by Lily Dane
War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it. – George Orwell
The late United States Marine Corps Major General Smedley D. Butler is perhaps most famous for his post-retirement speech titled “War is a Racket.” In the early 1930s, Butler presented the speech on a nationwide tour. It was so popular that he wrote a longer version as a small book that was published in 1935.
Butler points to a variety of examples, mostly from World War I, where industrialists whose operations were subsidized by public funding were able to generate substantial profits essentially from mass human suffering.
The work is divided into five chapters:
- War is a racket
- Who makes the profits?
- Who pays the bills?
- How to smash this racket!
- To hell with war!
It contains this summary:
War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people.
Only a small ‘inside’ group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.
In their article titled Companies Profiting the Most From War, Thomas C. Frohlich and Mark Lieberman listed the 10 companies profiting the most from war. To identify them, they examined the companies with the most arms sales based on information from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
Arms sales, including advisory, planes, vehicles, and weapons, were defined by sales to military customers as well as contracts to government militaries. Also considered were each company’s 2013 total sales and profits, the total number of employees at the company, as well as nation-level military spending, all provided by SIPRI.
From the article:
U.S. companies still dominate the arms market by a large margin, with six among the top 10 arms sellers. In the top 100 arms-producing companies, 39 are based in the United States, and U.S. companies accounted for more than 58% of total arms sales among the top 100. U.S. company arms sales in the top 10 alone made up 35% of total arms sales among the top 100. By contrast, Western European companies, which make up the rest of the top 10 arms producers, accounted for just 28% of the total top 100 arms sales.