Dobransky, Steve.

International Journal on World Peace28.3 (Sep 2011): 111-114.

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WAR ON TERROR, INC.: CORPORATE PROFITEERING FROM THE POLITICS OF FEAR Solomon Hughes New York: Verso, 2007 262 pages $26.95.

Solomon Hughes provides a searing and insightful look at the privatization of the war on terror. Hughes declares that a large and powerful “securityindustrial complex” has emerged after 9/11. He makes the distinction between the military-industrial complex in terms of the complexity and extensiveness of this private security establishment, which he says has been established in both the U.S. and Britain. He raises the alarm bells like Eisenhower did in his farewell address in 1961. Hughes calls on all of us to be fully aware and investigate more deeply this threatening development within our society. He hopes that public consciousness will be the first step in the dismantiement of this pernicious system.

Hughes is a journalist by profession and he examines in depth the growing pervasiveness of corporations profiting from the war on terror in both the U.S. and Britain. He examines the history of corporations involved in domestic security issues, and he recognizes that the modern security business has been around for decades (building upon the Pinkertons from the 19th century). He points out that both Reagan and Thatcher in the 1980s set in motion the privatization of their national security and that the process continued to expand throughout the 1990s. When 9/11 occurred, the embryonic security-industrial complex was ready to burst forth and take advantage of the situation. Investment firms saw the writing on the wall the second after 9/11 and quickly shifted their resources to maximize the expected boon in security services. They were not disappointed. Profits beyond their imagination poured in courtesy of the U.S. and, to a lesser extent, British governments.

Hughes stresses that 9/11 was the window of opportunity for security firms and investors. Like Kingdon’s multiple streams, Hughes highlights the fact that many political leaders like Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld were already in line with the corporate interests and facilitated their massive expansion after 9/11. He states that there were many others, like former CIA Director James Woolsey, who were all in on this revolving door system that then merged with each other after 9/11. Hughes says that this was critical to the empowerment of the security industry. Not only did you have a blatant terrorist attack on America’s homeland, you also had a large number of very sympathetic former corporate executives who were now in the White House. The Bush Administration greatly expanded the security-industrial complex in both the U.S. and throughout the world. Blackwater, DynCorp, Triple Canopy, and many other security firms got billions of dollars worth of contracts, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What makes Hughes’ work distinctive is that he stresses the behind-thescenes players in corporate America and Britain. He states that corporate investment firms such as Paladin Capital were major players in the expansion of the security-industrial complex. Blackwater (now Xe) and other personal security businesses were most prominent in the public’s eyes but the ones behind the scenes making far more money were the ones on Wall Street and in London; they were the ones right after 9/11 who massively bet on huge government contracts to private security firms. Once the money started pouring in, the security-industrial complex took on a far greater life of its own with large numbers of people profiting off this war on terror. The security-industrial complex reached across the globe in many forms but money was money. And, shareholders did not seem to care where exactly the war on terror took place or against whom, as long as the contracts kept coming in. This is what Hughes finds most disconcerting about the issue. Trillions of dollars in value have been accumulated in contracts and stock that have all been the result of the government’s continued proclamation of permanent terror threats in every corner of America and the globe. Yet, the government produces relatively little victory over terrorists in terms of the resources committed. Hughes wonders why such massive amounts of money and resources should be given (especially when citizens are far more likely to be killed or harmed by a common criminal in their city than a terrorist).

Hughes raises a number of provocative questions as to what the real reasons are for the government’s apparentiy never-ending war on terror. He points out that the government has pursued the privatization of many former government responsibilities such as prisons but nothing compares to the privatization of America’s national security, let alone privatizing a large part of an ongoing war effort. He, moreover, states that many people who supported the Bush Doctrine’s concept of being the sole superpower in the world were strongly in favor of shifting most of the new resources in a conventional military direction rather than towards the terrorists and their asymmetrical methods. Hughes shows how a relatively miniaturized corporate security model before 9/1 1 was deliberately transformed quickly into a mega-sized model for the entire globe. And, Bush et al. were fully conscious and supportive of expanding this model even further by outsourcing as much of the government’s responsibilities as possible to private corporations. This leads one to wonder whether half a million Iraqi security forces were disbanded in 2003 in order to create a power vacuum that the U.S. security-industrial complex was intended to help fill for hundreds of billions of dollars in profits. Hughes sees no short-term end in sight in this corporate profiteering in the war on terror. He does not believe that the U.S. and British governments and corporations will end it by choice. He thinks that only the American and British people can do so.

Hughes presents a well-written and documented study on how government privatized the war on terror and how that led to huge profits for certain corporate suppliers. He makes it clear that this was not an accident or chance of history but part of a full-scale attempt for years to push the government in this direction. If 9/11 had not occurred, something else would have come about to justify this trend. Hughes stresses that there are many powerful people behind the scenes who not only altered fundamentally the government’s security policies at home and abroad, but they now have a vested interest in maintaining this highly profitable business. Hughes warns us that those who accumulated billions of dollars in security contracts in the years since 9/11 have every interest to create new enemies that are real or fictitious/exaggerated. He states that these mega-corporations have powerful PR tools to manipulate people with a major propaganda campaign of fear. It seems that the Wall Street corporations are conveying far more terror on the public than the terrorists themselves. If and when another terrorist attack occurs, there will be the greatest PR campaign imaginable, no matter how relatively small the attack is. Hughes says that this is the new politics of fear. He points out that the government’s security efforts and budgets have gone far beyond the original attack or any future threat. The government gave itself trillions of dollars, reduced citizens’ rights and freedoms, and has continued to expand itself to this very day. And, select corporations and investors have been let in on this bonanza and do not want it to end. This is what makes Hughes’ book so important to read and think about.

Overall, many more lives, wars, money and resources, and rights and freedoms are likely to be lost in one of the greatest aggrandizements in history, one of an extremely powerful security-industrial complex profiting from a government’s never-ending message of paranoia to America. Yes, threats to citizens do exist. But, based upon Hughes’ research, the threats appear to be far beyond reality and that it likely has been a deliberate attempt to shift massive amounts of money towards the security-industrial complex. This, hopefully, will end. If the government wants to carry out a war and its security responsibilities, then let it do so on its own, like it has done for centuries. There is no evidence that mercenaries or any other private security force do a better job and at a lower cost; in fact, the results since 9/11 suggest that they often are unsuccessful and extremely costly. Hughes’ book is highly recommended as a start down the eventual ending of the security-industrial complex.


Steve Dobransky

Department of Political Science

Kent State University

Kent, Ohio


Word count: 1399

Copyright Professor of World Peace Academy Sep 2011


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