On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a global pandemic. That same day, the City of Chicago signed a check to Boeing for $1,739,905.60. While most of us in Chicago were preparing for an imminent Covid-19 lockdown and trying to fathom how our communities were going to survive this pandemic, Boeing was handed our city’s resources—yet again.
This wasn’t the first time the city prioritized paying Boeing over ensuring Chicagoans’ well-being. In 2012, the same year mayor Rahm Israel Emanuel chose to shut down half of our mental health clinics, Chicago paid Boeing $1,330,045.69 to keep its headquarters here. During the decade since then, Chicago has shut down over fifty public schools, reduced library hours, and shrank after-school programs. In all, the city has paid Boeing over $60 million throughout the past twenty years, as part of the contract agreement first made in 2001 for Boeing’s HQ relocation here.
Boeing being headquartered in our city is stripping Chicagoans of the life-giving resources we deserve. Many people only associate Boeing with commercial aircraft, but through Boeing, Chicagoans’ tax dollars fund genocide abroad without our consent, while we are systematically denied the support we need to survive, let alone thrive, in our own communities.
This is just an example of how surviving within a capitalist empire that prioritizes war profiteering above all leaves citizens in a constant struggle against militarism. Our communities should have the chance to flourish, which is possible only if we divest from war profiteers such as Boeing, and the military-industrial complex as a whole.
Boeing’s Legacy in Wars Abroad
Boeing is a war-profiteering company, filling its pockets with money from death and destruction, here and abroad. Here are some examples of Boeing’s militarized portfolio:
As profit from the last two major wars started slowing down, defense corporations turned to the border as another lucrative manufactured war zone. Dennis L. Hoffman, an economics professor studying the potential of the defense industry told the New York Times, “There are only so many missile systems and Apache attack helicopters you can sell. . . . This push toward border security fits very well with the need to create an ongoing stream of revenue.”
In 2006, Homeland Security awarded Boeing a three-year, $67 million contract to build a surveillance system of infrared camera towers along the border. Boeing predicted that by the end of the project, the border would have a “high-tech fence longer than the Great Wall of China.” Under the same contract, Boeing built a command center at the border and caused a steep rise in Border Patrol Agents, though the project was eventually recognized as a failure due to consistent technological lapses. From 2006 to 2019, Boeing held seventeen different contracts with Customs and Border Patrol, totalling approximately $1.4 billion. The border wall has become the ultimate nexus of profit for military contractors, as it is where policing, surveillance, detention, and militarism collide.
The EU recognizes the war in Yemen to be the worst ongoing humanitarian crisis in the world. The Saudi-led war is armed with US support, as Saudi Arabia is one of Boeing’s most loyal clients. The United States manufactures munitions, and Saudi Arabia pulls the trigger. Weapons branded with Boeing have been found at the scene of various missile strikes. For example, Boeing JDAM bombs were found in the debris of the bombing of a marketplace that killed 107 Yemeni civillians in 2016. These bombs were detonated using satellite guidance kits, also manufactured by Boeing. In exchange for the lives of Yemeni civilians, Boeing makes a huge profit.
In order for Israel to maintain its occupation of Palestinian land through the genocide of Palestinian people, it requires ammunition. Boeing has been a crucial supporter since its creation in 1948 and has produced the following for the Israeli apartheid state:
- $1 billion worth of KC-46 planes and engines
- $735 million worth of precision-guided missiles
- $1 billion worth of F-15 fighter jets
- Five years of technical support for apache helicopters
Boeing profits off the genocide of Palestinian people. In the last week of May 2021, 248 Palestinians were killed in Israel’s assault on Gaza, and 90,000 were displaced from their homes. Boeing played a pivotal role in this assault, as they sold $735 million in bombs to Israel that year. Boeing held Israel’s hand since it established itself as the genocidal power against the Palestinian people. Here is a direct quote from Boeing itself on maintaining strong bonds with customers across the globe:
That’s especially been true in Israel, a country where Boeing and its products have played a supporting role since the modern state’s founding in 1948—60 years ago. On both the commercial and military side, Israel has been a strong Boeing customer; likewise, Boeing has been a key partner of the country as it evolved from a fledgling state into a technologically advanced economy with a highly skilled workforce. [emphasis ours]
Kashmir is known as disputed territory, currently occupied by India, and is the most militarized zone on Earth. Since the occupation of Kashmir began in 1947, Indian forces have been responsible for killing over 100,000 Kashmiris and counting. In the past few years, India has exponentially increased its defense partnership deals with the United States and Boeing, and Boeing recognized India as a profitable market. Following another week of military tensions at Kashmir’s border, the United States reportedly offered India new Boeing F-15EX fighter jets. The US also signed off on an $82 million deal with India that included Boeing’s Harpoon Joint Common Test Set along with related equipment.
Notably, the US congress views India as a “major defense partner,” which indicates US support in the colonization of Kashmir. India’s ever-expanding occupation prioritizes building military bases and growing their arsenal with the arms that Boeing supplies to India.
In June 2021, the United States approved a $2.9 billion weapons sale to the Philippines, which included weapons created by Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon. Prior to the regime of Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte, the only previous arms sale was in 1978. Boeing has been involved in all three major arms sales to Duterte’s oppressive regime. Boeing equipped the Philippines’ military with various drones during the siege of Marawi City from 2017–18. They completely destroyed the city, displacing 400,000 residents. The regime’s grounds for this attack was “counterterrorism,” an infamous claim all warmongers use to justify their invasions.
Boeing’s PR Campaign
While wars across the globe rage, Boeing endlessly supplies countries with weapons and ammunition. In the name of profit and “defense,” Boeing sealed its fate as a pioneer of global genocide. To cover the blood on its hands, Boeing shields itself behind charitable acts and philanthropic performances.
Boeing strategically throws money at programs that target children. In the city of Chicago, Boeing funds Chicago Public Schools’ K–12 STEM program called FUSE, as well as the Public Library Foundation. Boeing infiltrates youth affairs from PBS TV shows to school curriculums, cultivating confidence in STEM while conveniently leaving out the premise of using science and technology to manufacture war weapons. The opening credits of popular PBS children’s shows like Sid the Science Kid and Arthur intone eerily: “At Boeing, we believe the best way to prepare children for success is by nurturing their curiosity and enthusiasm for learning and letting the future of our children take flight.” The only thing taking flight is Boeing’s bombs and fighter jets.
Besides education, Boeing’s philanthropic illusions also extend to the “culture” of the city. Boeing gave millions of dollars to Boeing Galleries (stationed in Millennium Park), the Chicago Botanic Garden, the Museum of Science and Industry, and, ironically, the Institute of Nonviolence.
Through funding Chicago institutions focused on education, arts, and tourist traps, Boeing attempts to mask the genocide they are responsible for abroad. By sprinkling their name across the city, they claim to help “develop” Chicago, while destroying cities and societies abroad. The only legacy that Boeing has is one of war and destruction and Chicago funds it with taxpayer dollars.
Instead of being Boeing’s charity case, the City of Chicago should cancel their contract with Boeing and provide reparations for the communities whose resources they have stolen.
Chicago, Home Base of the War Profiteer
In 2001, Boeing’s corporate executives announced they would be moving Boeing from Seattle, its previous headquarters, to Chicago. Almost all of Boeing’s manufacturing has happened in Washington state, so why the move?
The move to Chicago came after a seven-week search through multiple states. Finally, state and city officials successfully lured Boeing into Chicago with financial persuasion, including hefty tax incentives. Their primary motivation was to find ways to restructure and increase profit, which can be simply interpreted as corporate greed.
Boeing’s chairman acknowledged wanting to create “psychological distance” between corporate leadership and the manufacturing sites. For the sake of executives who were not content with the ambience of their former offices, Boeing’s elite sought out a more conservative and business-friendly climate. Their expectations were met in the corporate and political atmosphere of Chicago. Illinois governor JB Pritzker stated that he is “proud to have them as a partner in preparing our communities for twenty-first-century manufacturing” of weapons and aircrafts. He was delighted when Boeing announced they would be investing $200 million to begin creating unmanned aircraft for the Navy in southern Illinois in 2021.
The move to Chicago can only be understood as a selfish change made for the comfort of Boeing elites and to embellish the established power Boeing has gained through its war profiteering. Pritzker claims that he is preparing our communities, but investing in war and defense will only continue to harm Chicagoans. The political heads of Chicago could not be bothered by the inevitable death and destruction—rather, they eagerly support and invest in the creation of instruments of genocide.
#boeingarmsgenocide campaign (Chicago)
City and state officials furiously lobbied for Boeing to choose Chicago, but at what cost? Boeing promised to provide five hundred high-paying, top-level jobs in Chicago. In return, they would receive tax reimbursements from the city for any real estate taxes paid for their new building downtown. An already low-bar commitment, the five hundred corporate jobs would not even be new hires.
The City of Chicago is dishing out tax subsidies to Boeing as if there’s money to spare. As the twenty-year mark of Boeing’s settling in Chicago passes this year, most taxpayers have no idea they are paying a war-profiteering company to sit pretty and make bank. While the city continues to coddle Boeing with financial incentives, money is continually stolen from Chicago communities that are riddled with resource insecurity in schools, health care, and food. Yet Boeing got away with paying just 0.1 percent in taxes to the state, while making $58.16 billion in profits in 2020.
Furthermore, the headquarters is reportedly a “ghost town” now, standing as an empty, resource-sucking war monument in the center of the city. Mocking us all, city officials continue to rally behind Boeing as the safety, education, and health of Chicagoans are neglected.
Divest from the Dealers of Death
Boeing’s philanthropic charade in Chicago gave a measly $1.5 million for 4,500 Chicago Public School students and 100 educators—pocket change in comparison to the billions they collect each year from the defense industry. Imagine what could happen if we divested from dealers of death and used taxpayer money to directly fund Chicagoans’ livelihoods. Imagine what could be made possible if Chicago reinvested in life-giving resources with the $60 million in tax subsidies that they gave to Boeing.
Across the country and internationally, people are resisting Boeing, from Houston to DC, from Virginia to Oakland, and all the way from Palestine to Chicago. Many are already taking action to turn the tide against warmonger Boeing, and Dissenters is part of that wave. In May 2021, Dissenters showed up alongside Students for Justice in Palestine, Chicago, outside of Boeing headquarters to demand the end of arms sales that cause Palestinian deaths.
Dissenters want to continue to amp up the pressure on all those complicit in funding death and war, and to divest from the military-industrial complex.
A Chicago-based Dissenters campaign, #BoeingArmsGenocide, was launched in the summer of 2021, demanding that Boeing ends arm sales to governments abroad that are committing mass genocide and atrocious ethic cleansing, including Israel and India. Dissenters is also working to ensure that the City of Chicago divest from the war industry and Boeing, and end the practice of taxing the working class to fund arms sales continuing countless conflicts abroad.
The city’s contract with Boeing was set to expire on December 31st, 2021, but according to the city’ own website, an extension to August of 2022 was uploaded just weeks ago. Pressure needs to be continually placed on ending the contract with this weapons manufacturer on all fronts, while demanding they refund our city for the resources they took while our people have suffered closures, cuts, and losses.
We hope folks continue to feel empowered to reimagine how to divest from warmongers and ultimately reinvest in the livelihood and healing of our beautiful communities in Chicago. None of us are free until all of us are free.
IG Handles: @boeingarmsgenocide @wearedissenters