Militarism and the Corporate Welfare State

by Charles Sullivan, July 13, 2006


Right wing politicos and their conservative constituents are always bemoaning big government. Yet wealthy people of all political stripes constantly use big government to their own benefit. The rich widely assume, falsely, I think, that what is good for them is good for the country. By extension they also assume that what is good for the corporations is good for the people. But that has never been the case. No one should be allowed to make a living on the misery of others.

The latter seems odd, given that business people are always harping about getting the government out of our (their) lives; all the while they are using government to obtain no bid contracts, to write legislation in the corporate interest, stocking the judiciary with pro-corporate judges, redrawing political districts and using the military to invade and occupy sovereign nations in order to privatize them. Iraq provides a compelling case study.

Of course, what businessmen really mean by getting government off our backs is preventing government from regulating commerce, as if there were some connection between capital and democracy, democracy and freedom. In corporate speak democracy and free trade has nothing to do with human beings and their freedoms. What Bush and his kind are really talking about is absolute corporate rule and continued Plutocracy.

According to author Antonia Juhasz, "Prior to the first Gulf War in 1991 and even after eight years of war with Iran, Iraq was ranked 15 out of 130 countries on the 1990 United Nations Human Development Index. Before the first Bush invasion, Iraq had the highest percentage of college-educated citizens in the Middle East and above average overall literacy rates. According to the World Health Organization, prior to 1991 health care reached approximately 97 percent of the urban population and 78 percent of rural residents, while the infant mortality rate was well below average for developing countries. "

Constitutional government was established in Iraq in 1922. Prior to the 1991 U.S. invasion, Iraq was in essence a socialist government, since most of its political and economic infrastructure, including its burgeoning oil industry was nationalized. Despite Saddam Hussein's abuse of the constitution (the U.S. is suffering similar abuses under Bush), the Iraqi people enjoyed a high standard of living and many freedoms. This allowed them benefits such as socialized health care and access to free higher education that Americans have never known.

All of those freedoms and the high standard of living were demolished with the U.S. invasion and permanent occupation of Iraq. A huge corporate fire sale was under way.

Under the imposed dictatorship of Paul Bremer, granted under the Coalition Provisional Authority during the first months of the occupation, all of Iraq's 192 state-owned enterprises were privatized and divided among 150 U.S. corporations that have so far realized more than $50 billion in profits. Every aspect of the Iraqi economy was dismantled, privatized, and divided up among corporate America with no benefit to the Iraqi people.

With the U.S. occupation, the Iraqi Constitution was torn asunder and replaced with a new charter that places Iraq under virtual corporate rule. Under the U.S. imposed Corporate Constitution, the Iraqis no longer have access to clean water, reliable electricity, medicine, health care, or higher education. Ownership of Iraq's once prosperous economy, including her extensive oil fields, was transferred from the Iraqi people to U.S. corporations.

This is the democracy we have brought to Iraq, punctuated by suffering, misery, and death. When innocent blood flows so too does the money. See how the stocks of Halliburton and Bechtel rose with the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

The blueprint for the economic plunder of Iraq was orchestrated by Bearing Point, Inc. of Mclean, Virginia. The Bearing Point plan turns Iraq from a socialist state to a full bore capitalist entity over three years. For their services Bearing Point made the tidy sum of $250 million.

Not surprisingly, Bremer has strong ties with corporate America and such luminaries of dementia as Donald Rumsfeld, Henry Kissinger and George Schultz that extend more than a quarter of a century. All of these men have economic ties with the same businesses that stole Iraq's wealth. Each of them has realized great personal fortune by profiteering on the spoils of war and occupation: policies they helped to forge.

The government is studded with men like Paul Bremer and Henry Kissinger, who migrate back and forth from corporate America into the halls of government, create policy that is favorable to their own business interests, then return to business to realize the wealth they have created for themselves and their shareholders. It is men like them who are responsible for America's aggressive war posture, among them the quagmire in Iraq.

Consider the ties regarding officials in the Bush regime and the Halliburton-military-war profiteering connection, as documented by Antonia Juhasz in The Bush Agenda:

* Joe Lopez, a retired four-star general and former aide to Cheney joined Halliburton in 1999.

* Dave Gribbon, Cheney's former assistant in Congress was Halliburton's Vice President and returned to the Whitehouse with Cheney when Bush stole the 2000 election.

* Ray Hunt, who provided money to both of the Bush presidencies joined Halliburton in 1998 and serves to this day.

* Lawrence Eagleberger, former president of Kissinger Associates and Bush, senior's Secretary of State also served on Halliburton's board of directors

* Charles Dominy, a retired three star general and former Halliburton executive currently serves as Halliburton's chief lobbyist.

Halliburton is only one of many corporations profiting from the invasion and the permanent occupation of Iraq. Other corporations have people as favorably placed in the Bush regime as Halliburton. Bechtel, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Electric -- all the usual suspects -- are well represented in the government; and all of them lobbied extensively for war and occupation. They have no intentions of stopping in Iraq either. The world is their oyster and the military can procure it for them.

It is worth noting that crony appointments are not peculiar to the Bush regime or to the Republican Party. They have a long and sordid history. That is how business is conducted and fortunes are made -- through outright theft and conquest. None of this would be possible without the military. Our soldiers are the pawns of the rich but they think they are making the world safe for democracy. All they are doing in fact is opening the world up to capitalism and private ownership.

Since the occupation began in 2003 the Iraqi people have been forced to exist under conditions of extreme brutality and abject poverty. After the deliberate bombing of water sanitation facilities, hospitals, and electric generating sites there have been outbreaks of disease such as tuberculosis and dysentery, causing suffering and death. There has been no peace and no security for the innocent victims of unbridled greed.

There is also the matter of depleted uranium munitions used by U.S. forces that litters the country in aerosolized form that is easily taken up by the wind and remains radioactive forever. Depleted uranium is an indiscriminate killer whose effects linger for generations in the bodies of the occupiers and the occupied. Can you say Agent Orange? That is the great free market democracy that we have brought to the Middle East.

The war machine keeps turning like a sausage grinder, spewing its product into the coffers of the rich. Into the hopper go our sons and daughters and dark-skinned nations -- out comes sausage and huge bank rolls for Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld and corporate America. Corporations, government, and militarism comprise the unholy trinity of capitalism. Together they form a corporate welfare state that boggles the mind.

The American military is not abroad defending freedom and sowing the seeds of democracy, as they seem to believe. One need only examine the history of this nation to recognize the familiar patterns of conquest and oppression. The occupation of Iraq is the continuation of the policies that created the institution of slavery, following the genocide of the Indians. The military, far from being a defender of peace and freedom, has evolved into an extension of the corporate welfare state.

The world will know no peace until enough citizens are sufficiently aroused to dismantle the military apparatus. Furthermore, we must recognize the link between militarism, war, and capital and build a better system -- a form of government that serves the people rather than capital. Code Pink and other groups that maintain a constant presence in Washington are on the right track. They deserve our full support.

Charles Sullivan is a photographer, freelance writer and social activist residing somewhere in the hinterland of West Virginia. He welcomes your comments at:

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