Last week we uncovered how many billions of dollars the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are costing the American taxpayers. We all know that war costs a lot of money. What we don’t know is that the same people who profit off the wars we create have a direct influence in shaping the foreign policy that keeps America at war while putting millions of dollars in their own pockets.
Here is the way our government system is supposed to work: foreign policy is supposed to be drafted between the President and Congress, and the Secretary of State. In the present administration, this is Hillary Clinton. She is supposed to serve as the President’s main foreign policy advisor. What is foreign policy? Foreign policy is a set of goals outlining how a country will interact with other countries economically, politically, socially and militarily. These days, many of our elected representatives have become merely the messengers of foreign policy prescriptions that were created by councils and think tanks comprised of CEOs and executives from the biggest corporations in the world. On these councils sit executives from every major industry from food to media and, most shockingly, national defense.
Is if there is a conflict of interest when CEOs of the largest defense corporations are advising our lawmakers on foreign policy? Before you decide ask yourself this: if you were the CEO of Lockheed Martin, the largest defense corporation in America, and 95% of your company’s $35 billion dollar annual profit came directly from government contracts that employ you to supply war materials, would you want the war to end? Especially if you personally enjoyed a $21 million increase in compensation from 2005 to 2008 as a result of the War on Terror? Between 2001 and 2005, defense corporations’ annual profits climbed 189%, and the CEOs of these corporations that benefited the most from this profit increase sit on councils together with our politicians to “recommend,” “suggest” and “prescribe” foreign policy.
In this episode of YOURTRUTH, we are going to take a look at how much influence the CEOs of the top defense corporations have on the shaping of our foreign policy, specifically the foreign policy that has kept us at war. Let’s start with Robert Stevens, who we mentioned earlier is the CEO and President of Lockheed Martin, the number one defense corporation in the nation. Stevens is the presiding director of Monsanto, the largest manufacturer and distributor of genetically modified seeds, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a member of the Advisory Board to the Atlantic Council. So what are these councils?
The Council on Foreign Relations is a powerful think tank comprised of the worlds’ biggest CEOs and executives in banking, oil, media, mining, food, real estate investment, and politics. A few of the most recognizable political members include David Rockefeller, John McCain, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, and Madeleine Albright. President of the CFR, Richard Hass, was the former Director of policy planning for the Department of State. CFR board member Richard Holbrooke is Obama’s Special Advisor on Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to their website, one of their functions is to sponsor “independent task forces that produce policy prescriptions on the most important foreign policy topics.” Let’s not forget that corporate CEOs don’t take an oath to serve the best interest of the American people: their primary obligation is to maximize company profits.
I know, we all want to believe that our politicians are incorruptible and won’t take corporate dollars that might sway their decision making. But would millions of dollars sway you? According to recent reports from OpenSecrets.org, 151 members of Congress in 2006 had up to $195.5 million of their personal assets invested in defense corporations. What does this mean? When members of our Congress vote to keep us in war, are they really doing it for the safety of the American people, or are they doing it because their stocks will increase, giving them a bigger payout?
Major defense corporations were seriously involved in the 2008 elections as well. Lockheed Martin gave $2,612,219 in total political campaign donations, with 49% to Democrats ($1,285,493) and 51% to Republicans ($1,325,159). Boeing gave $2,225,947 in 2008 with 58% going to Democrats and General Dynamics provided $1,682,595 to both parties. Northrop Grumman spent over $20 million in 2008, hiring lobbyists to influence Congress, and Raytheon spent $6 million on lobbyists in the same period. Wow. That is a lot of money… I wonder what these corporations expect in return for their campaign handouts?
Well, all we have to do is look at the policy prescriptions they help draft and provide to our politicians. For example, let’s take a look at the Atlantic Council’s most recent proposal, outlining U.S. policy objectives with Pakistan. Senator John Kerry, who personally has over $30 million invested in defense companies, and Atlantic Council chairman Chuck Hagel just recently proposed the plan to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for review.
So what is the Atlantic Council? Well according to their website, they focus on “drafting roadmaps for U.S. policy towards the Balkans, Cuba, Iraq, Iran and Libya.” Other than Robert Stevens, CEO of Lockheed Martin, who else belongs to this council? Corporate membership includes all four of the top four defense corporations in the country: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon. Another interesting fact is that General Jim Jones left as chairman of the Atlantic Council to work as Obama’s National Security Advisor, and four other prominent officials from Obama’s administration are also members: Susan Rice, Richard Holbrooke, General Eric Shinseki, and Anne-Marie Slaughter.
In both the Council on Foreign Relations and the Atlantic Council we see corporate CEOs and politicians working together to draft and implement foreign policy that will financially benefit those invested in the defense industry. Whose interest does this serve: the American people who are paying their hard earned tax dollars for these wars, the CEOs of defense corporations who are profiting from these wars, or the politicians who are personally invested in continuing these wars? Need more proof of the revolving door relationship between corporations and government? According to Project Censored, President Obama recently nominated Raytheon’s Senior VP for government operations and strategy, William Lynn, for the number two position at the Pentagon.
One of the other top defense corporations is Boeing. Current CEO of Boeing, James McNerney, Jr. is a sitting member of the Business Roundtable. What is the Business Roundtable? CEOs of the top 160 corporations present government officials with “reasoned alternatives and positive policy suggestions.” Also, it is not unusual for Business Roundtable members to meet with the President and his staff in private.
Northrop Grumman, the 4th largest defense corporation in the world, saw net sales of $7.6 billion in 2000 skyrocket to nearly $34 billion by 2008. According to Corpwatch, at least seven former officials, consultants or shareholders of Northrop Grumman held positions in the George W. Bush administration. It is also noteworthy that, in the last ten years, Northrop Grumman shelled out $8.5 million in campaign contributions to both parties.
To spell it out, defense corporations are making millions by the wars we create. Our politicians are also financially benefiting from the wars we create. The cozy relationship that many in our government have with the most powerful leaders in the defense industry should be a significant cause for concern for any taxpaying American. If our foreign policy decisions are intertwined with the business interests of major corporations, the voices and opinions of American voters will be sidelined and ignored. The time is now to stop the corruption and end this war. Tune in next week to find out what people are doing all over the world to end this war and restore peace. It is time for a change, and this change starts with you.