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Time to mobilize anti-war forces

Big firms get rich as Iraq war escalates

Published Jul 19, 2007 9:24 AM

The debate over the war in Iraq has finally made it onto the agenda of the Senate! But not at a time when funding for the war is up for a vote. A majority of Congress, including most Democrats, already voted to approve those hundreds of billions of dollars.

The current debate is over an amendment, put forward by Democratic Senators Carl Levin of Michigan and Jack Reed of Rhode Island, to a new appropriations bill. The amendment would begin to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq within 180 days (six months) of enactment and complete a reduction of troop strength—but not a total withdrawal—by April 30, 2008.

This debate is finally happening after the electorate has in many, many ways expressed its utter disgust with the war, the occupation and both political parties for letting the carnage drag on despite the immense pain and suffering it has meant for the Iraqi people and many in the U.S. Especially hit here is the working class, which pays for wars in blood and taxes while the rich generally do quite well as war spending oozes through the upper layers of the economy.

The senators also must know that calls are heard more and more frequently to impeach George W. Bush and Dick Cheney because these two lied to the world about Iraq’s mythical weapons of mass destruction. Every online discussion having to do with the war or the White House—except those on bizarrely ultra-right Web sites—rings with colorful denunciations of these political figures.

However, there’s an elephant in the room that still seems to elude most of the lawmakers and the media. It concerns what the war is really all about.

Not just personalities

There are criticisms galore of Bush’s IQ, his lack of tact, his cowboy style, his refusal to compromise or bend to bring others on board. Cheney is raked over the coals for his Machiavellian manipulations. Other administration figures from the klavern of neocons are excoriated for being too ideological.

But you seldom hear the issue that gets raised at every anti-war demonstration. What about the immense oil profits that Bush and Cheney promised their wealthy backers would flow into their coffers once Iraq had fallen? How much is being said about that in Congress, or on prime time?

The world understands very well what this war is about, but it’s a non-subject in official Washington and Medialand.

For example, here’s an item you probably didn’t see on television:

On July 16, about 300 oil industry workers in the port city of Basra, Iraq, took their lives into their hands to protest a proposed new law—drafted by U.S. “specialists” and “advisers”—that these workers say would allow foreigners to “pillage the country’s wealth.”

This important demonstration got no coverage in the U.S. media, but was reported by the French press agency AFP.

“To compensate for the military and political failure of the U.S. administration in Iraq, this administration is trying to control the country’s wealth,” the organizers said in a statement distributed to reporters, as they carried black coffins labeled “freedom.”

“If this is endorsed by the parliament it would abolish sovereignty and hand over the wealth of this generation and the generations to come as a gift to the occupier,” the statement said. “This law, in fact destroys the achievements of the Iraqi masses and especially the Law number 80 of 1961 and the nationalization of 1973”—legislation that sharply limited foreign involvement in the oil sector, enacted after Iraq broke free of colonial domination.

The very same social forces that had hoped to profit immensely off this war own the politicians and the media. Their failure to talk about this is not because of some narrow conspiracy hatched by a few individuals—it is the way everything functions in a society where money capital reigns supreme.

The immense popularity of the film “Sicko” shows that millions now realize that health care is a mess because of the profit motive. Is there any reason to think that warfare is somehow more altruistic?

In fact, this war and the many other imperialist interventions known euphemistically as “national defense” represent an immense feeding trough for the well-connected.

Web of industry, gov’t & military

This was illustrated most graphically in a story that did break into the media in a very limited way recently. It is the story of a corporation that most people never heard of but that is awarded more lucrative government contracts for “defense” and “national security” than any other.

The company is Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC). Right, you say, never heard of it. But you’ve heard of Boeing, right? General Electric? Halliburton? Lockheed Martin? Well, SAIC gets more government contracts than any of them. Last year it sucked up over $8 billion in public money. And it has more than 44,000 employees.

SAIC provides “experts,” especially in high-tech fields. It was SAIC employees who tried to create economic chaos and bring down the government of Venezuela in 2003 by sabotaging the terminals where the oil was loaded onto tankers for export. The media here called it a “strike” by oil workers, but in fact the real workers—not the high-paid managers on SAIC’s payroll—were the ones who figured out how to manually put the oil facilities back online after their bosses had shut down the computers that controlled everything.

In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, one of the most vociferous and ubiquitous figures arguing on television for “regime change” to get rid of “Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction” was David A. Kay, identified as an expert on counterterrorism. Kay was an executive of SAIC.

Two investigative journalists—Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele—dug out information about SAIC and wrote it up for the March 2007 issue of Vanity Fair. Recently, the PBS program Exposé ran a half-hour special on the company.

In the Vanity Fair article, entitled “Washington’s $8 Billion Shadow,” Barlett and Steele wrote that “SAIC executives have been involved at every stage of the life cycle of the war in Iraq. SAIC personnel were instrumental in pressing the case that weapons of mass destruction existed in Iraq in the first place, and that war was the only way to get rid of them. Then, as war became inevitable, SAIC secured contracts for a broad range of operations in soon-to-be-occupied Iraq. When no weapons of mass destruction were found, SAIC personnel staffed the commission that was set up to investigate how American intelligence could have been so disastrously wrong.”

This article explains that much of the running of the U.S. imperialist government’s “dirty tricks” and its military adventures abroad has been privatized. Operations that used to be handled by the CIA or the Pentagon are now farmed out to companies like SAIC, which pull in billions of dollars every year devising and carrying out plans to control the economies of oppressed countries and, if necessary, use military force against them so U.S. big business can exploit their resources and labor.

They are not subject to congressional oversight and can operate pretty much as they please. In Iraq, SAIC got the U.S. contract to build a “democratic media” after the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime. Its Iraqi Media Network became such an obvious mouthpiece for the Pentagon, says the Vanity Fair article, that soon Iraqis “openly snickered at the programming.”

These companies have close relations with the oil monopolies, the big banks, defense contractors and all the government agencies in the business of warfare and “counterterrorism.” In fact, SAIC set up its Center for Counterterrorism Technology and Analysis several years before 9/11, describing it to potential investors as a growth industry.

SAIC is much bigger than just the neocons in the Bush administration. Its bipartisan board of directors has included former CIA directors like John M. Deutsch, appointed by Bill Clinton, and Robert M. Gates, appointed by the current Bush’s father. In the present Bush administration, Gates is now secretary of defense, having replaced Donald Rumsfeld.

Other members of the SAIC board have included Melvin Laird, Richard Nixon’s secretary of defense, and Rear Adm. Bobby Ray Inman, director of the National Security Agency under President Jimmy Carter and a deputy director of the CIA under Ronald Reagan. Inman was also on the board of the Rockefeller-founded Council on Foreign Relations. The Rockefellers, let it never be forgotten, originally got their money from Standard Oil and then spread out into banking.

It is this unholy trinity of big business, the government and the military/intelligence establishment that continues to drive the war in Iraq—or Iran or Afghanistan or Palestine or wherever it suits their interests.

SAIC not affected by elections

One former SAIC manager said in a recent blog posting: “My observation is that the impact of national elections on the business climate for SAIC has been minimal. The emphasis on where federal spending occurs usually shifts, but total federal spending never decreases. SAIC has always continued to grow despite changes in the political leadership in Washington.”

Marine Gen. Peter Pace said on July 16 that the Joint Chiefs of Staff is weighing a range of possible new directions in Iraq, including an even bigger troop buildup, if Bush deems it necessary.

The U.S. Air Force has been building up its equipment inside Iraq, including the monster B1-B bomber. It has sharply stepped up bombing and has laid a foundation for a sustained air campaign, according to a July 15 AP dispatch. Already, there is an increase in “collateral damage” among Iraqi civilians.

Half the warships in the U.S. Navy are now in the waters around Iran and Iraq. When one of those ships, the USS Nimitz, made a five-day port call to Chenai in southern India in early July, it was met by massive protests.

Keeping their eyes on these hard facts and not being diverted by false hopes about change in Washington, some anti-war groups are now planning militant actions for the fall.

In both D.C. and Los Angeles, the week of Sept. 22-29 will see encampments, called by the Troops Out Now Coalition (troopsoutnow.org) and endorsed by hundreds more, that will take the anti-war struggle back to the streets and link it to the growing war at home of racism, poverty and repression. On Saturday, Sept. 29, massive mobilizations are planned in both cities.

The time could not be more critical. The power to stop the carnage lies with the people, not the politicians.

E-mail: dgriswold@workers.org