The Military Industrial Complex and the First and Second Iraq Wars

Lauren George, Dickson College, 2008

During both Bush presidencies, the U.S. government has been subject to manipulation a
George W. Bush and his father, George H.W. Bush in 2008
nd influence by the ‘military-industrial complex’. In particular, U.S involvement in both Iraq wars has been widely debated in terms of motive and expenditure, and as such, what the ‘military-industrial complex’ stands to profit as a result of such participation. Bush 41’s decision to assist Kuwait and start the first Iraq War was a controversial one, made in light of concerns the defence budget would be reduced at the conclusion of the Cold War. As well as this, personal connections between ‘military-industrial complex’ organisations and the current Bush 43 administration, and the superfluous spending of the Pentagon, provides enough reason to believe that American governments have been pressured by unauthorised influence into going to war. The parties that make up the ‘military-industrial complex’ are not members of the U.S. administration, and as such should not hold influence over government decision-making. However, the unwarranted power they hold becomes evident when outcomes from such decision-making are frequently of large benefit to the ‘military-industrial complex’.

The U.S. ‘military-industrial complex’ stands to profit from American involvement in warfare. The worry of such a theory is that without U.S. military involvement in conflict, and with a lowered defence budget, this combination of interest groups would be out of business. The concern with such an event can be seen when you take into account that in 2006 a substantial amount (3.8%) of America’s total labour force worked in defence related areas [1] , and relied heavily on the productiveness of the defence sector being upheld. As such, the unwarranted influence that this union possesses over the government could be channelled to demand America participate in unnecessary conflict that was not in the interest of the American people as a whole. Private defence contractors also have an obvious financial gain from participation in combat. Companies such as Lockheed Martin and Raytheon receive almost all of their business from defence contracts; and according to Rodrigue Tremblay, the increase of defence contractors total shareholder returns during the second Iraq War ranges from 68% (Northrop Grumman) to 164% (General Dynamics) [2] . This problem is added to by the fact that these companies finance election campaigns for the government [3] . With this much relying on conflict and warfare, the worry is that the ‘military-industrial complex’ may develop an unauthorised influence and disproportionate control over the government. Just as it was warned by President Eisenhower in 1961, that

======“we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence … by the military-industrial complex[4] ,

the potential for ‘military-industrial complex’ manipulation is still a pressing concern in the 21st Century.

The end of the Cold War may have marked a lessened U.S. Military budget, had it not been for the convenient opportunity presented to George H. W. Bush in the form of the First Gulf War. In 1991, at the end of the Cold War, the U.S. Defence budget was approximately U.S. $298.9 billion [5] , and was intended to lessen now that it was no longer necessary to be that expansive. This would have caused a huge loss to the private defence sector profits (whom Bush relied heavily on for electoral funding). This all changed in late 1990 when George H.W. Bush decided to help regain Kuwait’s independence from Iraq. Along with the government’s own reasons; the private contractors and the U.S. military establishment would have been backing Bush and his war for their own financial reasons, because as analyst Michael Lauer states, "If Iraq does not withdraw and things get messy, it will be good for the industry[6] . It was also in this period, during Bush 41’s presidency, that the large defence companies were given an even larger share of control over the U.S. Government and Military. Under the control of Secretary of Defence, Dick Cheney, the decision was made to

======“privatise not only specific services… but to privatise the actual … logistics for U.S. troops[7] .

This act meant that the opportunity was provided for even more private contractors to join the ‘complex’, and meant those who were granted the logistical contracts (such as Halliburton in the early 1990’s) had even greater direction over military spending, as they controlled, among many things, how U.S. troops got to their overseas military bases [8] . These actions, undertaken by Bush 41’s administration were impacted on by the unwarranted influence and power of the ‘military-industrial complex’, who gained an even larger portion of influence as a result.

The Iraq conflict of March 2003 onwards has received a great deal of criticism over defence contracts being gr
Dick Cheney in 2001
anted to companies with close ties to Bush and his administration. With so many connections between American defence contractors and the U.S. government, it is safe to say that these relations would have, at some point, influenced the decisions made by this government. Dick Cheney, the Vice President to Bush 43, can be seen as having the largest connections within the administration. After being Secretary of Defence during Bush 41’s presidency, Cheney became CEO of the major defence contractor Halliburton up until 2000 [9] . And although he denies maintaining financial ties with the company, he was compensated with $500 000 to $1 million upon leaving the company [10] , which provides him with motivation to ensure the company continues to receive government contracts so that he can not only be an option for future compensation from the company, but so he can look after his old colleagues at the company as well. Cheney had other connections, in the form of his wife Lynn Cheney; who was on the Board of Directors of the world’s largest defence contractor, Lockheed Martin until 2001 [11] . Cheney’s previous employment and family ties shows that conflicts of interest have an influence over government decision-making.

The Second Iraq War has also demonstrated unnecessary military expenditure by the U.S. government. According to the former Pentagon budget analyst, Chuck Spinney, the second Iraq War was fought mainly in “close quarters”, and as such military purchases such as the F-22 Ra
V-22 Osprey
ptor, for example, were frivolous as they were of little use to the American military’s purpose in Iraq [12] . Carter also goes on to describe how U.S. $1.8 billion was spent on the Marine Corps V-22 Osprey, despite the fact that it had never been battle tested, and had crashed twice before 2000, killing twenty-three marines [13] . These purchases are even more unnecessary when looked at in light of the equipment used by the Iraqi insurgents the Americans are fighting. As “most of their equipment is vintage Soviet equipment[14] , the question must be asked; why does America need so much hi-tech, superfluous equipment? These examples, tied with Tremblay’s statistics that military expenses are at least 21% of the total U.S. budget [15] , shows how the extensive surplus of the American defence budget is needlessly spent on excessive equipment in an attempt to justify such a large amount of money being payed to the private defence contractors of the ‘military-industrial complex’.

The potential for the ‘military-industrial complex’ to have an influence over U.S. government decision-making is undeniable. Such a vast interest group with irrefutable reliance on international conflict will at some point, (if not so already), need to gain some form of influence over the U.S. administration. What the ‘military-industrial complex’ stands to gain from warfare can be seen in light of the two Iraq Wars. George H. W. Bush’s involvement in the First Gulf War resulted from a need to uphold the multi-billion dollar defence budget of the U.S., and his administration was also responsible for handing over even more excessive power to the ‘military-industrial complex’. His son, President George W. Bush was also involved in a Gulf War involving needless spending to maintain a costly U.S. Defence budget. This was also affected by a largely influential ‘military-industrial complex’; helped by personal ties with administration members such as Vice President Cheney. The ‘military-industrial complex’ influence can be seen throughout U.S. government decision making in the two Iraq Wars, and as such, the ‘complex’ can be said to have excessive power over such an administration.


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  1. ^ Tremblay 2006
  2. ^ Tremblay 2006
  3. ^ Hartung 2003
  4. ^


    Eisenhower, 1961
  5. ^ Tremblay 2006
  6. ^ Blum 2003
  7. ^


    Hartung 2003
  8. ^ Hartung 2003
  9. ^ CBS NEWS 2003
  10. ^ Murphy 2003
  11. ^ Ragus 2003
  12. ^ Carter 2004, p. 52, 55
  13. ^ Merle 2007
  14. ^ Spinney in Carter, 2004
  15. ^ Tremblay 2006