Stop War Profiteers War is a crime against humanity
For the past year, War Resisters' International has been developing a new Nonviolence Programme. The overarching aim of the Nonviolence Programme is to strengthen and deepen our understanding of nonviolence, nonviolent strategies, and nonviolent campaigning, and to develop and provide tools and support to groups using nonviolence (see Broken Rifle No.65).
One aspect of this work is the development of resources for WRI's Campaign Against War Profiteers.
At the World Social Forum in Mumbai in January 2004 Arundhati Roy called for the movement "to be the resistance to the occupation of Iraq", and to focus on two major corporations profiteering from the occupation.
WRI will take Arundhati Roy's call, and raise awareness that war profiteers are a cause of war.
WRI's antimilitarist demand is not just "take profit out of war", but to denounce war profiteering because " war is a crime against humanity". As the aggregate policy-making power of these companies is so great that, instead of saying "they make profit from war" it is more accurate to say "they make war for profit". It is then understood that profits of war are a cause of war.
The process of developing the campaign started at the 2004 Ohrid Council where we started searching for possible goals and strategies. At the 2005 Council meeting in Seoul, we discussed how to respond to Arundhati Roy's call to focus on two major combinations and provide support for regional and local campaigns.
WRI has presented two public forums on the campaign. The workshop on "Privatization of the Military/War Profiteers" at the 2004 Ohrid Seminar and the "Nonviolent Campaign Against War Profiteers" workshop at the 2004 European Social Forum served as both education forums and opportunities to solicit ideas.
WRI's Campaign Against War Profiteers will be a combination of an international campaign focused on two corporations, and a resource for local campaigns.
The Nonviolence Programme can provide coordination, including a sharing of strategies, but the campaign itself will be a collection of local campaigns not a single focused campaign out of a central office. The campaign needs to be based in the WRI network, but we also want to go beyond our network and work with groups in the globalisation from below movements and groups on the movement against arms trade.
Part of the coordination process is creating slogans and a logo that local campaigns can adopt. In this process we have come up with two slogans for the campaign. The basic slogan "Stop War Profiteers. War is a crime against humanity" to be used in the logo of the campaign.
A second slogan "Someone is making a killing from war" can be used to expose corporation, making them visible by naming them e.g. "Sodexho is making a killing from war". This can be used on banners, flyers, stickers, etc.
It is a challenge to decide which corporations to pick among the many war profiteers.
We only have the capacity to focus on two companies on the international level. There are many kinds of war profiteers - weapons manufactures, mercenaries, reconstruction firm, banks who lend to them, etc.
Many of the war profiteers involved in Iraq are US companies, and there is the danger of anti-US sentiment in organizing against those companies. But US corporations are dominating and we need to address that. It is important that we also understand this is a universal problem, and we should look at how European companies are involved as well. This is a campaign against all war profiteers, not just those involved in Iraq. Local groups will decide what war profiteers to campaign against. Some may focus on the international corporations chosen, while others will choose companies based in or most affecting their region. Organizing on a local level can be difficult because jobs are provided by these companies.
It is important that this campaign does not duplicate the work of the arms trade network, but to strengthen the work against profiteering from war.
A critical challenge in developing a Campaign Against War Profiteers is identifying achievable goals. Are we really trying to shut down a company that profits from war? If we can shut a corporation down, won't someone else then do the work? If we can seriously affect one company, wouldn't that send a message to others, especially those others that are the focus of campaigns? In searching for achievable goals, we need to find strategies to combat their influence.
What are the opportunities and situations we can use as we work on this campaign? WRI's strength is raising moral issues as a spark for actions, and profiting from war is a moral issue. WRI's fundamental critique--war is a crime against humanity--now more than ever needs to be put forward. As the death toll mounts in Iraq, and the "reasons" for the war are exposed as lies, the issue of who benefits from war needs to raised.
Post-war reconstruction is needed to give legitimacy to armed intervention. War profiteers are corporation that destroy, "protect" and "rebuild".
And it is the war profiteers who promote the wars for their profits.
Corporations that profit from war do not want to be seen for what they do. Visibility is one of the vulnerabilities for these corporations. They try to hide, they do not want the public to know that they are making a killing on war. Making this visible makes them more vulnerable.
- Develop resources on war profiteers. Collect and develop research and campaign strategies on war profiteers. The development of WRI's own Nonviolence Handbook and our own Wiki would be resources to be used in the campaign.
- Publish case studies of campaigns against war profiteers and other corporations to inspire our strategic campaign building.
- Distribute information on how to do your own research on war profiteers.
- Promote trainings on nonviolent direct actions, for doing street actions and for strategic nonviolent campaign development; create resources for local group.
- Share strategies being used by local campaigns, coordinate when appropriate.
- Consider writing a "code of conduct" pledge whereby companies would agree not to profit from war (similar to antisweatshop pledge).
- Make the "Campaign Against War Profiteers" a priority at 2006 WRI's Triennial Conference in Germany, by having a "theme group" that will bring together an international group to focus on the campaign.
Joanne Sheehan, WRI Chair
Javier Gárate, WRI Staff member