Who Controls U.S. Imperialism?
Eric Zuesse, originally posted at Strategic Culture
U.S. imperialism is a fact, which the U.S. Government always denies. However, U.S. President Barack Obama implicitly ‘justified’ it when he told graduating students at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, on 28 May, 2014, “The United States is and remains the one indispensable nation.” That means: every other nation is “dispensable”; only the U.S. is not. He then went into a tirade against Russia and China, and even added: “From Brazil to India, rising middle classes compete with us, and governments seek a greater say in global forums. … It will be your generation’s task to respond to this new world.” He was telling these West Point cadets (ever so tactfully) that they would be waging war for the benefit of America’s international corporations, and against “rising middle classes [which] compete with us, and governments [which] seek a greater say in global forums” — and that these graduating cadets would be serving in the U.S. military forces in order to crush such “competitors,” if and when America’s diplomatic corps and CIA are turning out to be insufficient to do the job. U.S. military muscle, he was telling them, is against “rising middle classes [which] compete with us, and governments [which] seek a greater say in global forums” — to block such “rise,” and to prevent those other nations from having “a greater say in global forums.” How much more clearly — though only by way of logical inference from what he was explicitly asserting — could he have admitted that America’s military is for global conquest, against all other nations (the world’s “dispensable” nations), and is NOT for national defense? And how much more hostile could he possibly have been to “rising middle classes” abroad, than to say they “compete with us,” and to tell — to America’s future generals, no less — that it will be their “task to respond,” to them, and to that?
America does most of the entire world’s invasions and coups and sanctions. This has been the case ever since 1945. These invasions, coups, and sanctions, aren’t being done in order to conquer a country that attacked America, but are instead being done purely for conquest — 100% aggressive — though “national defense” is always the main excuse that the U.S. Government gives. Only a single quasi-exception to the falsehood of the “national defense” excuse (i.e., the only instance of that excuse having been partly true) has existed, and it was America’s 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, which country likewise had not invaded America, but Al Qaeda had located its headquarters there and so America conquered Afghanistan’s Government, using the 9/11 attacks as its ‘justification’, and this invasion made things even worse for almost everybody (as usually happens from America’s invasions, coups, and sanctions). U.S. imperialism — like that of other countries — doesn’t benefit anyone except the aristocracy (the super-rich) of the invading, coup-promoting, and/or sanctioning, power. The U.S. Government chose to invade Afghanistan instead of to do a Special-Operations take-out of Al Qaeda’s leadership — the alternative option (targeted specifically and only against Al Qaeda’s leadership). The Special-Operations alternative was extremely difficult to achieve, when it was finally done (by Obama), because it wasn’t even started until years after America had already invaded Afghanistan. (Furthermore, the U.S. Government blamed no Government for the 9/11 attacks — not even Afghanistan’s — except Iran, which certainly didn’t participate in either carrying it out or funding it, or planning it; so, that was yet an additional lie by the U.S. Government. The U.S. had grabbed Iran via a coup in 1953 and then lost Iran in 1979 and aims to get it back, so blames Iran mercilessly. America’s entire response to 9/11 was simply loaded with lies.)
The truth about the invasion of Afghanistan was that the U.S. Government wanted to conquer it, and did so, using the 9/11 attacks as the invasion’s ‘explanation’ (excuse, ‘justification’). In fact, the Taliban there repeatedly tried to surrender, but was rebuffed by the U.S. each time. (As another reviewer of that book put it: “Then we had 9/11, the invasion of Afghanistan and the installation of Karzai in Kabul. The Taliban, that was a loose confederation of local actors, was immediately impressed (terrified) of American air power, had no objection to Karzai (a fellow Pashtun), decided to back the Kabul government and give up their weapons. They had had enough of war, one that was continuing with the Northern Alliance when the U.S. invaded, and wanted to retire to civilian life now that there was a credible central government. Instead, the U.S. targeted all-and-any Taliban.”) But, other than that invasion, America’s many invasions have been 100%, and purely, aggressive — not for national defense, at all, but only for conquest. Global polls show that outside the United States, no country is as much regarded as the biggest threat to peace in the world as the U.S. is. Not only is the U.S. the world’s most aggressive nation, but there is no close second to it — or so is the view that’s held by peoples throughout the world, outside the United States.
Unquestionably, since 1945, “national defense,” in the United States, is simply an excuse for America’s having — and by far — the world’s largest military, in terms of dollars expended, which spending-amount is approximately half of the global total military expenditures for all of the world’s countries. It’s expenditures purely for coercive power, not for anyone’s benefit except for the benefit of the individuals who control firms such as Lockheed Martin (sellers to U.S.-and-allied governments) and ExxonMobil and other U.S. extractive and other firms that can obtain competitive advantages by having the world’s pre-eminent military force backing them up (paid for by U.S. taxpayers’ dollars, not paid for by the aristocrats who benefit from it). A government can buy weapons not only for defense, but for aggression and the threat of aggression, and that’s what keeps the controlling owners of such U.S. firms satisfied — especially since actually no country is even merely threatening to invade the United States. Rationally, the controlling owners of America’s war-weapons firms would be funding the campaigns of politicians who serve them, and they are. That’s the way for them to control their own market, which is mainly the U.S. Government. Before Harry S. Truman became America’s President in 1945, the ‘Defense’ Department was called (far more honestly) the “War Department,” but the change-of-name (to “Defense Department”) was part of (so as to hide) the U.S. Government’s (under Truman) turn away from the intentions of America’s Founders, never to have a standing army, but only military forces that would be called up if and when a foreign invasion is imminent or in progress — which has been virtually never. Ever since World War II ended (and that’s throughout the history of the U.S. Department of ‘Defense’), the U.S. military has been all for empire — exactly the thing that America’s Founders despised and wanted this country never to have. Even U.S. President James Monroe, when he announced the Monroe Doctrine, in 1823, did it not for any American imperialism, but against European nations’ imperialisms, which were threatening to move forces into the Western Hemisphere where their armies and ships might pose a threat, by land and sea, to invade the United States. It was against imperialism — NOT for it (such as America’s aristocrats and their lackeys allege).
Obama’s West Point speech that was just referred-to included the most detailed ‘justification’ of U.S. imperialism yet, and it even stated that America’s Founders’ view against imperialism was wrong, and that their view is supported today only by “self-described realists”:
At least since George Washington served as Commander-in-Chief, there have been those who warned against foreign entanglements that do not touch directly on our security or economic wellbeing. Today, according to self-described realists, conflicts in Syria or Ukraine or the Central African Republic are not ours to solve. And not surprisingly, after costly wars and continuing challenges here at home, that view is shared by many Americans.
A different view from interventionists from the left and right says that we ignore these conflicts at our own peril; that America’s willingness to apply force around the world is the ultimate safeguard against chaos, and America’s failure to act in the face of Syrian brutality or Russian provocations not only violates our conscience, but invites escalating aggression in the future. …
As the Syrian civil war spills across borders, the capacity of battle-hardened extremist groups to come after us only increases. Regional aggression that goes unchecked — whether in southern Ukraine or the South China Sea, or anywhere else in the world — will ultimately impact our allies and could draw in our military. We can’t ignore what happens beyond our boundaries.
And beyond these narrow rationales, I believe we have a real stake, an abiding self-interest, in making sure our children and our grandchildren grow up in a world where schoolgirls are not kidnapped and where individuals are not slaughtered because of tribe or faith or political belief.
Whereas Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, sometimes spoke against Obama’s foreign policies, Trump continued almost all of them and intensified many of them. Obama’s Vice President, Joe Biden, actively supported and continues to espouse all of them, and, now, as the U.S. President, has installed into the key foreign-policy posts ardent Obama-Administration proponents of all of those aggressive policies.
So: who controls America’s — the only global — imperialism? (This actually anti-American phenomenon.)
First of all: what does it mean to “control?” To control is, effectively, to own. A stockholder of a company doesn’t need to own all of a firm’s stock in order to control it. If the stockholder owns a controlling interest — which may be a majority of it or else far less, sometimes only a few percent in a widely held corporation — then that corporation must do what that individual wants it to do. A typical example of this is that Jeff Bezos owns only 11.1% of Amazon Corporation but he controls it, and the only way in which he doesn’t is that 88.9% of its corporate dividends are going to other investors in it than himself. Amazon pays no dividends; so, obviously, his 11.1% has been as beneficial to him as if he were owning 100% of the company. Anyway, the question here is who controls U.S. imperialism, and the question of who owns it is vastly less important than is who controls it, regardless even if “owns U.S. imperialism” has any meaning, which it probably doesn’t — and, if it does, its meaning is actually not much. But the meaning of “control” is enormous.
So, this is about identifying the individuals who control America’s imperialism (imperialism that America’s aristocracy and their lackeys deny even exists).
On 10 January 2019, CNBC bannered “American firms rule the $398 billion global arms industry: Here’s a roundup of the world’s top 10 defense contractors, by sales,” and 5 of the top 6 were U.S. firms (Lockheed, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics), and the other firm in the top 6 was a UK’s BAE, which was #4. The 5 American firms together sold $139 billion, or 70%, of the total for the world’s top ten makers of weapons-of-war, by dollar-volume of sales. The UK firm (BAE) in the top 6 sold $23 billion, or 11.5% of the top ten. The trans-European Airbus sold 5.5% of the top ten. France’s Thales sold 4.5% of the top ten. Italy’s Leonardo sold 4.5% of the top ten. Russia’s Almaz-Antey sold 4.5% of the top ten. Collectively, those 10 firms together sold $198 billion of war-weapons. That amount was almost exactly half (50%) of the total dollar-volume of all of the top 100 arms-sellers. So, America’s top 5 sold 35% of the entire world’s weaponry. All of the other firms in the top ten were in U.S. allies, members of NATO, except for Russia; so, 95.5% of that $198 billion was in NATO, America’s anti-Russian military alliance. America has 4.3% of the global population. And, as was previously noted, the U.S. Government pays approximately half of the entire world’s military spending, in order (supposedly) to ‘protect the American people’. Of course, lots of lying needs to be believed by the public in order to make this situation seem acceptable; and, actually, there is so much lying, that the American public respect “the Military” more than any other institution in America except “Small business” (which used to be #2 after “The military,” until 2020, when “Small business” became #1 and “The military became the new #2): more than “The church or organized religion,” or than “The Supreme Court,” or than “Congress,” or than “Organized labor,” or than “Big Business,” or than “The public schools,” or than “Newspapers,” or than “The Presidency,” or than “The medical system,” or than “Banks, or than “Television news,” or than “The police,” or than “The criminal justice system,” or than “Large technology companies,” or than “News on the internet,” or than “Health Maintenance Organizations.” That’s a lot of lying, which caused “The military” to be respected more than any of those others. It is especially a lot because the military is actually the most corrupt of all of America’s institutions.
These are the companies that profit from invading and defending countries. However, the profits from internal weapons-sales by Russian companies (weapons-sales to the Russian Government itself) go mainly to the Russian Government, since that Government requires by law that it must hold a controlling interest in all of the nation’s arms-producers. (For example, Wikipedia’s article on Almaz-Antey — the only Russia firm in that top ten — says “Owner: Federal Agency for Property Management”.) This is done in order to remove the profit-motive from Russia’s weapons-producing firms, and to give that Government total control over Russia’s foreign arms-sales. In other words: it is done to protect Russia’s national security, and also to prevent its arms-producers from controlling the Government, such as can happen in countries (such as the U.S.) where the motive for private profit can (by means of the “revolving-door” and other types of corruption) control the Government’s foreign policies. Unlike other types of corporations, government contractors derive all or virtually all of their profits from sales to governments — not to “the private sector” — and therefore boost their profits by controlling the Government (by means of “revolving-door” and other types of corruption). Consequently, in many countries (especially the United States), the owners of the biggest government contractors do control the Government. In order to achieve this, they, of course, usually need also to control the news-media (and also universities and other ‘non-profits’ such as think tanks), so that they all can claim (and be believed by their public that) their Government is a “democracy.”
So: here are the top owners of America’s producers of war-weapons:
The #1 firm, Lockheed Martin, will be considered first, then the #2, Boeing, then the #3, Raytheon.
Here are the “Top Lockheed Martin Shareholders”, as reported by Investopedia on 6 January 2021:
Top 3 Institutional Shareholders
Institutional investors hold the majority of Lockheed Martin shares at about 69.4% of total shares outstanding.10
State Street Corp.
State Street owns 42.2 million shares of Lockheed Martin, representing 15.1% of total shares outstanding, according to the company’s 13F filing as of September 30, 2020.11 State Street manages a broad range of assets for clients, including mutual funds, ETFs and other investments with $3.1 trillion in AUM.12 The SPDR S&P Kensho Final Frontiers ETF (ROKT), which tracks an index of companies involved in space and deep sea exploration, holds Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin represents 4.4% of the fund’s holdings.13
Vanguard Group Inc.
Vanguard Group owns 22.0 million shares of Lockheed Martin, representing 7.9% of total shares outstanding, according to the company’s 13F filing for the period ending September 30, 2020.11 The company is primarily a mutual fund and ETF management company with about $6.2 trillion in global AUM.14 The Vanguard Industrials ETF (VIS), which tracks a market-cap-weighted index of industrial companies, owns Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin comprises about 2.7% of the fund’s portfolio.15
BlackRock owns 17.2 million shares of Lockheed Martin, representing 6.2% of total shares outstanding, according to the company’s 13F filing as of September 30, 2020.11 The company is primarily a mutual fund and ETF management company with approximately $7.8 trillion in AUM.16 The iShares U.S. Aerospace & Defense ETF (ITA), which tracks a market-cap-weighted index of U.S. airplane and defense equipment manufacturers, assemblers, and distributors, owns Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin is the third-largest holding at about 5.7% of the fund’s portfolio.
Here are the “Top Boeing Shareholders”, as reported by Investopedia on 16 July 2020:
Top 3 Institutional Shareholders
Institutional investors hold the majority of Boeing’s shares at about 62% of total shares outstanding. 9
Vanguard Group Inc.
Vanguard Group owns 41.8 million shares of Boeing, representing 7.4% of total shares outstanding, according to the company’s 13F filing for the period ending March 31, 2020.10 The company is primarily a mutual fund and ETF management company with about $6.2 trillion in global assets under management (AUM).11 The Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (VOO) is one of the company’s largest exchange-traded funds (ETFs) with about $151 billion in AUM. Boeing comprises 0.31% of VOO’s holdings.12
BlackRock owns 33.3 million shares of Boeing, representing 5.9% of total shares outstanding, according to the company’s 13F filing for the period ending March 31, 2020.10 The company is primarily a mutual fund and ETF management company with approximately $6.47 trillion in AUM.13 The iShares Core S&P 500 ETF (IVV) is among one of BlackRock’s largest ETFs with approximately $198 billion in AUM. Boeing comprises 0.36% of IVV’s holdings.14
Newport Trust Co.
Newport Trust owns 32.7 million shares of Boeing, representing 5.8% of total shares outstanding, according to the company’s 13F filing for the period ending March 31, 2020.10 Newport Trust, owned by Newport Group Inc., is a private company that provides trustee and independent fiduciary services to leading U.S. companies and institutions, including 25% of the corporations in the Fortune 500.15 16 The total value of the company’s portfolio is $24.3 billion. Boeing is among Newport Trust’s top 10 holdings, comprising about 20% of the portfolio’s total value [$4.8 billion], as of March 31, 2020.17
Here are the “Top 10 Owners of Raytheon Technologies Corp”, as reported by CNN Money, on 20 January 2021:
Stockholder Stake Shares
owned Total value ($) Shares
SSgA Funds Management, Inc. [State Street] 8.13% 123,514,657
The Vanguard Group, Inc. 8.09% 122,794,043
BlackRock Fund Advisors 4.64% 70,492,612
Wellington Management Co. LLP 2.87% 43,629,052
Capital Research & Management Co. 2.66% 40,390,876
Dodge & Cox 2.00% 30,322,795
Capital Research & Management Co. 1.93% 29,296,294
Geode Capital Management LLC 1.48% 22,419,532
ClearBridge Investments LLC 1.41% 21,351,034
Franklin Advisers, Inc. 1.28% 19,441,659
Investopedia also lists the top individual (direct) investors, but those each are top executives of the given firm, and are “less than 0.01% of all outstanding company shares” for Lockheed, and also for Boeing. So, institutional investors control America’s producers of war-weapons.
So: the individuals who are making the investment decisions that determine which U.S. war-weapons makers will be selling stock at what prices are investment-fund managers, mainly at Vanguard, BlackRock, and State Street, but also including Wellington Management, Newport Trust, and other such firms. Each of those funds manages hundreds of billions or even trillions of dollars, and the identity of their beneficiary top individual investors is not public information; so, these persons, who control American imperialism, are actually anonymous — hidden from the public (as if this were simply a matter of their personal privacy, instead of their participation in ruling over the global empire). Whether those individuals also own controlling interests in mainstream news-media and/or in think tanks or in funding university professorships, or members of Congress, or any U.S. President, or any cabinet member, is likewise unknown — hidden from the public, in this ‘democracy’.
The original purpose for which corporations were created (which was around the year 1600), was in order to enable such anonymity of beneficiaries and also to prevent those owners from being prosecuted for any mass-murders, mass-negligent-homicides, or other mega-crimes, that their corporations perpetrated either domestically or else abroad (such as Union Carbide’s Bhopal India catastrophe). It serves those purposes superbly well. The investors get the profits but can’t be prosecuted for any mega-crimes that have often produced those profits. It’s called “capitalism,” and it’s simply a way to provide investors with legal immunity for vast harms (including the imperialistic World Wars I and II) that corporations do, while prisons fill up with almost only poor individuals, who couldn’t even afford a decent lawyer.
America is the king of capitalism. It has actually emerged as the emperor of capitalism, regardless of what socialism is. (Is socialism what’s in the Nordic countries? Or is it only the dictatorial variety, communism? And is socialism even incompatible with communism? Or, are these terms used only propagandistically, to fool the public?)
During the 1930s, the emperor of capitalism was the German “Reich.” That was the world’s leading imperialist nation. But, today, the United States has taken that throne, as the unchallenged leader of imperialism. The individuals who control it are unknown, but what is known is that they are in America’s wealthiest 0.1%. As-of 2014, the top 0.1% of Americans owned almost as much wealth as the bottom 90% did. Furthermore, scientific studies have proven that only the wealthiest control the U.S. Government — the American people don’t. And, of course, the American people don’t benefit from the imperialism of the Government that rules them. Though the invaded and couped and sanctioned countries suffer vastly more than Americans do from the U.S. regime’s imperialism, Americans do suffer from it, too. But the people who control the country don’t allow them to know this. Like in every dictatorship, there is lots of censorship. All of the billionaires’ operations do it — all of them censor-out what no billionaire wants them to know.
Is being extremely evil a prerequisite to serving in a high position at a mega-investment firm within the empire? The chief marketing organization for the empire’s sellers to the empire is NATO; and it, in turn, has several PR or propaganda operations promoting NATO, chief of which is the Atlantic Council, which is funded not only by member governments but by member firms and their founding families. A reasonable presumption would be that those investors have huge investments that are in the very same mega-investment firms that control America’s ‘defense’ contractors.
NATO — America’s military alliance against the Soviet Union — was allegedly against communism, but when the Soviet Union in 1991 ended its communism, and the Soviet Union broke up, and its military alliance the Warsaw Pact also ended, NATO did not end but continued on, secretly, continuing its ‘Cold War’ but now against Russia, and expanded right up to Russia’s borders. Every nation that stays in NATO is complicit with the U.S. It’s an international gangland operation and the biggest threat to world peace. A spade should be called a spade, not an organization to ‘defend’ its member-states, but a gang to expand the U.S. empire even farther than it yet has become. It is inimical to all of the world’s peoples, and should be publicly declared to be such.
On 9 May 2014, The Real News Network headlined “Who Makes US Foreign Policy? – Lawrence Wilkerson on Reality Asserts Itself (1/3)”, and presented that 20-minute interview, with one of the U.S. regime’s highest-placed whistleblowers, honestly portraying the ugly reality about who controls U.S. imperialism. It’s not a democracy; it’s a one-dollar-one-vote dictatorship over a country where the top 0.1% own more than do all of the bottom 80%. Imperialism is inconsistent with democracy. So: naturally, the global empire is a dictatorship.
(NOTE: That interview with Wilkerson closed with his erroneously saying, about Ukraine, that “President Obama has to this point been very subdued about how he’s dealing with sanctions and responses to Putin in general.” Wilkerson was totally ignorant that the overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 had been a brutal coup, which Obama’s Administration had been laying the plans for ever since 2011, and which even included — but Obama failed to achieve — America’s taking Russia’s largest naval base, which is on Crimea, and turning it into yet another U.S. naval base. Wilkerson had specialized on the Middle East, and retired from the U.S Government in 2005. He didn’t even know about this massacre by Obama’s newly imposed Ukrainian coup-regime, which had occurred just a week prior to that interview of him. But at least Wilkerson was totally honest. Honest errors can happen to anyone. His errors were simply based upon his having been too trusting of the U.S. Government. After all: he had been surrounded and deceived by its lies, from the Government and in its ‘news’-media, during his entire period in Government service. Even he had been fooled about Ukraine.)
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.