A piece published in The Guardian recently has found that some half a billion pounds of UK council worker’s pension money has been invested in arms companies, some of which are directly linked to the ongoing Yemen war. The Guardian has identified five companies that public worker money is invested in. These companies have produced arms that have killed, maimed and injured civilians including women and children.
These companies are:
- BAE Systems (a UK-based offshoot of Leonardo, an Italian company)
- Airbus (a Dutch-based company)
- Lockheed Martin (a US company)
- Raytheon (a US company)
- Northrop Grumman (a US company)
Each of these companies is a supplier to the Saudi-Arabian military, a leader (alongside the UAE) of the coalition to restore the government of Mansour Hadi in Yemen. (You can find the latest in a line of analyses of the war in Yemen here.)
BAE Systems works alongside Airbus (and a handful of other manufacturers including Rolls Royce) to supply the Saudis with Eurofighter Typhoons as well as Tornado Bombers, which are made by BAE Systems alone.
Airbus is a provider of a wide range of types of plane to the Saudi Air Force. You can find a complete list of their vehicle types here.
Lockheed Martin has come under significant fire after it was revealed that one of their Paveway II missiles destroyed a bus of 40 Yemeni school children. This is not an isolated incident. Raytheon also constructs Paveway missiles that have been tied to civilian casualties in Yemen. CNN produced a map in September 2018 that detailed a couple of the strikes and their civilian casualties (General Dynamics is a third company named in the map).
Raytheon is also involved in missile defence, missile construction, cyber warfare and military training amongst other things.
Northrop Grumman, according to their website, has a long standing history with the Saudi military. It states that they have provided aircraft including F-5 tactical fighter jets and apache helicopters. The website also boasts that Northrop Grumman:
has been heavily involved in the training and development of the Saudi military personnel, most notably providing technical services for the Ministry of the National Guard [tasked with protection of the Saud royal family]. In addition, Northrop Grumman works with ARAMCO [the Saudi state-owned oil company] on strategic site advanced protection.
What is your point?
It occurred to me while reading this article that this practice is almost definitely taking place in Australia. Even where it may not be invested through public worker super, it appears highly likely that many superannuation funds could be (either knowing or unknowingly) invested in arms companies.
A 2017 study by Responsible Investment Association Australasia revealed that 9 out of 10 Australians want their super funds directed in a responsible and ethical way (and only about 57% of investments are managed that way). Meaning that this kind of revelation would likely shock many Australians. The humanitarian implications of funding the development of arms that directly contribute to the deaths and suffering of civilians should be obvious to most people. The funding of corporations that are engaged in the military industrial complex (contracted to military service in some capacity) in any way will cause alarm to many antiwar advocates, particularly when they may be personally invested unwittingly.
The sheer breadth of the military industrial complex is staggering. There are companies involved that you may not expect; tech companies and aerospace companies appear to be primary among them. Microsoft has just been awarded a $1.76 billion dollar enterprise services contract to the US military, however other tech players include:
- Google (who has recently dropped a contract for facial recognition tech after public/worker disapproval)
- Amazon (who provides cloud services to Lockheed Martin and the CIA)
- IBM (IBM has a long and unabashed history that continues with the military)
A wide array of companies are reportedly vying for various Department of Defense contracts. After all, the Defense budget is by far the US’s largest spending output. Though this is not a practice limited to the US defense department, it is just the most liberal spending example. These companies are hoping to provide a range of different services including drone development, radar and detection software, facial recognition software and cyber warfare amongst other things.
Receiving a lot of attention recently is the role that tech companies will play alongside the military in developing weaponized AI. This is, in short, the development of robots that can be deployed to recognize and incapacitate/kill targets. The humanitarian implications of removing a human directive in ending a life are somewhat obvious (such as the possibility for malfunction or for the systems to be compromised by hackers and turned on their owners or civilians). To my knowledge, this kind of tech is known to be a priority of the Chinese, Russian, Israeli and USA armed forces.
Some of the aerospace companies involved in arms and defense include:
These lists are tiny and by no means exhaustive. A good starting place to explore what companies are involved in military operations is at Globalsecurity.org
You have probably found through just this list that you are in some way supporting military projects, whether through flying on Boeing or Airbus aircraft, driving Mitsubishi cars or even more significantly through direct monetary investment. The best way to show that you desire a change in the operations of the company, away from warfare (or perhaps wars in certain places) is through divestment.
Moving your money away from these companies and directly affecting their revenue/sales/funding can be effective, especially when coordinated with others. In order to find out which companies your super fund is invested in, you will need to identify which super fund you are invested with and maybe do some digging on the companies that are invested therein.
There are also ethical super fund comparison sites available like finder.com.au & choice.com.au to help you discern which super might be the best option for you (because you can nominate one and roll your funds over to it).
I wouldn’t suggest throwing out your current Microsoft, Amazon or IBM technology. Without having undertaken extensive research on the subject, it appears that it may be impossible to buy a computer or mobile that does not feature any part that is produced by a company that develops military tech or is contracted for its technological services since major players like Microsoft and Intel are involved). It may be possible to build a computer yourself with a Linux operating system and avoid using military-related components, though I would need to investigate this further before making recommendations on how to go about doing it.
The over-investment and unbalancing of the US and, thereby, the global economy by continued stress on the military aspect of the economy is something we have been repeatedly warned about. President Eisenhower gave a poignant warning on his exit from office [shown in the video above] stating:
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
He warned against defense expenditure and war-making being sought as the end-all solution to all world problems. He also suggested that only an “alert and knowledgeable” citizenry can compel society to navigate the dangers of the then newly enmeshed military and industry. I agree with Eisenhower on this, it is time that we inform ourselves as to the extent that we individually contribute to this complex issue and how we can go about disengaging ourselves from possibly morally concerning global practices.