the world. It started out as a fraternal airplane company 100 years ago, yet after the great depression it shifted to US military production in the 1930’s. It quickly became the US’ number one aircraft manufacturer. When it became insolvent in 1971 it was bailed out to the tune of billions of taxpayer funds. Shortly thereafter it emerged that Lockheed had been guilty of massive bribery of officials for military contracts. A practice that continues to this day.
Lockheed Martin continues to have an active presence in Israel: “Lockheed Martin is proud of the significant role it has fulfilled in the security of the State of Israel.” Where they not only supply weapons and machinery, but also fund university programmes demonstrating the well rounded integration of arms manufacturing with civil society of a nation state. Similarly n the UK Lockheed Martin have funded a £50million programme at Northumbria University for space technology including weapons and surveillance technology. You too can go to the school of Lockheed Martin and take part in a global empire of war!
Lockheed Martin are currently facing a court case from Yemeni families who were bombed during a wedding ceremony. Such a bombing is a war crime, it is actually illegal to bomb civilians, and the victims’ families are trying to hold arms manufacturers to account for their part. Yet as the lawyer said in a statement: “I think most judges are going to be very afraid of issuing decisions that would somehow step into the dynamics of the … weapons supply relationships between the U.S., Saudi Arabia and UAE.”
Raytheon (also known as RTX)
Raytheon, or RTX to its friends, clocks in at $67billion of arms sales per year, just short of Lockheed Martin. Another 100 year old company, Ratheon was borne of innocuous beginnings manufacturing refrigeration tubes. Following the aforementioned trajectory, they were weaponsied in 1930s USA where they manufactured magnets for radar equipment and military fuses. This research also lead to the invention of the microwave oven in 1945. By 1948 they had full military credo as they invented the first missile guidance system which took down its first plane in 1950.
One big claim to fame was the widespread use of the Raytheon Patriot Missile System in the 1991 war on Iraq. The system was so successful (or destructive depending on your perspective) that it garnered new contracts from many nation states around the world. In 2016 Poland signed a $5.6billion contract for the Patriot system. It is prevalent in the Middle East, being used by Saudi and UAE attacks on Yemen. It is also favoured by the military of Israel. It was used in 2014 in Israeli occupied Golan Heights to shoot down a Syrian air force jet. The Syrian jet was en route to attack Islamic State forces in the country.
Remains of Raytheon missiles have been found throughout Yemen after attacks on civilian areas. A Scottish investigation found that Scottish made technology was present in the aftermath of many bombings in Yemen – bombings which killed over 200 and injured up to 1000 civilians and children. They decry the fact that Raytheon benefit from £200,000 a year grants from the Scottish government who is not a belligerent in the conflict.
As a side note, the inhumane campaign in Yemen from 2014-2023 was often referred to by media outlets as a ‘Saudi-led coalition’ as they relentlessly attacked Yemen. However, Saudi foreign secretary at the time Adel al-Jubeir, said :
“We have British officials and American officials and officials from other countries in our command and control centre. They know what the target list is and they have a sense of what it is that we are doing and what we are not doing,”.
Thus, we may conclude that the present, 2024, US-UK fronted campaign against the Yemeni people, is merely a continuation of a decade-long campaign of war-crimes by the Anglophonic war industry.
Boeing, to the layman, is an unassuming global aircraft manufacturer. They enable millions of travellers to get around the world, and if you’ve flown abroad before, it’s likely you were on a Boeing plane at some point. However, they come in as the third largest manufacturer with over $60billion in arms sales per year.
They came from a small sea-plane business in 1920s USA and, wait for it: became military contractors in World War 2 providing both planes and helicopters to the US military. Interesting there that we see the top 3 arms manufacturers in the world are all American companies that were high-tech and became absorbed into the US military apparatus in the period of war between 1930-45. Little wonder that Eisenhower in 1961 called out the ‘military-industrial complex: “[the] conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience”
IMAGE: US Congress have become the finance department for the Military Industrial Complex.
Today Boeing have their sideline in passenger aircraft. Their main hustle is military, encompassing mainly aeronautical equipment such as jets, helicopters, missile and bombs. In fact many investors see jumbo military contracts as the only way out of the financial difficulty for Boeing. They recently landed multi-billion dollar contracts from Poland for Apache helicopters, Canada for Maritime war-planes and Germany for Chinook military transport helicopters. They also do a roaring trade with Israel, some highlights include $1billion for in-air refuelling planes and $735 million for GPS guided bomb technology. Just to re-iterate the unhealthy revolving door of military industry, Israel’s former Air Force leader recently became the president of Boeing’s Israeli office.
It is worth noting too that there is often very little separating these mega-sized war corporations. Although they compete to bid for contracts from national militaries, they also work together to build warships, planes, jets, missiles, bombs and munitions. Boeing for example, contributes to the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor air-superiority stealth fighter and the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. The illusion of competition belies the monolithic nature of the military industrial complex.
“First in my scope is BAE systems
Specialize in killing people from a distance
Power is a drug and they feed the addiction
Immediate deletion of people’s existence
Who says what is and what isn’t legitimate resistance
To push these buttons you don’t need a brave heart
State of the art darts leave more than your face scarred”
BAE Systems is the first non-USA based military company in the top 10 arms manufacturers. It is based in the UK, which isn’t too different from the US in foreign policy terms. I would even say they are the same face of the same coin where the US goes, the UK follows. Yet BAE systems was formed in part out of a response to the agglomeration of military industry in the USA. BAE formed in 1999 as a merger of Marconi, a naval arm of General Electric and British Aerospace. In the process they hovered up plenty of subsidiary corporations to become one of the biggest arms manufacturers in the world, with a total of $28billion of sales per year.
BAE Systems produce aircraft, boats, satellite technology as well as missiles, armoured vehicles, submarines and rifles. They work at all levels of military equipment. This too means they are deeply embedded in controversy too. BAE were found guilty of issuing millions of dollars in bribes to push through the UK’s biggest ever arms deal. With the help of Margaret Thatcher in 1985, British Aerospace signed a $43billion deal with Saudi Arabia, which was later found to have been influenced by bribery and BAE were forced to pay huge fines. BAE Typhoon jets were sold to Indonesia despite the threat they would be used against East Timorese minorities in 1993. This was approved by John Major, ironically, having blocked the sale of the same aircraft to Iraq in 1989 for fear of them being used on Kurdish minorities. Buried in the article we too find that despite the threat to international law: “The deal will help to safeguard jobs at BAe plants in Lancashire and on Humberside” – an insidious argument that we will turn to shortly.
Perhaps the largest ongoing controversy for BAE pertains to these massive contracts with Gulf states. BAE Systems have sold hundreds of tonnes of high-tech military equipment to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman; gulf states who have in turn committed atrocious acts of war on the Yemeni population. By 2019, over 100,000 Yemeni civilians had died in a decade of conflict with a high number of them being civilians. A huge outcry from human rights organisations put a 1 year pause on weapons sales to Saudi Arabia from the UK. However, the UK still sold £2.6billion pounds of BAE equipment, under Liam Fox, to Saudi Arabia, negotiated during the embargo. The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) put the total sales from BAE Systems to Saudi Arabia alone, at £22billion plus from 2015-19.
Lastly on BAE Systems, in 2013 they appointed Roger Carr as Director. He seemed to be innocuous enough, just another money man who is able to manage a sprawling conglomerate. Yet in 2015 he was also appointed to the board of the BBC. I looked at a series of news articles from the BBC from his 4 year tenure and found none to be critical of BAE, despite many newsworthy events. We only saw puff pieces coming out from the BBC about fresh new military technology boosting Britain’s industry.
I allege here that having Roger Carr as boss of BAE Systems whilst sitting on the board of the BBC which decides editorial policy is a conflict of interest. It benefitted BAE systems massively to have a large measure of control over the UK’s state broadcaster – and illustrates the more than close relationship between military corporations and corporate media. In this structure, the corporate media is unable to interrogate the military industrial complex, and we now see regularly that it is little more than their mouthpiece calling for more war, more arms and not to look at the dealers.
So we have the profit motive understood. Massive corporations seek profit, military contracts offer a huge boost which benefits staff and shareholders. BAE Systems is a FTSE 100 company so it’s likely invested in unwittingly by millions of unknowing shareholders via their pension fund. Yet we have also outlined how each company has been implicated in both nefarious political dealings, such as bribery, as well as overt war crimes. Each time the media censors the story and the state tacitly allows the practices to continue. Recently the UK government backed off its initial denial and accepted evidence that BAE systems cluster bombs were used in Yemen, a flagrant breach of international law. Yet they continue to do business as usual. How can this happen?
Well I argue that there is a complex synthesis of propaganda from nation states, propaganda from military corporations as well as an unhealthy dose of obfuscation. This mixture of astroturfing opinion and covering-up facts allows for a world where such war crimes are profitable and proumulgated.
“There’s a war going on for your mind
Those who seek to occupy it will stop at nothing
The battlefield is everywhere
There is no sanctuary, there are no civilians|Y
ou have two choices: surrender or enlist”
Politicians love jobs. When there aren’t enough jobs they look bad, when they ‘deliver’ jobs – when employers arrive in their region – they support it. Simple electoral mathematics is one strong motivator for politicians to allow an arms manufacturer to set up shop in their region. As well as, of course, the handsome kick-backs or outright bribes.
But this card is also played by the arms industry. Whenever a new factory of death is built there are fawning headlines: “Lockheed Martin’s Greenville Site to Add More Than 300 New Jobs by End of 2022”. These insidious war-mongers need a lot of reputation washing to get the blood off their hands but they lay it on thick: “With approximately 700 jobs currently at the site and hundreds more to come, Lockheed Martin remains embedded in the local community, as it has been for more than 37 years.”. When those jobs are manufacturing F-16 jets, which will be sold at outrageously high markup to foreign dictators, usually to bomb and terrorise innocent civilians, we are left pondering, are those jobs worth it?
Further to this point, the ‘jobs’ argument is used in a generic sense by politicians. I recently caught a clip of Jens Stoltenberg – the boss of NATO – in yet another propaganda exercise to puff up the, out of hand, Ukraine war spending. He claimed that yet another package of billions for weaponry was a good economic decision:
“Most of this money is spent in the United States. We buy US weapons to support Ukraine, This secures jobs in America and makes us all safer”
He doesn’t say how many jobs, he obviates the fact that most of the money will be hovered up by a small number of billionaires, and ends with the laughable phrase, ‘makes us all safer’. Well it is not clear to me how more weaponry and continued war, increases anyone’s safety, in the US, Ukraine, or beyond. The fact that billions of dollars are swilling around in such a manner is terrifying.
I will give Ron Paul the floor for a moment as he eloquently takes down the American Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken’s recent opining on the subject.
“Last month Secretary of State Antony Blinken inadvertently revealed what exactly all the spending for war is about when he stated that as much as 90 percent of the aid for Ukraine is actually spent in the United States. The money is used “to the benefit of American business, local communities, and strengthening the US defense industrial base,” he said in an interview. In other words, the money “for Ukraine” is actually a massive welfare program for well-connected military contractors back home.
As we begin the year 2024, we need to home in on the real threat to the United States. It is not Russia or China or Iran. The true threat is closer to home: it is a corrupt system that bleeds the country dry to fight imaginary enemies while enriching the military-industrial complex.”
Ukraine has been such a boon for the arms industry that it warrants its own investigation. I will give a cursory look, but await an in-depth exposé of the sheer quantity of arms hustling that was allowed to occur in modern Ukraine.
Recent statistics show that between 2019-2022 the USA sent over $22billion in ‘military aid’ (weapons, training and money for weaponry). They then earmarked a further $67.1 billion further in free weaponry and money for weapons. Doing a deal, with full knowledge that 90% of that money would boomerang into military-industrial magnates pockets. The UK in the same period had sent over £5 billion in specifically military supplies to Ukraine. Many other Western nations have done similar.
Despite the conflict beginning in 2014 with the Euro Maidan coup d’etat and the CIA backed ousting of Ukranian President Yanukovich, many Western eyes were averted. That was until Russia was provoked into defending ethnically Russian areas of Eastern Ukraine, which had been being bombed by Kiev for 8 years. Suddenly the Western media – one arm of the military industrial complex – kicked-in and we were presented with daily barrages of one-sided propaganda. This quickly astro-turfed the population into ‘Slava Ukraini’ – half understood jingoism. Ukraine flags were thrown up on British council buildings and nursery school windows for the plight of the innocent Ukrainians. ‘They need armaments’ was the rallying cry, and a battalion of armchair generals started fervently searching online about what tanks the Ukranian junta were demanding. All of it to face off against the simultaneously strong man and perilously frail Vladimir Putin. If we Westerners don’t commit untold billions to the frontlines of the NATO empire, the big bad Soviets, sorry, The Russians, will come and get you! To quote Craig Murray:
“This is the classic operation of the military industrial complex, which does not just need an enemy, it needs a massive, terrifying, ultra-powerful enemy. Or why would you and I keep feeding the military industrial complex huge sums of money?”
4 years later and the campaign has all but fizzled out. I saw a tattered Ukranian flag soldiering on in an English village recently, reminding me of the plight of the Ukranian state. It has lost almost half of its population to emigration, it’s wealth is depleted, its industry is failing and a once shining nation state is now a hollowed out zombie. Somehow the US appointed dictator, Zelensky, is clinging onto his job. I posit that this is because he is good at one thing, funneling money through Ukraine as a laundering exercise for the Western military-industrial complex. He is able to demand this many billions from the USA, to visit Davos and make further demands of the World Economic Forum, as their favourite plaything. He may receive plaudits from the writers of the anti-human warmongers’ agenda there, but at home he will go down in history as a rank criminal. Yet despite the military failure of NATO and Ukraine – Russia has all but secured East Ukraine and hungrily eyes further gains – the period of war has been a massive success for military contractors. Therefore I argue that the war in Ukraine was less about sovereignty, as it was presented in the corporate-media, but more about profit and laundering on an industrial scale for military companies.
Suspicions are also mounting that vast quantities of armaments destined for Ukraine have been diverted, sold-on and channelled to the black market. We have already seen the spectre of corruption being raised, even by the supplicant Ukrainian military leadership. They recently issued a statement about $40 million in military aid being missing.
We may be seeing the dam breaking on Ukrainian weapon laundering this year. Just today, the US Department of Defense released a report evaluating the end-use of military aid to Ukraine. It found that 59% of military equipment given by the USA in 2023 is ‘delinquent’. That means it is fully off the US radar, missing in action. 59% of the $1.6billion of equipment is $1billion. A billion dollars of brand new attack drones, bombs, anti-tank missiles and night vision equipment is missing from the US’ oversight. This comes after 2022’s delinquency rate of 82% – the US knows it’s throwing billions of dollars of deadly weapons into a black hole. Weapons do not disappear, they head underground, onto the black market and find their way into the hands of rebels, militias and new enemies. One could even suggest that, given the US and CIA’s record of running weapons to gangs and rebels for regime change, that this is a deliberate policy by the USA to funnel weapons off the database for their own shady ends.
I believe that these revelations are the tip of the iceberg and it would take extensive investigation to uncover what has happened with the remaining $100 billion, at least, of ‘military aid’.
“Peace, love and understanding tell me
Is there no place for anything else?
They say we must fight
To keep our freedom
But Lord, knows there’s got to be
A better way”
– Edwin Starr
I believe that most modern wars are fought for private profit. There is an argument that the two Iraq wars were for the oil industry, that Afghanistan is for the opium trade, yet I point the finger at the trillion dollar arms industry. More often than not we will find a profiteer at the heart of a conflict, who benefits financially from violent conflict. They may use an obsequious media to propagandise for them. They will pit one side against another, dehumanise the enemy, allow the murder, torture and harm of war to occur. Meanwhile to the other side they will demand high prices for dubious arms all in the moral, humanitarian cause. Arms manufacturers will tell you they help communities, whilst elsewhere demolish them. They will say they are fighting for the environment and promoting diversity. Yet I quote the research of AOAV (Action On Armed Violence):
“The irony is hard to miss: just as these manufacturers claim their employment practices are inclusive and non-discriminatory, so too are their weapons, too frequently used in attacks which fail to abide by International Humanitarian Law’s principle of distinction, prohibiting indiscriminate attacks that fail to distinguish between military and civilian targets. Over the past decade (2013-2022), 63% (12,001) of explosive attacks from manufactured explosive weapons recorded by AOAV were reported in populated areas – areas where 92% (111,788) of casualties from manufactured explosive weapons were civilians, including at least 11,651 children and 5,982 women.”
Despite campaigns like theirs, despite pacifists like Jeremy Corbyn in the UK enjoying large support amidst disenchantment with endless foreign wars, it seems as if the warmongers are winning. From AOAV research, deaths from explosive weapons are up 122% for the year 2023. 90% of those casualties were in civilian areas.
As for viable actions we can take against the military-industrial complex there are a few. Firstly, I follow the maxim given to us by Julian Assange:
“If wars can be started by lies, then Peace can be started by truth”.
Thereby, if we can promulgate veracious information, if we can research and find good resources and support independent media we will empower ourselves with the tools to see through the fog of war. We will also be less liable to being manipulated in our ignorance. Much of the information we need is out there, open source – all of the sources for this article are on the open internet, no hacking necessary. However we should also support the courageous whistleblowers who leak and disseminate information that should be in the public domain. Where we allow shadows we allow the evil to perpetuate but where we cast our light we change the equation to good.
I firmly believe that we humans do not innately crave wanton violence and destruction. We innately seek safety and comfort from harm. Therefore it is only by artificial means that wars and violent conflict can be established. If we can harass and diminish those means of promoting violence, we can go some of the way to ceasing much of the conflict in the world today. Then it is time to find a way to arbitrate lasting peace and re-establish justice which, for now, is sorely lacking.
I’ll leave you with the re-assuring words of Boeing UK’s military arm Boeing Defence UK:
“Boeing’s partnership with the UK has helped create a brighter, safer and more sustainable future.”
(TLB) published this article from 21WIRE
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Header featured image (edited) credit: Military mfgs/org. 21WIRE article
Emphasis added by (TLB
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