CCR is joining a coalition of groups in a Week of Action beginning today in support of the Divest from the War Machine campaign. The campaign calls on individuals and institutions to divest from companies that engage in and profit from militarism and war-making in order to reduce their influence in policy-making, support reinvestment in services and programs that meet human needs, promote human rights, and achieve a more peaceful world.
Corporate involvement and influence in militarism has perpetuated suffering while fueling sky-rocketing profits for weapons manufacturers and military contractors. The situation in Iraq is illustrative; The Iraq War has killed hundreds of thousands of civilians, fomented sectarianism that led to the rise of the Islamic State, and caused many hardships for activists in Iraq fighting for justice and other progressive issues, while it continues to be a boon for private corporations who have faced little accountability for their role in war crimes and torture. We can’t forget that Vice President Dick Cheney’s former company Halliburton raked in billions of dollars through government contracts in Iraq while private military contractors like CACI, L-3/Titan, and Blackwater committed atrocities as part of their role in interrogations and security—actions that CCR continues to challenge through cases like Al Shimari v. CACI , Al-Quraishi v. Nakhla and L-3 Services, and Abtan v. Prince.
Beyond Iraq, the U.S. torture program relied on private companies to carry out rendition flights to bring detainees to and from CIA black sites and Guantánamo, as well as psychologist contractors to design and implement its tactics. As CCR recently argued in a submission to the International Criminal Court in support of the Prosecutor’s request to open an investigation into crimes in and related to the armed conflict in Afghanistan, private contractors played a significant role in the violations committed and must be included as potential perpetrators to be investigated for possible prosecution. The era of Trump has further exposed the economics of international militarism, as his aggressive brinkmanship in relation to North Korea created a market for increased U.S. arms sales to South Korea, and Israeli arms companies vie for contracts to build a militarized wall along the southern U.S. border to keep refugees and asylum-seekers from crossing. The U.S. also pays for and provides weapons and other equipment to foreign countries that use them to commit violations, such as Caterpillar bulldozers Israel has used to unlawfully demolish homes in occupied Palestinian territory and tear gas also used by Israel and many other countries to attack demonstrators.
The militarism abroad also has testing grounds domestically, as we’ve seen in the police response to demonstrations of water protectors opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and against police brutality in Ferguson; in the growing use of the 1033 program to transfer military-grade weaponry, purchased by the federal government for its use in wars, to local civilian law enforcement agencies; and through the emergence of law-enforcement exchanges with institutions like the Israel “Defense” Forces, who train local U.S. police on tactics used to maintain the occupation of Palestine which are then used in the U.S. to respond to protests. In the case of DAPL, private security firm TigerSwan, whose employees include many former members of the military, referred to water protectors as “insurgents” when carrying out their mission to infiltrate and suppress pipeline opposition. In Louisiana, TigerSwan is attempting to gain a license to again undermine public opposition to a pipeline, this time the Bayou Bridge Pipeline. This pipeline is another part of Energy Transfer Partners’ fossil fuel infrastructure linked to DAPL. CCR is challenging TigerSwan’s application for a license to operate as well as filing public records requests to learn more about the relationship between public agencies and pipeline and security companies.
Divestment is a tactic with a proud history, from the movement against apartheid in South Africa and the 2005 global call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israeli violations, to more recent efforts to promote divestment from environmentally-destructive industries, private prisons, clothing manufacturers who violate fair labor practices, and nuclear weapons producers. It’s past time to add militarist enterprises to that list.
Imagine what our world would look like without private corporations as players in the ever-expanding U.S. military presence abroad; the drone program; the torture program; the inhumane realities in domestic private prison and immigration detention facilities; the militarization of local police forces, border guards, and security companies; attacks on human rights defenders; and so many other violations over just the past decade and a half. In the spirit of imagining transformation, we call on individuals and organizations to divest funds from the private companies that fuel our wars, in order to contribute to a new, both global and local anti-war movement.