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Michael Prysner

Michael Prysner is a veteran of the war in Iraq and an anti-war activist

January 6th, 2010 9:18 PM

Meet Your Boss: Robert Gates

Who is deciding your fate?

The decisions to send us to risk life and limb around the world—today in Afghanistan and Iraq—are not decisions that we have any part of, nor do our families, nor do the vast majority of people in the United States. They are decisions for the millionaire politicians, who have the backing of multi-billion-dollar corporations, and the generals and civilian advisors in the Pentagon. We are told we must trustingly follow orders and never question the chain of command.

But who is really in the chain of command? Who are these great and wise leaders who have, in the past eight years, ordered over 5,300 of us to our deaths?

At the top of this long line of officers and their civilian equivalents is Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates. The secretary of defense is the leading position at the Pentagon, presiding over the crew of generals—both in uniform and in three-piece suits—who determine whether or not we must go to war, how many of us have to go, what military strategy will be used, and the “conditions on the ground” that decide if we can leave or if we must stay. All of our orders come directly from the Pentagon brass, headed by Robert Gates.

Gates is the only U.S. secretary of defense ever to be asked to remain in office by a newly elected president. The 2008 election was an unambiguous popular rejection of the Bush administration and its imperial foreign policy. The people of the United States, including the majority of people in the military, wanted to sweep out the Bush team. But President Obama asked Gates, a key architect of the current conflicts, to stay.

Gates must have some valuable experience and qualifications to remain the head of the war machine after our “great democracy” voted those policies out!

Gates’ illustrious military service spans an entire two years in the Air Force as a second lieutenant. He spent the Vietnam War at a base in Missouri and attending top-notch universities. His subsequent career in the CIA includes heavy involvement in the Iran-Contra affair, a notorious criminal scandal that caused the deaths of thousands of innocent people.

But most valuable to the Pentagon would be Gates’ wealth of experience serving on the boards of directors of a variety of private companies, many of which he holds personal financial investments with.

This is the real résumé of our esteemed leader:

  • Board of Trustees of Fidelity Investments, the largest mutual fund company in the world. Among other defense investments, Fidelity works in partnership with the Boeing Company, one of the largest war-profiteering corporations in the world, holding some of the largest defense contracts with the Pentagon.
  • Board of Directors of Parker Drilling Company, which is drilling for oil all over the world. Particularly, Parker Drilling operates in Kuwait and has heavy investments drilling for oil in Kazakhstan, one of the former oil-rich Soviet-bloc countries that the Pentagon hopes to win control over by having a U.S. base in Afghanistan.
  • Board of Directors of NACCO Industries, which has approximately $30 million in defense contracts.
  • Board of Directors of Draper Labs, which was once known as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Instrumentation Laboratory. After scoring huge defense contracts to develop navigation systems for ballistic missiles during the criminal war in Vietnam, massive anti-war protests at MIT against the research program shamed the group into splitting off and becoming Draper Labs, which still holds multi-billion-dollar defense contracts with the Pentagon.
  • Board of Directors of Science Applications International Corporation, a defense contractor that made a killing off of the war in Iraq, elevating it to the ninth largest defense contractor in the world. SAIC is now a Fortune 500 company holding multi-billion-dollar defense contracts with the Pentagon.

Only a brief glance at Gates’ resume reveals his deep ties to the military-industrial complex, but we should not mistake these ties for the driving force behind his actions as secretary of defense. The billionaires in charge did not promote Gates to the highest echelons of their state machine because he is loyal to his own personal interests, but rather because he has demonstrated a record of unwavering service to the common interests of the owners, bankers, and the super-rich. In the eyes of the war profiteers, the fact that Gates is one of their own only enhances his qualifications as a trustworthy functionary.

As secretary of defense, Gates has made sure to pay frequent visits to the people he serves—not at hospitals treating tens of thousands of severely wounded soldiers, or the families who have had their loved ones killed in combat—but at the production sites of many of the companies paid by the U.S. government to create military equipment and technology.

August 2009 was a record-breaking month for the number of U.S. fatalities in Afghanistan, by far the deadliest month of the entire war. Gates wrapped up that tragic month by visiting a Lockheed Martin facility to check up on their new product, the F-35 fighter aircraft. Gates is pushing a deal to purchase 2,443 of these new aircraft, which will be the Pentagon’s most costly arms purchase.

In November, he toured the plant of the Oshkosh Corporation, a company that currently produces 50 armored vehicles a day to be sent to Afghanistan, each valued at more than half a million dollars.

Building armored vehicles has turned into quite the lucrative business for Oshkosh and several other vehicle companies, since the resistance fighters in Afghanistan can easily destroy these vehicles with a $12 roadside bomb! These vehicles are destroyed on a daily basis, and are the number one killer of U.S. troops. Countless GIs have lost their lives and their limbs in these vehicles, providing a steady steam of profits for vehicle manufacturers.

During this tour, Gates posed for a photo-op as he personally signed one of the vehicles coming off the assembly line. It was all smiles from Gates and the Oshkosh executives, who will never have to ride in those vehicles. They are safe in their mansions, knowing that many more years of the horrible war in Afghanistan means a constant flow of profits.

After President Obama announced the massive escalation of the war in Afghanistan on Dec. 3, Gates said, “the tragedy is that the casualties will probably continue to grow.”

It is a tragedy for us, for our families, and for the people of Afghanistan—but not for Robert Gates. Our lives mean nothing to him. His service record has translated into massive profits for some of the largest defense contractors in the world.

Veterans and service members can see through this façade. Gates’ military decisions reflect only the interests of his class of wealthy investors and owners.

This is one of our bosses in the Pentagon who is deciding our fate, who is insisting we kill and die in these wars, and whose supreme wisdom we are expected to blindly obey.

Robert Gates orders us to Afghanistan or Iraq to secure profits for his buddies, his former/current employers, and his own stock value—and ultimately for a system that profits off of war. These are not our wars—they are wars for the rich, for the defense contractors, for the oil companies, and for Wall Street.

If Robert Gates thinks we should fight in these wars, maybe he should go fight them himself! But we should not—any order that comes from Gates and the Pentagon is an order that we have every reason and every right to disobey. No corporate CEO should be able to send us to kill and die for their own super-profits.

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