MG Smedley D. Butler (1881-1940) is still a legend in the United States Marine Corps. One of only 19 Americans to win the Congressional Medal of Honor twice, his 34-year distinguished military career included engagements in the Spanish American War, Philippines, Boxer Rebellion, Banana Wars, and WW1.
After retiring from military service in 1931, he became increasingly concerned over defense contractor profiteering from America’s wars. Decades ahead of President Eisenhower’s warning about the dangers of America’s military industrial complex, he published his War is a Racket book in 1935. In the book, he laid out his case of corruption within the military/defense industry and the complicity of corporate barons, military leaders, and politicians.
“It is probably 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.”1
MG Butler, at the time focused on the government and the defense companies. It is doubtful he imagined a future where they military’s own leaders would partake in the scam. SECDEF Lloyd Austin was one of a string of generals who presided over the losing Afghanistan conflict, providing self-serving and incorrect assessments while in key command positions, and staying loyal to the party line. After retiring in 2016, he was rewarded for his service and industry loyalty and followed the trend of contemporary generals to take executive positions in defense corporations that reaped immense profits from America’s recent wars. Most notably, immediately after retiring, he was appointed to the Board of Directors of Raytheon, one of the largest US defense corporations. He received over $1.4 million in compensation between 2016 and 2021. He had to step down from the board to be SECDEF.
In 2022, Raytheon had sales of $67.1B and earnings per share of $4.78. Raytheon expects to earn over $70B in 2023. Raytheon’s own CEO commented:
"Raytheon Technologies delivered solid full-year results with strong free cash flow that exceeded our expectations," said Raytheon Technologies Chairman and CEO Greg Hayes. "We effectively supported the rapid commercial aerospace recovery and delivered critical platforms and advanced technologies for customers to meet their increasingly complex needs, while achieving $86 billion in new awards in 2022 and ending the year with a total backlog of $175 billion."
"Our portfolio is well positioned to capture growing demand and we expect to deliver sales growth and margin expansion, along with strong free cash flow generation, in 2023. We are deploying capital investments to bring new technologies to market and accelerate productivity improvement, all while remaining committed to returning at least $20 billion to our shareowners post-merger through early 2024."2
With a ‘ringer’ at the helm of the massive DoD with a 2022-2023 FY defense budget of over $850B, Raytheon should be “well positioned” indeed.
When SECDEF Austin and his boss, President Biden, committed the disastrous retreat from Afghanistan in August 2021, the military seemed without a mission and the US defense industry seemed to lose a huge lunch ticket. Within 6 months, Austin/Biden had fanned the flames for the ensuing conflict in Afghanistan where the US has already committed tens of billions in military aid that ensured continued astronomical profits for the US defense industry. Since February 2022, the US has spent over $115B to support Ukraine’s war efforts. In November 2022, Raytheon got another piece of the profit pie in Ukraine with a $1.2B contract for six National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS). Undoubtedly more contracts for Austin’s beloved Raytheon will be awarded.3
Americans are already paying the price. $115B doesn’t appear out of thin air. Reckless spending under Biden is causing painful inflation. Obscene grocery bills and other signs of inflation affect all Americans. Worse, if the US gets dragged into the Ukraine conflict, which is not too farfetched given how much Biden and Austin have egged on both belligerents, it will once again be the politicians, defense contractors, and greedy generals (retired) that will profit. The losers, as always, will be the taxpayers and servicemembers who will prop up Raytheon’s earnings per shares with their blood. This is not exactly the motto of ‘Duty, Honor, Country’ Austin was supposed to live by.
Butler further opined:
“No admiral wants to be without a ship. No general wants to be without a command. Both mean men without jobs. They are not for disarmament….and at all these conferences, lurking in the background but all-powerful, just the same, are the sinister agents of those who profit by war.”
3 days ago, the US committed to spend yet another $2.6B to fund Ukraine’s war, further benefitting the US military industrial conflict. Conflict of interest concerns should have precluded Austin from working for Raytheon after serving as a 4-star general with profound influence on defense spending. Similarly, he should never have been allowed to come back as SECDEF. One could wonder that if US servicemembers die in Ukraine, will SECDEF Austin be able to take his eyes off his profits from Raytheon to compose letters to dead servicemembers and thank them for their contributions to his corporate bottom line.
John Hughes, MD
Veteran of OIF/OEF
Co-chair of www.americanism24.org (registered SUPERPAC)