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Inter Press Service
April 3, 2003

There's No Business Like War Business

by Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS - When the dust finally settles on post-war Iraq, the
United States may have unleashed virtually all of its
state-of-the-art weaponry on a country already devastated by 13 years
of rigid U.N. sanctions.

After 14 days of heavy pounding, U.S. military forces so far have
dropped over 8,700 bombs, including more than 3,000 missiles, and
also fired millions of rounds of ammunition on military and civilian
targets inside the country.

When U.S. fighter pilots in B-2 stealth bombers launched the initial
attack on a residential compound in Baghdad - believed to be a
meeting place for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and senior Baath
Party officials - the opening salvo included a pair of 2,000 pound
bombs and 36 deadly long-range Tomahawk missiles.

The U.S. military will have to replace all of these weapons - worth
billions of dollars - giving a tremendous boost to the U.S. military
industry, which has been on the skids since the last Gulf War in 1991.

In the latest 'Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign
Operations', the U.S. State Department predicts that U.S. arms sales
are expected to reach over 14 billion dollars this year, the largest
total in almost two decades, compared to 12.5 billion dollars in 2002.

''A tragic indicator of the values of our civilization is that
there's no business like war business,'' says Douglas Mattern of the
New York-based War and Peace Foundation.

''I believe arms sales will increase even beyond the staggering
amount we have today, due to a continuing destabilization of the area
and the lobbying for sales by the armament industry,'' Mattern told
IPS.

One writer describes a ''charmed circle of American capitalism'',
where Tomahawk and cruise missiles will destroy Iraq, Bechtel
Corporation (which once employed U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney)
will rebuild the country. And stolen Iraqi oil will pay for it.''

''U.S. weapons contractors are likely to gain significant profits
because of this war,'' says Natalie Goldring, executive director of
the Program on Global Security and Disarmament at the University of
Maryland.

''They'll be paid to replace the weapons that are used or destroyed
in the war. The companies will also trumpet their successes at next
summer's Paris Air Show, searching for foreign buyers,'' Goldring
told IPS.

Global annual military spending was 780 billion dollars in 1999, 840
billion dollars in 2001 and is on target for one trillion dollars,
according to U.N. estimates.

Besides the human casualties, the 14-day-old Iraqi war has seen the
destruction of millions of dollars worth of military equipment on
both sides of the battlefield.

A U.S. Apache Longbow helicopter, brought down by Iraqi farmers,
costs about 22 million dollars. The U.S. Bradley Infantry Fighting
Vehicle, which is also on the casualty list, is priced at over 1.2
million dollars. The war has also seen the destruction for the first
time on a battlefield of a monstrous U.S.-built Abrams battle tank.

Goldring pointed out that Washington has armed Kuwait, Saudi Arabia,
Turkey and Jordan for decades. ''The strategy was to give and sell
these countries weapons so that they could defend themselves, and we
wouldn't have to deploy U.S. forces to the region. This strategy has
clearly failed,'' she added.

Of the world's 10 major buyers of U.S. weapons systems last year,
five were from the Middle East: Egypt (1.1 billion dollars in U.S.
arms), Kuwait (1.0 billion dollars), Saudi Arabia (885 million
dollars), Oman (826 million dollars) and Israel (710 million
dollars). The other five nations in the top 10 were South Korea,
Japan, Canada, Greece and Britain.

''We have armed unstable regimes with our most sophisticated weapons,
and have then used the widespread proliferation of the weapons as the
argument for producing the next generation of more expensive weapons.
The vicious cycle continues,'' Goldring said.

The really big money for U.S. defense contractors, says Mattern, is
in the annual Pentagon budget, which has risen from 294 billion
dollars in 2000 to about 400 billion dollars in 2003. At the current
rate of growth, the budget is expected to hit 500 billion dollars by
2010.

He said the Pentagon will spend about 60 billion dollars to buy new
arms this year and over 30 billion dollars in research and
development of new weapons. ''The U.S. armament industry is the
second most subsidized industry, after agriculture,'' he added.

The Iraqi war will also affect the global fight against poverty,
because of the huge cost of the war and its aftermath. ''It will also
degrade health care and other needs in the United States,'' according
to Mattern.

One-half of the world's governments spend more on the military than
on health care, he added. ''The war business is the world's ultimate
criminal activity.''

U.S. President George W. Bush last week sought Congressional approval
for a hefty 75 billion dollars to fund the first six months of the
Iraqi war and related anti-terrorism and foreign aid expenses.

''With the intensity of the war so far,'' says Goldring, ''the 75
billion dollars is probably just the down payment on the war''.

The bottom line, says 'New York Times' columnist Paul Krugman, is
that the United States will win on the battlefield, probably with
ease.

''I am not a military expert,'' he wrote, ''but I can do the numbers:
the most recent U.S. military budget was 400 billion dollars, while
Iraq spent only 1.4 billion dollars.''