Militarism and the Corporate Welfare State
By Charles Sullivan
Clearing House" -- -- 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
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 Bremmer 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, Bremmer 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 Bremmer 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
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
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
Charles Sullivan is a photographer, free lance writer and social
activist residing somewhere in the hinterland of West Virginia. He
welcomes your comments at
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