The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

U.S. Foreign policy:
Blood for money

May 12, 2003

The war in Iraq resulted in enormously profitable contracts awarded to U.S. corporations. But the contracts to companies such as Halliburton and Bechtel are only a drop in the bucket. The U.S. military is a regular producer of profit for almost every major U.S. corporation, whether or not a war is currently going on. Although, given the U.S. record, very few years have escaped without U.S. forces fighting somewhere around the globe.

It's not just military producers like Boeing or Lockheed Martin or Northrop Grumman that benefit from military spending. Of the Fortune 500 – that is, the 500 biggest companies in the country – less than 10 derive no profit from military contracts.

The 2003 U.S. budget includes 379 billion dollars for the military – and that doesn't take into account money for the Iraq war, nor for what the military quaintly calls "replenishing" the stock of weapons, military goods and human beings eaten up by the war.

While part of this budget goes to the troops, the vast majority goes to so-called "contractors" – that is, the large corporations that profit greatly from this spending. Even when the military says the money is spent on troops, most of it is handed over to corporations. Uniforms, shoes, guns, beds, sheets, toothbrushes, anthrax and smallpox innoculations – anything and everything the troops use is supplied by some company. And what's most critical – as far as these companies are concerned – is that these things are supplied at a guaranteed high rate of profit. Not to mention the fact that what these companies charge as "costs" often include, for example, $20 for a screw costing 15¢ in your local hardware store.

Bush likes to point out that military spending is less than 4% of GDP – it would be more accurate to compare military spending to the reported profits of all the corporations that live off these contracts. This year's military spending is almost double the total profit of the top 900 companies in the country.

To get another idea of what today's military budget means, compare it to what other countries spend. The current U.S. military budget, not counting the Iraq war, was more than the combined spending of the 15 next biggest military powers – put together. Adding in the Iraq war costs, U.S. spending is greater than what the 25 next biggest powers spend. And if the U.S. military budget increases over the next ten years as much as currently planned, it will exceed the military spending of the whole rest of the world put together.

This spending is not for "defense" – this level can only signify the intention to keep going to war against other people in order to impose U.S. corporate interests around the world.

The working class of this country pays for this – not only in the wars the young people fight, but also in the real destruction of public and social services in this country. The American Society of Civil Engineers has estimated that it would cost 1.3 trillion dollars to adequately repair the major parts of the country's infrastructure – roads, sewer and water lines, bridges, etc. That could all be done if three years of military expenditures were used to make the country habitable.

The amount that this country spends in one year in its own nuclear weapons program could provide healthcare coverage for seven million children. The amount it spends to buy one stealth bomber could allow 38,000 elementary school teachers to be hired. What was used up in only one hour of the war on Iraq could have gone to repair and modernize 20 schools. And so on.

This country – by far the wealthiest in the world – provides less medical coverage than any other industrial country. Its children do less well on basic educational tests than those in other countries. It has a higher level of poverty. These things are the direct consequences of where the money is spent – on war, not on the population.