THE WAR ECONOMY – Engine room of profit and death

Reprinted from The Common Good, No 17, Spring 2000

‘Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense a theft from those who are hungry and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists, the hope of its children’. Dwight Eisenhower, former US President.

It is crucial to make the link between the corporate world of big business and banks, and the military. They are inextricably welded together, a true marriage of identical interests. The US economy has been a war economy ever since World War II. It never really became a civilian economy again. The end result is more than 52 cents of every US tax dollar still ends up being spent on the military, either for past needs or present use. According to Jesuit and former congressman Robert Drinan, SJ, by the end of fiscal year 2003, the US will have reached the Cold War level of spending even though the Soviet Union is gone and the total number of US military personnel is one third smaller than a decade ago. (NCR 12 May 2000)

Since 1940, the US has spent $5.8 trillion on nuclear weapons. Currently the annual spending amounts to about $35 billion. Since 1983, $39 billion has been spent on Star Wars, the national missile defence system. The Center for Defense Information in Washington DC, which is a think tank comprising retired high military officials, says simply that the technique needed to make Star Wars work does not exist. Both George W. Bush and Al Gore are committed to building it after the election in November. Such is the power of big business.

The expansion of NATO, which at one stage ten years ago could well have shut up shop and gone home, came as a result of US pressure. According to the Rand Corporation in Washington DC, it means that more than $100 billion extra will be spent in the next 12 years And it will enable the US to continue to dominate Europe, where nearly 100,000 US troops remain, into the foreseeable future. This means more armaments. And more profits for the war economy

The US sits at the heart of the global economy. That means such matters affect us all. To keep the endless cycle of borrowing and debt repayment on any sort of an even keel, they have to keep an economy stoked that for generations has been fueled by building armaments. To keep armaments in use, you have to sell them. When you have sold them, they get rusty unless they are used. Hence the US continues to sell arms to 39 countries currently engaged in war of one form or another. The US seems driven by the economic demands of the arms industry backed by the banks to peddle tanks, missiles and combat aircraft to all but a few outlaw states. This arms bazaar continues to sow the seeds of inevitable future conflict. (NCR 6 February 1998)

It almost seems that if there is not enough war around, corporate interests need to go out and create one. Or pressure the government to do so. This explains the passion of some presidents to demonise various leaders and countries and go to war against them. Iraq is a classic case. The war there continues. Since the end of World War II, the US has bombed 22 countries in Europe, Asia, Latin America and even Africa.

No wonder the US economy is booming. But look at the value of our dollar. The rest of the world, including New Zealand, is paying dearly for America’s plenty.

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