Who Funds the War Party?

Avalanche of corporate cash pours into their coffers

by , February 25, 2013

Who funds the War Party? Before we answer that very interesting question, it’s important to define just what (and who) it is we’re talking about. I use the "War Party" phraseology as shorthand for a number of different groups and individuals, all of whom are linked by an ideological and/or financial interest in promoting a foreign policy of perpetual war. This includes those groups pushing for budget-busting "defense" outlays, as well as those whose commitment to militarism is more ideological. Then there are the foreign lobbyists who have an interest in maintaining and expanding the American Empire: and while there are a number of foreign interests involved in this vector, the one that stands out on account of the sheer quantity of its resources is the Israel lobby, which combines a rich source of funding with an ideologically-based activism second to none on Capitol Hill.

The following list is by no means exhaustive: that would require an entire book rather than a relatively short column. However, what follows should serve as an introduction to those who are seeking to impose their foreign policy agenda on a war-weary and dead-broke country.

American Enterprise Institute

The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is a Washington thinktank founded in 1943, as the American Enterprise Association, by Lewis H. Brown, former president of Johns Mansville, an asbestos company, and one of the chief architects of the postwar Marshall Plan. Originally headquartered in New York, the organization moved to Washington, changed its name to the American Enterprise Institute, and has since become the preferred home of the neoconservatives. In the run-up to the war, and afterwards, AEI housed a number of neoconservative intellectuals, including Richard Perle, John Bolton, Lynne Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, and the ubiquitous Kagan family, among many others.

According to its Form 990, AEI has assets of $150,096,627. Its latest annual operating budget of record (2011) was $34,977,193. Of this, around $6 million was spent on its foreign policy programs, although the number is no doubt much higher when one takes into consideration other programs which cannot be separated out from its foreign policy propaganda. AEI’s foreign policy component is headed by Ahmed Chalabi groupie and inveterate interventionist Danielle Pletka.

AEI was the source of and inspiration for the Iraq "surge": a study done by Frederick W. Kagan and retired Gen. Jack Keane, "Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq," provided the rationale for the Bush administration’s effort to save a disastrous war from becoming a complete rout.

AEI has been in the forefront of neoconservative efforts to warn against the very idea of cutting the "defense" budget in response to the imminent bankruptcy of the United States government. As AEI scholar Mackenzie Eaglen, formerly with the management team of Donald Rumsfeld’s DoD – which lost billions in unaccounted cash in Iraq – put it to Defense News:

"The Republican Party has been slowly hemorrhaging having a strong national defense as a key priority of a conservative agenda for years. It predates President Obama. This president, along with what I’m calling the ‘Libertarian moment,’ has pushed this neglect into the headlines. In fact, it’s beyond the headlines.

"It’s now evident in legislation. Whether it’s the inability to exempt the Defense Department from being funded through the restrictions of a continuing resolution, like not being able to start new [weapon] programs, to not making a defense appropriations bill a priority over moving other spending bills, to the [2011] Budget Control Act itself, defense is just not a Republican priority anymore."

Poor MacKenzie: the Libertarian Moment is no fun for the War Party! Why, even the Republicans are beginning to question why our "defense" budget is at an all-time high when no single nation on earth presents a half-credible threat to our overwhelming military dominance.

Conservative foundations (Bradley, Pew, etc.), the usual range of multinational corporations, especially the oil industry, figure prominently among AEI’s chief donors – and, of course, the defense industry.

Heritage Foundation

The Heritage Foundation is the oldest ostensibly conservative thinktank in Washington, and it has a huge war chest: the latest figures clock in at $72,170,983 in income, plus $143,231,547 in net assets, as of the end of 2011. Although eclipsed, in part, by AEI, and less invested in the neoconservative lexicon when advocating higher military budgets and foreign intervention, Heritage has been instrumental in consolidating support for militaristic policies within the GOP, with which it is closely aligned. Founded by Edward J. Feulner and Paul Weyrich in 1973, with start up money from the Coors family, their foreign policy shop is largely concerned with preserving and expanding big-ticket budget items like missile defense and other expensive weapons systems.

A recent Heritage position paper whined that, due to the looming sequestration, "defense contractors have been paralyzed for months"! Those poor babies: perhaps if they give even more than they are already contributing to Heritage’s budget, such grossly inconsiderate behavior can be avoided in the future.

While geared to a more mainstream GOP perspective, Heritage can be counted on to buttress the neocons in their various campaigns — making some of the same talking points, albeit considerably cleaned up for an audience less prone to hysterics — such as the smear campaign directed at Chuck Hagel.

Project for a New American Century/Foreign Policy Initiative

The Project for a New American Century (PNAC), founded in 1997 by Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol and professional warmonger Robert Kagan, was one of the neocons’ more productive agitational efforts. PNAC can be given the "credit" for single-handedly building support within the political class for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and had a decisive influence on the military and foreign policy of George W. Bush’s administration. Sponsored by the New Citizenship Project, which poured $3.5 million in grants into PNAC’s coffers, the organization agitated for war with Iraq throughout the Clinton years with a series of open letters signed by prominent neocons and fellow-travelers.

PNAC’s funding came largely in grants from the major right-wing foundations: Bradley, Olin, and Scaife. The single biggest donor was the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with $800,000.

PNAC is today inactive, having been succeeded by the Foreign Policy Initiative, which is basically the same creature rebaptized.

Center for American Freedom/Washington Free Beacon

The Center for American Freedom (CAF), founded by Michael Goldfarb, is the latest addition to the neocon arsenal. CAF is a 501(c)4 organization, and not required to disclose its donors or operating expenses, but founder Goldfarb claims they have an annual budget of "several million dollars." So far, their major project is the Washington Free Beacon, a tabloid-style "news" site specializing in smear jobs against neocon hate-objects – e.g., the Free Beacon is a veritable library of all the latest smears aimed at Hagel. Half Breitbart.com, half college humor magazine, the Free Beacon is a down-market version of the Weekly Standard, which seems logical since its editor is Matthew Continetti, former staff writer at the Weekly Standard and the latest addition to the Kristol clan.

Founder Goldfarb is a principal of Orion Strategies, a lobbying group with ties to the defense industry: Orion’s founder, Randy Scheuneman, is an instrumental player in the NATO expansion campaign. The government of Georgia under Mikheil Saakashvili was a major client. Rumor has it that the Koch brothers, Charles and David, are big backers of the new group: the Kochs, for their part, have issued a strong denial. The Nation has documented a working relationship between Goldfarb, Orion, the Free Beacon, and the government of Taiwan. And who’s to say that Sheldon Adelson, always a soft touch for any ostensibly "pro-Israel" project, isn’t a major contributor?

In addition to the above, there is an entire panoply of relatively minor neoconservative and neoconservative-leaning thinktanks, "emergency committees" (i.e. the Emergency Committee for Israel), and ad hoc organizations that serve as the fulcrum of the War Party’s permanent campaign. The Weekly Standard, the neocons’ Pravda, was founded by Kristol and initially funded by Rupert Murdoch, who sold the magazine to neocon billionaire Philip Anschultz in 2009. Like all magazines of opinion, it has continued to lose money, but Anschultz, who owns a string of newspapers across the country, apparently isn’t feeling the pinch.

Add to this the lobbying efforts of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the political action committee known as NORPAC, which ladles out cash to pro-Israel candidates, and what you have is a formidable apparatus with the power to shape American foreign policy to its own ends. Wielding almost unlimited resources, these groups can work their will on an easily-intimidated Congress, and a perpetually complicit media, such as occurred before and during the Iraq war. Indeed, the same cast of characters is now busy spinning a new but eerily similar war-narrative around Iran – the neocons’ latest target of opportunity.

All of which raises the question: can we beat the War Party?

The answer, I firmly believe, is an emphatic yes, but with one proviso: we need your help to do it.

You can see what we’re up against. The odds aren’t that favorable, to be sure, but we have one big advantage: we have the truth on our side. Because the truth is that America is an overextended empire, and a bankrupt one to boot. Because Iran doesn’t represent any kind of real threat to the United States, and war with that nation would be a disaster. Because the War Party needs its multi-million dollar budget to fool the American people into war – whereas we, on the other hand, just need a bare minimum to get the truth out.

It takes a lot to cover up a lie, whereas truth only requires an efficient and cost-effective method of transmission – which describes Antiwar.com to a tee.

This fundraiser hasn’t been all that successful, so far – which is why I’ve spent the previous 1500 words to show how much we’re out-gunned in the resources division. Yet this uneven playing field is no cause to give in to despair – because we can beat them, with your help.

Your tax-deductible donation goes a long way here at Antiwar.com. There’s no three-figure salaries, no perks, no fancy expense accounts – just a small and very hardworking crew of dedicated activists devoted to debunking the War Party’s lies. For 17 years, we’ve been supported by our readers, and every year our influence gets wider – while fundraising doesn’t get any easier.

It’s been a long, hard slough this time around, trying to raise the funds we need to continue our work. We’ve managed to raise $26,000 in matching funds from a group of generous donors – but we need you to match it, or else no dice. Please help us make our goal by making your tax-deductible contribution today.

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

I will be the keynote speaker at the Republican Liberty Caucus of California convention, this coming Saturday, March 2, in Sacramento. My topic: “Our Libertarian Republican Heritage.” The event will take place at the Sacramento Convention Center, Room 204, (address:1400 J Street: the convention center is adjacent to the Hyatt Regency). I am scheduled to be introduced at 2:10, to speak from 2:15 to 2:45, and to take questions from 2:45 to 3:00.

I’m on Twitter quite a bit these days, and having a lot of fun: indeed, I’m almost up to 3,000 "followers"! Help me cross the 3000 mark by following me here.

I’ve also written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Forward by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).

You can buy my biography of the great libertarian thinker, An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), here.

Read more by Justin Raimondo