Fifteen lawmakers serving on House and Senate committees that shape U.S. military policy are profiting from investments in prominent defense contractors benefited by the very policies they influence, according to federal financial records analyzed by Business Insider this week.
Insider examined nearly 9,000 financial reports for every sitting member of Congress, as well as their top staffers, as part of a broader effort dubbed the Conflicted Congress project, which aims to identify possible conflicts of interest among lawmakers in Congress. Both Democrats and Republicans serving on the Armed Services committees have combined defense industry investments nearing $1 million as of 2020, and they’re continuing to invest and cash in.
Among the contractors that appeared in the committee members’ financial disclosures were Lockheed Martin Corp., Boeing Co., Raytheon Technologies Corp., Honeywell, and General Electric. Each company is known for spending millions to lobby the federal government in an effort to win lucrative government contracts and shape public policy.
“The war in Yemen must end,” declared President Joe Biden in his first major foreign policy speech; “and to underscore our commitment, we are ending all American support for offensive [Saudi] operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arms sales.”
Yet studying sales records from the Department of Defense (DoD), MintPress can reveal that less than one year into his presidency, the Biden administration has already approved 20 separate weapons contracts, worth just shy of $1.2 billion, to Saudi Arabia alone. This includes a $100 million shipment of Black Hawk helicopters, support for Apache gunships, and a $78 million deal to buy 36 cruise missiles. A new and controversial $650 million deal announced earlier this month has yet to be finalized but will likely soon follow, boosting sales up to levels equal with the earlier years of the Trump presidency.
The Saudi-led Coalition is once again pummelling Yemen’s capital, Sana’a. Images appear to show U.S.-made aircraft attacking ground targets. This is hardly surprising: American arms sales to Saudi Arabia have long been a point of contention. But this MintPress investigation will reveal the extent to which private American companies are profiting off the infliction of suffering on the Yemeni people.
So hey they’ve started mounting sniper rifles on robodogs, which is great news for anyone who was hoping they’d start mounting sniper rifles on robodogs.
At an exhibit booth in the Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting and exhibition, Ghost Robotics (the military-friendly competitor to the better-known Boston Dynamics) proudly showed off a weapon that is designed to attach to its quadruped bots made by a company called SWORD Defense Systems.
“The SWORD Defense Systems Special Purpose Unmanned Rifle (SPUR) was specifically designed to offer precision fire from unmanned platforms such as the Ghost Robotics Vision-60 quadruped,” SWORD proclaims on its website. “Chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor allows for precision fire out to 1200m, the SPUR can similarly utilize 7.62×51 NATO cartridge for ammunition availability. Due to its highly capable sensors the SPUR can operate in a magnitude of conditions, both day and night. The SWORD Defense Systems SPUR is the future of unmanned weapon systems, and that future is now.”
Israel unveiled a new remote-controlled killer robot Monday at a major weapons fair in the U.K. that human rights advocates are criticizing as an event to sell “death machines” and tools of abuse.
Developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the Rex MK II is a four-wheeled vehicle mounted with two machine guns to carry out remote attacks. According to a press statement from the state-owned company announcing the release, the robot has already been sold to global customers.
The weapon was unveiled Monday at Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) in London, an event that occurs every two years and is one of the world’s biggest arms fairs. The weapons expo has faced sustained condemnation from anti-war campaigners who say it’s a venue “where those who profit from war, repression, and injustice do business.”
IAI describes the robot as an unmanned land vehicle that can carry a load of 1.3 tons and execute operations including intelligence gathering using “electro-optical sensors and radar.” It can also be used to launch attacks with “remotely controlled weapons systems including a 7.62mm machine gun” and “a cal 0.50 heavy machine gun,” the company says, and serve “as a multi-mission multi-purpose platform to support additional missions based on troops needs.”
“I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.” – Major General Smedley Darlington Butler (1881-1940) in his book “War is a Racket” (1935).
The ending of the 20-year-war in Afghanistan, the longest ever engagement in a single conflict by the United States armed forces, has been variously described as a “catastrophe”, a “disaster” and a “debacle”. Yet this national failure from which parallels have been drawn with the Vietnam War has not had the same ring of misfortune for some.
Indeed, long before the recent scenes of calamity and collapse in Kabul brought home with resounding finality the futility of a supposed nation-building exercise, the profit-motive for the initial US invasion and the preservation of an enduring occupation was an open secret to anyone who bothered to embark on the slightest inquiry.
The gravy train of American defence spending was in full effect, facilitated by the tentacles of what US President Dwight D. Eisenhower prophesied would become the Military Industrial Complex. For the last two decades have witnessed what has been described as a “wealth transfer from US taxpayers to military contractors”. But the war, apart from confirming Afghanistan’s reputation as the “Graveyard of Empires”, also validates the phrase coined by US Major General Smedley Butler that war is a racket.
The blame game currently being played out in the United States media by the political class risks obscuring one fundamental issue: the centrality of money and the profit motive in the waging of America’s two-decade-long war in Afghanistan.
The invasion of that country had been planned well in advance of the attacks of September 11th, 2001, the event which provided the impetus for mounting a military response including the country’s occupation. The United States has long coveted gaining access to the mineral and oil rich Caspian region and Central Asia, and the coming to power of the fundamentalist Islamic Taliban movement was not seen at the time by US policy makers as an impenetrable obstacle.
As the French writers Jean-Charles Briscard and Guillaume Dasquie wrote in their book Forbidden Truth: U.S.-Taliban Secret Oil Diplomacy and the Failed Hunt for Bin Laden, which was published in 2002, the American government had been prepared to accept Taliban rule on condition that they agreed to the construction of an oil pipeline across Central Asia.
Since U.S. military actions in Afghanistan were authorized in September 2001, the stocks of the top five defense companies have risen in value by an average of nearly 900%, strongly outperforming the S&P 500 index.
Among those who have benefitted from investments in the stocks are nearly four dozen members of Congress, the people who approve funding for the contracts that make up the bulk of the companies’ revenues.
At least 47 members of Congress and their spouses hold between $2 million and $6.7 million worth of stock in companies that are among the top 100 defense contractors, a Sludge analysis of financial disclosures found.
The war in Afghanistan has caused an estimated up to 174,000 direct war deaths, according to the Costs of War Project, with economic costs reaching over $2.26 trillion there and in Pakistan. The total cost of post-9/11 wars including Iraq and other operations has surpassed $6.4 trillion through last year.
At least 11 U.S. senators hold up to $1.7 million in defense industry stocks and at least 36 U.S. representatives hold a maximum value of over $5 million. Congress only reports its investments in broad ranges, so it’s not possible to know exactly how much their stocks are worth. Members of Congress have at least 108 investments in 16 major defense contractors, including all of the top 10 companies by defense revenue.
After twenty years and trillions flowing through the Pentagon’s war chest, the real winners were thousands of private military contractors that profited immensely.
The Taliban’s stunning takeover of Afghanistan in the aftermath of a bungling US departure has led many to conclude the war in Afghanistan ended in failure. But it is unlikely to be a view shared by many in the US military.
For them, the twenty-year-long conflict has been a massive success.
When discussing the politics of war, a central premise is often put forward: Cui bono? Who benefits? John Boyd, a former Air Force fighter pilot famously expounded on a theory where there was no contradiction between the military’s stated mission and disregard for combat success:
“People say the Pentagon does not have a strategy,” he said. “They are wrong. The Pentagon does have a strategy. It is ‘Don’t interrupt the money flow, add to it.’”
And add to it they did.