Written 309 pm Feb 14, 1991 by nicriesdif in cdpcries.regionews PEACE DIVIDEND DOWN WAR IN
Written 3:09 pm Feb 14, 1991 by ni:criesdif in cdp:cries.regionews
PEACE DIVIDEND DOWN: WAR INDUSTRY DIVIDENDS UP
To appear in the magazine "Pensamiento Propio" #78 Mar. 1991 By Nick Cooke
[The Gulf war] is a new excuse for the arms race.... Those who produce
weapons should be very happy today because they will have much more work."
Oscar Arias. Former president of
Costa Rica and Nobel Peace Prize
"The defense contractors are going to cash in.... There are days when I
wonder if they didn't put Saddam Hussein up to this whole thing."
Pat Shroeder. US Congresswoman and
member of the House Armed Services
"Come on Wall Street, don't move slow. Why man, this war is going to go.
There's money, good money to be made By supplying the army with the tools of
Country Joe and the Fish. From the
song "I feel like I'm fixin' to die
rag", banned from radio play in the
US during the Vietnam War.
It didn't take long for the Pentagon and the military- industrial complex
to solve their existential dilemma which was provoked by the end of the Cold
War and the decline in the threat presented by its old adversary, the Soviet
Union. Faced with an attack on its budget and talk of a "peace dividend"
(funds which could be diverted from the military towards other areas of the
government), the US defense/war planners counterattacked in defense of their
"raison d'etre". The Pentagon's first battles in the Gulf war resulted in a
victory, not on the desert battlefield but in the corridors of power in
Every February, the US administration presents its budget proposals for
the coming fiscal year (October to October). In last year's debate, there
was a lot of talk about reducing defense spending. The global budget deficit
had reached the astounding figure of 1.6 million million dollars
($1,600,000,000,000) during the Reagan years and now it was proposed to
somehow reduce that figure by $500,000 million by 1996.
The defense expenditures of 2.4 million million dollars over the eight
years of the Ronald Reagan administration had obviously contributed
significantly to the overall deficit and became a target for the Democratic
Party legislators in the US Congress. Since half of the approximately
$300,000 million per year spent on defense was to protect Europe from the
now diminished Soviet threat, the possibility existed to redirect those
funds to other projects or to use them to slow down the growth of the fiscal
deficit in order to alleviate the effects of the oncoming economic recession.
Over the course of the budget debate, the George Bush administration
agreed to implement cuts in the Pentagon budget in exchange for approval
from the Democrats for the levying of new taxes and the implementation of
cutbacks in some federally-funded social services.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US Armed Forces, General
Colin Powell, predicted in May that over the course of five years, the
budget would be trimmed by 25% of the over $300,000 million average annual
(To put this figure into a more graphic perspective: if that many one
dollar bills were lined up end to end, they would circumnavegate the globe
at the Equator and there would still be enough left over for making seven
trips between Baghdad and Tel Aviv. If they were stacked, the pile would be
as high as nine Mount Everests. If someone were to count them at a pace of
two per second, it would them 9.5 years. That amount of money would finance
the Nicaraguan government budget for 500 years using the 1991 budget figure
as a benchmark.)
Powell was playing with numbers. The proposed cutbacks would in effect be
implemented at a slower rate than those in the last years of the Reagan
administration, and the profit margins of the military industry were to be
maintained. For example, instead of producing 132 B-2 Stealth bombers at a
cost of $530 million each, 75 were proposed, at a per unit cost of $815
The Search For A New Just Cause Begins
While the budget debate continued in Washington, the media began to focus
the world's attention on a new threat: Iraq. Saddam Hussein had attempted to
import vital electronic components for the construction of nuclear weapons.
Saddam Hussein was trying to develop a new long-range artillery piece
capable of lobbing shells - with nuclear, chemical, or bacteriological
warheads - thousands of miles. A new "devil" was being created to justify
the need for the United States to continue playing the role of the world's
The "evil empire to the East" was diminishing as a threat as fast as the
Soviet superpower was breaking up. Libya's "madman" Khadaffi was keeping
quiet. Panamanian "strongman" Noriega was in jail in Miami. Nicaragua's
Sandinistas ("the red tide") had taken a dive at the polls. Iran's Ayatollah
Khomeini had died, and its ten-year war with Iraq had greatly reduced the
menace of the spread of Islamic revolution.
The "war on drugs" and being prepared for possible small- scale regional
conflicts in the Third World were being used to argue for maintaining some
of the Pentagon's high-tech weaponry modernization programs, but neither was
sufficient to justify the requests being made for defense funding.
Iraq began to provide the necessary justification. Reports went around the
world about the massive military might of the Mesopotamian megalomaniac who
wanted to take over the Middle East. He has tanks, airplanes, a
million-strong army, and chemical and bacteriological weapons, maybe even a
nuclear capacity. Iraq has the fourth or fifth largest military in the world
and the world was told that something must be done to counteract this threat
to its security.
In July, a dispute erupted with Iraq accusing Kuwait of stealing $24,000
million worth of oil and of depressing the world price of oil by
over-producing. On July 18, Iraq moved thousands of troops into position
along its border with Kuwait.
Then on August 1, the United States made what appeared to be a strange
diplomatic move. Alice Glaspie, the US ambassador to Iraq, told Hussein that
"Bush personally wants to expand and deepen relations with Iraq.... We don't
have much to say about Arab-Arab differences, like your border differences
with Kuwait. All we hope is that you solve these matters quickly." Hussein,
it seems, interpreted this to mean that the United States was giving him the
green light. The next day, Iraqui forces rolled across the border and took
over its former province, the kingdom of Kuwait.
Despite claiming to have been taken by surprise, US diplomacy moved
quickly the next day to beat Iraqui diplomats to Syria and Egypt and line
them up against Hussein.
The Bush administration had found just the just cause it was looking for.
"The first principle of a just war," said Bush on January 29, "is that it
support a just cause. Our cause could not be more noble." The United States
presented itself to itself and to the world community as the defenders of
national sovereignty against agressor nations like Iraq and new Hitlers like
Hussein. Bush could now make his dream, expressed during his election
campaign, of "a thousand points of light" come true with bomb bursts over
Baghdad and Basra.
Top Dollar Top Guns
Last August, at the outset of what came to be called the Gulf crisis, Bush
was more honest about his motives. Speaking to a convention of the Veterans
of Foreign Wars, he stated, "I will oppose the defense budget slashers who
are out of tune with what America needs to keep freedom secure and safe." He
told the assembled veterans that a lesson to be learned from the Gulf crisis
is that the military be given "the tools to do its job."
He mentioned as examples new nuclear missile launch systems, the B-2
Stealth bomber, and the Strategic Defense Initiative (the SDI or "Star Wars"
program). Despite the arms limitation agreements reached previously with the
Soviet Union, and despite the decline in power of that superpower, the
Pentagon together with the defense industry maintained their plans to
continuously rearm the US military with weapons systems which as well as
being more and more sophisticated, carried a higher and higher price tag.
Some prices on the list include: $4.4 million for an Abrams battle tank;
$50,000 for a copperhead anti-tank shell; $1.35 million for a Tomahawk
cruise missile; $1.11 million for a Patriot anti-missile missile; $50.43
million for an F-15E fighter bomber; $11.7 million for an Apache AH-64
attack helicopter. A list as long as the prices are high.
In the past, critics of Pentagon policy pointed to the exhorbitant amounts
paid to producers of these weapons. But now, with the war against Iraq
underway, Defense Secretary Dick Cheney says that all those who complained
about paying $800 for a screw, one of the examples of overspending cited
most often, can see that it was well worth it because the weapons work.
Back in November, Cheney said that the Gulf crisis "reminds everyone that
even with significantly improved relations between the US and the Soviets,
there is still a significant requirement for a US military force in the
He was happy about the results of the recently-concluded budget debate.
The final figure awarded to the Pentagon was only $18,800 million less than
the previous year's allocation instead of the $24 million cut proposed in
September. (The final figure for defense of $288,300 million is
coincidentally almost equal to estimates for the 1991 increase in the US
fiscal deficit of $293,700 million, which in turn is a figure double that of
the annual figure from 1987 to 1989.) This does not include the major
portions of the budget given to NASA for it work in outer space which are
dedicated to military purposes.
Dealing With Debt In The Desert
This budget allocation, however, did not include the money being spent at
the time for Operation Desert Shield; that was financed until October 1 with
a special assignation of $2000 million, an advance on what at that time was
going to be an estimated cost of $17,500 million until September 1991. (A
figure roughly equal to the amount solicited from the United States by
Nicaragua in the International Court of Justice at the Hague for reparitions
as a result of the war -ruled illegal by the Court- which Washington waged
over the past eight years against Nicaragua.) But the Pentagon spent more
than was intended and by December 31, 1990, the price tag had already
reached $10,000 million. The White House calmed financial worriers in
Washington by saying that 80% of that figure was covered by foreign
The Pentagon had won a multiple victory as a result of the Gulf crisis,
and still not a shot had been fired in anger. Not only was its budget not
cut by as much as was expected, special funds were being granted and other
countries were digging into their pockets to pay for the action. That,
according to the director of the Congressional Budget Office, Richard
Darman, is now running at somewhere between $500 million and $1000 million
The lack of precision in calculating the daily costs of Operation Desert
Storm calls into question the budget office's estimates of what the whole
war will cost. It made guesses in January, one for a short war and another
for longer conflict. The short war scenario includes 3000 dead and wounded
US troops and 200 tanks and 100 aircraft destroyed at a total cost of only
$17,000 million. The other scenario had 45,000 dead and wounded and 900
tanks and 600 aircraft destroyed at a cost of $35,000 million. If the
destroyed equipment is replaced, the figures would rise to $28,000 million
and $86,000 million respectively.
By the first week of February, three weeks into the war, the US government
claimed that pledges totalling $66,000 million had been made by Japan,
Germany, Saudi Arabia, and the Kuwaiti rulers in exile. The US State
Department was placing pressure on the European members of the allied
coalition to make their contribution to the war effort, offsetting the costs
being incurred by the United States.
The Saudi Arabian royalty, it would appear, are willing to continue
contributing indefinitely. "This is a battle for survival," said one Saudi
official, "and a few [thousand million] dollars don't mean much in that
context. We will pay whatever it costs." But this "noblesse oblige"
expressed towards Bush's "just cause" has another dimension.
Last September, it was estimated that if the price of oil rose by $10 a
barrel - which compared with the July 28 price of $21 it almost has - Saudi
Arabia would earn more than $36,000 million a year extra over and above its
expected earnings. Since then, the inflow of money has increased even more
by the boosting of Saudi production levels in order to compensate for the
gap created by the loss of production by Kuwait and Iraq. A new commensal
relationship is being consumated between the Saudi royal family's
petro-dollars and the military-industrial complex. A necessary question to
ask is to what extent is Saudi export capital invested in the military
industry in order to reap the benefits of the war dividends.
New Budget: Star Wars To Fly Again
Last year, the military-industrial complex lobbied Congress successfully
to reduce the proposed cuts in the defense budget. Jobs is one argument it
used to apply pressure: some 136 members of Congress have significant
amounts of military industry in their district. An example of this was the
successful counterattack made against the proposal to eliminate the $603
million program to develop and produce the V-22 Osprey vertical take-off
airplane. The argument that helicopters can do the job just as well was
brought down to earth by the promise of jobs in 34 states that would be
created in a time of a threatened economic recession.
More jobs are also being created by the war in the Gulf and that may prove
beneficial to the US economy. Alan Greenspan president of the US Federal
Reserve Bank even calculated that a "short war" would aid a US economic
recovery. Planners were concerned about a 2.1% drop in the Gross National
Product in the last quarter of 1990. Jobs are created because industry needs
to produce desert camouflage uniforms, chemical warfare suits, pre-packaged
meals for the troops, water bottles, gas masks... even condoms to slip over
the muzzles of the soldiers' rifles to stop sand from getting into the
The defense industry and the Pentagon have intensified their attack on the
idea of trimming the amount allocated in the budget with the Gulf crisis.
They are hoping for even more money in order to guarantee, according to
them, that the United States retains its status as a superpower on the rise.
Northrop Corporation uses the argument to favor spending on the B-2 bomber
program that a Hussein or a Khadaffi could soon have anti-aircraft
technology capable of tracking and downing any other type of combat plane
which does not have the stealth capability of shielding itself from radar.
The Gulf war and the use of Patriot anti-missile missiles (which are
reportedly 50% effective) has given new life to the arguments in favor of
the Star Wars program which was cut back from $4,500 million to $2,900
million in the recent budget. The program is being brought down to earth by
the war planners who now talk of using the technology to develop what they
call Theater Defense Missiles or TDM in order to better counter the threat
of SCUD missiles like those that Iraq has, or - giving a hint of where
possible new future "devils" may come from - in the event of a further
break-up of the Soviet Union and the possible threat that could be posed by
a renegade ruler of a republic in which Soviet nuclear missile launch
facilities are located.
Also talked about are the side benefits of the research into how to
develop an ultra-high-velocity missile which theoretically could be launched
from a jeep in order to destroy a tank. The argument now is that 12
countries each have over 100 tanks. Logically, the Pentagon will have to
then propose a new program to develop tanks that are not vulnerable to such
a missile. The weapons chain is an endless one.
The budget debate for fiscal year 1992 (to begin in October) has already
begun. The Star Wars program is high on the list of Bush's priorities and he
is asking for an increase up to $4600 million for it. However, in order to
appear to be appeasing the continuing desire of some legislators to cutback
on overall spending, he is proposing a minimal cut in the defense allocation
of about $3000 million, a little over 1% of its total. Yet once again, this
figure does not include the costs of an ongoing war in the Gulf, or
elsewhere. The budget planners are hoping that it will all be over before
the new budget is passed in October. Time, and the plans of the US military
policy makers, will tell.
CHEMICAL WEAPONS: DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO
George Bush has made much of the possibility that Iraq may resort to
chemical warfare. In the past, he has called for an end to this threat in
general in his dealings with the USSR. In May 1990, the United States and
the Soviets said that they agreed to ban chemical weapons production and
destroy existing stockpiles. As well, the United States had placed pressure
on companies in Germany and India to not sell 257 tons of thionyl chloride
(TC), a vital component in the manufacture of Sarin nerve gas, to Iran.
At the same time, however, the US Defense Department was trying to rescue
a budget pledge of $47 million in funding for a program underway to upgrade
chemical weapons. In order to justify further funding, it needed to obtain
80 tons of TC. But they ran into a problem. Two companies in the United
States that make the chemical refused to sell it to them, saying that
production of chemical weapons had been prohibited. One of the companies,
Mobay in Pittsburgh, is a subsidiary of the German company Bayer A. G. which
was under investigation for having sold equipment to Iran which could be
used to produce chemical weapons.
The Pentagon responded by threatening to use a 40-year old law which
authorizes the government to force firms to cooperate on the basis of
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