There’s never been a better time to be in the arms business. From Lawrence Wittner at antiwar.com:
During the mid-1930s, a best-selling exposé of the international arms trade, combined with a U.S. Congressional investigation of munitions-makers led by Senator Gerald Nye, had a major impact on American public opinion. Convinced that military contractors were stirring up weapons sales and war for their own profit, many people grew critical of these “merchants of death.”
Today, some eight decades later, their successors, now more politely called “defense contractors,” are alive and well. According to a study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, sales of weapons and military services by the world’s largest 100 corporate military purveyors in 2016 (the latest year for which figures are available) rose to $375 billion. US corporations increased their share of that total to almost 58 percent, supplying weapons to at least 100 nations around the world.
The dominant role played by US corporations in the international arms trade owes a great deal to the efforts of US government officials. “Significant parts of the government,” notes military analyst William Hartung, “are intent on ensuring that American arms will flood the global market and companies like Lockheed and Boeing will live the good life. From the president on his trips abroad to visit allied world leaders to the secretaries of state and defense to the staffs of US embassies, American officials regularly act as salespeople for the arms firms.” Furthermore, he notes, “the Pentagon is their enabler. From brokering, facilitating, and literally banking the money from arms deals to transferring weapons to favored allies on the taxpayers’ dime, it is in essence the world’s largest arms dealer.”
In 2013, when Tom Kelly, the deputy assistant secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Political Affairs was asked during a Congressional hearing about whether the Obama administration was doing enough to promote American weapons exports, he replied: “[We are] advocating on behalf of our companies and doing everything we can to make sure that these sales go through. . . and that is something we are doing every day, basically [on] every continent in the world . . . and we’re constantly thinking of how we can do better.” This proved a fair enough assessment, for during the first six years of the Obama administration, US government officials secured agreements for US weapons sales of more than $190 billion around the world, especially to the volatile Middle East. Determined to outshine his predecessor, President Donald Trump, on his first overseas trip, bragged about a $110 billion arms deal (totaling $350 billion over the next decade) with Saudi Arabia.
To continue reading: The ‘Merchants of Death’ Survive and Prosper