You Can Be A Patriot or a Profiteer…But You Can’t Be Both

This week, the three military contractors that do the most business with the Pentagon announced their quarterly profits for 2012.

Their profits continue to grow while they push Washington, D.C. to protect their budgets at the expense of the rest of us.

Here’s the breakdown so far for this year:

This week’s announcement raises a fundamental question: Should people and companies be allowed to make huge profits from war? Even raising this question in today’s environment may seem trite, but we used to have different answers than those that prevail in modern-day Washington, D.C.

“I don’t want to see a single war millionaire created in the United States as a result of this world disaster.” President Franklin D. Roosevelt, May 22, 1940.

“Worse than traitors in arms are the men who pretend loyalty to the flag, feast and fatten on the misfortunes of the Nation while patriotic blood is crimsoning the plains of the South and their countrymen mouldering the dust.”  —President Abraham Lincoln.

This last quote is particularly relevant to this week’s profit announcements. Lincoln referred to war profiteers making money by cheating the Union Army. Outrage at war profiteering during this period led to the passage of “Lincoln’s Law,” officially known as the False Claims Act. The False Claims Act is the very same law that two of the companies listed above, Lockheed Martin and Boeing, violated through price-fixing and double-billing the taxpayer, leading to their having to pay roughly $20 million in the first quarter of 2012 to settle suits brought by the U.S. government.

During Roosevelt’s time, the idea of a single contractor company making almost a billion dollars worth of profit in three months would have received short shrift. As Roosevelt’s quote above shows, the idea of people profiting from war’s “disaster” disgusted him, and during his presidency the Truman Committee relentlessly investigated and exposed war profiteers. The closest analogy in our time would be the Committee on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, which found that up to $60 billion (as of September 2011) was lost to waste and fraud in military contracting in those conflicts.

And yet, despite this historical lack of patience for war profiteering, and despite the current record showing gross misconduct and waste, the U.S. government keeps shoveling taxpayer money at these huge corporations. Could it be that the $5 million in campaign donations and $32 million in lobbying dollars so far this election cycle from the military contractors keep Congress intentionally ignorant of the problem?

President George Washington knew a few things about war profiteers, and he didn’t mince words:

“There is such a thirst for gain [among military suppliers]…that it is enough to make one curse their own Species, for possessing so little virtue and patriotism.”

As long as we continue to allow the profit motive to play a role in America’s war, virtue and patriotism–to say nothing of peace–will continue to be in short supply.

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5 Comments on "You Can Be A Patriot or a Profiteer…But You Can’t Be Both"

  1. rileyrifle | Apr 27, 2012 at 4:42 pm |

    With so many people hurting economically, this is nothing short of disgusting. I really do hope that karma exists.

  2. Tempo House | Apr 27, 2012 at 11:17 pm |

    Mr. Greenwald, when you directed the musical “Xanadu” back in the early 1980s, did you fuck Olivia Newton-John?

    I hope you at least hit on her, asked for a blowjob or something. She was insanely good-looking 30 years ago.

  3. It’s not a question of corporations “profiteering” from war as much as driving militaristic foreign policy that ultimately leads to the war. They can all say, in good conscience, that they hope their products are never used…just as long as they keep governments paranoid/ambitious enough to keep buying them. 

  4. USMC Maj Gen Smedley Butler laid out 90 years ago the only feasible means to stop the war racket – conscript capital. 

    Once it became known and accepted that any decision to exercise military force would initiate a temporary nationalisation of the industrial sector, he posited that the calculus which inevitably leads to war, and its unrestrained profits, will shift sufficiently that war itself will become a thing of the past.  Indeed, he insisted it was the only thing which ever could produce that effect.

    His analysis concerns WWI, and he examines the pre-war v war-time profits of a range of corporations and industries supplying the US Govt, demonstrating colossal increases in profits during that period and documenting numerous individual instances of abuses of the procurements system.

    At the start of this century, 10 September 2001, as it happens, then Defence Secretary Donald Rumsefeld outlined a major policy redirection to address waste and financial mismanagement within the DoD, pointing to $2.3 trillion disappeared without trace, and responding to an audit showing that the DoD was incapable of accounting for 25% of the money it spends. 

    Of course, the following day all concerns about budgetary restraint evaporated and a new golden era of military/security industry corporate welfare was born.

  5. If only the many warmongering politicians featured in this video would have not precipitated, endorsed or prolonged so many wars the profiteering would not be an issue.

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