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The Dirty Little Secret of Terrorist States

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Message Larry Sakin
It's difficult for American progressives and conservatives to agree on many things. But one thing they do agree on is the need to eliminate state-sponsored terrorism around the globe, and work to create viable democracies in war torn regions.

What Americans don't realize is how dependent their employee pension plans are on the profits made by companies that support terrorist countries. Currently, there is one trillion dollars in American pension plans vested in companies doing business with terrorist entities. These vested dollars go into propping up the economic well being of rogue nations, and allows them to continue genocidal actions against their own people.

According to a 2004 report entitled The Terrorism Investments of the 50 States ( released by The Center for Security Policy, American pension funds have fueled human rights debacles everywhere from Saddam Hussein's Iraq to the murderous Sudanese regime now engaged in the rape, torture and executions in Darfur, and companies working in Iran and North Korea.

Obviously divestiture of these funds would be a quick way to send a message to companies ignoring human rights violations by terrorist leaders in order to maximize profit. However, none of the principle players involved, not President Bush, any member of Congress, the United Nations or the US State Department, has expressed the urgent need for ending capitalization of these regimes with American investments. Further, few if any of the pension holders know enough about the companies their funds are vested in to protest how those investments are managed. So we've created a conundrum, unwittingly financing the very terror we find despicable.

Our political leadership gives us doublespeak about an Orwellian battle against the forces of tyranny; yet the very same companies that appear on our portfolios which support rogue nations are also heavy contributors to presidential and congressional campaigns. Global capitalism has blurred the lines of campaign financing, with many international industries lobbying politicians through American subsidiaries. In essence, we've created a financial partnership with our leaders that assure continued financial support of global terrorism.

Stopping this scheme requires diligence from pension fund holders. You'll need to research the companies managing your portfolios, and find out where they place your dollars. Some people insist on 'clean' industry investment, but many companies that fit the definition of 'clean' also have big investments in countries with horrible human rights records. If you find out that your fund has profited from such companies, it's not enough that you and your colleagues divest. Pension funds are safe hiding places for a number of institutional investors, who generally own large blocks of stock in these industries. Universities, banks, insurance companies, and state governments are usually the largest stakeholders in these funds, and it will be their potential divestiture that will make the difference in the long run.

As long as terrorist nations receive support from American financed industries, diplomatic carrots and sticks won't change the way rogue nations do things. President Bush can rattle his saber at North Korea, Iran, Syria, and the Sudan all he wants, but the plain truth is profit will overrule any threat the president makes. Ending the flow of investment in companies that support tyrannical leaders is a first big step to making a dent in terrorism. We need to decide if we want our retirements paid for with blood money.
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Larry Sakin is a former non-profit medical organization executive and music producer. His writing can be found on, Blogcritics, OpEd News, The People's Voice, Craig's List and The Progressive magazine. He also advocates for literacy and (more...)
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