Open Access Articles- Top Results for War profiteering

War profiteering

A war profiteer is any person or organization that profits from warfare or by selling weapons and other goods to parties at war. The term has strong, negative connotations. General profiteering may also occur in peace time. One example of war profiteers were the "shoddy" millionaires who allegedly sold recycled wool and cardboard shoes to soldiers during the American Civil War.


International arms dealers

Others make their money by cooperating with the authorities. Basil Zaharoff's Vickers Company sold weapons to all the parties involved in the Chaco War. Companies like Opel and IBM have been labeled war profiteers for their involvement with the Third Reich.

Scientific research

War provides demand for military technology modernization. Technologies originally designed for the military frequently also have non-military use. Both the state and corporations have gains from scientific research. One famous example is Siri, the artificially intelligent “personal assistant” that comes standard on all newer Apple iPhones. Siri was a spin-off of CALO, a project funded by the government military development group, DARPA. CALO is an acronym that stands for “Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes”.[1]

Commodity dealers

War usually leads to a shortage in the supply of commodities, which results in higher prices and higher revenues. Prior to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, oil production was controlled by the Iraqi government, and was off limits to western companies. As of 2014, foreign owned private firms dominate Iraqi oil production. [2]


Political figures taking bribes and favors from corporations involved with war production have been called war profiteers. Abraham Lincoln's first Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, was forced to resign in early 1862 after charges of corruption relating to war contracts. In 1947, Kentucky congressman Andrew J. May, Chairman of the powerful Committee on Military Affairs, was convicted for taking bribes in exchange for war contracts.

The state

Though war initially had the objective of territorial expansion and resource gathering, the county may also profit politically and strategically, replacing governments that do not fulfill its interests by key allied governments.

Civilian contractors

More recently, companies involved with supplying the coalition forces in the Iraq War, such as Bechtel, KBR, Blackwater and Halliburton, have come under fire for allegedly overcharging for their services.[3] The modern private military company is also offered as an example of sanctioned war profiteering.[4][5] On the opposing side, companies like Huawei Technologies, which upgraded Saddam's air-defense system between the two Gulf Wars, face such accusations.[6][7]

Black marketeers

A distinction can be made between war profiteers who gain by sapping military strength and those who gain by contributing to the war. For instance, during and after World War II, enormous profits were available by selling rationed goods like cigarettes, chocolate, coffee and butter on the black market. Dishonest military personnel given oversight over valuable property sometimes diverted rationed goods to the black market. The charge could also be laid against medical and legal professionals who accept money in exchange for helping young men evade a draft.

In the United States

Criticism of companies such as Halliburton in the context of the Iraq War draw heavily on the stereotype of the businessman profiteer. Slogans relating to 'blood for oil' have a similar implication.

Steven Clemons, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation think tank, has accused former CIA Director James Woolsey of both profiting from and promoting the Iraq War.[8]

The Center for Public Integrity has reported that US Senator Dianne Feinstein and her husband, Richard Blum, are making millions of dollars from Iraq and Afghanistan contracts through his company, Tutor Perini Corporation.[9][10]Feinstein voted for the resolution giving President George W. Bush the authority to invade Iraq.

Indicted defense contractor Brent R. Wilkes was reported to be ecstatic when hearing that the United States was going to go to war with Iraq. “He and some of his top executives were really gung-ho about the war,” said a former employee. “Brent said this would create new opportunities for the company. He was really excited about doing business in the Middle East.”[11]

The War Profiteering Prevention Act of 2007 intended to create criminal penalties for war profiteers and others who exploit taxpayer-funded efforts in Iraq and elsewhere around the world.[12] War profiteering cases are often brought under the Civil False Claims Act, which was enacted in 1863 to combat war profiteering during the Civil War.[13]

Major General Smedley Butler, USMC, criticized war profiteering of U.S companies during World War I in War Is a Racket. He wrote about how some companies and corporations increase their earnings and profits by up to 1700% and how many companies willingly sold equipment and supplies to the U.S that had no relevant use in the war effort. In the book, Butler stated that "It has been estimated by statisticians and economists and researchers that the war cost your Uncle Sam $52,000,000,000. Of this sum, $39,000,000,000 was expended in the actual war period. This expenditure Yielded $16,000,000,000 in profits."[14]

In the American Civil War, concerns about war profiteering were not limited to the activities of a few "shoddy" millionaires in the North. In the Confederacy, where supplies were severely limited, and hardships common, the mere suggestion of profiteering was considered a scurrilous charge. Georgia Quartermaster General Ira Roe Foster attempted to increase the supply of material to the troops by urging the women of his state to knit 50,000 pairs of socks. Foster's sock campaign stimulated the supply of the much needed item, but it also met with a certain amount of suspicion and backlash. Either the result of a Union disinformation campaign, or the work of suspicious minds, rumors, which Foster denied as a "malicious falsehood!",[15] began to spread that Foster and others were profiteering from the socks.[15] It was alleged that contributed socks were being sold, rather than given freely to the troops. The charge was not without precedent. The historian Jeanie Attie notes that in 1861, an "especially damaging rumor" (later found to be true) had circulated in the North, alleging that the Union Army had purchased 5000 pairs of socks which had been donated, and intended for the troops, from a private relief agency, the United States Sanitary Commission.[16] As the Sanitary Commission had done in the North, Foster undertook a propaganda campaign in Georgia newspapers to combat the damaging rumors and to encourage the continued contribution of socks.[17] He offered $1,000.00 to any "citizen or soldier who will come forward and prove that he ever bought a sock from this Department that was either knit by the ladies or purchased for issue to said troops."[15]

In popular culture

The term 'war profiteer' evokes two stereotypes in popular culture: the rich businessman who sells weapons to governments, and the semi-criminal black marketeer who sells goods to ordinary citizens. In English-speaking countries this is particularly associated with Britain during World War II. The image of the 'businessman profiteer' carries the implication of influence and power used to actively cause wars for personal gain, rather than merely passively profit from them. In the aftermath of World War I, such profiteers were widely asserted to have existed by both the Left, and the Right.

Fictional character Lieutenant Milo Minderbinder in the novel Catch-22 has been called "perhaps the best known of all fictional profiteers" in American literature.[18]

The Adventures of Tintin comic The Broken Ear features an arms dealer called Basil Bazarov who sells arms to both sides in a war. He is a recognisable example of this "type" and is specifically based on Basil Zaharoff.

Bertolt Brecht wrote the play Mother Courage and Her Children as a didactic indictment of war profiteering.

In the 1985 film Clue, Colonel Mustard was a war profiteer who sold stolen radio components on the black market.

The film The Third Man features a war profiteer named Harry Lime, who steals penicillin from military hospitals and sells it on the black market.

The film Lord of War is a fictional story based on the war profiteer named Viktor Bout, who illegally sold post-Soviet arms to Liberia and other nations in conflict.

The Suicide Machines released their 2005 album, entitled War Profiteering Is Killing Us All.

In the 2011 film Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Professor Moriarty acquires shares in many military supply companies and plots to instigate a world war and make a fortune.

The song "Masters of War" by Bob Dylan is about war profiteering and the Military-industrial complex.

See also


  1. ^ Markoff, John. "A Software Secretary that Takes Charge". Retrieved 22 October 2014. 
  2. ^ Juhasz, Antonia. "Why the war in Iraq was fought for Big Oil". Retrieved 22 October 2014. 
  3. ^ "IRAQ FOR SALE: The War profiteers". Retrieved 7 December 2008. 
  4. ^ Scahill, Jeremy (25 January 2007). "Bush's Rent an Army". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 7 December 2008. [dead link]
  5. ^ "Bush's Shadow Army". Retrieved 7 December 2008. 
  6. ^ "Revealed: 17 British Firms Armed Saddam with his Weapons". Retrieved 7 December 2008. 
  7. ^ Lynch, Colum (17 March 2001). "Chinese Firm Probed On Links With Iraq". Retrieved 7 December 2008. 
  8. ^ "WOOLSEY WATCH: Woolsey Needs to Make a Choice Between Being a War Profiteer or War Pundit". Retrieved 7 December 2008. 
  9. ^ "Windfalls of War". Retrieved 7 December 2008. 
  10. ^ "Winning Contractors". 2003. Retrieved 1 January 2013. 
  11. ^ "Politics Case shines light on how war contracts are awarded". Retrieved 7 December 2008. 
  12. ^ "Senate Judiciary Holds Hearing on Combating War Profiteering". Archived from the original on 2008-06-26. Retrieved 7 December 2008. 
  13. ^ Grayson, Alan (2007). "House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security" (PDF). Retrieved 7 December 2008. 
  14. ^ Butler, Smedley (1935). <span />War Is a Racket<span />. Los Angeles: Feral House. ISBN 0-922915-86-5. 
  15. ^ a b c Frank Moore (1865). the rebellion record: a diary of american events. p. 48. 
  16. ^ Jeanie Attie (1998). Patriotic Toil: Northern Women and the American Civil War. Cornell University Press. p. 174. ISBN 0-8014-2224-8. 
  17. ^ Attie, p. 173
  18. ^ Stuart Dean Brandes: Warhogs: a history of war profits in America. University Press of Kentucky, 1997, ISBN 0-8131-2020-9, p. 273

External links