Pigs at the Trough of War
Jeffrey St. Clair.Grand Theft Pentagon: How War Contractors Rip Off America and Threaten the World. Common Courage Press, 2005, 336 pages, $18.95.
After the Cold War, the military industrial complex was desperate for a new conflict to legitimize profligate spending on war, weapons systems, and their associated services. St. Clair chronicles how Bush’s so-called War on Terror has enabled our rulers to rekindle the incestuous relationship between politicians, the Pentagon, and military contractors.
The marriage counselor of this foul union is none other than George Bush himself. In perhaps the funniest expose of the Bushes yet written, St. Clair tells the story of this company masquerading as a family.
The portrait is not very flattering, politically or personally. Demonstrating their congenital penchant for putting profit before all else, the dynasty’s founder Prescott Bush barely escaped charges of treason for wheeling and dealing with the Nazis during WWII.
But the Bush clan does not find a haven from such heartlessness at home; matriarch Barbara Bush lost so little sleep over her daughter’s death from leukemia that she was out golfing the next day.
The unlikely hero of the family saga is “W”. St. Clair shows how he spent his youth boozing, snorting coke, womanizing, failing classes, securing draft deferments, dodging national guard duty, and starting and wrecking corporations for which other people paid the price.
But this loser found himself reincarnated as a caring conservative. With the help of corporate money, lessons at the foot of Karl Rove, lots of dirty tricks, and apparently direct conversations with the deity, he found himself selected by the Supreme Court as ruler of the United States on the eve of 9/11.
Bush and the military industrial complex used the tragedy to fulfill their imperial fantasies and line their pockets. With Bush threatening war on the planet, the Pentagon asked for and got the useless and dangerous Star Wars Missile Defense, the unneeded B-767 tanker plane, the practically untested F-22 fighter, and the Stryker armored personnel carrier that is almost useless in Iraq since it is vulnerable to improvised explosive devices.
Boeing, Lockheed, and a handful of other corporations thus bilked American taxpayers of billions of dollars in senseless weapons. These weapons contracts were just the tip of the iceberg. The Bush administration also gave no-bid contracts to various private corporations to service the War on Terror. Clinton and Gore’s Reinventing Government program had opened the floodgate to such subcontracting government services and industries.
Halliburton, Bechtel, and others were consequently able to get contracts for everything from doing military laundry to rebuilding Iraq’s oil industry. Disproving neoliberal nostrums, they overcharged the government, provided inferior service, and, in the case of rebuilding Iraq, completely failed to restore electricity, running water, or reconstruction of buildings destroyed by the US conquest. Despite getting investigated and caught overcharging, they got off scot-free and, astonishingly, got new contracts to rebuild New Orleans and the region’s damaged oil industry.
Far from calling the Bush administration to task, the politicians of both parties have aided and abetted the process. As St. Clair writes, “Today, the roots of the two dominant political parties intertwine and are irrigated by the same freshets of corporate money, much of it coming from the weapons industry cartel.”
None of this military gluttony, now with annual on-the-books budget of half a trillion dollars, would have been possible without Bush’s War on Terror. As St. Clair proves, this war was without cause either in Afghanistan or Iraq. He documents how Bush overruled offers from his own emissary Kabir Mohammed as well as the Taliban to deliver Bin Laden to US custody. Instead, Bush launched a vengeful war for imperial domination of Central Asia, its oil and natural gas reserves, and the revitalization of the military industrial complex.
He also shows how, from the very beginning, the Bush administration set its eyes on Iraq, despite the fact that it had no connection to 9/11. In Rumsfeld’s words, the Bush regime should “Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.” So they concocted lies about weapons of mass destruction to justify what was a war of conquest for empire and oil.
And they found willing liars in the rest of the establishment from the CIA to the Democratic Party and the servile corporate media. One CIA manager told his staff, “If Bush wants to go to war, it’s your job to give him a reason to do so.” Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and the rest of the Democrats save for a handful of dissenters joined the chorus of liars. And, of course, Judith Miller of the New York Times and the rest of the “in-bed” reporters of the mainstream news recycled the stories to a temporarily willing and deluded public.
But now the tide has turned against Bush, the war and its profiteers. As St. Clair concludes, the task is to reinvigorate “a militant and uncompromising popular movement, unaligned with either political party, whose first task must be to put an end to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and snuff out further imperial adventurism in Iran, Syria and North Korea.” Grand Theft Pentagon is an invaluable tool in the building of just such a movement.
Ashley Smithis a correspondent for Socialist Worker. This article first appeared on the Socialist Worker web site http://socialistworker.org. Thanks to Alan Maass.