By Matthew Rothschild on March 29, 2008

I’ve been joking the last few years that if you invested in military stocks on January 20, 2001, you’d be sitting pretty right now.

Well, now I’ve got some more evidence to back up that not-so-funny joke.

Since the Iraq War began, aerospace and defense industry stocks have more than doubled.

General Dynamics did even better than that.

Its stock has tripled.

Banking on its Abrams tanks and Stryker troop transports, General Dynamics gobbled up $2.35 billion “in war revenue last year,” according to Bloomberg News.

“The war has been a huge benefit to almost all contractors,” William Hartung of the New America Foundation told Bloomberg.

War profiteering is not news, I suppose. But it is disgusting. And those who are profiting from the war are Bush and Cheney’s cronies in the corporate boardrooms. For them, war is not a bloody tragedy, it’s a golden opportunity. Bush’s “base” is doing just fine.

Almost 100 years ago, back in 1911, Fighting Bob La Follette, the pioneer of the Progressive movement and founder of the magazine I’m working for, opposed U.S. intervention in Mexico and asked a crucial question:

“Have we come to this point, that patriotism, valor, and life and death are openly made the pawns of Wall Street’s politicians, to be moved about as suits the greater profits of Wall Street’s master spirits?”

Unfortunately, the answer to that question is yes.

La Follette also said, in January 1917, “If our nation manufactured its own munitions in its own factories at cost, it would take the private profit out of war, and the war traders out of American politics."

Alas, the war traders have not yet been expelled from the temple of American politics.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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