Role of Lobbyists in the Wars: The Open Secret of Global Conflicts

Posted on May 2, 2012 in GlobeScope

By Girija Semuwal:

This is not a conspiracy theory. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were on the long-term agenda of a certain section of the American elite.

Count among them secret advisors to senior officials in the U.S. government, members of prominent think tanks, representatives from private corporations and Public Relations counselors.

In the name of public interest, national security and moral duty, these advisors to government officials in the U.S. — better known as lobbyists — advocated military action in these countries. They argued that they were centers of global Islamic terrorism or posed a threat to world peace for having weapons of mass destruction.

But there is always dust beneath the clean carpets which they walk upon. Lobbyists support war to pursue their own interests. The invasion of Iraq by the U.S. received the support of officials in the U.S. government, aided by lobbyists, who saw potential business opportunities in a post-war Iraq.

The business logic herein is simple. Countries ravaged by war need reconstruction, in every aspect. Economic development in the form of development of markets is advocated as the approach for reconstruction and the move towards democracy. Speaking historically, the intentions behind championing such policy remain much the same as they were in the Marshall Plan for reconstruction of Europe after World War I — paving way for the onset of free-market capitalism.

Lobbyists step into the picture as the voice of national and international players who see bright business prospects in these nations. They influence government officials and policy makers to frame policies favorable to their clients and are very well compensated for their strategic lobbying.

Taking the case of the Iraq war, lobbyists made tens of thousands of dollars in fees for helping business clients pursue federal contracts and other financial opportunities in Iraq even as military operations were underway. A notable example is of a former U.S. Senate advisor who made a $175,000 deal to advise Romania on winning business in Iraq and other matters. His call to fame within congressional lobbying circles was getting government funds for anti-Saddam exiles back into Iraq and Iraqi affairs. Such is the individual influence a lobbyist may yield.

War is big business”, writes Bill Quigley, constitutional rights expert from New Orleans. He mentions that these consultants and government advisors make big bucks in keeping America in a constant state of war. Their advocacy for prolonged military intervention, in cases like Afghanistan and Iraq, provides private enterprise more scope to gain from delivering security and defense resources.

A January 2010 report by the Congressional Research Service informed that there were at least 55,000 private armed security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, and maybe many more – as many as 70,000 in Afghanistan alone. Defense contractors are way ahead of security contractors in making money. These corporations invested millions of dollars to lobby for billions more in federal funds and hired ex-military leaders and ex-officials to help them get the contracts. In 2008 alone, the top ten defense contractors received nearly $150 billion in federal contracts, courtesy lobbying agencies.

Their shocking influence on the outcome of global events is not startling for they have always had access to the corridors of power at the U.S. Congress. Many such individuals are former congressmen; or individuals who’ve served on policy making boards; or retirees from top positions in military or intelligence agencies like CIA. The whopping initial salaries in these consultancies are lucrative enough to lure many congressmen who’re on the verge of retirement.

Some of them are even designated within private corporations. The board of directors of Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest military contractor, includes a former Under Secretary of Defense, a former US Air Force Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, a former Deputy Director of Homeland Security, and a former Supreme Allied Commander of Europe. They receive over $200,000 a year in compensation.

The 34th President of the United States Dwight Eisenhower famously said in his farewell speech to the nation in 1961 that “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.”

Years have passed away but the influence of lobbyists has only increased, as they come to exercise more and more clout. War, indeed, is one of the surest ways for them to maintain their power and status within America’s political economy.