Tuesday, January 16, 2007

War Profiteering Is the American Way

A commenter to my posting about Pat Leahy's War Profiteering Prevention Act noted that I just don't get the whole "capitalism" concept. He is partially right, war profiteering has long been a part of American capitalism.

During the war of the Greatest Generation, World War II, General Motors was manufacturing tanks for the American war effort. At the same time, GM's Opel subsidiary was building JU-88 bombers for Nazi Germany. GM was making profit from both sides as GM's German bombers destroyed GM's American tanks. Standard Oil of New Jersey (now Exxon) also played both ends. Standard Oil profited from developing and implimenting the synthnic gasoline program that fueled the Nazi war machine. As late as 1944, Standard Oil maintained close ties to SS chief Heinrich Himmler. Senator Harry Truman called Standard Oil's conduct "treason." During World War II, war profiteering was rampant.
In effect, corporations engaged in a sit-down strike until they had obtained outrageously beneficial terms. America faced corporations that openly violated the law, corporations that blackmailed the government with threats of an interruption of the supply of gasoline and corporations that conspired to price fixing. Finally, America faced the armies of the Third Reich supplied by products built by American corporations. No corporation ever faced charges of price fixing, war profiteering and treason with supplying the enemy with munitions. Yet more than three hundred corporations did business with the Third Reich during the war. ~ Corporate Law: a History
During the Civil War, Lincoln's first Secretary of War saw a path to quick profits. Simon Cameron paid high prices for tainted food, knapsacks and uniforms that fell apart, thin blankets, and weapons that blew the thumbs off of the soldiers who fired them. Cameron pocketed hefty kickbacks for these no-bid contracts. Any similarity between Simon Cameron and Dick Cheney of Halliburton is a sick accident of history. Even though Lincoln fired him for his corruption, Cameron continued a successful political career.
"An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought." ~ Simon Cameron
War continues to be a major profit source for American corporations. With a corrupt administration, the only cure is Congressional intervention. While the administration is saber-rattling a possible war with Iran, the Pentagon is shipping surplus military gear to middlemen who are selling it to Iran. Bush is arming a country he wants to wage war against. Profits on both ends; profits all around.

The 10 most brazen war profiteers

The Nation, 2003 editorial
Center for Corporate Policy
Iraq for Sale: a Robert Greenwald film

The final word for how destructive war profiteering can be for our country comes from Vladimir Lenin - "The last capitalist will sell us the rope that hangs him."

13 comments:

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Nothing to add--just an excellent read. Thanks!

KnightErrant said...

Kvatch, thanks. That is high praise.

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