Corporations and war


Recently, President George W Bush nominated Navy Secretary, Gordon England, for the position of Deputy Defense Secretary, under Donald Rumsfeld. England is a close friend and confidant of Rumsfeld. While he was Navy Secretary, England oversaw the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, and before that, he was executive vice president of General Dynamics. (When he was responsible for Guantanomo Bay, England had the final say as to whom should be released, or not.)

The nomination of Gordon England by the US president is yet another sign (if one were needed) of the intimate links between large corporations and American foreign/military policy. As far as Bush and his colleagues are concerned, foreign policy and military policy are one and the same thing.

It seems there is nothing one can do these days to escape the influence of the large corporations; but at least one can be aware of the facts.

Next to Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics (GD) is the biggest military shipbuilder in the US. GD specializes in nuclear-powered submarines and surface combat vessels. GD also makes F-16 fighter jets and Abrams tanks. In 2004, their military contracts were worth US$9.6 billion. In the same year, their electoral campaign contributions were US$1.42 million; both major parties did reasonably well – the Republicans got 57 per cent and the Democrats, the balance. (It makes little difference who is in power in the US – any changes in foreign/military policy under the Democrats are cosmetic rather than substantial.)

Americans can buy GD stock on the stock exchange. It is a sound investment.

GD belongs to a group of corporations known as the ‘Dirty Dozen’ -notorious for profiteering from war, or contributing to world-wide pollution. Others in the group are Alliant, Bechtel Inc, Boeing, British Aerospace Electronics, British Nuclear Fuels, IBM, Lockheed Martin, Mitsubishi, Raytheon, Siemens and TRW (of Christopher Boyce fame.)

The Americans don’t have it all their own way. The UK government is a 100 per cent shareholder in British Nuclear Fuels, which employs 23 000 people, operates in fifteen countries and transports nuclear waste around the world.

The UK government also has a controlling interest in British Aerospace Electronics (BAE Systems). This is the largest arms producing company in the world; its principal customers are the US, Turkey, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. Siemens is, of course, German and Mitsubishi, Japanese. Mitsubishi makes helicopters, rockets, missiles torpedoes, nuclear power plants, aircraft and military hardware. Japan’s military ‘defence’ budget is the third largest in the world. (link here)

BAE Systems is an interesting – and dismal – example of how the worlds of IT, research and electronics on the one hand, and the worlds of death, destruction, mutilation and misery, on the other, are intertwined.

As we have seen, BAE is the biggest arms manufacturer on the globe. It makes fighter aircraft, military computer systems and satellites, ‘defence’ electronics, weapons systems, rockets and ammunition. Military equipment accounts for approximately 75 per cent of its sales. (link here )

In conjunction with the University of South Australia, BAE Systems Australia offers a graduate course in electronic engineering. It seeks ‘to protect those who protect us’, and uses its strength ‘to improve life in our communities by supporting education and charities, and by being a responsible corporate citizen’. (link here). But given BAE’s basic activities, there is a direct link between an Iraqi child lying in hospital with his/her legs blown off and a graduate course in engineering sponsored by BAE Systems Australia.

If your son (who is an engineering graduate and who has had difficulty finding employment) comes home and says, ‘Hey Dad, guess what? I’ve got a job with BAE Systems Australia.’ How do you answer?

Another equally dismal example of the pervasive strength of arms-producing corporations is Raytheon. Another member of the ‘Dirty Dozen’, Raytheon produces ballistic missiles (the Tomahawk, the Maverick, the Patriot), fighter aircraft, nuclear weapons, ‘smart’ bombs and weapons systems. (link here)

In Australia, Raytheon are doing very well. They have various defence contracts with the government and they manage the Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex for the CSIRO. (All employees on the site work for Raytheon, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the American corporation.) Raytheon offers work experience and summer studentships.

Like BAE Systems, Raytheon is an excellent corporate citizen. Raytheon supports small business in Australia and sponsors the Down Syndrome organisation in the ACT. It also funds the Down Syndrome Ball in Canberra. (link here)

In post-war Iraq, the corporations that stand to gain most from reconstruction are Bechtel Inc, Fluor Corp, Halliburton, Kellogg, Brown and Root (a subsidiary of Halliburton), Louis Berger Inc and Parsons Corp. As at April 2003, the contracts were worth US$900 million. Bechtel was among the twenty four companies that supplied Iraq with weapons in the 1980s. (link here)

We can see from all this that there are two worlds – the world of ‘democratic’ government, and the world of the corporation. It doesn’t really matter who wins a national election – the contracts between the corporations and the bureaucracy remain the same. Politics is merely indifferent theatre for the voter and the Press Gallery. The Australian media refuses, or is unable, to discuss these issues, because it is part (albeit infinitely small) of the corporate machine.

There has always been a connection between the corporation and war – the activities of Krupp in the Great War come to mind. But Krupp, as far as I know, did not support small business.

There is a link between brutal, young American soldiers, clad in war gear and shouting at terrified Iraqis, cowering in their ruined house, ‘Stand up, you motherfuckers!’ and Raytheon’s sponsorship of the Down Syndrome Ball.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.