Wars are hugely profitable.
Most of us greet them with reactions from dismay to horror but for large companies involved in the arms industry they are a welcome boon.
When a country goes to war the provision of uniforms, supplies, weapons, ammunition, transportation and all the other paraphernalia of war is via “defence contracts” usually with large corporations.
The US economy in particular is so war-dependent that it may well collapse altogether with an outbreak of world peace. The phrase “military-industrial complex” describes this co-dependency between businesses and warfare. The situation is so extreme that estimates have been made that as many as 80% of all US scientists are working either directly or indirectly on research for the benefit of the arms industry. The search for more efficient means of killing our fellow humans is never ending.
This industry is not known for its morality. A typical example would be reports of French arms companies simultaneously selling fighter aircraft to Egypt and anti-aircraft guns to Israel as the Middle East moved to war in the 1960’s. Grotesque obscenities such as this are commonplace.
Here in New Zealand we don’t see ourselves as being part of a war machine but we have always had companies involved in the arms industry.
Readers over 50 will recall protests against the production of ingredients for the defoliant “Agent Orange” which was sprayed in millions of litres across the jungles of South East Asia during the Vietnam war with appalling effects for the local people as well as lasting damage to our own servicemen. These ingredients were produced at the then Ivan Watkins Dow chemical plant in New Plymouth. Like most companies fingered as part of the war machine they dissembled with misleading untruths.
Our latest entrant in the arms race is Auckland based company Rakon which has proudly asserted its intention to dominate the “lucrative and expanded guided munitions and military positioning market” within the next 5 years. Since 1997 the company has been making sophisticated crystal oscillators for the US military which are used in the guidance systems of so-called “smart bombs”. These are bombs which can be guided to their target using GPS technology with Rakon components doing a crucial part of the job.
No morality here. Just pride in a profitable business. They are happy making bullets for other people to fire and apparently have no qualms at the deaths of many thousands of civilians from smart bombs dropped in Kosovo and the 6,500 dropped on Iraq in 2003 alone.
Neither do Rakon’s shareholders have any pangs of conscience. When the New Zealand Herald released the report of their investigation into Rakon’s bomb building technology two weeks ago the share price rose and has continued rising since. Investors who were not aware that the company is at the heart of US plans to bomb its way around the world saw this as a good thing. The demand for smart bombs can only increase. Rakon is onto a winner and the shareholders are loving it. Obviously none of their children have been blasted to fragments by smart bombs in Iraq.
In the face of public questioning the company has tried to muddy the water by saying it has not designed products specifically for military applications and doesn’t necessarily know how they are used. Neither of these statements is credible. Company documents baldly state that “Rakon’s military products include: Mainstream TXCO’s (crystal oscillators) for inclusion in smart bombs…G-hardened crystals for use in smart shells…”. It’s not surprising the company’s eager visitors have included the US Ambassador and high ranking officials of the US Air Force. Rakon relishes the lucrative income from the 21% of their sales which are to military and aerospace customers.
Meanwhile the company is working to develop a crystal oscillator specifically designed to withstand nuclear radiation and operate at the high altitudes associated with nuclear missile strikes. This is a company living in the belly of the war beast.
New Zealand has rules around the export of equipment which has military applications but our government’s reaction has been lukewarm and limp. Helen Clark says she will check to make sure no rules are being broken (if they aren’t being broken then the rules are surely meaningless) but all the signs are the government will turn a blind eye. Rakon won the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise Supreme Award for exports last year and has received almost $600,000 in government subsidies over recent years.
Our community funds have been used to support the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq.
We cannot can rely on moral decisions being made by businesses or their government minders. Communities can take all kinds of action to avert war and bring a rogue company such as this to account. For a first step I’m writing to Helen Clark. Why don’t you too?