A group of protesters in the city of Vergennes, U.S. state of Vermont, waving Palestinian flags and banners reading “Stop the War Machine,” “Stop Arming Genocide,” among others, blocked entry into the weapons manufacturing facility of Collins Aerospace in an attempt to shut down production for the afternoon.
Scenes as such have repeated throughout January across the United States, where ordinary Americans rallied demonstrations against U.S. top weapons contractors, who have been making a ton of money by arming the Israeli government.
According to a U.S. State Department statement released on Monday, the sales of U.S. military equipment to foreign governments in the fiscal year 2023 increased by 16 percent, reaching a record-breaking 238 billion U.S. dollars.
FLOURISHING WAR-RELATED INDUSTRY
As of Saturday, the Palestinian death toll from the ongoing Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip has risen to 27,238, and a total of 66,452 Palestinians have been wounded, the Hamas-run Health Ministry said.
There’s a different set of data on major U.S. defense contractors. Raytheon reported sales of nearly 20 billion U.S. dollars in the fourth quarter of 2023, surpassing the third quarter and showing a 10 percent growth compared to the same period in 2022. Lockheed Martin also demonstrated “outstanding” performance, with net sales in the fourth quarter of 2023 far exceeding market expectations at 18.9 billion dollars, a 2 billion dollar increase from the previous quarter.
Financial reports from defense conglomerates like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon indicate record-level outstanding orders, suggesting that they have a strong growth trajectory in the coming period.
These “outstanding” performances are closely tied to the continuous supply of weapons and ammunition to Israel by these U.S. defense contractors with U.S. government support.
The United States is the largest arms provider to Israel. Considering strategic interests, domestic politics and other factors, the United States has provided over 130 billion dollars in security and military aid to Israel since its founding in 1948, with approximately 80 percent of Israeli military equipment imports coming from the United States.
In recent years, the United States has provided around 3.8 billion dollars in military aid to Israel annually. The Biden administration has recently proposed an additional 14 billion dollars to Congress in aid to Israel.
“All of our missiles, the ammunition, the precision-guided bombs, all the airplanes and bombs, it’s all from the U.S. … Everyone understands that we can’t fight this war without the United States,” said retired Israel Defense Forces Major General Yitzhak Brick.
REVOLVING MONEY AND POWER
To the south of the nearby Pentagon, an inconspicuous building houses the offices of Lockheed Martin. In this panoramic view of the military-industrial complex, a complicated web of interests intertwines.
In recent years, the U.S. “revolving door,” which refers to the circulation of high-level officials from government to business and vice versa, has seen a notable surge and evolved into new forms.
According to The New York Times, at least 50 former Pentagon and national security officials, most of whom left the federal government in the last five years, are now working in defense-related venture capital or private equity as executives or advisers. They continued to interact regularly with Pentagon officials or members of Congress to push for policy changes or increases in military spending that could benefit firms they have invested in.
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren released an investigative report titled “Pentagon Alchemy: How Defense Officials Pass Through the Revolving Door and Peddle Brass for Gold” in April 2023. It reveals almost 700 cases of former high-ranking government officials from the Department of Defense, among others, currently working at the top 20 defense contractors.
According to the latest data from the nonpartisan “OpenSecrets” website, in the first half of 2023, defense contractors and other defense sector players spent nearly 70 million dollars lobbying the federal government. Much of this lobbying concerned the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, an annual appropriations bill funding the Pentagon and military operations.
Most defense contractors aim to persuade congressmen to allocate more military spending toward procuring their products and services. In return, they may establish factories in the congressmen’s districts to boost employment or provide political donations.
The arms industry as a whole has donated more than 83 million dollars to political candidates in the past two election cycles, and such funds are heavily concentrated among members of the House and Senate armed services committees and defense appropriations subcommittees, The Nation magazine said in an article.
“War is big business to our leaders,” Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene wrote on X.
EXCESSIVE MILITARY SPENDING
The U.S. National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024, which was signed into law on Dec. 22, 2023, increased the nation’s total national security budget to 886 billion dollars.
U.S. presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was astounded by the substantial expenditure it entails. “Defense spending exceeds all other discretionary spending combined. What does that say about our nation’s priorities?” he wrote on X.
The 1.5-trillion-dollar annual military-related expenditure is a scam that disproportionately benefits the military-industrial complex and the Washington insiders, simultaneously jeopardizing both America and the world, said Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, in an opinion piece published by independent news outlet Common Dreams.
On average, U.S. taxpayers contributed 1,087 dollars to Pentagon contractors, compared with 270 dollars for basic education, according to the Institute for Policy Studies, a think tank based in Washington.
A report from the “Costs of War” project under Brown University shows that Pentagon spending has totaled over 14 trillion dollars since the start of the war in Afghanistan, with one-third to one-half of the total going to military contractors.
Former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower once warned against the risks of a world in arms. He said that every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who are hungry and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
“This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children,” he said.
But it seems that neither he nor his successors ever altered the underlying logic of the U.S. war business.