Day of judgment, God is calling
On their knees, the war pigs crawling
Begging mercy for their sins
Satan laughing spreads his wings
Oh lord, yeah!
~ Black Sabbath Lyrics
In 1992, comedian George Carlin noted that after the Cold War politicians in Washington were always declaring war on things at home, “We got a war on poverty, the war on crime, war on litter, the war on cancer, the war on drugs.” Carlin believes politicians never declared a war on homelessness because “there is no money to make in this problem.”
However, since George W. Bush’s war against terrorism there has been a three-legged stool to the pro-war coalition: ideologues (neo-conservatives and liberal internationalists), greedy war pigs who benefit financially from these conflicts, and a silent majority of patriotic Americans who are well-intentioned but are only now beginning to accept that these forever wars are not serving their or national interest.
It is likely that many of these patriots are never going to be anti-war, but they are certainly against taxpayer’s money being spent for losing wars while the war pigs have powerful incentives to prolong these wars for as long as possible.
According to the Treasury Department, our national debt is over $33 trillion dollars. This country has so many problems. We don’t need any new wars. Unless the military-industrial (MIC) complex is reined in, there will always be a demand for demagogues who are bought with MIC money to spread fear in the name of national security and righteousness.
In Washington today, Democrats and Republicans in Congress, lobbying firms, and think tanks are making lots of money off war and deterrence. If you just look at the top defense contractors, and their current board of directors, there are many important civilian and military officials, from previous administrations, who are making lots of money from these wars.
The Board of Directors includes former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine General Joseph Dunford (2015-2019) and former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson (2013-2017).
Republican presidential candidate Governor Nikki Haley is worth $8 million dollars from speaking fees, book deals, real estate, after joining the board of Boeing. Another member here is retired Admiral John Richardson, who served as Chief of Naval Operations (2015-2019). This is the highest-ranking position in the U.S Navy.
Admiral Gary Roughead, who served as Chief of Naval Operations from 2011 to 2015, is on the board at Northrop Grumman.
Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis (2017-2019) is on the board of General Dynamics. Incidentally, Secretary Mattis’ top deputy at the Pentagon was Patrick Shanahan. Before President Trump appointed Shanahan to be the Deputy Secretary of Defense, he worked at Boeing for 30 years.
In 2020, Raytheon and United Technologies merged. The company changed its name to the RTX Corporation in 2023. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin served on the board of Raytheon before taking over the Pentagon in 2021. Admiral James Winfield Jr. was the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (2011- 2015) and has been serving on Raytheon’s board since 2017, and later the RTX board, while simultaneously serving as the Chair of President Biden’s Intelligence Advisory Board since 2022.
One can continue this list corruption indefinitely. This small list is part of a much greater trend in influence peddling. There should be a law banning high-ranking officers from making money from defense contractors or any lobbying firms. If any of them feel that they can contribute to their expertise to the country, they can volunteer their services.
Another issue is the ownership of stocks in defense firms from members of Congress, as well as their close relatives. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wrote in his memoirs that he was grateful that he entered government when the market was high in 2006. Gates was conscious of the fact that many of the Obama officials sold their stocks when the market reached a low in early 2009.
The legislative branch should be held to the same standards as the executive branch. There should be no profiteering in war stocks. In December 2021, a few months before the war in Ukraine began, 15 members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees had stock in defense companies.
We also need to cut the number of bureaucrats at the Pentagon. Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England wrote in 2011, that the Defense Department could safely cut 100,000 civilian employees. Back then, there were 700,000 civilian employees. In 2023, there are over 950,000 of them.
Of course, the problem is not just the lobbyists but the consultants. In 2017, Antony Blinken, and three other Obama administration alumni founded a firm called WestExec Advisors LLC. Many of the principals and senior advisors from this firm are serving in the Biden administration. According to the Intercept, WestExec alumni include Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, and former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
When President Biden nominated Antony Blinken for the position of Secretary of State, in addition to WestExec, he was serving as a partner at Pine Island Capital Partners, which is a private equity firm that primarily invests in the aerospace and defense industries. Lloyd Austin was also a partner at this investment firm when he was nominated as Secretary of Defense.
Today, Pine Island Capital Partners has an impressive bipartisan list including former Senator Tom Daschle, former Congressman Dick Gephardt, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs retired Admiral Michael Mullan, and Secretary Blinken’s former business partner Michèle Flournoy.
It looks like almost every member of President Biden’s national security team including National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who was a partner at Macro Advisor Partners, has benefited from corporate clients working for MIC.
Last year, President Biden said that the world is closer to nuclear war then at any time since the1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Therefore we need responsible statesmen to pull us back from the brink, but the Biden administration is filled with people who are compromised by corruption, and therefore cannot be trusted to properly handle our national security.
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote that our environmental challenges are so great that mankind must “manage what is already unavoidable and avoid what will truly be unmanageable.”
The same can be said of nuclear war. If we do not rein in the military-industrial complex and the war pigs that benefit from this corruption, the U.S.-Russia relationship could eventually become unmanageable.
Edward Lozansky is President of American University in Moscow.
Robert Zapesochny is independent researcher and writer.