Shares in US gun manufacturing companies increased in value after the most recent mass slaughter in the United States. At the same time, share prices have risen for major weapons’ manufacturers in line with the campaign to expand the US-NATO military alliance and deploy combat elements ever closer to Russia’s borders.
The murders of fourteen children and three adults at a school in Florida by a deranged 18 year-old fanatic who had openly bought at least ten guns appalled people around the world. Few outside America can understand why so many guns are permitted in a country that had 1,800 people killed in shootings in the first six weeks of 2018, but the gun lobby is extremely wealthy and contributes generously to the election campaigns of politicians, who therefore support gun possession throughout the country.
Power and money drive the arms’ promoters, and this became even more obvious when Trump came down firmly on the side of the gun-merchants when he “enthusiastically embraced a National Rifle Association [proposal] to arm highly trained teachers to fortify schools against mass shootings like the one last week,” which would add even more guns to the countless millions carried by citizens who already own more guns per person than those of any other country. Small wonder that shares in gun-makers such as American Outdoor Brands (formerly Smith & Wesson; it makes a variant of the AR-15 rifle used in the school massacre) and Sturm Ruger & Company rose sharply.
There is something obscene in the fact that manufacturers and investors actually made a profit directly from production and sale of weapons that killed 15,549 Americans in 2017. And it isn’t only the makers of assault rifles and handguns who are making masses of money. The really big returns come from production of major and mega-expensive military equipment of all types.
Take Lockheed Martin, whose share price in February 2011 was $62.08 and on 16 February 2018 stood at a whopping $355.41. This massive increase stems from demand for its many products which include the F-16 and the F-22 Raptor, and it isn’t just the initial manufacture that brings in the loot, for in December 2017 LM, for example, was awarded “a new ‘indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract’ worth roughly $7 billion to sustain the F-22 Raptor through December 31, 2027.” It’s money, money all the way.
The reason for the surge in production of military material by the United States is its determination to dominate the world by force of arms. In commenting on the weapons’ gold mine, William Hartung put it succinctly by writing in The Nation that “As Donald Trump might put it, major weapons contractors like Boeing, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin cashed in ‘bigly’ in his first year in office. They raked in tens of billions of dollars in Pentagon contracts, while posting sharp stock price increases and healthy profits driven by the continuation and expansion of Washington’s post-9/11 wars. But last year’s bonanza is likely to be no more than a down payment on even better days to come for the military-industrial complex.”
On its way goes the merry bandwagon of ‘Make America Great Again,’ which means, in the eyes of such as Trump, that it must involve even more deployment of US troops and bombers and combat ships all over the world. Gone are the days when Trump tweeted “Afghanistan is a complete waste. Time to come home!” and “Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghanis we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA.”
When he got into the White House he changed his mind about Afghanistan and declared he was going to increase the US military presence there, because “The men and women who serve our nation in combat deserve a plan for victory. They deserve the tools they need, and the trust they have earned, to fight and to win.”
Just how he’s going to rebuild the USA by giving guns to school teachers and by waging war in a corrupt and savage country like Afghanistan is not explained, but the arms manufacturers would have been ecstatic about “the tools they need” because this means more warfare hardware and more juicy profits for the likes of Lockheed Martin.
“We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists,” said Trump about Afghanistan last August, but he doesn’t seem to be killing many terrorists, because the spate of suicide bombings and other savage attacks in the past two months has been horrific. It is impossible to accurately count the number of Afghans killed, but it runs into hundreds, and even as this is written the news comes in that “A wave of attacks across Afghanistan has left more than 25 people dead, most of them soldiers... In the worst incident, Taliban militants stormed an army post in the western province of Farah, killing 22 soldiers” and there was yet another suicide bombing in Kabul. In the most conflict-ridden province, Helmand, where there has been a surge of US Marines “there were further suicide attacks . . . leaving two army members dead, and others, including women and children, injured.”
Yet the war in Afghanistan continues, much aided by NATO, which continues to try to justify its existence by propagandising a Russian “threat” in the east of Europe and dabbling in as many regions of the world as possible. It destroyed Libya and reduced it to an ungovernable shambles, and would dearly like to join in the slaughter in the Middle East, but fortunately there are some level-headed leaders of NATO countries who recoil from such lunacy.
The US-NATO military alliance is stoking up tension wherever and whenever it can, and has succeeded remarkably well, especially in the region from the Baltic to the Black Sea, where there is an unrelenting build-up of armed forces along Russia’s borders.
For example, on 18 February the US Naval Institute reported that “Under cover of darkness, US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Ross slipped through the Bosporus Strait and into the Black Sea on Friday. The next day USS Carney joined Ross. The ships are operating are part of an unspecified regional ‘proactive’ presence mission in the sea bordered by Russia.”
The hostile deployment by the US Navy is part of the US-NATO military buildup announced by Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in October 2017 when he announced that “NATO will be increasing its land, air and naval presence in both Romania and Bulgaria.” Balkan Insight noted that “NATO’s Black Sea maritime presence already includes naval patrols but it will be boosted with more allied visits to Romanian and Bulgarian ports, enhanced training and exercises. NATO Black Sea air forces will also increase in strength, with Britain deploying more fighter planes to Romania. Canada is already patrolling Romanian airspace along with national pilots, while Italy is patrolling Bulgarian airspace.”
The constant goading and baiting of Russia by the Pentagon and its NATO minions will no doubt continue, no matter that there has not been the slightest indication that Moscow presents any threat to a member of NATO.
Confrontation feeds expansion of the Military-Industrial Complex where the corridors and boardrooms are buzzing with satisfaction about increased orders for sophisticated and most expensive military equipment and gadgetry.
Tension is rising — and so are share prices.