Stock Symbol: KILL

First, a disclaimer: I know virtually nothing about “the stock market.” Nor have I—for moral (and aesthetic) reasons—wanted to know. Still, as Karl Marx explained so long ago, those who have Capital will invariably seek to maximize “share-value”: increasing revenues (and net profits), reducing competition (through mergers), and reducing labor-costs (through automation, union-busting, offshoring). For those able to moderate their wealth-addiction, it becomes sickeningly easy for the “savvy investor” to “make a killing”: “buy low and sell high,” for starters–but also keep in-step with the various mechanisms which inflate share-prices (manipulative business “news,” for instance).

These days, of course, the Dow 30 “Industrials”—the heavyweight companies whose “performance” dictates the daily DJA—usually include cut-rate, low-quality, labor-exploitative companies like Wal-Mart and McDonald’s (rarely “fast” and barely “food”). But truly useful consumer products—say, real food rather than “processed” junk—are only modestly profitable, compared to, say, military hardware which is of no use or value to American citizens (and demonstrably lethal to people living in the oil-rich Middle East).

The critique of rampant war profiteering in the U.S. is a familiar subject, so I won’t repeat President Eisenhower’s farewell warning, etc. Many outstanding journalists—such as William Hartung, Robert Scheer, and Jeffrey St. Clair—have written highly informative and revealing critiques of the military-industrial sector. Those mega-giant corporations which are almost exclusively in the war “business”—most prominently, LockheedMartin and General Dynamics—are, of course, critically dependent on “perpetual war.”

Last year, a propaganda campaign for attacking Syria was evidently stopped in its tracks by an overwhelmingly war-weary U.S. citizenry. But in recent months, the “drums of war” have been beating fiercely yet again. Retired generals, allegedly experts on war “policy,” predictably advocated another military intervention in the Middle East (this time to stop the menacing advance of ISIS, an “enemy” virtually unheard of as recently as several months ago). It is, of course, a well-known but rarely mentioned fact that such retired military generals and admirals generally hold considerable stock in these “defense” behemoths. With new military “engagements,” product-demand is ramped up (the profit-margin already exorbitant on contracts), as Congress invariably approves increases for such costly weapons as Apache attack helicopters, Tomahawk cruise missiles (Raytheon), and Hellfire air-to-ground missiles (Boeing/Martin)—the latter “delivered” by Predator/Reaper drones (General Atomics).

A cursory examination of Bloomberg.com share-price graphs: in the past 52 weeks, Lockheed grew by 43%, General Dynamics by 41%. One of these retired generals, say, holding Lockheed at $125/share a year ago, offers his interventionist “advice” on FOX-TV (with the assistance of those videos of beheadings), and sells those shares in Sept. 2014 at $184/share. Not bad: $7 million, say, becomes $10 million—in eleven months.

Morally loathsome? Unquestionably. But so much of the U.S. economy is propped up by fraudulent and/or harmful products: think of mortgage-backed securities (and phony “adjustable” mortgages), harmful drugs (e.g., Vioxx) and unnecessary surgeries, low-quality, high-fat “food products,” vulgar and degrading “entertainment” products, various “insurance” scams (deductibles, disclaimers, fine print), ad nauseam.

As to the ultimate moral abomination—the widespread, indiscriminate “delivery” of fiery deaths, pulverization and dismemberment by such “weapons-systems”-one may view actual war footage, or “demonstration videos,” on youtube and other sources. Or, most hauntingly, one may see photos of the mournful, tormented faces of children—horribly dismembered–so that (blood-splattered) shares of stock can keep rising in “value,” so that the “business” of invading, killing and bombing can satiate the pecuniary appetites of the big shareholders. Neither the Obama Justice Department nor the various international war crimes courts have been able (or willing) to prosecute Bush et al. for their illegal, devastating wars on the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan. Therefore, the war profiteers, brazenly emboldened once more, are salivating for more cruise missiles, drones, and bombs (Syria, ISIS; with Iran always as an especially lucrative, possible “target”).

William Manson is the author of The Psychodynamics of Culture (Greenwood Press). Read other articles by William.