Five minutes to midnight - Part V

Doomsday clock

The military–industrial–science complex

Capitalism made science into a productive force in the service of capital. Monopoly capitalism has turned scientific research into a more organised process than ever before and has done so in the pursuit of private profit and power. TREVOR RAYNE reports.

The Doomsday Clock
On 17 January 2007 the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the hands of the Doomsday Clock from seven to five minutes to midnight. Midnight is the symbolic end of civilisation: Armageddon. The scientists explained that ‘We stand on the brink of a second nuclear age. Not since the first atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki has the world faced such perilous choices.’ The scientists said proliferation of nuclear wea pons, the US’s proclaimed readiness to use nuclear weapons to destroy ‘time-urgent targets’, the 26,000 nuclear weapons still held by the US and Russia and the ‘dire threat to civilisation’ posed by global warming, weighed in their decision to move the clock hands forward.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist,’ US President Eisenhower’s farewell speech in 1960. Eisenhower had already authorised the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.

The cost of developing the atomic bomb ($26 billion at 2007 prices) exceeded all that had been spent on scientific research in previous human history. This sum was itself exceeded by spending on rocket and missile research; the means of delivering nuclear bombs. As scientific knowledge progresses so the products of that knowledge have become more powerful, with potentially disastrous impacts for humanity and the planet, both intended and unintended. Reflecting on the consequences of his theoretical discoveries, Einstein remarked, ‘The release of atomic power has changed everything except our way of thinking...the solution lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker.’

Under capitalism, the means of production that can potentially liberate human beings from misery, want and disease are turned into means of enslavement that threaten human existence; the liberating capacities of science and technology are made into means of repression and extermination. Scientific research is a form of capital investment and, like other productive resources, is subordinated to the dominant class relations. The direction of scientific research is increasingly determined by monopoly corporations in combination with the state, and it is these that are primarily responsible for the militarisation of science. In 2004 the governments of the industrialised countries spent $85 billion on military research and development (R&D), $50 billion on health and environmental protection R&D and less than $1 billion on renewable energy R&D. In 2004-05 British government spending on military R&D was £2.6 billion compared with £1.4 billion spent on health and environmental protection R&D. The British government’s Department for International Development research budget was under 4% of government military R&D spending. For science to serve humanity it will require the removal of the capitalist ruling class from power.

From 1940 to 1997 the US spent $5.8 trillion on nuclear weapons and adds to that amount about $35 billion a year at 1997 prices. This expenditure exceeded combined total US federal government spending on education, training, employment, social services, agriculture, natural resources and the environment, general science and space research, community and regional development (including disaster relief), law enforcement and energy protection and regulation. Corporate beneficiaries of this spending whose names readers might recognise include Atlantic Richfield (now part of BP), Babcock and Wilcox, BNFL, (these three all British), Westinghouse, General Electric Corporation, Lockheed Martin, Bechtel, Union Carbide, Monsanto, Dow Chemicals, Du Pont de Nemours, Goodyear and Rockwell International. Together they helped to build 70,000 nuclear weapons with an explosive force equivalent to over 120,000 Hiroshima bombs. A single hydrogen bomb would wipe out a city like Lon don or Beijing and produce nuclear fallout lethal within an area of 6,000 square miles. It would cause genetic mutations across the entire planet. The use of science to enhance human power may result in the devastation of the species – the productive forces are turned into destructive forces for all humankind.

Monopoly capitalism, ‘which finally matured in the twentieth century, is by virtue of its fundamental economic traits, distinguished by a minimum fondness for peace and freedom, and by a maximum and universal development of militarism’. VI Lenin

In four centuries Britain unleashed 230 wars to seize foreign lands and enslave other peoples. In FRFI 200 (December 2007/January 2008) we identified 129 separate British military overseas interventions since the Sec ond World War; this is the condition of imperialism: unending war. These wars serve to divide the world into spheres of rival imperialists’ interests and into oppressor and oppressed nations.

World military spending in 2006 exceeded $1.2 trillion. In 2000 it was $810 billion. The US government’s planned military expenditure for 2008 is $717 billion or over 100% bigger than its 2001 sum, and this even as the US economy founders. Britain has the world’s second-biggest planned military expenditure for 2007-08 at £33.4 billion, a real rise of 1.4% per year since 2004; the highest sustained growth in 22 years. In 1997, when the Labour government was elected, Britain spent £24.3 billion on the military annually. These growing arms budgets have proved especially lucrative to the monopoly corporations: the increases in the values of contracts awarded by the US Department of Defense from 2001 to 2006 include Lockheed Martin up 81%, Northrop Grumman up 223%, BAE Systems up 442%, Boeing up 52% and Halliburton up 1,325%! Shares in US arms manufacturers have almost tripled in price since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Britain’s largest manufacturing company, BAE Systems, is now the fourth biggest military contractor in the world and sixth biggest supplier to the US Defense Department. The US and British governments signed the US and Britain ‘Uses of Atomic Energy for Mutual Defence Purposes’ agreement in 1958; it was renewed by the Labour government in 2004. This agreement provides guidelines for US and British military collaboration. British and US companies and governments develop ‘inter-operability’ of the two nations’ weapons systems, to the benefit of US and British corporate profits.

The increasing expenditure on weapons and the development of their capacities reinforce an increasing use of force and the threat of the use of force in the imperialist nations’ foreign relations, with disastrous consequences. The proportion of civilian to military deaths has risen from 10% in World War I, to 50% in World War II, to 70% in Vietnam, to 80-90% in Iraq and Afghanistan. In World War II scores of European and Japanese cities that had taken centuries to build were destroyed; that devastation is exported by imperialism to the underdeveloped countries. Approximately 600,000 people were killed by bombing in Europe during World War II and a similar number were killed by bombs in Japan; the death toll ran into millions from the bombing of Korea, Vietnam and Cambodia. Today, ‘precision’ and high-powered hi-tech weaponry increases the ratio of children to adult deaths compared to, for example, fire arms and roadside bombs. It is noteworthy that during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, hi-tech weaponry caused more deaths among the invading soldiers through ‘friendly fire’ than were killed by the Iraqi forces. This is the consequence of refining the means to kill.

In 2001 the US government withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Every year for four years Russia and China have gone to the United Nations and offered to ban all weapons in space, and each year the US rejects this initiative. The US military seeks ‘full-spectrum dominance’ in battle capacity; dominance on the land, at sea, in the air and in space. With the so-called ‘Revolution in Military Affairs’, the US and British military prioritised the role of computer systems, information and communication technology and robotics. Strategists deluded themselves that they could fight wars with almost zero-deaths for the imperialist troops, that ‘Shock and Awe’ would subdue their Iraqi foes with scarcely a blow landed against the invading armies. The British Defence Industrial Strategy published in 2005 states that the ‘UK’s battle-winning military capability remains heavily dependent on the development, exploitation and insertion of world-class technology’. Of course, this emphasis is most suitable for the arms companies who encourage it and profit from it.

The militarisation of science
‘A monopoly, once it is formed and controls thousands of millions, inevitably penetrates into every sphere of public life, regardless of the form of government and all other “details”.’ VI Lenin.

Scientific knowledge has always been put to military use. For example, Galileo’s achievements in understanding motion were taken up by cannon engineers. However, the systematic organisation of science for military purposes is the achievement of monopoly capitalism. During World War I science grew in importance as aeroplanes, wireless, medicines and gases were developed. In World War II science was central from the outset in developing aircraft, rockets, radar, code breaking machines, the atomic bomb and for directing operations. Practically the entire scientific communities of the rival powers were turned over to the war. British government spending on military research rose from £1.5 million in 1937 to £246 million in 1962. By 1962 64% of British government spending on science was for military purposes, involving 52% of British government scientific personnel. Research was con centrated into laboratories ostensibly run by universities, but really under the control of monopoly corporations and the government. In 1937 pure scientific R&D and industrial R&D exceeded military R&D. By 1962 military R&D exceeded both pure science R&D and industrial R&D.

Today, despite record military budgets, the armed forces and others clamour for more spending. In November 2007 a report for the so-called left-leaning think tank, Demos, by two British academics, complained, ‘Overstretch and under-resourcing are a matter of fact’, and that the ‘military covenant’ between nation and service personnel ‘has been damaged almost beyond repair’. The report describes ‘an addiction to expensive high-technology equipment’. Equipment costs now account for over 40% of the British defence budget, says the report. What the academics are de scribing are the consequences of prioritising weapons development and production to the benefit of the multinational arms companies.

Arms production is the largest part of British manufacture, employing 345,000 people out of approximately three million manufacturing workers. Over a quarter of Europe’s aerospace workforce are in Britain: 124,000 workers. In 1999-2000 the British government employed 29,677 research and development personnel of whom 12,047 (40%) were employed by the Ministry of Defence – about the same proportion obtains today. In 2007 Britain was the third biggest spender on military R&D, after the US and Russia. US government military R&D spending is expected to have reached $78 billion in 2007, a 57% increase on the 2001 figure and 30% higher than the US’s Cold War peak. This demonstrates the US ruling class’s increasing reliance on military, as opposed to economic, power to assert its will.

A Labour government white paper (policy proposal) of 1998 called Our competitive future: building the knowledge driven economy encouraged universities to work ‘effectively’ with business. The higher education funding councils had to ‘ensure that higher education is responsive to the needs of business and industry’. The Labour government’s Defence Technology Strategy, launched in 2006, aims to increase university involvement in military research and development. Also in 2006, the British Ministry of Defence Research Acquisition Organisation introduced the ‘Competition of Ideas’ to seek from academia ‘ideas and innovative research proposals’ for achieving military objectives, with funds set aside for the prize winners. The British government’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, funds 60 British universities. Additional university funding for military purposes comes from BAE Systems, Qinetiq, Rolls Royce, research councils and directly from the Ministry of Defence; the corporations support university posts and fund post-graduate research. BAE Systems funds about 60 universities world-wide and sells arms to about half the governments of the world. Research projects in-hand include robot vehicles, the psychology of people in war, computer data handling and electro-magnetic remote sensing to improve the detection of people and vehicles at longer ranges and in adverse weather – presumably in order to destroy them. The US government funds weapons research at British universities through the Departments of Defence and Energy and the Office of Naval Research.

British universities are reluctant, to the point of refusing, to disclose where funding comes from and how it is used. A rising proportion of academic papers are tied to money-making interests. Military and commercial pressures restrict openness and accountability in research, debate is stifled and information distribution suppressed as intellectual property; the ‘liberal’ British university succumbs to the embrace of the monopolies, academic freedom is being bought. With the closure of 46 physics, chemistry and engineering departments, British universities are increasingly turning to military contracts for survival. The content of science is modified by the class relations that direct it: ‘public funding [of R&D] has become so centrally controlled that novel, groundbreaking research is becoming a distant memory’ (Peter Cotgreave, director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering, Financial Times, 16 May 2007). This is a manifestation of imperialism, monopoly capitalism, as moribund and decaying capitalism.

The military-industrial complex is demonstrated in the rotation of individual careers from senior civil servant to corporate executive, from military officer to university academic, from politician to company adviser. Alan Garwood, head of the Ministry of Defence’s Defence Export Services Organisation, is on secondment from BAE Systems. Former Conservative government defence secretary Michael Portillo went on to serve as a director of BAE Systems, having awarded the company a lucrative contract to upgrade Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft while he was a government minister. In 2002 the directors of BAE Systems included directors of Nat West Bank, the Independent Television Commission, BP, P&O, British Energy plc, Deutsche Bank, Babcock International, Alcoa, Pilkington, Burmah Castrol, Orange and Imperial College. The US board of BAE Systems included a former Commander-in-Chief of US Central Command, a former deputy director of the CIA, a former Commander of the US Fleet, a former director of the US National Security Agency and the co-chair of the US’s 9/11 Commission. Key lobby groups shaping British policy are the Defence Industries Council, the National Defence Industrial Council and the Society of British Aerospace Companies. Here the representatives of BAE Systems, Qinetiq, Rolls Royce etc mingle with government officials and senior military officers to shape military spending and ensure an adequate yield on research investments.

Should imperialism last much longer, the future of humanity and all the species looks bleak. High on imperialism’s list of priorities is suppression of revolt. The British Medical Association recently produced a report on The use of drugs as weapons; this was its third report on the militarisation of medicine. Research on urban surveillance and crowd control is a priority and so is brain scanning. ‘The US military has acquired an arsenal of “sonic bullets” for use as non-lethal weapons. One plays backward the sound of a baby crying at 140 decibels, well over the threshold of pain. But even when noise is accidental it is still part of a war: the war waged by the forces of economic progress on the individual.’ (Financial Times, 10 September 2007). Currently, over 4,000 robots are serving in Iraq. The US Congress has set a goal of having one-third of ground combat vehicles unmanned by 2015. Israel and South Korea deploy armed robot border guards (The Guardian, 18 August 2007). The current British Labour government adopted a nuclear first-use policy in the event of attack by biological and chemical weapons. Given that high-yield nuclear weapons are difficult to use from any cost-benefit perspective, the production of lower-yield, tactical nuclear weaponry is underway. The cabinet of horrors is being stocked with the instruments of genetic warfare. All roads are leading to hell.

The resistance
In April 1975 US Colonel Harry Summers was sent to negotiate with a North Vietnamese colonel the terms of US withdrawal from Vietnam. Summers reported the following exchange: ‘“You know, you never beat us on the battlefield,” I said to Colonel Tu. He replied, “That may be so, but it is also irrelevant”.’

Israel is used as a laboratory and testing ground for imperialism’s weapons and tactics. When the Israeli invasion and aerial bombardment of Lebanon failed to defeat the Hizbollah resistance in August 2006, the Israeli air force resorted to dropping 4.8 million US-made cluster bombs over 36.6 million square metres as the Israeli forces retreated back into Israel. This form of devastation was the ultimate recourse, short of a nuclear bomb, of the Israeli forces – to render the land uninhabitable.

The Vietnamese liberation forces beat the US imperialists politically by demonstrating to the invaders that they could not win militarily. With the first Gulf War in 1991 and the blitzing of Yugoslavia in 1999 the imperialists believed that their weaponry was irresistible and able to ensure them victory. What was called the ‘Vietnam syndrome’, inhibiting the scale of US military engagement abroad, was supposedly erased from the US ruling class mind. However, even as the invading armies routed the Iraqi army in 1991, the commander of the US forces, General Schwarzkopf, cautioned, ‘Intelligence which relies on high technology, on electronic eavesdropping and satellites is all very well, but we cannot hit the terrorists if we don’t have human information.’

The failures of the allied forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in August 2006 have resulted in criticism of the imperialists’ war fighting methods from within the imperialists’ ranks. Those methods are, in part, inscribed in the class relations governing the military-industrial complex and the dominant position of the monopoly corporations in those relations. It has been in their interests to promote the ‘Revolution in Military Affairs’ as real and effective; the first Gulf War and the attack on Yugoslavia were used to lobby for more spending and more R&D. How ever, ‘The prophets who called for a “revolution in military affairs” and focused on conventional fighting and high technology forces as a substitute for manpower and force numbers have been proved terribly wrong ... Being biggest and spending the most money is not enough.’ (Anthony Cordesman, Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Financial Times, 18 February 2005).

Writing in the May 2007 edition of the US Armed Forces Journal under the heading ‘A failure in generalship,’ Lieutenant Colonel Paul Yingling says that the US focused on winning a high-technology conventional war in Iraq in 2003 and was ‘checked by a form of war they did not prepare for and do not understand’. Yingling argues that the US depended on technology to win types of wars the US command were familiar with: ‘If our operations produce more enemies than they defeat, no amount of force is sufficient to prevail.’ With the removal of Rumsfeld as US defence secretary in December 2006 and the appointment of General Petraeus as US commander in Iraq in January 2007, the US state signalled a change of tactics and readiness to placate critics from within the US ruling class. Rumsfeld advocated the ‘revolution in military affairs’, while Petraeus is billed as a ‘counter-insurgence expert’. The imperialists may adjust their methods but the military-industrial corporations will not recede and neither will their pervasive influence decline for as long as capitalism rules.

For over 100 years the mass media has been developed and deployed by the monopoly corporations. Before the invention of television Franz Kafka said, ‘The cinema involves putting the eye into uniform.’ In 1984 George Orwell foresaw the way that the ruling classes would use the media to condition and control people. More recently, Fidel Castro described the bourgeois media thus, ‘It is the most sophisticated media ever developed by technology, employed to kill human beings and to subjugate and exterminate peoples.’ The monopoly media is used to both prepare populations for future wars and to acclimatize people to war as a normal condition. The media is used to administer fear and thereby pave the way for the construction of a re pressive apparatus to halt any opposition to militarism. The removal of the rights to assembly and association, the ending of freedom of speech and ex pression, indefinite detention and torture, these crude dictatorial measures, are all justified in the so called US and British ‘free press’, run by a handful of corporations.

We have no option but to get informed and to organise against the monopoly corporations and their political parties and governments. We who live in the imperialist countries must make solidarity with those in the oppressed countries who resist imperialism. We must support and learn from the Cubans who have resisted the mightiest imperialist power for so long and have begun to build a better world that inspires hundreds of millions of people in Latin America and across the globe. Above all – we must organise.

Special acknowledgement must go to Scientists for Global Responsibility and their publications Soldiers in the Laboratory (2005) and More Soldiers in the Laboratory (2007), both by Chris Langley, from which much of the material on military R&D was drawn.

The Labour government has raised over £52 billion from asset sales since 1997 and intends to sell off a further £30 billion of fixed assets between 2004 and 2011. Qinetiq was formed out of Ministry of Defence research laboratories and employs 8,000 people in Britain. It owns military contractors in the US and Australia. The US private equity group Carlyle bought a 34% stake in Qinetiq in 2002. The new company was floated on the stock exchange in 2006. Within five years Carlyle’s £42 million investment was worth £300 million. Qinetiq’s top ten managers made a 19,900% return on their £0.54 million investment; that is almost £200 for every £1 invested. Prime Minister Gordon Brown rejects criticism of Qinetiq’s privatisation. Qinetiq’s staff take up professorships and lectureships at British and overseas universities.

In previous issues Part one of Five minutes to midnight (FRFI 195) examined US and Israeli preparations for an attack on Iran, including the pos sibility of a nuclear attack. Part two (FRFI 196) looked at China’s challenge to US attempts to gain space domination and European capitalism’s tensions with the US over Iran. Part three (FRFI 198) explored the US need to establish regional allies to ensure its global reach. Part four (FRFI 199) revealed the deteriorating economic condition of US imperialism undermining its global ambitions.

FRFI 201 February / March 2008