Merchants of Death War Crimes Tribunal

"Come War Profiteers, Give Account"

Our Freedoms Shrink as Our Military Expands

February 17, 2023
By Brad Wolf
Published in CounterPunch

The Merchants of Death even own our sidewalks. That’s what we were told when we arrived at Raytheon Technologies in Arlington, Virginia, on Valentine’s Day, February 14th, to issue a “Contempt Citation” for Raytheon’s failure to comply with a subpoena issued last November by the Merchants of Death War Crimes Tribunal, a People’s Tribunal scheduled for November of 2023.

Raytheon knew we were coming. The police were waiting and would not permit us to enter the enormous building even though other businesses and a public restaurant resided inside. “You’re not allowed in,” the police said. “The owner of the building said no to you.” Others were free to enter for lunch or to conduct business. The officers were polite. Respectful. “We are only doing our job,” they said, seeming more like a hired corporate police force than a public police force.

“And you cannot remain on the sidewalk,” the police said. We responded that it was a public sidewalk. “Not anymore,” the police said. “Raytheon bought the sidewalk. And the sidewalk across the street.” When asked how a private corporation can buy a public sidewalk, the officers shrugged not knowing the answer. “You can move down there,” they said, pointing to a corner across the busy street.

We asked to see a deed proving this bizarre acquisition of public property. Lo and behold, the police dutifully produced a deed stamped by the recorder of deeds office indicating Raytheon did in fact own the sidewalk all the way to the street.

Using US tax dollars, including the dollars of those of us who stood there, Raytheon bought up the very freedom they claim they’re building weapons to defend. Freedom of speech and assembly is drastically reduced when corporations as powerful as Raytheon control the halls of Congress, the Pentagon, the White House, and our corporate media.

In fact, in the belly of the beast of the Raytheon building was the corporate media itself, an ABC television affiliate which refused to talk to us last November. When we had approached an ABC spokesman outside, they refused to admit they worked for ABC despite wearing ABC attire. From corporate wars to corporate police to corporate media, all in one monstrous, taxpayer-funded building.

In 2023, approximately $858 billion will be taken from the paychecks of US citizens to help squelch our most fundamental Constitutional rights of privacy and assembly.

Across the street from Raytheon, we unfurled our banners and carried our signs. We held Raytheon in contempt for refusing to comply to a subpoena issued by the people of the world. We noted their shame of their own corporate behavior such that they purchased police and public sidewalks to keep public scrutiny away.

A young woman approached, noticing our signs. She was an Afghan refugee who had been there during the invasion. She and her family had suffered immensely from the US bombing. Her father barely made it out alive. She was crying as she spoke. Off to the side, a man in a suit carefully took pictures of each of us. We were photographed everywhere we went this Valentine’s Day.

To evidence Raytheon’s complicity in war crimes, we read the names of the 34 victims—26 of them schoolboys—killed in the horrific 2018 bombing of a school bus in Yemen. The bomb, a 500-pound Paveway laser-guided bomb was made by Lockheed Martin while Raytheon was responsible for the infrared system which targeted the bus.

Under the careful eye of our National Security State, we traveled to the Pentagon to deliver a subpoena compelling Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to testify before the Tribunal. Mr. Austin, before being Secretary of Defense was, of course, on the Board of Directors at Raytheon. This, after retiring from the military.

Mr. Austin had cashed in at Raytheon and was now in the catbird seat at the Pentagon sending billion-dollar contracts to his former employer. He is certain to cash in a second time when he leaves his current office. And so, we had a subpoena asking Secretary Austin to speak about these allegations epitomizing the “Revolving Door” between the military, defense contractors, and public office.

A dozen police waited. They counted the number in our group making hand signals between themselves. “You’ve just come from the Raytheon building,” they said to me. “And you plan on spending one hour here. And then you’re going to the Hyatt Hotel for a protest.” I asked how they knew that, especially the information about the Hyatt Hotel since that had not been made public, and the police officer smiled and said, “We have our ways.”

We were told we could protest in a small, fenced-in grassy area away from the metro stop, out of sight from most. We, the people, had been corralled behind a fence in a small grassy patch to peacefully exercise our freedom of speech as the billion-dollar behemoth of war and death, surveillance and repression, stood before us.

Similar actions of subpoena delivery had been carried out the same day in San Diego, California; Asheville, North Carolina; and New York City. Surveillance and corporate resistance had occurred at each location.

Valentine’s Day, this day meant for the opening of hearts, was one of recognizing the Orwellian state in which we live, funded by our own dollars. Our military not only consumes our money, but our freedoms as well.

We again read the names of the dead, sang, some prayed. As we were leaving, one of the police officers cheerfully said, “It’s 64° outside and a beautiful day. Why not enjoy it and go play golf.” A frightfully common thought in such perilous times.

Brad Wolf is a former prosecutor, professor, and college dean. He is the Executive Director of Peace Action Network of Lancaster and writes for numerous publications.