The Guardian 27 August, 2008

The curious case
of Wall Street’s "peaceniks"


"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and 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."

These are not the words of one of the liberal US Democrats seeking the presidential nomination this year, but the words of Republican president Dwight Eisenhower 50 years ago.

They were reprinted last week in an article on a website popular with Wall Street stockbrokers.

The article by University of Pennsylvania’s James Quinn on the Seeking Alpha website reveals that a section of big business is actually hurt by the neo-conservative strategy of military spending like there’s no tomorrow. Some in the US business world believe that, if it isn’t curbed, there actually may be no tomorrow.

The US, Quinn says, currently spends more on the military than the next 45 highest-spending countries in the world combined.

"Where did the peace dividend from winning the cold war go?", he asks.

The US spends 5.8 times more than China, 10.2 times more than Russia and 98.6 times more than Iran on weapons.

"The cold war has been over for 20 years, but we are spending like World War III is on the near-time horizon. There is no country on earth that can challenge the US militarily."

The report notes that, with the US spending as if it is preparing for a major conflict, the conclusion naturally drawn by much of the world is that it has aggressive intentions. Iran provides a good example. President Bush says that Iran is a threat to US security.

Quinn counters: "Iran spends US$7.2 billion annually on their military. We could make a parking lot out of their cities in any conflict. Does anyone really believe that they would make a nuclear weapon and use it on Israel? Their country would be obliterated."

Military spending was just under US$400 billion per year in 2000. Since September 11 2001, it has more than doubled.

The Wall Street stock analyst goes on to say: "The natural response of the US should have been to increase spending on border protection, upgrading the CIA and increasing our ability to gather intelligence. Defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan and cornering bin Laden in the mountains was more than enough to deter other countries from allowing terrorists to operate within their borders."

Quinn points out that, instead of stopping there, the US spent billions on weapons, aircraft, tanks and missiles.

"The neocons, led by Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, saw the 9/11 attack as their opportunity to change the world. They’ve gotten their wish."

As the Bush administration sits out its last full year in office, the US has troops stationed in 70 percent of the world’s countries. The Pentagon says that it has troops in 147 countries and 10 territories, including 57,000 troops in Germany and 33,000 in Japan.

Quinn says: "Germany and Japan each spend US$40 billion on their military. Can’t they defend themselves at this point? We defeated them 60 years ago. It is time to leave.

"This is a prelude to decades of occupation in Iraq. Don’t believe the blather about withdrawal. The military has no intention of withdrawing."

Quinn said that part of what angers him about military spending is the effect it has on his home state of Pennsylvania.

"Taxpayers in Pennsylvania have paid US$20 billion for our share of the Iraq war so far. This amount of money would pay for 1,650,000 scholarships for university students for one year.

"Does a US$20 billion investment in rebuilding Iraqi bridges that we blew up with US$1 million cruise missiles make more sense than investing in our best and brightest young people? Twenty billion would provide 24,000,000 homes with renewable electricity for one year. That is 20 percent of all the homes in the United States."

The greed of the defence contractors is what prevents us from making the choice that Quinn says should be made.

They resist sharing their profits not just with their own workers but with the many corporations whose wealth comes from a whole range of other types of investment — like the renewable energy projects that Quinn would like to see in Pennsylvania.

The top five defence contractors generated almost US$129 billion in revenues and US$8 billion in profits in 2006, double their revenue and profits in 2000, when Bush became president.

The "war on terror" Quinn says, "has been a windfall for the defence industry and their shareholders. They contribute tremendous amounts of money to congressional candidates and have thousands of lobbyists pushing for still more defence contracts.

"It appears", he adds, "that the biggest winners of the war on terror are the CEOs of the defence contractors. I wonder if they realised how rich they would become as they watched the Twin Towers crumble to the ground?"

People’s Weekly World

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