The war's other 'winners'

Here come the patriots marching to the front to stand with NATO in its war against Yugoslavia! Let's call their names: Boeing. GM. Honeywell. Motorola. Northrop-Grumman. Raytheon. TRW. United Technologies.

Executives from these and other military contractors are not literally going to the front, of course, but they did step forward in Washington recently to donate up to $250,000 each to help pay for NATO's 50th anniversary celebration. It's their weapons and high-tech gadgetry that NATO is using to pummel Yugoslavia with thousands of tons of missiles and bombs, costing us taxpayers billions of dollars ... and counting. So the contractors simply wanted to show their patriotism (and gratitude) to the NATO heads-of-state who buy their military hardware.

One unmentionable aspect of the war is the role of this multibillion-dollar corporate war machine. For openers, just having such a massive stockpile of these razzle-dazzle weapons, which promise the possibility of killing your enemy with little risk of being killed, practically assures that they'll be used. A thug like Yugoslavia's Milosevic comes along and NATO leaders get itchy trigger-fingers, thinking: "Hey, let's hit that S.O.B. with a few smart bombs, then he'll want to talk peace, and we'll look good without costing us anything."

Weapon-makers love this thinking for it uses up inventory and creates new orders. For example, all those Tomahawk missiles you see exploding on TV cost $1.2 million each, and Congress already is ordering more of them.

As a result, Raytheon, which makes the Tomahawk missiles, has seen its stock price zoom since the war began. As one happy Wall Street analyst explained, "Kosovo is just the catalyst. We're going to keep seeing money flowing into defense stocks."

It's time to confront the profiteers and downsize the corporate war machine.

Jim Hightower is an author, radio commentator, public speaker and political sparkplug from Austin, Texas. For more populist commentary, visit his website.