Monday, September 22, 2014

Guns and Blood Money: The United States Has Attacked ISIL in Syria. Is It Immoral to Invest in the Companies That Will Make Money From the War?

The United States and its allies have initiated their formal and public bombing campaign against the forces of ISIL in Syria. The iron mongers will be filling their coffers with money paid for by the exchange of blood for profit. They are even bringing their most expensive and shiny new toys to the fight--the F-22 is the most sophisticated fighter aircraft ever made, and it is having its coming out party not against China or some of other "peer" or "near peer" threat, but rather against a group of land pirates. 

You can't get more sales unless you show the goods or perhaps even give a free taste; the iron mongers are akin to crack dealers.

To paraphrase the always wise and insightful character Quark from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, "my cousin is an arms merchant. He owns a small moon. Instead, I am a people person. Where has that gotten me?"

In an earlier post, we discussed the question of war profiteering and the morality of investing in the companies that make the weapons to be used in the American campaign against ISIL in Syria and Iraq. 

The near term is now the present: the cash registers are now ringing and the stock is going up for the companies that manufacture and maintain the weapon systems being used, right now, in Iraq and Syria.

As such, I would like to return to that question.

Fortune recently detailed how war remains good for business, and offered up the following details:

So defense analysts are pointing to a pair of sure-bet paydays from the new campaign: for those making and maintaining the aircraft, manned and unmanned, that will swarm the skies over the region, and for those producing the missiles and munitions that will arm them.
American military operations targeting ISIS have cost some $600 million since mid-June, with the U.S. now spending more than $7.5 million a day on the conflict by the Pentagon’s own accounting. Zakheim estimates that this figure could conceivably double as the operations intensify and the theater widens to Syria, with a significant chunk of the expenditures going to munitions. 
The total price tag for the open-ended conflict, expected to be measured in years rather than months, is anybody’s guess. In the immediate term, however, the White House is pressing Congress to approve $500 million to fund the training and equipping of pro-Western rebel groups in Syria. That alone could mean extra work for a wide array of prime defense contractors, according to Gursky. In the longer run, one defense appropriations lobbyist predicts—a hopeful note in his voice: “we’re going to have to bust through the budget caps” imposed on the military by the sequester cuts. “We can’t fight this on the cheap,” he says.
Thus, my questions. 

Is it possible to live a morally just and ethical life by investing in the companies that will profit from the United States' and its allies' intervention against ISIL? Is our morality bounded in this regard, i.e. is investing in the companies that makes bombs, planes, missiles, bullets, and other implements of war and killing different from buying stock in the prison industrial complex? If so, why?

General Smedley Butler was one of the greatest soldiers to ever serve in the military of the United States. He was an advocate for veterans and a true patriot.

In his powerful anti-war treatise, Butler famously said that:

“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. 
I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”
He brilliantly continued with a devastating insight that was as true during the first part of the twentieth century with its anti-black racial pogroms of "Red Summer'", as it is today in the first part of the twenty-first century, when a black man is President of the United States:
“WAR is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.”
The elected officials and others who crafted the policies which have committed the American military to war in Syria and Iraq (and a near perpetual state of conflict from the end of World War 2 to the present) will receive monetary profits, both direct and indirect, from their decisions. Some will leave jobs in the Pentagon and Congress to become lobbyists for the armaments industry. And there are elected officials and other beltway insiders who hold stock in the companies which make the weapons that are used as a result of the former's decisions. 

The relationship between American militarism and the country's policymakers is a moral hazard in extremis. Are the American people silent on this issue because they are ignorant? Have they so bought into the lie of American exceptionalism and the country as a force for "freedom" and "democracy" that they are unable to understand that war is a hustle and a racket which feeds off of their blood, treasure, and collective souls? 

Or do the American people know that the country has run off of the rails--and that militarism is part of the problem--but they have made the realpolitik judgement that their elected officials do not really care about either their well-being or opinions?


Wavenstein said...

AmeriKKKa relishes the opportunity to blow up more brown people while making tons of money doing so. Same shit, same toilet, different day

RPM said...

Everyone profits off of war if their side wins. The so called socially conscious would like to believe that the poor gain nothing from war but that is bullshit. America became the dominant power in the 20th century because our competitors countries were destroyed. Yes the rich parasites always profit the most as they will again but its why we had a manufacturing base till the 70s. Europe was depleted so we were top. Now we have slave economies throughout the 3rd world that have been ravaged by wars we often had a hand in. So our goods are made cheaply and they are kept in perpetual poverty. We are all guilty of war crimes whether we are aware of it or not. If one is aware of the crap being done and tries to make a buck off it because "Hey capitalism!""Don't hate the player hate the game.""If I don't someone else will." Fuck that person. We all exploit and enslave people unless we are exploited or enslaved. That's how the shit system works which is why it must be destroyed. Yes, politicians and moneyed interests don't give a damn about people which is why they must be removed from decision making.
To stop the American Apartheid system same as South Africa we had to use economic pressure to break the oppressors not look at the investment potential in the racist police state. Americans kill civilians in war all the time and try to sanitize it by saying that's what happens in war. Because you allow it! When Al-Qeada targets american civilians they say it's because we vote for our leaders and look the other way when they commit war crimes. They are not wrong. If the sadistic bastards that blow innocent people in half were prosecuted and jailed in our country the extremists would lose a massive recruiting tool. Most Americans are just trying to survive. So they turn away. Willfully ignorant or just stupid makes no difference to those we hurt but if one forsakes their conscious for profit they've already become a causality to war. Every death diminishes me as does every suffering. The ones for who it does not are already dead be in spirit or body.
Finally don't forget that Butler also said the only people who should be able to vote for going to war or not are those that have to fight it and no one else. No politicians or generals or any arms makers should get a say only the 'boots on the ground'. And any profits should be nationalized and paid at the minimal wage rate for work done so there is no profit in war. Those were good points but I would add that any and every spoils and profits that come from war should ALL go to the victims of that war. War should be a huge negative cost to all involved in it. If we spend billions it should go to the Syrians and Iraqis to make their lives better. Free education,food, water, fixed roads, free healthcare and high wages for all their citizens if we want to be humanitarian. Anything other than that and we are killing because we can and looking away from our crimes as we do it. That wretched savagery has no place in the world least of all from a land that has the audacity to claim it believes in freedom. War is humanity at it's lowest ebb. War is rape. War is slavery. War is torture, sadism and murder. Anyone who wants to be a part of it, encourage it or profit from it is scum. And anyone who doesn't have the balls to say so because of some cheerleading fever that sweeps the panicked land is a scumbag too.

chauncey devega said...

Starship Troopers?

You get the allusion.

Some real talk there. America's middle class post war explosion was created by WW2. Never mind war socialism during the Cold War. Add the submerged state to it too.

How do we do the calculus of who has the most blood on their hands?

chauncey devega said...

Is race primary or secondary to the calculation? Or is it all just basic math of blood, easy opportunism, and profits?

Myshkin the Idiot said...

Please don't make us Americans have the feel bad's because some people get blown up half way around the world. They scare us over there with their foreign language and threats to our well-being.

We're trying to stifle the last bit of moral conscience we may have left.

At least we have freedom, as long as you don't complain about the police boots at your throat.

joe manning said...

I think we're well past letting ourselves off the hook by pleading ignorance. We're all enablers of war and therefore have blood on our hands despite our flimsy denials. We need a 60's style peace movement to stop to the war mania.

joe manning said...

What you said!

Beverly said...

I am not really clear on what sex worker shaming has to do with arms sales. It looks like it's just a reason to use "weapons" and "whores" in the same sentence. It's a really strange gendering that seems to lack your regular insight, sharpness and wit. However, if you are moralizing, and making a case that guns and sex work is "immoral". Considering the high rates of sexual assault among sex workers, which you leave out of you analogy of how guns share any sort of marketing structure with prostitution, I would say that the two share very little aside having a price structure, and this sort of thing holds for all sorts of things that have moral prohibitions (drugs, pornography, hunting endangered species). I can understand making a moral case in dropping a bomb on a thousand people in a foreign land, but it doesn't scale down - two consenting adults passing a buck, really a lot of marriages would fall into that bracket too. Either way, this piece appears to be about American militarism, the sex set piece doesn't serve your thesis.

RPM said...

While I'm sure Butler wouldn't like his solutions to be compared to fascist, racist, pro genocidal piece of shit Heinlens work, the similarities are there. To a point. And we can be sure that there would be a heavy propaganga movement to encourage voting for war, in the education system, media and religion, we already see that now. I remember when the 2nd Iraq war was gearing up(or was it the 3rd or 5th or 10th. So hard to keep track of our bombing campaigns) and all the old farts thought a draft was the solution. Funny how those who never fear the draft always are the first to cheerlead it's renewed existence. If Vietnam taught us anything(it didn't) it's that America doesn't give a shit about it's young. Unless it's your kid you don't care. So I say we should draft everyone who voted for it and war drummed for it first. That means Congress, The president and his cabinet, all the pundits, and arms dealers should go frontline infantry first. Most are old so who cares if they die. One less medical bill to pay. Once they are dead we send all the senior citizens who also cheerlead the war far more than their younger counterparts. If they die think of how much we will save on social security! Than the middle aged can go and die until finally we will get to the young. War would never begin that way. We often think war is fought by the poor to benefit the rich which is true, but the class angle often eclipses the generational angle. All wars are started by the old and fought by the young. Never seen a 76 year old paratrooper. Can't recall a 59 year old frontline solder surrounded by guys in their 40s through their 60s. Never see recruiters hanging around retirement homes.
America always chucks the whole democracy illusion during war. Just like the Romans did. Look up every anti subversion law and you'll find a war decade to go with it. That's pretty much every decade for us but still. So if you want to decide who among us has the most blood on our hands all you have to do is look in the mirror. We always want to assign blame to others while we do nothing to stop it. We should all be in jail protesting all the shit our country does. And when we are all locked up with no one to jail us or space to hold us we will be let free. Until than we are in a prison of fear and apathy, the most anti subversive law of them all. And they didn't even have to pass it.

chauncey devega said...

Interesting point. I was thinking of an old western movie where they have the prostitutes teasing the cowboys to come upstairs for the real attraction. Something to meditate on. I am for the legalization of sex work btw.

balitwilight said...

Great post. Militarism is the sturdiest tentacle in the vampire-squid known as neo-liberalism. Rather than shrinking government (as old-fashioned conservatives wanted) neo-liberal ideology designs to capture and corrupt government policy, to suck all profitable parts of public policy into the hungry mouths of private corporations - then to socialise the inevitable wreckage of costs.

Anytime Americans let themselves be panicked or flattered into supporting yet ANOTHER military attack (53 wars/invasions started since independence, compared to Iran's 1!) - what they are saying is "Yes, I would now like to donate more public tax dollars to Blackwater or Raytheon." Last decade, Blackwater's revenue from government contracts grew from less than $100,000 to almost $600 million. The National Institutes of Health Since 2003 (familiar date?) has suffered 20% overall budget cuts. A SINGLE Lockheed-Martin Hellfire missile (the type Obama drones casually at random Muslims like jokes over breakfast) costs $58,000. One postdoctoral cancer researcher might cost $45,000 or $50,000 a YEAR.
Never mind "unwarranted influence": The "Councils of Government" have become a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Military-Industrial-Complex. Eisenhower tried. He looked the American citizenry in the eye and with his last public act tried to warn them. The only thing he didn't spell out was: "This is how they will do it: they will lie to you every 5-years that there is a new threat somewhere. They will flatter you and frighten you." Eisenhower could not foresee that the media itself would become part of the same vampire-squid, and that the American people (from left to right) would become a nation of attention-deficit-mini-psychopath-Henry Kissingers.

balitwilight said...

The American Imperialist Militarist project ("Imperial Superiority") is the international version of its domestic White Supremacy project. Unlike White Supremacy, the Imperial Superiority club is open to all "races".
While everlasting war actually does NOT profit all Americans (it actually impoverishes most and enriches some) - war DOES provide most Americans - the hoi polloi - with the same imperial sense of superiority and power that the ancient Romans, Spanish, Dutch, and British had in their time. Just as many "white" Americans vote against their economic interests for the sake of White Supremacy, many Americans act against their economic and social interests for the sake of Imperial Superiority.
This is what explains how even the most politically adept could be heard "reasonably" arguing that ISIS (6,000 miles away!) is a "threat" and "we need to do something". Just as otherwise educated "whites" argue reasonably that Michael Brown deserved to be shot, most Americans still believe that invading and occupying a whole country after the crime of 9/11 was the obvious right thing to do. Imperial Superiority and White Supremacy. A marriage made in heaven.

Grand1 said...

Land Pirates is a compliment to these barbarians.

balitwilight said...

Interesting thing about the word barbarians. It literally means "bearded ones". The Roman Empire used it to refer to the Germanic and Gallic ethnic groups (aka dismissively "tribes") that they tried to oppress - because their men wore beards, unlike the clean-shaven virtuous Romans, who crucified thousands along the Appian Way in their civilized ways.
Lessons to be drawn there? Perhaps....

Gable1111 said...

I believe the base purpose of the concept of race, was as a key component in the justification of economic exploitation. Blowing up stuff and plundering resources is "justifiable" when those on the business end are non white. But the primary purpose is profits.

One way to test this is look at Iraq vs. Rwanda.

When Hutus rampaged in Rwanda, it led to genocide. Yet the US didn't intervene using the usual excuse of a "dictator killing his own people."

Now, we're bombing ISIS to "protect" innocents in the middle east.

One would say, they're both brown. The difference? One has oil, the other doesn't.

Race is used to justify doing wrong, and also, not doing right.