A Teaser to ‘The Empire of Poverty’: The First Volume of The People’s Book Project

A Teaser to ‘The Empire of Poverty’: The First Volume of The People’s Book Project

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall


The following is a little teaser to some of the ideas, approach and perspective being pursued through the research and writing of the first volume of The People’s Book Project, ‘The Empire of Poverty.’ Please consider donating to the Project to help these efforts come to fruition.

It’s important to try to understand the global economic and financial system – the banks, corporations, central banks, economic policies (and effects) of governments, trade agreements, the creation and value of currencies, the function of the oft-heard ‘markets’ – as daunting as the task may seem. One might think that they need a degree in Economics in order to understand the complexities of the global economy, to comprehend the correct choices and policies which achieve the desired results. One might think that this is true, but it isn’t. The truth is that if most economists understood the global economy, and knew the ‘correct’ choices to make, we wouldn’t be where we currently are.

Economics – both theory and practice – is an illusion. There are no concrete rules on which to base economic thought; there is no ‘gravity’ to its physics. Economics is not science, it’s sophistry; the sleight of hand, the quick and slick tongue, the wave of the wand, the theatrics of the stage set for all to see, and the effects – as destructive as they may be to the real world and all life within it – are largely hidden from view; the illusion keeps the population enraptured in awe, aspiration, and fear.

This is not to say that there cannot be anything real produced or given growth by what we call ‘economics’: there are of course exchanges made, resources used, products created, lives benefitted, and entire societies and peoples changed. The effects are very real. However, they have a disproportionately destructive, oppressive, and dehumanizing effect upon the vast majority of humanity: they bestow upon a tiny fraction unparalleled power, and thus, dehumanization in another form; while creating a comparably minimal buffer of generally satiated and malleable middle classes, educated well-enough to work and survive the horror show that is the global economic order, but consumed by a culture lacking in substance and meaning, and thus, left morally, psychologically, and intellectually lobotomized, physically paralyzed, and thus, once again, dehumanized.

So our global economic order has the effect of generally dehumanizing all who are subject to its whims and whammies; which is to say, almost everyone, everywhere. Those peoples and societies that are not integrated into the global economy tend to be bombed, invaded, overthrown or droned. Those who remain are doomed to slow death: one in seven people on earth live in urban slums[1] – more than the combined populations of Canada, the United States, and the European Union – while the majority of humanity lives in deep poverty, in hunger, and malnutrition; with 18 million people being killed from poverty-related causes every year, including over 9 million children.[2] Every year.

During the Holocaust, approximately six million Jews were killed. Take that number, add 50% to make 9 million, and just think: this is how many children die every year from poverty. Every year a new Holocaust.

These deaths are preventable. Truly. It has been estimated that less than the yearly Pentagon budget would lift the poorest 3 billion people of the world out of extreme poverty. In fact, in the twenty years following the end of the Cold War in 1991, there were roughly 360 million preventable deaths caused by poverty-related issues, more than the combined deaths of all of the wars of the 20th century.[3]

But this is not our priority. Our priority is that banks and corporations make as much profits as possible, because this – by some unknown and unseen magic – will (it is said) benefit everyone else. It is propagated and believed that this system, as it exists, or even with the proper tinkering and toiling, can represent the totality of life and being on this world; to be humanizing, and to represent ‘human nature’ at its best. But if this system were ‘human nature,’ why would it be so dehumanizing? How many organisms grow by destroying that which their existence depends upon? Parasites, cancers and various diseases can kill the host before transferring to another.

We have no other host to go to. Those who sit atop the global structure know this, which is why they express such an interest in finding new planets to escape to (and presumably, plunder and destroy). The billionaires have given up pretending to care for the world’s billions of people suffering, which is why they are looking to space travel, mining asteroids, and searching for hospitable environments elsewhere.[4] Their long-term ‘exit strategy’ is to abandon ship, not to change the direction we currently traverse.

Are we – as a species – a cancer upon the earth? Looking at the big picture, it may often seem that way. But it is in the small moments, the single acts, exchanged emotions, interacting individuals, in the every day life – those moments of joy, love, wonder – in which we find our own personal meaning, in which we discover that humanity – and human nature – can be so much more than destructive, petty, and pestilent behaviour. We are told we are a society of ‘individuals’ – that we are free, democratic and equal. If that were the case: why are we so isolated? We are individuals, yes, in the physical sense: but we are disconnected from the collective, separated from the species as a whole.

We think and act individually, but do so ignorantly, and arrogantly. Our thoughts and feelings are collected and collated by our commanding culture of irrelevance. The immense gift of a human mind – with all of its possibilities and capabilities, both known and unknown – is largely squandered on pop culture, sports, celebrities, consumer items and entertainment. So long as we remain distracted by the ‘celebration of irrelevance’, we are lobotomized of our meaning.

Is this how you see yourself as an individual? As the world you live in? It’s not an appealing thought. So why, then, do we live in a world in which as individuals we may act morally, purposefully, passionately, and proudly; though as a collective species, we are petty, parasitic, power-mad, pathological, and pretty much evil?

Is it ‘human nature’ that our personal values and priorities are not reflected in the collective – institutionalized – expression of humanity? Or, is it that the way in which our society is constructed, the institutions and ideologies, the policies, programs, priorities and effects of the way in which our world is ordered and altered, is inherently counter to ‘human nature’? In other words: is human nature inherently self-destructive; or, is our constructed human ‘society’ (our global social, political and economic order) inherently destructive to human nature? Does human nature pervert the effects we have upon the world, or do the structures of world order – and power – pervert human nature?

It is this vast disconnect between our personal values and the form they take at the global – collective – level of the species, which is ultimately so dehumanizing. Because power is centralized at the top, and for such a tiny fraction of the species – so much so that there has never been a more unequal and vast ‘Empire of Poverty’ in all of human history, the ‘great inequality’ is not of wealth, but of power.

Wealth is an illusion: a manufactured means to power, a collective delusion. Power is central to human nature. Every person needs power: they need autonomy over their own lives, thoughts, feelings, and decisions. It is central to maturity, it is central to leaving adolescence and becoming an adult, and it is central to finding a sense of self-worth. Understanding oneself is to empower oneself. Power is about possibility, personal fulfillment, passion and purpose. It has individual and social representations. It can be seen – or not – in your own life, but also in the world around us.

A pre-requisite for power is freedom. The process of achieving freedom is, itself, empowering. Once (and if) achieved, it is of immense responsibility to use your new power of freedom wisely, for the effects that it may have upon others and the rest of the world are endless. Power is freedom, quite simply, because slavery is the opposite of both freedom and power: it is the most un-free and the most disempowering personal position to be in.

Freedom is power; power is freedom. If we were actually free, we would have significantly more power. But we don’t. We barely have any control over our own individual lives, let alone the world around us. We leave all that to the others, to those with the proper degrees, the ‘expertise,’ the politicians, the pundits, the ‘right’ people… because they’ve obviously done such a great job of it so far. We remain – as a species, and very often as individuals – neutered from the necessities of individual empowerment, subjected instead to the very-often-arbitrary abuses of power over others.

So if we are not free, what are we? Certainly, we are not slaves, for we have no shackles, bear the brunt of no whips, serve no visible masters. We are, perhaps, slaves of another kind. We are financially, reflexively, intellectually, emotionally and hopelessly and very often spiritually enslaved to the system, as it exists. We are slaves to money. We serve the masters of money, with our time, with our labour and efforts, with our interactions, exchanges, interests, intelligence and aspirations. We are slaves to money.

Our society is built and sustained upon it; and our species is being driven to extinction because of it. The cause and effect of money – or more aptly, debt – slavery, is the distribution of power among the species: too few have too much, and too many have too little. This imbalance of power within the species is leading to our self-destruction, our inevitable extinction if we continue along this path.

Money is both the means and very often – the reason – for continuing down this path, for maintaining this imbalance. While very few have all the money, everyone – and everywhere else – has all the debt. This is not the wondrous ‘free market’ capitalist utopia which is incessantly babbled about, but the very real global feudal dystopia, both cause and effect of the power imbalance and money-system. In feudalism, there is no freedom, only serfdom.

Welcome to our global economic order, serf!

Welcome to the Empire of Poverty.

But it’s not hopeless. The truth is both painful, but also full of possibilities. The truth is that we do have the ability to understand the world we live in, to comprehend our global economic order. We don’t need a degree; we just need honesty.

The illusion that is our economic system is built not upon technical knowledge, but rather, technical language, a highly political language, “designed to make lies sound truthful, murder respectable, and to give a feeling of solidity to pure wind,” as George Orwell defined the term. Our inability to communicate honesty, and thus effectively, about our economic – and indeed, political and social – system is an essential mechanism in maintaining that system.

To speak and ‘understand’ this language, at least at a superficial level, usually does require some ‘education’: economists must be trained, so too must political and other social scientists. The artificial separations in their knowledge – (as in, the notion that the economic world exists separate from the political and social world, and thus, must be studied separately) ensures that none who receive a ‘proper education’ achieve a profound understanding of the world. Some may, but they are few and far between, and usually weeded out or co-opted.

Such a ‘proper education’ will allow one to gain enough basic knowledge related to the sector of society in which they aim to explore and advance, and they are given just enough knowledge to do so, but not enough to honestly look at – let alone have the capacity to communicate – the reality of how our global political, social and economic order functions and evolves. They may see problems, make recommendations, propose policies, and they may even do some good, but ultimately – as we still remain on the path toward extinction – they have not, and cannot – do enough.

Few possibilities – few ‘solutions’ – or opportunities, are communicated to the populations that are effected under and by these societies, and by the decisions the few at the top make. People are generally given a small set of options from which to choose, like guessing what’s behind door number one or two, when both are ultimately terrible, and ineffectual (in a positive sense). We put ‘faith’ – however empty – into the hands of politicians, we consume the crap spewed in the media, or we lose ourselves in the vast vacancy that is the ‘substance’ of our culture; a culture of mythology, lies, fantasy, persuasion, punishment, entertainment and manipulation.

Our hope is first in honesty. We can – and must – look honestly at the world for what it is, not what we want or imagine it to be, but what it is. Then, we can – and must – communicate this message, and to do so honestly and directly. This is a human reality, and it must become a part of a collective human knowledge, a shift in understanding, and thus, a change in direction; away from the current-inevitably of extinction, and toward survival. What comes after is for future generations to determine. For now, we must aim to simply survive.

Our goal must first be to begin charting a new path toward survival; this must be the duty of our present living and younger generations, as challenging, demanding and terrifying a responsibility that may be, it is either that, or extinction. And this is not a matter of hundreds or thousands of years away; it could be as soon as decades. If you – like me – are between 18 and 45 – the coming few decades of the world in which you currently live and hope to survive will become increasingly dreadful, destructive, oppressive, and disempowering. We cannot afford to continue kicking the can down the road, delaying – and exacerbating – the inevitable.

There is always hope, not in myths and fantasy, but hidden in reality. In our actions, ideas, in us – as individuals – connecting, interacting, sharing, working and creating together, as collectives, as part of a larger human organism; beginning to act as if we don’t want to self-destruct as a species, creating a new society – a new order – to make the current one obsolete. This is our great challenge. How do we navigate through living within the present existing order, while simultaneously seeking to create a new and alternative order? Moreover, how do we achieve this if it takes nearly all our effort, time and energy to simply survive the present order? To put it as crudely (and honestly) as possible: how the fuck are we supposed to change the world?!

I don’t know the answers. But I think that the best way to get them is to ask honest questions, seek an honest understanding, and to communicate honestly – about ourselves and the world – personally, and globally. This book is my attempt to understand and speak honestly about the world, not to speak in a language that only economists and political scientists or other so-called ‘experts’ can understand, but to speak plainly and directly. This will require me to dedicate some focus in attempting to translate political language into English. I don’t have a degree, and you won’t need one to read this, or to understand it.

The hope, then, that I hold for this book – and the wider book project of which it is apart – is that it presents an accessible and usable collection of knowledge. It is not the book that asks every question, or has ever answer (no books do!), but it is an attempt at taking a different approach to asking and seeking answers to some rather important questions about our world: what is the true nature of our society? How did we get here? Where are we going? Why? And, what can we do to change it?

This is but an introduction to our world, by no means comprehensive or conclusive, simply accessible, honest, and (hopefully) useful.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is a 26-year old researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, chair of the Geopolitics Division of The Hampton Institute, research director for Occupy.com’s Global Power Project and the World of Resistance (WoR) Report, and hosts a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.


[1]       Mike Davis, Planet of Slums (Verso: London, 2007), pages 151-173.

[2]       Thomas Pogge, “Keynote Address: Poverty, Climate Change, and Overpopulation,” Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law (Vol. 38, 2010), pages 526-534.

[3]       Ibid.

[4]       Dan Vergano, “Billionaires back ambitious space projects,” USA Today, 13 May 2012:



The Empire of Poverty

The People’s Book Project has been in the works for a good deal of time. The Project consists of crowd-funding my efforts to do research and write a series of books analyzing historical and present institutions, ideologies and individuals of power and the processes of resistance to those power structures, in various political, economic and social realms. A modern history of ‘Power and People’, if you will. It’s not an easy endeavour, but with the funding – through donations – that have gotten me to the present point, an enormous amount of research and writing on a wide variety of subjects has been undertaken.

Currently, I am in the process of finishing off the research on the central banking/monetary system. Following this, I will accumulate the research I have done on several other issues and begin weaving it all together in a readable, coherent and concise framework to present the first volume of the People’s Book Project, focused on the global economic system. Included in this volume will be a look at the dynastic power structures of our economic system, largely resting in financial and corporate families; the power and function of banks and financial institutions; the development and spread of corporations; corporate and financial profits; global poverty and hunger; the destruction of the middle class; debt as a mechanism of control and domination; the global land grabs; global trade agreements; the global financial and economic crisis, it’s causes and effects; the central banking system and financial markets; debt crises, austerity, adjustment programs and the reshaping of the global order, guided by bankers, oligarchs and unelected technocrats. This volume aims to analyze and help others understand the nature of the global economic order: how we got here, where we’re going, and just perhaps, what we can do to change our path.

Now in terms of the research and writing I have done, all of which is still very rough in terms of drafts, here is a brief summary outlining how many pages of writing/research I have completed:

– the global financial crisis: 55 pages

– the European debt crisis: 300 pages

– central banking: 55 pages

– financial markets: 112 pages

– corporate power: 58 pages

– trade agreements: 58 pages

– global resources, food crisis, global land grabs: 50 pages

On top of that, I have over 100 pages more of dispersed research on several remaining topics. Now, this does not mean that I will be publishing an 800-page book. What this means is that – even as I have not yet finished my research on the central banking system – I will have roughly 800 pages of work to go through in order to put together the first official draft of the first volume for the People’s Book Project, tentatively entitled, “The Empire of Poverty.”

Now, before I go on to ask for money, I want to explain what I have been doing with my time, besides all of the above. I have not done any specific fundraising for the Book Project in a couple months, as I have not had the ability to dedicate as much time as I would like to work on the book specifically. Instead, I have been working on the following: doing research and writing for a continuous project for Occupy.com – the Global Power Project – examining the individuals who govern society’s major institutions and assessing their other institutional affiliations in an attempt to map the networks of influence wielded by global elites; starting a new continuous research project for Occupy.com – the World of Resistance Report – examining the instances and evolution of global protests, uprisings, revolts and revolution around the world; running the Geopolitics Division of The Hampton Institute – a new, up-and-coming U.S.-based think tank with a radical perspective on the world; doing weekly podcasts for BoilingFrogsPost; doing commissioned articles for various sites; and finally, working – with a few select friends – on starting up our own non-profit organization (on which I will be writing in more detail in the near future).

Now, fortunately for myself – and for those who have been consistent supporters of the Book Project – there has been a great deal of overlap between all these ventures: my research and writing for all these projects directly supports my work on the book. This is why I have avoided doing any specific fund raising for the book recently. However, I now have accumulated enough work and research to really push forward to the editing phase (once my work on central banking is complete, on which I will also be writing an exclusive article for a specific website). What I do need, at this point, is TIME: the time to spend adding the finishing touches to the research, and the time to read through, edit, and start putting together the first complete draft of “The Empire of Poverty.”

Unfortunately, in our present global economic order – of which I will provide much more elucidation in the first volume of the series – time… is money. I wish that I could manage to continue all my work for the other ventures (and thereby not be as reliant upon donations to survive), while also doing the work on the book, but I simply do not have enough time to do it all. Thus, I am undertaking a fundraising initiative to raise $2,500 to subsidize the time needed in order to dedicate my efforts to the book. I assure you, NO ONE is more interested in having this book completed than I am, and all the enormous support it has been given from around the world has been a wonderful – and surprising – gift; truly remarkable, and for which I am eternally grateful. But now I am also impatient. I want to be done, I need something to be completed. I have attempted to balance my time with all these new projects, but have been unable to put in the desired time and effort specifically for the book. Now, that time has come.

Please consider donating to – or spreading the word to others about – the first volume of The People’s Book Project: “The Empire of Poverty.”

Thank you, sincerely.

Andrew Gavin Marshall


The Project to Expose Power Structures


The People’s Book Project has been ongoing for some time now. I recently attempted a fundraising campaign (aimed at raising $2,000) to support work on the Book Project for March and April. I never met the funding goal, but came very close, due to the extremely generous support of readers.

That support has led to significant progress on the project: no new chapters are being started currently. Rather, I am now focusing on finishing the existing chapters and beginning the process of editing together the first volume of the People’s Book Project, focused on issues related to the global economic crisis: the food crisis, land grabs, global poverty, slums, trade, so-called “free trade” agreements, corporate power, bank domination and profits, austerity policies, debt crises, and resistance to economic and corporate tyranny.

Over the next two months, the first volume of the book project should be nearing the first complete edit. But for that to happen, I need to again ask for support from readers to contribute to making this project a reality.

Check out the newly-designed website for The People’s Book Project!

Don’t forget to ‘like’ the Facebook page!

Please consider being a contributor and patron to The People’s Book Project. I am aiming to reach the fundraising goal of $2,000 to support the remaining research, writing, and editing for the first volume of the ‘global economic order.’

This project aims to expose global power structures in order to arm the people with enough information to try to change them. Help contribute to redistributing power by empowering the people with information and knowledge!

Contribute today!

Thank you,

Andrew Gavin Marshall


In the Arms of Dictators: America the Great… Global Arms Dealer

In the Arms of Dictators: America the Great… Global Arms Dealer

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

Photograph: Mido Ahmed/AFP/Getty Images

Photograph: Mido Ahmed/AFP/Getty Images

The following is a first draft sample from a chapter currently being written for The People’s Book Project. Read more about The People’s Book Project here, and please consider donating to help the Project continue.

The American imperial system incorporates much more than supporting the occasional coup or undertaking the occasional war. Coups, wars, assassinations and other forms of overt and covert violence and destabilization, while relatively common and consistent for the United States – compared to other major powers – are secondary to the general maintenance of a system of imperial patronage. A “stable” system is what is desired most by strategic planners and policy-makers, but this has a technical definition. Stability means that the populations of subject nations and regions are under “control” – whether crushed by force or made passive by consent, while Western corporate and financial interests have and maintain unhindered access to the “markets” and resources of those nations and regions. Since the 19th century development of America’s overseas empire, this has been referred to as the “Open Door” policy: as in, the door opens for American and other Western economic interests to have access to and undertake exploitation of resources and labour.

As the only global imperial power, and by far the world’s largest military power, America does not merely rely upon the “goodwill” of smaller nations or the threat of force against them in order to maintain its dominance, it has established, over time, a large and complex network of imperial patronage: supplying economic aid, military aid (to allow its favoured regimes to control their own populations or engage in proxy-warfare), military and police training, among many other programs. These programs are largely coordinated by and between the Defense Department, State Department, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Arms sales are a major method through which the United States – and other powerful nations – are able to exert their hegemony, by arming and strengthening their key allies, directly or indirectly fueling civil wars and conflicts, and funneling money into the world’s major weapons manufacturers. The global economic crisis had “significantly pushed down purchases of weapons” over 2009 to the lowest level since 2005. In 2009, worldwide arms deals amounted to $57.5 billion, dropping 8.5% from the previous year. The United States maintained its esteemed role as the main arms dealer in the world, accounting for $22.6 billion – or 39% of the global market. In 2008, the U.S. contribution to global arms sales was significantly higher, at $38.1 billion, up from $25.7 billion in 2007. In 2009, the second-largest arms dealer in the world was Russia at $10.4 billion, then France at $7.4 billion, followed by Germany, Italy, China and Britain.[1]

There are two official ways in which arms are sold to foreign nations: either through Foreign Military Sales (FMS), in which the Pentagon negotiates an agreement between the U.S. government and a foreign government for the sale and purchase of arms, and through Direct Commercial Sales (DCS), in which arms manufacturers (multinational corporations) negotiate directly with foreign governments for the sale and purchase of arms, having to apply for a license from the State Department.

Between 2005 and 2009, U.S. arms sales totaled roughly $101 billion, with direct commercial sales (DCS) accounting for more than half of the total value, at $59.86 billion, and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) accounting for $40.85 billion. The top seven recipients of U.S. arms sales between 2005 and 2009 were: Japan at $13.14 billion, the United Kingdom at $8.32 billion, Israel at $8 billion, South Korea at $6.53 billion, Australia at $4.17 billion, Egypt at $4.07 billion, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at $3.98 billion.[2]

The United States experienced a slight decline in global arms sales over 2009, though it maintained its position as the world’s number one arms dealer, holding 30% of the global market. However, the Obama administration in 2010 decided to change certain “export control regulations” in order to make arms deals easier and increase the U.S. share of the global market. The stated reason for the legal change was “to simplify the sale of weapons to U.S. allies,” though it had the added benefit of “generating business for the U.S. defense industry.” The U.S. National Security Advisor at the time, General James Jones, claimed that without the changes, the existing system of arms sales “poses a potential national security risk based on the fact that its structure is overly complicated.”[3]

In early 2010, the Obama administration began pressuring Saudi Arabia and other Gulf dictatorships (aka: “allies”) to increase their purchases of U.S. arms, upgrade their defense of oil installations and threaten Iran with overwhelming military superiority. In the lead were Saudi Arabia and the UAE in undertaking a regional “military buildup” – or arms race – resulting in more than $25 billion in U.S. arms sales to the region over the previous two years. A senior U.S. official in the Obama administration commented: “We’re developing a truly regional defensive capability, with missile systems, air defense and a hardening up of critical infrastructure… All of these have progressed significantly over the past year.” Another senior official stated, “It’s a tough neighborhood, and we have to make sure we are protected,” adding that Iran was the “number one threat in the region.”[4]

Of course, Iran is actually a nation that exists within the region, and thus has the right to defend itself, whereas the United States cannot “defend” itself in a region in which it does not exist. But then, geographical trivialities have never been a concern to imperialists who believe that the world belongs to them and it was a mere accident of history that all the resources exist outside of the empire’s home country. Therefore, with such a rationalization, the United States – and the West more broadly – have a “right” to “defend” themselves (and their economic and political interests) everywhere in the world, and against everyone in the world. Any other nation which poses a challenge to Western domination of the world and its resources is thus a “threat” to whichever region it belongs, as well as to U.S. “national security.”

Iran is of course not the only competition for the United States and the West in its unhindered access to and control of the world, but China is another and arguably much more significant threat (though not an officially sanctioned U.S. enemy, as of yet). Around the same time the U.S. was pushing for increased arms sales to the Persian Gulf dictatorships (no doubt, to advance the causes of “democracy” and “peace”), the Obama administration secured an arms deal with Taiwan worth over $6 billion, incurring the frustration of China. The deal included the sale of 114 Patriot missiles, 60 Black Hawk helicopters, and communications equipment for Taiwan’s fleet of F-16s, with the possibility of future sales of F-16 fighter jets.[5]

The Chinese vice foreign minister expressed “indignation” to the U.S. State Department in response to the arms deal, adding: “We believe this move endangers China’s national security and harms China’s peaceful reunification efforts [with Taiwan]… It will harm China-U.S. relations and bring about a serious and active impact on bilateral communication and cooperation.” In response, the U.S. National Security Advisor General James Jones stated that the announcement shouldn’t “come as a surprise to our Chinese friends.”[6]

In September of 2010, the Obama administration announced the intention to undertake the largest arms deal in U.S. history, the sale of advanced aircraft to Saudi Arabia worth up to $60 billion for fighter jets and helicopters (84 F-15s, 70 Apaches, 72 Black Hawks, and 36 Little Birds), as well as engaging “in talks with the [Saudi] kingdom about potential naval and missile-defense upgrades that could be worth tens of billions of dollars more,” according to the Wall Street Journal, with “a potential $30 billion package to upgrade Saudi Arabia’s naval forces.” The stated objective was to counter the role of Iran in the region, though no agreement had been initially reached. The U.S. was selling the idea to Congress as a means of creating “jobs,” a political euphemism for corporate profits. One official involved in the talks noted, “It’s a big economic sale for the U.S. and the argument is that it is better to create jobs here than in Europe.”[7]

The arms deal would purchase equipment and technology from Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, and United Technologies. In recent years, Saudi Arabia had been purchasing more European and Russian-made arms from companies like BAE Systems. U.S. officials were also attempting to ease the fears of Israel while massively building up the arsenal of a close neighbor, ensuring that the planes sold to the Kingdom wouldn’t have long-range weapons systems and further, that the Israelis would purchase the more advanced F-35 jet fighters. The Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, commented, “We appreciate the administration’s efforts to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge.” The potential $60 billion arms deal with the Saudis would be stretched out over several years, though there was talk that the Saudis might only guarantee a purchase of at least $30 billion, at least, initially.[8]

The Financial Times reported that the Arab dictatorships in the Gulf “have embarked on one of the largest re-armament exercises in peacetime history, ordering US weapons worth some $123 billion as they seek to counter Iran’s military power.” Saudi Arabia’s $60 billion was the largest, with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) signing arms deals worth between $35 and $40 billion in purchases of a “high altitude missile defence system” known as THAAD, developed by Lockheed Martin, as well as purchasing upgrades of its Patriot missile defense systems, produced by Raytheon. Oman was expected to purchase $12 billion and Kuwait $7 billion in arms and military technology. The CEO of Blenheim Capital Partners, a consultancy firm which helps arrange arms deals, noted that Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian countries were replacing Western European nations as the largest arms purchasers, adding: “They are the big buyers.”[9]

Anthony Cordesman from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said that the United States was seeking to create a “new post-Iraq war security structure that can secure the flow of energy exports to the global economy.” These massive arms sales would then “reinforce the level of regional deterrence” – or in other words, expand American hegemony over the region through local proxy powers and dictatorships – and thus, “help reduce the size of forces the US must deploy in the region.” As a Saudi defense analyst noted, “[t]he Saudi aim is to send a message especially to the Iranians – that we have complete aerial superiority over them.”[10]

According to three of four members of an ‘Expert Roundup’ published by the Council on Foreign Relations, the $123 billion arms deals with the Arab dictatorships are “a good idea for the United States and the Middle East.” One of the “experts” is Anthony Cordesman, the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at CSIS, former director of intelligence assessment in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, as well as having served in several other State Department and NATO staffs, and has been a regular consultant to the Afghan and Iraqi occupation commands, U.S. embassies, and was a member of the Strategic Assessment Group which advised General Stanley McChrystal in developing a new strategy in Afghanistan for 2009. He also regularly consults with the U.S. State and Defense Departments and the intelligence community. Cordesman wrote that the US “shares critical strategic interests with Saudi Arabia,” notably the control of oil for “the health” of the global economy.[11]

Cordesman also emphasized the role of pliant dictatorships in carrying out U.S imperial objectives in the region, writing that the U.S. “needs allies that have interoperable forces that can both fight effectively alongside the United States and ease the U.S. burden by defending themselves,” meaning, to defend America’s interests, which then become the interests of America’s proxies – or “allies.” The arms sales would be a helpful counter to Iran in the region, and secure a strong relationship between “the current Saudi government as well as Saudi governments for the next fifteen to twenty years,” the suggested timeline for delivery of all purchases, providing Saudi Arabia with a “strong incentive to work with the United States” over the long-term.[12]

Loren B. Thompson, the Chief Operating Officer of the Lexington Institute, also participated in the Council on Foreign Relations ‘Roundup’ report, writing that the arms deal “appears to be a careful reconciliation of Saudi requirements with Israeli fears, while also offering a strategic balance against Iran.” Whatever the differences between Saudi Arabia and the United States, he wrote, casting aside the fact that the Kingdom is one of the most brutal and dictatorial regimes in the world, “the Saudis have been reliable allies of America for decades and have exercised a moderating influence on the behavior of other oil-producing states.” Helping the Saudis, Thompson wrote, “means helping ourselves.”[13]

F. Gregory Gause III, Professor and Chair of the Political Science Department at the University of Vermont wrote that the arms deal “will not buy much security in the long run in the Persian Gulf,” but, he added, “there are no good reasons not to sell the Saudis those weapons, and there are some potentially positive results (besides the economic benefits to the US),” such as opposing the “Iranian regional challenge,” with which he included Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Occupied Territories of Palestine, “various Iraqi parties,” Syria, and “Shia activists in the Gulf monarchies.” One could not object to the arms sale on the basis of supporting a regime with a horrible record on democracy, women’s rights, Islam, and human rights, Gause wrote, adding: “Moral purity would be purchased at the price of reduced American regional influence.” In other words, it’s a terrible regime, but it’s America’s terrible regime, and thus, challenging or changing the nature of the regime could undermine and erode America’s influence through the dictatorship and over the region.[14]

William Hartung, the director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation, was another “expert” in the Council on Foreign Relations ‘Roundup’ report, providing the one “cautionary note” on the arms deal on the basis that it could amount to fueling an arms race in the region, building up the forces of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf monarchs, and Israel, thus providing pressure on Iran “to ratchet up its own military capabilities.” The Saudi deal “consists primary of offensive weapons,” though it is stated to be for defensive purposes, and if Saudi Arabia were to undertake aggressive military actions in the region, such as in Yemen (as it has), it would more likely “inflame passions” against Saudi Arabia instead of solving security problems.[15]

The United States has for years dominated the arms market of the Persian Gulf, supplying military equipment to Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain, all members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a regional governance association. A Middle East “defense analyst” with Forecast International, stated: “The U.S. arms sales to these countries are meant to improve the defense capabilities of the recipient nations, reinforce the sense of U.S. solidarity with its GCC partners and, finally, create a semblance of interoperability with American forces.” After the United States, the largest arms dealers to the region are France, Russia, Britain and China. Russian and Chinese arms mostly went to Iran, while Israel received $2.78 billion in U.S. military aid in 2010.[16]

In October of 2010, the United States assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, Andrew Shapiro, formally announced the intended Saudi arms deal for the U.S. Congress to approve for a program to last from 15 to 20 years. Shapiro stated that, “This is not solely about Iran… It’s about helping the Saudis with their legitimate security needs… they live in a dangerous neighbourhood and we are helping them preserve and protect their security.”[17]

For an average of $13 billion per year in arms sales between 1995 and 2005, the Department of Defense announced in 2010 that it intended to sell up to $103 billion, though presumably achieving a lower number, such as $50 billion, over the course of the year. A defense industry consultant, Loren Thompson, stated that, “Obama is much more favorably disposed to arms exports than any of the previous Democratic administrations.” Jeff Abramson of the Arms Control Association stated that there was “an Obama arms bazaar going on.” While the discussion about the massive arms sales in most of the press and political discourse was focused upon supporting 200,000 workers in the ‘defense’ industry, industry consultant Thompson was less ambiguous: “It’s about U.S. allies, it’s about maintaining jobs, and it’s about America’s broader role in the world – and what you have to do to maintain that role;” the role being – of course – that of the global imperial hegemon.[18]

Military contractors spread their factories and workforce out across several U.S. states in order to use their leverage as “major employers” with the U.S. Congress and other political powers. Boeing has facilities in over 20 U.S. states, and the corporation’s head of business development for military aircraft, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Kohler, was previously responsible for overseeing arms exports for the Pentagon. The entire industry of military contractors is entirely dependent upon massive state subsidies to survive, doing 80-90% of their business with the Pentagon. And, as CNN Money reported, “business recently has been good,” with the U.S. more than doubling its military spending since 2001 to roughly $700 billion, nearly as much as the rest of the entire world spends combined.[19]

Congress agreed in December of 2010 to spend $725 billion on ‘defense’ for 2011. Military contractors were largely seeking “growth” – a euphemism for exploitation and profit – by turning to foreign arms sales. The military contractor EADS sought to establish a headquarters in Asia, Honeywell created a new “international sales” division, and Lockheed Martin was planning to increase its revenue share acquired outside the United States from 14 to 20% by 2012, Boeing aimed to increase international sales from 17-25%, and Raytheon had the largest percentage of revenue from overseas at 23%. But sadly, for the arms dealers, it’s not so easy to sell weapons to foreign governments, since each deal requires a license from the U.S. State Department, a pesky barrier to “growth.” The countries with the “biggest appetite for U.S weapons” are “oil-rich nations in the Middle East,” with roughly 50% of foreign military sales by U.S. contractors between 2006 and 2009 being sold to countries in the region, with Boeing reaping the most overall profits. Mark Kronenberg, the head of Boeing’s international business development, noted: “The last time we had a period like this in the Middle East was the early ‘90s,” during the lead up to and aftermath of the first Gulf War, adding, “Here we are, 20 years later, and they’re recapitalizing.”[20]

A report prepared by the U.S. Congressional Research Service and published in December of 2011 detailed Foreign Military Sales (FMS) agreements between the United States and other nations for the period of 2003 to 2010. Between 2003 and 2006, the top ten largest recipients of U.S. arms through FMS (and excluding Direct Commercial Sales and Foreign Military Aid programs) were: Egypt ($4.5 billion), Saudi Arabia ($4.2 billion), Poland ($4.1 billion), followed by Australia, Japan, Greece, South Korea, Kuwait, Turkey, and Israel. For the years 2007 to 2010, the top ten recipients were: Saudi Arabia ($13.8 billion), UAE ($10.4 billion), Egypt ($7.8 billion), followed by Taiwan, Australia, Iraq, Pakistan, UK, Turkey, and South Korea. In 2010, the top ten purchases of U.S. arms were: Taiwan ($2.7 billion), Egypt ($1.8 billion), Saudi Arabia ($1.5 billion), followed by Australia, UK, Israel, Iraq, Jordan, South Korea, and Singapore.[21]

In April of 2011, Leslie H. Gelb, the President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote that in light of “the possible consequences of the new popular awakenings” across the Middle East, and the fact that as dictatorships increasingly “crack down even harder against the protesters… enabled by Western arms,” Americans “don’t like thinking of themselves or having others think of them as merchants of death.” The “nightmares” of Western policy-makers “comes from their hopes for Arab democracy” – that is, the emergence of “stable democracies over time” – and “their fears that fledgling Arab democracies will go awry.”[22] So naturally, arms deals are a good means to secure U.S. interests in the region.

In May of 2011, Andrew Shapiro, the Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, spoke to the U.S. Department of State’s Defense Trade Advisory Group, at which he said the “demand” for U.S. arms and military technology “will remain strong because the U.S. has longstanding defense commitments to allies around the world,” and “we will remain very busy no matter the fluctuations of the global market.” The “dynamic nature of the geopolitical landscape” would require the U.S. “to adapt to changing situations.” Shapiro stated that, “we are witnessing another geopolitical shift, which may have broad implications for U.S. foreign policy,” referencing the popular uprisings across the Middle East as “perhaps the most significant geopolitical development since the end of the Cold War.” In his speech, Shapiro praised his audience at the Defense Trade Advisory Group (DTAG) as “valuable” in “giving us a formal channel to the private sector,” enabling the State Department “to better evaluate U.S. laws and regulations, especially during times of immense change.”[23]

The members of the DTAG included top executives and officials from such companies as BAE Systems, ITT Defense, Boeing, Booz Allen Hamilton, EADS North America, Intel, General Electric, General Dynamics, United Technologies, Tyco, Northrop Grumman, Honeywell International, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin, among a total of 45 individuals.[24] According to its website, the DTAG advises the State Department Bureau of Political-Military Affairs “on its support for and regulation of defense trade to help ensure that impediments to legitimate exports are reduced while the foreign policy and national security interests of the U.S. continue to be protected and advanced.”

Shapiro told these corporate representatives that, “It is important to emphasize that arms transfers are a tool to advance U.S. foreign policy. And therefore when U.S. foreign policy interests, goals, and objectives shift, evolve, and transform over time, so will our arms transfer policy.” As always, stated Shapiro, “we urge you to provide your thoughts and ideas over how we should move forward.” Foreign military sales – especially to the Middle East – will continue as “a critical foreign policy instrument” allowing the U.S. to “gain influence and leverage, which can be used to help advance our foreign policy goals and objectives.”[25]

As an example, the United States approved $200 million in military sales from U.S. corporations to the government of Bahrain in 2010, just months before pro-democracy protests erupted in the country, resulting in “a harsh crackdown on protesters,” killing at least 30 and injuring hundreds of more people in a matter of months.[26]

In December of 2011, Andrew Shapiro announced the formal signing with Saudi Arabia to sell the dictatorship $30 billion in F-15 fighter jets to be delivered by 2015, as well as other plans to sell $11 billion in arms to Iraq. The Saudi deal was the result of extensive lobbying efforts by top government officials, including Obama making several phone calls to Saudi King Abdullah, and the U.S. National Security Advisor, Thomas E. Donilon, twice traveling to Riyadh while Vice President Joe Biden led a “high-level delegation” to a funeral for a Saudi Prince in October of 2011.[27]

Embracing the World with Open “Arms”

In 2009, worldwide arms sales stood at $65.2 billion, dropping by 38% to $40.4 billion in 2010, the lowest number since 2003, with the United States contributing $21.4 billion – or 52.7% – of the global arms deals, Russia in second place at $7.8 billion over 2010, followed by France, Britain, China, Germany and Italy, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service. Over 75% of global arms sales in 2010 were for ‘developing’ countries, with India in top place at $5.8 billion in arms deals, followed by Taiwan at $2.7 billion, Saudi Arabia at $2.2 billion, Egypt, Israel, Algeria, Syria, South Korea, Singapore and Jordan.[28]

This relative decline in global arms sales over 2010 was not to be repeated for 2011, with the number skyrocketing to $85.3 billion, with the U.S. contribution tripling to $66.3 billion, accounting for more than three-quarters of global arms deals.[29] Russia stood in a distant second place with $4.8 billion in arms sales.[30] While the United States controls roughly 75% of the global arms trade, it would be wrong to ignore the role of the other major players, though they are far from even competing with the U.S.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reported that the rise in arms sales had increased by 60% in real terms since 2002, with the total sales of the top 100 arms companies reaching $411.1 billion in 2010. The arms industry is “increasingly concentrated” to the point where the top ten firms account for 56% of all sales, with Lockheed Martin at the top with sales of $35.7 billion in 2010, followed by Britain’s BAE Systems at $32.8 billion, Boeing at $31.3 billion, and Northrop Grumman at $28.5 billion.[31] Other major companies on the top 100 list of arms manufacturers include: General Dynamics, Raytheon, EADS, L-3 Communications, United Technologies, Thales, SAIC, Honeywell, Rolls-Royce, General Electric, KBR, Hewlett-Packard, and DynCorp.[32]

Following the beginning of the Arab Spring and the toppling of the Western-backed dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, British Prime Minister David Cameron continued with a pre-planned tour of the Middle East in February of 2011, leading what the British Green Party leader called a “delegation of arms traders,” with almost 75% of the businessmen accompanying the Prime Minister on his trip to the region representing the defense and aerospace industries.[33] As the first Western leader to visit Egypt following the fall of Mubarak, Cameron praised the pro-democracy movement: “Meeting the young people and the representatives of the groups in Tahrir Square [in Cairo] was genuinely inspiring,” adding: “These are people who have risked a huge amount for what they believe in.” Immediately after praising Egypt’s revolution and expressing his own ‘beliefs’ in democracy, Cameron flew to Kuwait with his arms dealer delegation to sell weapons to other Arab dictatorships. When criticized for the excessive hypocrisy of his democracy-praising and dictatorship arms-dealing tour of the Middle East, Cameron simply asserted that Britain had “nothing to be ashamed of,” as there was nothing wrong with such transactions.[34]

As dictators across the region were becoming increasingly belligerent toward protesters, seeking to violently crush resistance after the successful examples of Tunisians and Egyptians toppling their long-standing dictators, increasing arms shipments to the region’s despots seemed to be only natural for Western imperial powers seeking stability and control. Kevan Jones, the British Shadow Defence Minister noted: “The defence industry is crucially important to Britain but many people will be surprised that the prime minister in this week of all weeks may be considering bolstering arms sales to the Middle East.” Accompanying David Cameron on his trip were 36 corporate representatives, including Ian King, the CEO of BAE Systems, as well as Victor Chavez of Thales UK, Alastair Bisset of Qinetiq, and Rob Watson of Rolls Royce. When questioned about his ‘arms dealer delegation,’ Cameron stated: “I have got a range of business people on the aeroplane, people involved in infrastructure and people involved in the arts and cultural exchanges. Yes, we have defence manufacturers as well. Britain does have a range of defence relationships with countries in the region. I seem to remember that we spent a lot of effort and indeed life in helping to defend Kuwait. So it is quite right to have defence relationships with some of these countries.”[35]

As Cameron was hopping around the region selling weapons, the largest arms fair in the Middle East – the Index 2011 – was taking place in Abu Dhabi, bringing thousands of arms dealers to an exhibition hall with fighter jets flying overhead, tanks in the sand, with Predator drones and assault rifles on display, models fully dressed in the latest riot police outfits, and all choreographed to a hip-hop soundtrack. Meanwhile, not very far from the booming arms fair, protesters in Bahrain were being violently repressed by a dictatorship armed and supported by the West. The British delegation to the arms fair was led by the Defence Minister, Gerald Howarth, helping represent British companies which were displaying and selling their latest tools for ‘crowd control,’ showcasing teargas grenades, stun grenades, and rubber bullets.[36]

A British officer from the government’s Trade and Industry stand at the arms fair was explaining the benefits of a particular fragmentation bomb to a top military official from the Algerian dictatorship. Howarth explained, “I am here as the minister for national security strategy, supporting this important exhibition.” While in 2011 the British had to revoke export licenses to Bahrain and Libya following the violence erupting in both countries, over the previous year the British issued 20 licenses for exports of “riot control weapons,” such as teargas, smoke and stun grenades, to Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman, as well as nearly 200 million pounds in “crowd control ammunition” to the government of Libya.[37]

Weapons manufacturers stated that they felt the increased criticism inflicted upon their industry following the start of the Arab Spring had left them “battered and bruised.” One arms trader, commenting less than two weeks after Mubarak was toppled, stated that, “[t]he Middle East was a growing market until a few weeks ago,” while a representative from BAE agreed that the market for arms was insecure: “It is too early to say where it will end up… Given what is going on at the moment, nobody is likely to be talking about how to spend their defence procurement budget.” When a representative for the British arms exporter Chemring was questioned about selling CS gas shotgun cartridges and stun grenades, he explained, “we have an ethnical policy in place and look closely at the countries we are considering exporting to and see if they fit that.” A representative for Primetake, a British firm selling rubber ball shot, teargas, and rubber baton rounds, defended his firm: “We are a very respectable organization and we take very careful advice from the Ministry of Defense and the business department.”[38]

Between October of 2009 and October of 2010, the British exported arms and military equipment to multiple countries in the Middle East and North Africa, including over 270 million pounds in materials to Algeria, including combat helicopters, roughly 6.4 million pounds in arms deals with Bahrain, nearly 17 million pounds with Egypt, 477 million pounds with Iraq, 27 million pounds with Israel, 21 million pounds with Jordan, 14.5 million pounds with Kuwait, 6.2 million pounds with Lebanon, 215 million pounds with Libya, 2.2 million pounds with Morocco, 14 million pounds with Oman, 13 million pounds with Qatar, 140 million pounds with Saudi Arabia, 2.6 million pounds with Syria, 4.5 million pounds to Tunisia, and 210 million pounds to the UAE. These sales included assault rifles, tear gas, ammunition, bombs, missiles, body armour, gun parts, gas mask filters, signaling and radar equipment, armoured vehicles, anti-riot shields, patrol boats, military software, shotguns, “crowd-control equipment,” tank parts, military cargo vehicles, air surveillance equipment, armoured personnel carriers, small arms ammunition, heavy machine guns, and a plethora of other products, almost exclusively delivered to dictatorships (with the exception of Israel).[39]

Germany, which stood as the world’s third-largest arms exporter in previous years (after the US and Russia), had doubled its share of the global arms trade over the previous decade to 11%, totaling roughly 6 billion euros in arms deals for 2008 alone, with companies like EADS, Rheinmetall and Heckler & Koch leading the way. Even Russia was becoming a big customer for German military equipment, purchasing armoured plating and tanks.[40]

In 2009, the European Union had established new export rules for arms and military technology, much-praised as preventing the export of arms that “might be used for undesirable purposes such as internal repression or international aggression or contribut[ing] to regional instability.” With the EU rules in place, member countries were free to completely disregard them. A European Commission study leaked to Der Spiegel in 2012 revealed that combined exports from EU nations made the European Union “the world’s largest exporter of weapons” to Saudi Arabia, delivering at least $4.34 billion in equipment in 2010 alone. Sweden helped the Saudi dictatorship build a missile factory, Finland delivered grenade launchers, Germany sold tanks and Britain provided fighter jets. The arms exporters were unfazed by the fact that equipment such as the tanks were used by Saudi Arabia in its “invitation” to invade Bahrain and help the Bahraini dictatorship crush the pro-democracy movement in early 2011. An official with the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society noted that the Swedish support for building a missile factory in Saudi Arabia has meant that, “we are legitimizing one of the most brutal regimes in the world.” Pakistan had meanwhile become China’s biggest customer for arms exports, while India purchased 10% of the world’s arms exports in 2010 “to defend itself against neighbor and arch enemy Pakistan.”[41]

When German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke at the Munich Security Conference in 2011, she mentioned the “obligation to pursue value-based foreign policy,” and has often argued that “no compromises” can be made on issues of human rights. As part of Merkel’s respect for “human rights” and “value-based foreign policy,” weapons sales have increased as a significant factor in Germany’s foreign policy strategy, quietly changing the rules for arms exports to increase weapons sales to “crisis regions” as “a major pillar of the country’s security policy.” The objective would be to strengthen countries within “crisis regions” and therefore reduce the possibility that the German military would itself have to participate in “international missions.”[42]

The German publication Der Spiegel referred to this as the “Merkel doctrine” of “tanks instead of soldiers.” Among the key countries to support, identified by Merkel and eight other ministers who met behind closed doors under the aegis of the Federal Security Council, were Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Qatar, India, and Angola. Merkel explained her doctrine in a speech at an event in Berlin in September of 2011 where she stated that if the West lacks the will and ability to undertake direct military intervention, “then it’s generally not enough to send other countries and organizations words of encouragement. We must also provide the necessary means to those nations that are prepared to get involved. I’ll say it clearly: This includes arms exports.” This, of course, Merkel added, would nicely manifest as a foreign policy “that is aligned with respect for human rights.”[43]

As part of the “Merkel doctrine” of engaging in a “value-based foreign policy” with “respect for human rights,” Germany increased its arms sales to the Algerian dictatorship from 20 million euros in 2010 to nearly 400 million euros in 2012, with German military manufacturer Rheinmetall planning to produce 1,200 armored personnel carriers for Algeria over the next ten years.[44] According to published European Union documents, over 2011, the top five arms exporting countries in the EU were France, the U.K., Germany, Italy, and Spain, collectively exporting over 80% of 37.5 billion euros in arms from EU countries. The European Union, winner of the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize, increased its arms exports by 18.3% since the previous year, with an increase in export licenses to Asia, the Middle East, and sub-Saharan Africa. There were arms licenses issued to Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and over 300-million euros-worth of arms for Egypt. The EU increased its arms exports to “areas of tension,” including India, Pakistan, and a record 465 million euros in arms to Afghanistan, “a country still under partial arms embargo.”[45] However, ‘partial’ is apparently debatable.

With the United States reaching a record-breaking $60 billion in arms deals over 2011, Andrew Shapiro at the State Department stated that 2012 was set to be an equally – if not larger – bonanza for arms dealers. Revealing the role of diplomats and top government officials as glorified lobbyists and corporate representatives, Shapiro told a group of defense writers in the Summer of 2012: “We’ve really upped our game in terms of advocating on behalf of U.S. companies,” adding, “I’ve got the frequent-flyer miles to prove it.” Shapiro had traveled to more than 11 countries over 2012 promoting arms deals, noting that sales were at a record level for the third quarter of 2012, already passing $50 billion. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had made “advocacy” for arms dealers “a key priority” for U.S. diplomats and State Department officials who “were now expected to undertake such efforts on all trips abroad.” Shapiro and others had been lobbying for American military contractors in deals ranging from Japan’s $10 billion purchase of aircraft from Lockheed Martin to India’s increased arms purchases, where Shapiro saw “tremendous potential” for U.S. arms sales, and to Brazil, where Boeing was competing with France’s Dassault company for a multibillion-dollar defense contract, of which Shapiro stated, “We’re eager to make the best possible case for the Boeing aircraft, and we’re hopeful that it will be selected.”[46]

By March of 2013, the world’s five largest arms exporters were the U.S., Russia, Germany, France, and China overtook the UK for the first time in fifth place, having increased its arms exports by 162% between 2008 and 2012, increasing its share of the global arms trade from 2 to 5%, over 50% of which are delivered to Pakistan, with other large recipients being Myanmar, Bangladesh, Algeria, Venezuela and Morocco.[47] Li Hong, the secretary-general of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association noted: “Military exports are one way for China to increase its international status,” explaining that, “China needs to increase its influence in regional affairs and from that perspective it needs to increase weapons exports further.” As China increased its own military budget in recent years, it had turned to developing its own weapons industries, thus moving from being the world’s number one arms importer (of conventional weapons) between 2003-2007 to taking second place behind India in the 2008-2012 period, acquiring roughly 69% of its arms imports from Russia.[48]

British Prime Minister David Cameron again traveled to the Middle East, accompanied by his Defense Secretary Philip Hammond and another delegation of arms dealers in 2012, seeking to sell up to 100 Eurofighter Typhoon jets to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, built by EADS and marketed by BAE, competing with France’s cheaper Rafale strike jet made by Dassault Aviation. The increased – and increasingly profitable – arms race in the Middle East was largely facilitated by America’s policies toward Iran. William Cohen is a former U.S. Secretary of Defense in the Clinton administration, current Counselor and Trustee to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), former member of the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations from 1989 to 1997, current Vice Chairman of the U.S.-China Business Council, on the board of directors of CBS Corporation, and is Chairman and CEO of The Cohen Group, an international business consulting firm. Commenting on the growing arms race in the Middle East, Cohen repeated the usual American propaganda, stating that there was “A very legitimate concern about Iran being a revolutionary country,” though also adding that terrorism, cyberattack threats, and “the implications of the Arab Spring” spurred each country in the region “to make sure it’s protected against that.” Cohen added that military contractors, information technology firms and other corporations “have an enormous opportunity” in the region.[49]

When British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond traveled to Indonesia to promote arms deals for British military contractors like BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce, he explained that increasing military ties with notoriously corrupt Indonesia, posed “manageable” risks. He commented: “From the companies I have talked to, they recognize that there is a challenge but they think that it is manageable, and they can operate here successfully while observing the UK and US legal requirements to address anti-corruption issues.” This statement came amid accusations of Rolls-Royce engaging in bribery to acquire business in China, Indonesia, and elsewhere. Hammond noted that in light of the U.S. “pivot” to Asia, Britain was “looking east in a way we have not done before.” Indonesia had recently purchased F-16 fighter jets and Apache helicopters from the U.S., Sukhoi fighters from Russia, missile systems from China, anti-aircraft missiles, Hawk jets and small arms from British companies.[50] Prime Minister David Cameron defended arms sales to oppressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia, declaring it to be “completely legitimate and right.”[51]

The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a major think tank, projected that defense spending in Asia would overtake that of Europe for the first time in 2012, noting that Asia was in the midst of an arms race between China and other states in the region. The expenditure of European members of NATO on defense spending over 2011 was just under $270 billion, whereas in Asia it had reached $262 billion (excluding Australia and New Zealand). As China announced increased defense spending, the United States announced a “shift in military strategy” which treats the Asia-Pacific region “as one of the Pentagon’s priorities at a time when forces in Europe are being sharply cut.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that large and rising powers like China “have a special obligation to demonstrate in concrete ways that they are going to pursue a constructive path.” Leon Panetta, the U.S. Defense Secretary, noted that America’s “military posture in Asia will be increased.”[52]

Indeed, in 2012, Asian defense spending surpassed that of Europe for the first time, reaching a record level of $287.4 billion, though the United States continued to account for 45.3% of total global military spending, meaning that the United States spends almost as much on military expenditures than the rest of the entire world combined.[53] The United States, as part of its Pacific ‘pivot’ in military strategy, increased its arms sales to countries neighbouring China and North Korea. Fred Downey, vice president of the U.S. trade group, Aerospace Industries Association, which includes top U.S. military contractors, noted that the Pacific pivot “will result in growing opportunities for our industry to help equip our friends.” U.S. arms sales to the region increased to $13.7 billion in 2012, up more than 5% from the previous year. There were 65 individual notifications to the U.S. Congress over the previous year regarding total foreign military sales brokered by the Pentagon with a collective value exceeding $63 billion. The State Department, responsible for issuing licenses for direct commercial sales between military contractors and foreign governments, noted that 2012 saw a new record increase with more than 85,000 license requests.[54]

As Obama set a new record for arms sales to the Middle East in 2012, Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro noted, “If countries view the United States unfavorably, they will be less willing to cooperate on security matters,” and for this reason, “the current administration has sought to revitalize U.S. diplomatic engagement, especially relating to security assistance and defense trade.” The growth in arms sales, noted Shapiro, speaking to the Defense Trade Advisory Group in November of 2012, “has been truly remarkable,” that in spite of the global economic crisis, “demand for U.S. defense sales abroad remains robust” with “significant growth both in direct commercial sales and in foreign military sales.”[55]

As part of America’s Pacific ‘pivot,’ the United States announced a $5.9 billion arms deal with Taiwan in 2011, upgrading the country’s fleet of 145 F-16 fighter jets. Zhang Zhijun, a Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister, commented: “The wrongdoing by the US side will inevitably undermine bilateral relations as well as exchanges and co-operation in military and security areas.” Upon the announcement of the arms deal, Zhijun summoned the U.S. ambassador to China, Gary Locke, and informed him that, “China strongly urges the US to be fully aware of the high sensitivity and serious harm of the issue, [to] seriously treat the solemn stance of China, honour its commitment and immediately cancel the wrong decision.” A top Obama administration official replied, “We believe that our contribution to the legitimate defense needs of Taiwan will contribute to stability across the Taiwan Strait.”[56] The Chinese Ministry of Defense warned that the arms deal “will create a serious obstacle to developing normal exchanges between the two militaries” and that the “U.S. has ignored China’s firm opposition and insisted on selling arms to Taiwan.”[57] Obviously, there are different definitions of “stability” at play.

In April of 2012, the Pentagon announced an arms deal with Japan of four F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft with an option to purchase an additional 38 F-35 jets from Lockheed Martin at an estimated cost of $10 billion.[58] In late 2011, Japan announced its intention to relax a ban on weapons exports which dated back to 1967, which, the Financial Times reported, could open “the way for Japanese companies to participate in the international development and manufacture of advanced weapon systems.” Japan’s largest business lobby, the Keidanren, praised the move as “epoch-making.”[59] Following the “relaxing” of controls, Japan and Britain announced that they would jointly develop weaponry, the first time that Japan would work with another country (apart from the United States) on constructing military equipment.[60]

In October of 2012, the United States announced an arms deal in which South Korea would get longer-range missiles capable of striking anywhere in North Korea, “altering” (or violating) a 2001 accord which barred the U.S. “from developing and deploying ballistic missiles with a range of more than 300km (186 miles),” in order to avert a regional arms race. Obviously, a decision was made to create a regional arms race, so the accord was “altered” and the US agreed to sell South Korea missiles with a range of 800km. South Korea’s defense ministry praised the new deal, stating that they would then be able to “strike all of North Korea, even from southern areas.” The 2001 accord also ensured that the U.S. would not deploy or develop missiles for the South with a payload of more than 500 kg (1,100lbs), since the “heavier a payload is, the more destructive power it can have.” So obviously, that pesky restriction also had to be “altered,” and while long-range missiles maintain the 1,100lb payload, missiles with shorter ranges will be permitted to hold much more. South Korea will also be able to operate U.S.-supplied drones, permitted to hold payloads up to 5,510lb with a range of more than 300km, and no payload restrictions on drones with a flying distance less than 300km. South Korea can also acquire cruise missiles with unlimited range, and some media reports suggested that South Korea had already deployed cruise missiles with a range of more than 1,000km, though officials “refused to confirm” if that were true. The South Korean Defense Ministry reported that North Korea had missiles that could reach South Korea, Japan, and Guam, a Pacific territory of the United States.[61] Thus, the United States intends to counter the “threat” of North Korea by instigating a massive arms race in the region.

Arms Trade Diplomacy: “Chief Commercial Officer” or Ambassador?

As the massive release of diplomatic cables from Wikileaks revealed, U.S. and other diplomats are often little more than glorified lobbyists and salesmen for the Western arms industry. Lockheed Martin got help from the U.S. State Department in selling C-130 military transport planes to the government in Chad starting in 2007. The U.S. Embassy in Chad noted that the government likely could not afford the aircraft, not to mention that it would probably use the aircraft “to defend the regime against a backlash provoked by its refusal so far to open its political system and provide for a peaceful democratic transition.” In other words, the government of Chad wanted to use the military equipment to crush a pro-democracy movement. Nevertheless, noted the U.S. Embassy, we “would concur in allowing the sale to go forward.”[62]

With Chad’s air force chief, its ambassador to the U.S. and a representative from Lockheed Martin promoting the deal with the State Department, the Embassy noted that the sale “would provide a healthy boost to U.S. exports to Chad” and “strengthen U.S. military cooperation.” While Chad told the State Department that it wanted the aircraft “to go after terrorists or help refugees,” the U.S. Embassy noted that in reality, “it needs them to support combat operations against the armed rebellion in eastern Chad,” and commented: “A decision to approve the sale would be met with dismay by many Chadian supporters of peaceful democratic change.” Our conclusion, noted a U.S. Embassy cable, “is that, like it or not, our interests line up in favor of allowing the sale in some form to go forward.” However, the U.S. would have to promote the sale with full knowledge of how Chadians will perceive it, and will have to undertake “a strategy to counter these perceptions.”[63]

Ben Berkowitz wrote for Reuters that Wikileaks cables painted “a picture of foreign service officers and political appointees willing to go to great lengths to sell American products and services,” where, “in some cases, the efforts were so strenuous they raise the question of where if anywhere the line is being drawn between diplomacy and salesmanship.” A State Department spokesperson said in response that the U.S. government “has broad, though not unlimited, discretion to promote and assist U.S. commercial interests abroad.” Such practice became official policy shortly after the end of the Cold War when U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger introduced a bill which gave corporations a direct role in foreign policy. One former U.S. diplomat in Asia noted, “Until (then), U.S. diplomats were not particularly encouraged to help U.S. business. They were busy fighting the Cold War.” Suddenly, he noted, “we were given new direction: if a single U.S. company is looking for business, we should advocate for them by name; if more than one U.S. company was in the mix, stress buying the American product.” The former diplomat added: “It was great to see how influential the right word from the U.S. ambassador was.”[64]

Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero had informed the U.S. Embassy, “to let him know if there was something important to the (U.S. government) and he would take care of it,” according to a 2009 diplomatic cable. The embassy took up the offer when General Electric was bidding against Rolls-Royce to sell helicopters to the Spanish Ministry of Defense (MOD), with GE informing the U.S. Embassy that if it did not get the contract, it would close part of its business in Spain. The U.S. Embassy passed the information along to Zapatero’s economic adviser, and, although there was “considerable” evidence that the government was going to award the contract to Rolls Royce, the Zapatero’s office “overturned the decision and it was announced that GE had won the bid,” and the U.S. Ambassador was “convinced that Zapatero personally intervened in the case in favor of GE.”[65]

The U.S. Embassy in the United Arab Emirates promoted the interests of Halliburton to participate in a joint venture with the Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. in 2003, a time at which Halliburton’s former CEO, Dick Cheney, was Vice President of the United States. The contract was eventually awarded to Halliburton. The U.S. Ambassador to the UAE at the time, Marcelle Wahba, noted, “I can’t think of a time when a month went by when a commercial issues wasn’t on my plate… Some administrations put more of an emphasis on it than others, but now I think, regardless of who’s in power you really find it’s become an integral part of the State Department mandate.”[66]

Tom Niles, a former U.S. ambassador to Canada, the European Union and Greece, as well as former president of the “pro-trade group” the U.S. Council for International Business, stated: “By the time I was retired from the Foreign Service, which was 1998, things had changed fundamentally and being an active participant in the commercial program and promoting trade using the prestige of the ambassador and receptions held at the ambassador’s residence was an important part of what I did.” Niles suggested that a U.S. ambassador was as much a “chief commercial officer” for corporations as a diplomat. “We might have been a little bit late to the game. The Europeans understood the crucial role of foreign trade in the growth and development of their economies before we did.” A former ambassador to the UAE noted: “Oftentimes European ambassadors, that’s all they’re there for.” Of course, that’s only logical, considering that European ambassadors do not have to be concerned with managing the world in the same way the United States does. Therefore, their interests are specific: economic.[67]

In the Arms of America

With all the flowery rhetoric of “democracy” and “freedom,” American – and the Western world’s – hypocrisy can easily be revealed with a brief look at the global arms trade: supporting ruthless and repressive dictatorships, as well as creating and supporting regional arms races which increase instability and the threat of war. The objective is simple, and from the imperial perspective, very practical: support regional proxy states to do our dirty work for us. If this happens to increase regional instability and even lead to war, well, such things are inevitable within and as a result of an imperial system. So long as the final result is that the United States and the West maintain their “access” to and control over regions, resources, and populations, the means are incidental.

To put it another way: if our nations were actually interested in concepts and ideas of “democracy” and “freedom” for all people, around the world, why do we sell billions of dollars in weapons and military technology to the countries which most enthusiastically crush democracy and prevent freedom?

The answer to that question reveals the true nature of our society.


Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, with a focus on studying the ideas, institutions, and individuals of power and resistance across a wide spectrum of social, political, economic, and historical spheres. He has been published in AlterNet, CounterPunch, Occupy.com, Truth-Out, RoarMag, and a number of other alternative media groups, and regularly does radio, Internet, and television interviews with both alternative and mainstream news outlets. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, Research Director of Occupy.com’s Global Power Project, and has a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.



[1]       Thom Shanker, “Bad Economy Drives Down American Arms Sales,” The New York Times, 12 September 2010:


[2]       Matt Sugrue, “GAO Report on U.S. Arms Sales, 2005-2009,” Arms Control Now, 29 September 2010:


[3]       Maggie Bridgeman, “Obama seeks to expand arms exports by trimming approval process,” McClatchy, 29 July 2010:


[4]       Joby Warrick, “U.S. steps up weapon sales to Mideast allies,” The Washington Post, 31 January 2010:


[5]       Helene Cooper, “U.S. Approval of Taiwan Arms Sales Angers China,” The New York Times, 29 January 2010:


[6]       Ibid.

[7]       Adam Entous, “Saudi Arms Deal Advances,” The Wall Street Journal, 12 September 2010:


[8]       Ibid.

[9]       Roula Khalaf and James Drummond, “Gulf states in $123bn US arms spree,” The Financial Times, 20 September 2010:


[10]     Ibid.

[11]     Anthony H. Cordesman, et. al, “Is Big Saudi Arms Sale a Good Idea?” Expert Roundup, the Council on Foreign Relations, 27 September 2010:


[12 – 15]         Ibid.

[16]     “U.S. dominates Middle East arms market,” UPI, 28 December 2010:


[17]     “US confirms $60bn Saudi arms deal,” Al-Jazeera, 20 October 2010:


[18]     Mina Kimes, “America’s hottest export: Weapons – Full version,” CNN money, 24 February 2011:


[19]     Ibid.

[20]     Ibid.

[21]     Richard F. Grimmett, “U.S. Arms Sales: Agreements with and Deliveries to Major Clients, 2003-2010,” U.S. Congressional Research Service, 16 December 2011, page 3.

[22]     Leslie H. Gelb, “Mideast Arms Sales Not So Bad,” The Daily Beat, 12 April 2011:


[23]     Andrew J. Shapiro, “Remarks: Defense Trade Advisory Group Plenary,” Dean Acheson Auditorium, U.S. Department of State, 3 May 2011:


[24]     DTAG Activity 2010, “2010-2012 Membership,” The Defense Trade Advisory Group (DTAG), U.S. Department of State:


[25]     Andrew J. Shapiro, “Remarks: Defense Trade Advisory Group Plenary,” Dean Acheson Auditorium, U.S. Department of State, 3 May 2011:


[26]     Agencies, “US arms sales to Bahrain surged in 2010,” Al-Jazeera, 11 June 2011:


[27]     Mark Landler and Steven Myers, “With $30 Billion Arms Deal, U.S. Bolsters Saudi Ties,” The New York Times, 29 December 2011:


[28]     Thom Shanker, “Global Arms Sales Dropped Sharply in 2010, Study Finds,” The New York Times, 23 September 2011:


[29]     Harry Bradford, “U.S. Arms Sales Tripled In 2011 To $66.3 Billion: Report,” The Huffington Post, 27 August 2012:


[30]     Thom Shanker, “U.S. Arms Sales Make Up Most of Global Market,” The New York Times, 26 August 2012:


[31]     Richard Northon-Taylor, “Arms sales rise during downturn to more than $400bn, report reveals,” The Guardian, 29 February 2012:


[32]     Ami Sedghi, “Arms sales: who are the world’s 100 top arms producers?,” The Guardian Data Blog, 2 March 2012:


[33]     “Cameron Middle East visit ‘morally obscene’ says Lucas,” BBC News, 23 February 2011:


[34]     Benjamin Bidder and Clemens Hoges, “Democracy or Dollars?: Weapons Sales to the Arab World under Scrutiny,” Der Spiegel, 1 April 2011:


[35]     Nicholas Watt and Robert Booth, “David Cameron’s Cairo visit overshadowed by defence tour,” The Guardian, 21 February 2011:


[36]     Robert Booth, “Abu Dhabi arms fair: Tanks, guns, teargas and trade at Index 2011,” The Guardian, 21 February 2011:


[37]     Ibid.

[38]     Ibid.

[39]     Simon Rogers, “UK arms sales to the Middle East and North Africa: who do we sell to, how much is military and how much just ‘controlled’?” The Guardian, 22 February 2011:


[40]     Benjamin Bidder and Clemens Hoges, “Democracy or Dollars?: Weapons Sales to the Arab World under Scrutiny,” Der Spiegel, 1 April 2011:


[41]     “Weapons Exports: EU Nations Sell the Most Arms to Saudi Arabia,” Der Spiegel, 19 March 2012:


[42]     Ulrike Demmer, Ralf Neukirch and Holger Stark, “Arming the World for Peace: Merkel’s Risky Weapons Exports,” Der Spiegel, 30 July 2012:


[43]     Ibid.

[44]     “Tanks in the Desert: Germany Plans Extensive Arms Deal with Algeria,” Der Spiegel, 12 November 2012:


[45]     Press Release, “Large increase in EU arms exports revealed,” Campaign Against Arms Trade, 10 January 2013:


[46]     Andrea Shalal-Esa, “U.S. government advocacy said boosting foreign arms sales,” Reuters, 27 July 2012:


[47]     Michael Martina, “World’s Top 5 Arms Exporters: China Replaces UK In Weapons Trade,” Reuters, 18 March 2013:


[48]     Jamil Anderlini and Victor Mallet, “China joins top five arms exporters,” The Financial Times, 18 March 2013:


[49]     “Defense contest over major gulf arms buys,” UPI, 20 November 2012:


[50]     Ben Bland, “UK defence minister bullish on arms sales,” The Financial Times, 16 January 2013:


[51]     “David Cameron defends arms deals with Gulf states,” The Telegraph, 5 November 2012:


[52]     FT Reporters, “Asia defence spending to overtake Europe,” The Financial Times, 7 March 2012:


[53]     Myra MacDonald, “Asia’s defense spending overtakes Europe’s: IISS,” Reuters, 14 March 2013:


[54]     “US Arms Sales to Asia Set to Boom on Pacific ‘Pivot’,” Reuters, 2 January 2013:


[55]     “Obama set record in 2012 for Mideast defense exports,” World Tribune, 4 December 2012:


[56]     Richard McGregor, “US agrees $5.9bn arms deal with Taiwan,” The Financial Times, 21 September 2011:


[57]     Kathrin Hille, “China hits at US over Taiwan arms deal,” The Financial Times, 22 September 2011:


[58]     “U.S. Government Says Japan’s Cost to Buy 42 F-35s Around $10 Billion,” Ottawa Citizen, 2 May 2012:


[59]     Mure Dickie, “Japan relaxes weapons export ban,” The Financial Times, 27 December 2011:


[60]     Reuters, “Japan and Britain ‘set to agree arms deal’,” The Telegraph, 4 April 2012:


[61]     AP, “South Korea to get longer-range missiles under new deal with US,” The Guardian, 7 October 2012:


[62]     07NDJAMENA43, “C-130’s for Chad?”, 12 January 2007, Wikileaks Diplomatic Cables:


[63]     Ibid.

[64]     Ben Berkowitz, “Wikileaks reveals extent of State Department’s involvement in arms sales, oil deals,” Reuters, 4 March 2011:


[65-67]   Ibid.



Writing for Revolution: A Crash Course in Contemplating the World

Writing for Revolution: A Crash Course in Contemplating the World

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall


Are you wondering why, since we are told we are in an “economic recovery,” you do not feel as if you are in an economic recovery? Did you know that the United States has bombed the Philippines using a drone? Have you heard that France recently went to war in the West African country of Mali? Remember when we bombed Libya in 2011? And how we invaded and occupied Afghanistan for over a decade… and counting? Remember how Iraq was destroyed? Corporations, banks, drug cartels, the arms industry and oil, energy, mining conglomerates are all making record profits; how are you doing?

Have you heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), potentially the largest “free trade” agreement ever, being negotiated with 11 countries and over 600 corporations “in secret” for several years? Did you know that Obama runs an “international assassination” campaign with military drones, bombing countries all over the world, targeting those selected for an official “kill list”? Did you know that the FBI considered ‘Occupy Wall Street’ activists to be “potential terrorists”? Did you know that there is a war against whistleblowers and civil liberties, reaching far beyond what George Bush ever attempted?

Have you heard about large protests in Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and across Europe? Have you ever wondered what’s going on there? Are you curious how the situation in Greece affects you here, wherever you are? Remember when there was talk of an “Arab Spring”, as people in far-away places like Tunisia and Egypt rose up against dictators whose names and state repression we never knew before? What happened with those ‘revolutions’? What’s going on in Syria? Did you hear that China is the next “rising” power in the world?

What does that mean to us, to our future?

We, who sit relatively comfortably within North America, or the West more generally, hear and see images of famine, war, death, disease and destruction all over the world. Is this really the way the ‘rest’ of the world is, or are we involved in making it that way?

Are you curious about the world, about contemplating and understanding the world? Well, I am! That’s why I have spent the past year and a half working on a book project, doing seemingly endless research and writing, to try to piece together what information I can, in a way that I am able to contemplate it, and pass it along to others in an approachable, well-documented, and understandable way. I am not saying I have “the answers”, but through time, energy, and research, I have collected enough information to begin to put pieces together, provide a general framework, for looking at the world and coming to your own conclusions.

I want to understand the world as best as I can, the way it really works, the way society, the economy, politics, war, corporations, banks, governments and international organizations really function. I want to understand the people who are in power, what they believe, what they think, say, and do. I want to know the ways in which populations all over the world react to or resist those in power. And I want to be able to convey the information I come across, the research I do, by writing it in such a way that it is understandable to as many people as possible.

I am not writing an ‘academic’ book, nor do I have any use for ‘academic language’, apart from noting its inability to communicate with others. I am certainly not writing a book for ‘policy-makers’, to “advise” governments on proper initiatives and programs to “better the world”. I have spent several years of my life, off and on, in the university system, attempting to (slowly) get a degree in Political Science and History. Degrees, I was told, provide legitimacy. And so while I began researching and writing for most of my time, some six years ago, I would also be periodically in school, getting an “education”.

I was, of course, fortunate enough to have found a few great professors along the way, from whom I learned a great deal and was exposed to different ideas and perspectives. But these were sadly the exceptions of a “good” education; the most enlightening and inspiring were the most rare, and frequently, were punished by the school – and faculties – for being such. What does that say about our “education” system?

Among the real benefits of a modern education is the access to information it provides, through classes and professors, certainly, but primarily through access to libraries and journals. The amount of information which exists in the world is immense, and constantly growing by large leaps and bounds. With information being digitized and shared through the Internet, more people have more access to more information than ever before in human history. If one truly wants an “education” the likes of which only the modern world can provide, look to that access, not the guardians of information from past eras, who so very often are called “professors” and “academics”.

For that reason, I took the skills and access of an “academic” education to truly begin my own personal education. I took a two-to-three year “hiatus” from school to focus on my own work, having landed a job as a paid researcher and writer. I left that job to pursue my book and, in doing so, subjected myself to the “market forces” of attempting to live as an independent researcher and writer, not connected to any institution, and dependent upon the donations and support of others, around the world.

It amazes me to this day – and every day – how I have been able to get where I am, doing what I am doing, all because of the support of people around the world, most of whom I have never met or known personally.

This was the start of The People’s Book Project, a year and a half ago.

In that time, I have undertaken extensive research and writing: one book became a long book, then many books, and seemingly had no end in sight. The process, while very rewarding, has been quite often terrifying, worrying and stressful. I even returned to school, in part to bring some structure into my life, and in part to pursue the degree I had not finished, worried about my own future on my present path. I returned to take one class, still focusing on the book as my priority, and then the students at my school went on strike. I paid little attention at first, as I barely considered myself a student. I was only physically at the school two days a week for an hour each time. And after a few years of pursuing research on my own, I found it exceedingly difficult to adapt to the more structured process of a “classroom,” with an itinerary of what I am “supposed” to read, and by which date it must be read.

Suddenly, I began to acknowledge what was going on around me, with students taking to the streets to fight a tuition increase, being beaten by riot police and arrested. I clearly wasn’t the only person who had a problem with the educational system. So I began to look closely at the situation here in Quebec, and I began to write about it, participate in the protests, and lend whatever support I could to the movement in the best way I know how: through doing the research and writing the results.

I had never before had such a surprising reception to what I was writing: my articles were going viral through social media and being referenced in newspapers and media across the country, and I was doing multiple radio and television interviews. I was afraid my ego or arrogance would get ahead of me, but I truly felt inspired by a social movement flourishing all around me. Everywhere you went and the people you interacted with – the student movement was becoming a wider social movement. And regardless of what people were saying or how the media portrayed it, everyone was talking about it. You could see it everywhere you went. Months prior, I would occasionally meet up with friends in a bar, but now I was meeting up with friends in protests and marches: these were the new forums for social interaction and engagement with others in my own generation. It was inspiring and drove me to write and work with a new dedication and purpose.

What came out of the experience was the necessity of not simply focusing (in the book and in life) on the problems of the world, on those in power, on power structures, on oppression and war and empire but – more importantly – on that which opposes (and those who resist) power and the problems of the world.

This radically changed the evolving nature of the book: resistance was a requirement.

And this pushed me to study Europe, the debt crisis, and the reactions of populations in Greece, Spain and beyond. In turn, I began to look more closely at the ‘Arab Spring’ and the unfinished and emerging revolutions across much of the world.

As the research for this book has moved forward, and the writing has progressed in kind, it has been a constant struggle in determining how best to present the information, understand and explain the results – deciding what to include, what to leave out, what chapter to go where, what chapters there should be, how I will break up the subjects, chronological or regional? If I break up the ‘war and empire’ section from the ‘corporate and economic’ section, does this re-enforce a superficial divide between these sectors? The questions and concerns go on and on.

When one is attempting to study a deeply interdependent world in which all matters interact and engage with each other, how can one legitimately and constructively break up these sections and still provide a realistic analysis? These questions have been constantly in mind and have led to frequent re-organization of the structure of the book, while the actual research and writing continues unabated by the whims of my own inability to create or adapt to a more rigid ‘structure’

But guidance and goals have also served a profound purpose: they have focused the work more, expanded the understanding, but limited the objective. I have been able to narrow into specific subjects as the focus of this, the first volume, in what I intend to be a series of books. I am still working a great deal on the first volume, adding only to that which I had already planned to research.

A great deal of the research and writing done over the past year and a half will not be included in the first volume. I have written varying amounts of what could amount to multiple books but each, on its own, would require significant work in order to complete. For that reason, I have intended to focus the first book in the series on that which I have written on the most: what is going on in the world today and in recent years? The research I have done in past years contributes to my understanding of the present world, and so it will inform the first volume; thus the efforts done so far in the book project will not be for nothing.

Perhaps not coincidentally, when the student movement in Quebec faded – as a new government came to power, promising to resolve the issues through ‘formal’ political channels – I chose not to return to school. Instead, I chose to focus exclusively on the book. After all, there seemed an odd feeling of hypocrisy in writing about subjects such as the failure of the modern educational system to provide a better understanding of the world, and yet simultaneously seeking to acquire a piece of paper which declared my own understanding to be “legitimate”. I do not seek to join that world of academics, where the more “educated” I am, the more incapable of communicating knowledge to others I become.

When once asked what the “science” aspect of Political Science was, my only reply was that it was “the science of B.S.”  – how to speak as if you know what you’re talking about, to talk about what you know nothing about, to ‘talk’ while saying nothing and think without feeling anything. There is a reason why Political Science produces politicians and policy-makers. A well-trained ‘political scientist’ can B.S. their way through most situations and justify any circumstance.

I spent several years getting this type of “education”, speaking this type of language and understanding these types of concepts. I do not seek to join that world of politicians and policy-makers. As I often tell friends and family: if I ever run for office, don’t vote for me.

It is a challenging thing to attempt to try to understand the world by detaching from some of its more prominent institutions. I do not seek to separate from the world, but to find a connection to the world which holds substance and meaning for me. I see this in people, in protests, in resistance, creativity and revolution; I see it in the potential for people. It’s something to which I feel is worth dedicating my life and work. Unfortunately, it is not something made easy to acquire, and less so to sustain. I have attempted to undertake a project with a large purview and limited resources, independent of institutional support and direction.

I won’t lie – it’s been a constant struggle, but worth every moment and all the effort.

There have been ups and downs, successes and failures, and lessons learned. There have been times where I felt lost, frustrated and incapable of proceeding. There have been times where I felt focused, dedicated and incapable of stopping. This is one of those times.

In the past few months, I have been getting work writing commissioned articles for other sites, even recently beginning a research project with Occupy.com. It has been a relief to develop other sources of income, and rewarding to make new connections and reach new audiences. But still, I must find the time and energy to focus on my book. Commissioned work is good, but it alone does not pay the bills, nor does it provide enough time to work on the book. Thus, I must come to find and establish a better balance in my work, also as I begin to work with new organizations, and even begin the planning process with a friend and associate to start our own.

Thanks to the recent donations to The People’s Book Project, I have been able to throw myself back into the book this last week. My focus, dedication and determination are as strong as ever, and my intention to finish the first volume in the book in the near future appears closer than before.

In the province of Quebec and the city of Montreal, the students are back on the streets, protesting and getting arrested, struggling against the state which stabbed them in the back (as governments tend to do), and my focus is back on the book, progressing and nearing completion. I do not have any illusions that it will take a significant amount of time and effort on my part to do so, but if the ability to do so exists, the inevitability of doing so will persist… and persevere.

I have a goal. I am narrowing my focus and strengthening my efforts. But as always, I need your help to get there.

Are you curious about trying to understand the world? Well, so am I.

The information and resources exist to build up a good capacity of understanding, though it must be in a constant state of adaptation and self-reflection as you come across new information, subjects, ideas and perspectives. I look at the views I have, the ones I’ve changed and how I got to where I am, and it seems clear that my own understanding is constantly changing. Therefore, whatever “understanding” I offer to others – at whatever time I offer it – is never going to be complete; there is always more information, there are always other perspectives, and there is always much more to learn than can ever be known.

So I do not propose that I “know” more than others, or that I have some sort of monopoly on defining “reality”. Instead, I only propose that as I have spent the past six years doing research and writing, and the past year and a half working on this book, I have developed and refined skills at utilizing the access and information that has been made available to me. This is simply a result of practice. The more you do it, the more you learn how to do it better. The more you research, the more you learn. The more you write, the more you communicate. I do not expect everyone to undertake the same research as myself, for all must live their own lives and follow their own passions, but I do think this information is necessary for all people, for as many people who want access to it.

Think of The People’s Book Project as a way to “outsource” your own research to me. I’ll put in the effort, and attempt to summarize the results in easily readable, understandable language, but not dumbed-down or made superficial.

I want to write a book with academic standards of research, but approachable to anyone. I think that the first major requirement for any progress to solving the multiplicity of problems in the world is to first start by engaging in open, direct and honest communication about the world we live in. This, I believe, can be reflected in one’s own individual life – though not without its problems – of learning to engage and interact with others on the basis of this same open, direct and honest communication. It’s easier said than done, both in personal life and the wider world. But I think it’s necessary, at all levels and capacities.

In the past year and a half, as I have made this book the central focus of my energy and efforts, often at the expense of other areas of my life, it has become as much a result of my own ideas and actions as my own beliefs and actions have resulted from it. In short, I am a product of this book as much as it is a product of me. For that reason, I intended to provide some information here about my own process, interest and evolution through the People’s Book Project, so that you may better understand the Project, itself.

I have attempted to be open, direct and honest with you here in assessing my progress, explaining my process and in asking for help with this purpose. Everything that has been done thus far is only because of the support I have received from others. Everything I continue to do will be equally derived from similar support. Nothing that has been – or will be – done with this Project would be possible without the support of many people, in many places, all over the world. And that is exactly the point: it is, after all, the People’s Book Project, made possible by – and for the benefit of – the people, not simply myself.

So, I thank all of you who have – at one or many times over – supported The People’s Book Project in any and every capacity. Thank you for the opportunity, the means and the possibility to do this. And now I ask you to continue helping, to continue your support and to continue spreading the word, for the more people who know and talk about The People’s Book project, the more potential sources of support would exist, and perhaps the less annoying I will have to be in asking for support.

Outsource to me your research, and I’ll provide to you results: a crash course in contemplating the world.


Andrew Gavin Marshall




Progress on the People’s Book Project

Fundraising efforts for The People’s Book Project are making good progress, and have raised a total of $545.00 out of the goal of $2,000 to finance the Project over the next two months. So thank you very much to the generous contributions thus far, and keep spreading the word, every bit helps! Truly.


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So where is the money going? Primarily, the money goes to covering my general living expenses so that my time can be dedicated to the Book Project, but there are also specific costs associated with monthly subscriptions to news services (such as the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Times) which, unfortunately, are necessary to provide the resources for research. Online news sites typically have a maximum amount of articles which can be read for free on their sites (usually around 5-8 per month), and thus, without these subscriptions, research can be heavily curtailed, as they are valuable resources, specifically depending upon the subject matter of focus.

And on that note, what subjects will the current donations be going towards doing research on, as well as writing chapters from? Currently, the focus is on finishing the chapters introducing the subject and mechanisms of imperialism in the modern world, specifically that of the United States: the main planning bodies of empire within government (Pentagon, CIA, National Security Council, State Department), as well as outside, at think tanks and foundations (Council on Foreign Relations, Brookings Institution, Carnegie Endowment, Center for Strategic and International Studies), and the main players in the American Empire over the past 60 years (Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft, Madeleine Albright, etc.). I will be examining the specific imperial strategies, in their own words, and briefly look at some of their plans in action.

In the chapter on Empire in the Age of Obama, I will be examining the transition from the “War on Terror” to the Obama’s administration’s “overseas contingency operations” (as it was renamed), and the specific strategies, plans, and actions of empire under the current President: drone wars, destabilization campaigns, counter-insurgency in Afghanistan, maintenance of vassal states, support for dictators and human rights abuses, arms trade, more recent wars in Yemen, Libya, Mali, and elsewhere, coups (such as that in Honduras), military bases and expansion, AFRICOM and the militarization of foreign policy in Africa, the relationship between natural resources and imperial policy, and looking at the human costs of empire around the world.

I have also started the chapter on the Arab Spring, focusing thus far on Tunisia, but which will include Egypt and Bahrain, as well as the lesser-known protests and reactions in Algeria, Morocco, and Jordan, among others.

On top of this new research and writing, I will be aiming to complete past chapters already begun, on issues of the food crisis, global land grabs, environmental devastation, and indigenous resistance. I am also hoping to begin editing previously written chapters to start putting together the first draft of the first volume of The People’s Book Project, so that the editing process can proceed in line with the research and writing itself.

These are some hefty goals for the next two months, but if I have the funds, I can dedicate the time and energy to the work. My ultimate goal is to have the first draft completed by the Summer, at which point I will begin the process of final edits and publishing.

So, please consider donating to the People’s Book Project to help this objective be realized. Thank you to all who have contributed, past and presently, and to those who will do so in the future.


Andrew Gavin Marshall

Writing the People’s Book Project

The People’s Book Project is an on-going, crowd-funded initiative to write a series of books examining the ideas, institutions, and individuals of power and resistance in the world today. The first volume of the Project will be completed ASAP, and looks primarily at the world in the past few years, studying issues of poverty, economic crisis, debt crisis in Europe, banking, corporate power, environmental destruction, food crisis, land grabs, imperialism, war, global governance, anti-austerity movement, student movements, indigenous resistance, and the prospects of global revolution

To continue researching and writing the first volume of The People’s Book Project, I am undertaking a fundraising effort aiming at raising $2,000 to sustain the Project over the next couple months. Thus far, $300 has been raised, and to the donors, a great deal of appreciation is warranted. But that leaves another $1,700 to raise. Please consider making a donation below, and take a look at a brief summary of SOME of the topics that will be discussed in the first volume!

Fundraising Progress


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So what is contained within the first volume?

– A general introduction to the ‘Sociopathic Society’: what is sociopathic and psychopathic behaviour, and how is it reflected in the ideas, institutions, and individuals of power within our society?

– The Culture of Criminality: prisons are full, but of the wrong people. In the upper echelons of power, whether locally or globally, criminal behaviour is rampant (and profitable), from arms dealing to the drug trade, human trafficking, sex trafficking, terrorist financing and the like, some of the world’s most powerful banks, corporations and individuals have their hands all over these dirty trades of misery-profit. I examine these trades and some of the key players within them.

– An Introduction to Institutions: what are the dominant institutions within society, how do they function, whose interests do they serve, and what forms of power do they wield? This will be a very brief introduction to the nature and role of specific institutions within our modern society, from banks and corporations to foundations, think tanks, universities, and the state itself.

– American Empire, Inc.: This section will briefly examine some of the recent history of the American/Western imperial system, looking at the state apparatus of empire (Pentagon, CIA, State Department, National Security Council, etc.), the ideologies and “doctrines” of empire (what are the actual stated goals of foreign policy according to those who dictate the policy?), and who are the key players? Enmeshed in a world of think tanks, corporations, and government officials, key players like Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Madeleine Albright, Brent Scowcroft and others, emerge as constant guiding figures for imperial planning.

– The Global Economic Crisis: What are the structural and ideological causes of the global economic crisis which began in 2008? Who are the key players? What are the role of the big banks, central banks, government agencies, corporations? Who profits? What is the result of the crisis for those in power, the middle class, and the poor? What are the “solutions” that were enacted? Will they make things worse? have they already?

– Food, Land, and Poverty: looking at the current state of global poverty, where roughly half the world’s 7 billion people live on less than $2.50/day, where over one billion live in slums, where tens of millions die from poverty-related causes each year. The food crisis of 2007 and beyond have pushed tens of millions more into poverty and hunger, and the subsequent global land grabs are fast becoming the world’s number one economic, social, and environmental crisis, as international investors push peasant and small farming populations off their land (and into hunger, poverty, and slums).

– Empire in the Age of Obama: What have Obama’s policies in foreign affairs been representative of? The “change” he promised or the continuity of past presidents? From expanding the war in Afghanistan into Pakistan, to waging global drone wars, new wars in Libya, Mali, a rapid militarization of Africa, coups and regime change, Empire in the Age of Obama is as vicious as ever. This looks at the function of the modern imperial system, the relationship between the United States and the world, the maintenance of “vassal” states, and human rights abuses.

– The Arab Spring: From Tunisia, to Egypt, Bahrain, and beyond, this examines the causes, evolution and consequences of the so-called Arab Spring revolts which began in 2010 and have continued to present day. What have been the responses from the Western imperial powers? How have the revolutionary movements changed and evolved?

– Europe in Crisis: this examines the causes of the European debt crisis, the key players and institutions, the evolution of the crisis in Greece, Spain, and Italy, as well as the massive social movements which have erupted in response to the programs of “austerity” and “adjustment” (read: impoverishment and exploitation), from anarchists in Greece, to the Indignados in Spain, protests in Italy, and new regional and global movements which have emerged in response to the crisis.

– Students in the Streets: education is in crisis, with more graduates, less jobs, and enormous debt. Students have been protesting and going on strike and revolt from Greece, to the UK, Chile, Quebec, and Mexico. This section looks at the causes of this crisis, the reactions to it, and the future of education itself.

– Police State America: Over the past decade, the United States – and many of its Western allies – have become “homeland security” states, with increased surveillance, militarization of domestic space, destruction of civil liberties, and are fast tracking down the road to “technological tyrannies.” With the emergence of social movements, such as Occupy Wall Street, we see the actual purpose of “Homeland Security”: to protect the powerful from the people.

– Environmental Destruction and Indigenous Resistance: this section examines global environmental crises with a focus on the direct interaction between modern human society and the environment, with pollution, deforestation, resource extraction, climate change, toxic waste dumping and other activities threatening the survival of the human species. The causes of the global environmental crisis are systemic: the institutions, ideologies, and structures of power thrive on environmental destruction, and on the front lines of its consequences – as well as resistance against it – are indigenous peoples all over the world: from Africa, to Central and South America, and in Canada with ‘Idle No More’, Indigenous peoples are showing the path forward in addressing issues of environmental devastation, and that we must all begin to act as if we are ‘Indigenous to the Earth.’

– Global Governance, the Future of Power: ideologies, institutions and individuals of power are increasingly global in scope, and are rapidly seeking to globalize in structure. Regional governance structures, such as the EU, which are devastating their own populations, are held up as models for the rest of the world to follow. Banking, corporations, trade, and the monetary system are increasingly global in scope. So-called “free trade agreements” are making corporations more powerful than governments, as new structures of global governance emerge, remaking the world in the ‘corporate image’, increasingly totalitarian, exploitative, and destructive.

– The Prospect of Global Revolution: as power globalizes, so too is resistance. The global movements of resistance, from Egypt and Tunisia, to Greece, Spain, Chile, Mexico, Ecuador, to Canada and the United States, may be taking place in specific circumstances, and with specific demands, but they represent a change taking place in the world: the population of the world is rising up in resistance, slowly but surely. What are the common factors driving this? What are areas of mutual co-operation? What is the potential for future evolution into making meaningful change?

This is not meant to be an exact outline, but is meant to be a general look at the subjects which the first volume of The People’s Book Project is attempting to examine.

Please help this Project continue by donating today!

Thank you,

Andrew Gavin Marshall