Discussions about the current financial/political woes in America would not be complete without taking into account one of the most powerful special interests groups that has been indirectly running Washington for a long time. That government within a government is none other than - America's military industrial complex and its front office in Virginia called the Pentagon. It is no secret, nor is it a surprise, that the military industrial complex specializes in war. For it, the formula is simple - war makes money, and lots of it. In fact, military industrial complex lives and prospers as a result of killing and destroying. And its longevity is intimately connected with creating enemies around the world. As America's infrastructure crumbles and its middle class shrinks, the arms industry in the United States is continuing to make record profits.
Pentagon waste (a palatable word for grand theft and embezzlement in the Pentagon) is legendary and biblical in proportions. From the "$600 toilet seat covers" of the Reagan era to trillions of dollars "unaccounted" for during the Bush era, the warmongering arms industry of the United States has been raping and pillaging the American people for decades. Here is one of Washington's war criminals, Donald Rumsfeld, reporting 2.3 trillion dollars "missing" from the pentagon's budget in 2001: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kpWqdPMjmo
During the height of the Cold War, during the time when America's military industrial complex was fear-mongering about the spread of Communism (simply to spread its iron web over nations of the "free" world), one of America's most popular wartime presidents, Dwight D. Eisenhower (affectionately known as Ike), warned the American public about these bloodthirsty warmongers.
As the American public slept comfortably, the reigns of power in Washington were taken over by several special interest groups. The parasites that more-or-less hijacked the political system in the United States were and continue being - the Zionist lobby, the oil lobby, Wall Street/international bankers, the pharmaceuticals industry, internationally owned mega-corporations and last but not least - the military industrial complex. These are closed-circuit entities that maintain high level connections with each other. These entities collaborate and conspire. Their endgame is profit, lots of it and at our expense. And they have managed to remake America in their image.
Their collective tentacles reach so deep into America's political and financial system today, that the nation's politicians no longer serve the people. America's president's today, whether they may be Democrat or Republican, are the representatives/spokesmen of the nation's special interests. American presidents are simply tasked with selling to the American public what the special interests have decided for the nation. Without getting into a further political tirade at this time, I'll allow one of America's greatest wartime generals/presidents speak in my stead.
Pentagon Almighty: Defense Budget Fat, Sick Economy Starving (RT video): http://www.youtube.com/user/RussiaToday#p/u/6/D09ZcspZVLw
The Military-Industrial Complex (website): http://www.militaryindustrialcomplex.com/
LAST week the National Archives released a trove of drafts and notes that shed new light on President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell address, in which he warned America about the “military-industrial complex.” The release comes just in time for the speech’s 50th anniversary next month. And so while scholars and historians use these documents to scrutinize the evolution of the speech’s famous phrase, it’s worth asking a broader question: does America still have a military-industrial complex, and should we be as worried about it as Eisenhower was? By one measure, the answer to the first question is yes. Over the past 50 years there have been very few years in which the United States has spent less on the military than it did the year before. This has remained true whether the country is actively fighting a war, whether it has an obvious and well-armed enemy or whether Democrats or Republicans run the White House and Congress.
Despite regular expectations that the United States will enjoy a peace dividend, we continue to spend more on the military than the countries with the next 15 largest military budgets combined. Such perpetual growth seems to confirm Eisenhower’s concern about the size and influence of the military. It used to be, he said, that armies should grow and shrink as needed; in the Biblical metaphor of the speech, he observed that “American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well.”
But World War II and the early cold war changed that dynamic, creating what Eisenhower called “a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions.” It is not a stretch to believe that this armaments industry — which profits not only from domestic sales but also from tens of billions of dollars in annual exports — manipulates public policy to perpetuate itself. But Eisenhower was concerned about more than just the military’s size; he also worried about its relationship to the American economy and society, and that the economy risked becoming a subsidiary of the military. His alarm was understandable: at the time the military represented over half of all government spending and more than 10 percent of America’s gross domestic product. Today those figures are not quite as troubling.
While military spending as a percentage of gross domestic product has been going up as a result of 9/11 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the overall trend since 1961 is substantially down, thanks to the tremendous growth in America’s nonmilitary economy and the shift in government spending to nonmilitary expenditures. Yet spending numbers do not tell the whole story. Eisenhower warned that the influence of the military-industrial complex was “economic, political, even spiritual” and that it was “felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government.”
He exhorted Americans to break away from our reliance on military might as a guarantor of liberty and “use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment.” On this score, Eisenhower may well have seen today’s America as losing the battle against the darker aspects of the military-industrial complex. He was no pacifist, but he was a lifelong opponent of what he called a “garrison state,” in which policy and rights are defined by the shadowy needs of an all-powerful military elite.
The United States isn’t quite a garrison state today. But Eisenhower would likely have been deeply troubled, in the past decade, by the torture at Abu Ghraib, the use of martial authority to wiretap Americans without warrants and the multiyear detention of suspects at Guantánamo Bay without due process. Finally, even if the economy can bear the immediate costs of the military, Eisenhower would be shocked at its mounting long-term costs. Most of the Iraq war expenses were paid for by borrowing, and Americans will shoulder those costs, plus interest, for many years to come. A strong believer in a balanced budget, Eisenhower in his farewell address also told Americans to “avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow.”
Too many of today’s so-called fiscal conservatives conveniently overlook the budgetary consequences of military spending. Eisenhower’s worst fears have not yet come to pass. But his warning against the “unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex” is as urgent today as ever.
What Eisenhower Got Wrong
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed 8,000 people."
But pulling these quotes out of context, as we like to do, misses the reprehensible context of the speeches in which they originated. It would be a similar act of distortion to quote President Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech and leave out everything but that peaceful opening line. "Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Distinguished Members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, citizens of America, and citizens of the world:"
Obama went on to argue the necessity of war. And that is what Eisenhower did in his farewell address. He argued against unlimited militarization while arguing for something just short of it. He proposed disarmament while suggesting that we'd really better not do it. These lines are less well remembered: "We face a hostile ideology, global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. Unhappily, the danger it poses promises to be of indefinite duration."
How does one dismantle the military industrial complex in the face of a ruthless, atheistic ideology? Of course, Eisenhower did not do so. He refrained from some of the excesses, in both war funding and war lying, of his successors. He dug our country into a pointless war on Vietnam, but not to the extent of his successors. And when his immediate successor resisted the military machine more than Eisenhower had, a single bullet struck him multiple times in Dallas. If we set aside for a moment the pressing question for all presidents of whether Eisenhower was a devil or a saint, we can appreciate the value of having a president say anything worthwhile. But a half century later, we should be able to bring ourselves to also recognize what ideally should have been said -- and was being said by others.
In the same speech in which Eisenhower spoke of the theft from those who hunger, he claimed eternal innocence for the United States in foreign affairs. The United States had never been an aggressor; that was the Soviet Union's role. The United States relied on "trust and mutual aid" while the USSR relied on "force: huge armies, subversion, rule of neighbor nations." Why did we have to steal from the hungry in order to build weapons? Eisenhower had the answer: "The amassing of Soviet power alerted free nations to a new danger of aggression. It compelled them in self-defense to spend unprecedented money and energy for armaments."
Eisenhower blamed the Soviet Union for "aggression in Korea and southeast Asia." We know that to have constituted a pair of super-destructive lies. The point is not that Eisenhower wasn't relatively responsible, when compared with his predecessors and successors. But he maintained the same set of lies that allowed for the military industrial complex to grow into something today that probably didn't penetrate his worst nightmares.
Fifty years later it has come to look likely that militarized global empire cannot be maintained at a limited level that permits democracy at home. This is an all or nothing endeavor that requires a radical solution. We cannot both live and breathe fear of the evil now-Muslim terrorist ideology and halt nuclear proliferation. We cannot pretend our wars have been defensive and humanitarian while at the same time shutting down bases around the globe. We cannot imagine foreigners to be subhuman beasts and simultaneously pursue disarmament. In 1959, A.J. Muste said:
"I am not impressed . . . with the struggle that goes on periodically between the White House and Congressional committees over whether a balanced budget or national security is of first importance. These are not struggles between pacifists and militarists, people who want or do not want 'genuine negotiation.' And however these controversies come out, the military budget will be of astronomical proportions for 'peacetime'."
Muste cited C. Wright Mills and George F. Kennan in arguing for unilateral disarmament and adoption of a very different approach to the world. A half century later, that idea has less respect than ever, but the dominant idea is taking us off a cliff. The war machine is stronger than ever, the war propaganda slicker, the dangers heightened. Continuing down this course is not survivable in terms of proliferation or blowback, environmental destruction or loss of democratic representation, or in simple economic terms. This week a congress member proposed a bill to allow his colleagues to come armed to work, on the grounds that they could not safely walk home on Capitol Hill.
Tinkering with a self-destructive system will not save us. We need what Martin Luther King, Jr., whose holiday is also celebrated on Monday, called a revaluation of values. We need to outgrow the idea that there can be a good or just war any more than there can be a good slavery or a just rape. We need to confront the root of the militaristic ideology that even Eisenhower pushed on us: the lies about World War II. Yes, Franklin Roosevelt campaigned for office promising to stay out of a war he was already working to maneuver the United States into, and for all the wrong reasons, and he lied about German attacks and plans for conquest, and he lied about Pearl Harbor.
For a truly painful experience, read what FDR and others knew. Then read the endless saga of investigations and coverups. That FDR pursued very good policies domestically is not altered by what he did abroad. If we are looking for people to model our lives after, they should not be elected officials. They should be people like Martin Luther King, Jr. Here is someone doing that.
Ike's warning resonates
Although the Cold War ended two decades ago with the collapse of the Soviet Union, recent presidents have found no way out of increased military deployments and expenditures. Nor have they challenged the national security influence of the military. No president since Eisenhower has genuinely understood the dangers of the Pentagon's increasing influence over our national security policy. Eisenhower made sure that he was never outmaneuvered by his military advisers, particularly on such key issues as the Bay of Pigs and Vietnam, which his immediate successors thoroughly bungled. President John F. Kennedy never understood that the Pentagon anticipated the failure of the CIA in Cuba in 1961 and hoped to use its air power to achieve success. President Lyndon B. Johnson failed to challenge pleas from the Pentagon for more force and additional troops in Vietnam until it was too late.
Unlike Kennedy and Johnson, Eisenhower ignored the hysteria of the bomber and missile gaps in the 1950s, as well as the heightened concerns about U.S. security in National Security Council Report 68 (NSC-68) in the late 1940s and the Gaither Report in the mid-1950s, which called for unnecessary increases in the strategic arsenal. Eisenhower ignored the many Democrats and Republicans who advocated for increased defense spending, and he even cut the military budget by 20 percent between 1953 and 1955 on the way to balancing the federal budget by 1956.
Eisenhower clashed with the military mindset from the very beginning of his presidency. He knew that his generals were wrong in proclaiming "political will" the major factor in military victory and would have shuddered when Gen. David Petraeus proclaimed recently that political will is the key factor for U.S. success in Afghanistan. Eisenhower knew that military demands for weaponry and resources were always based on inexplicable notions of "sufficiency," and he made sure that Pentagon briefings to Congress were countered by testimony from the intelligence community.
Henry A. Kissinger was one of the rare national security advisers and secretaries of state who understood Eisenhower's point of view. During the ratification process for the SALT I agreement in 1972, he countered conservative and military opposition to SALT and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with two questions the opponents of arms control could never answer: "What is strategic sufficiency? What would we do with strategic sufficiency if we had it?"
Eisenhower warned in his Farewell Address in 1961 that the United States should not become a "garrison state," but 50 years later we have developed a garrison mentality with unprecedented military spending; continuous military deployments; exaggerated fears with regard to "Islamo-terrorism" and now cyberwars; and exaggerated aspirations with regard to counterinsurgency and nation-building. Eisenhower understood that the military-industrial complex fostered an inordinate belief in the omnipotence of American military power.
Finally, Eisenhower understood the limits and constraints on the use of force and did not fall prey to the type of planning that led to Kennedy's Bay of Pigs, Johnson's Vietnam, Ronald Reagan's Grenada, George W. Bush's Iraq, and now Barack Obama's Afghanistan. He started no wars and wisely settled for a stalemate in Korea. He stood alone in heavily criticizing the British-French-Israeli invasion of Egypt in 1956, and he ignored criticism for not assisting the Hungarian uprising weeks later.
Unfortunately, with the possible exception of President Richard Nixon, we have not had a president who understood the military mindset and was willing to limit the influence of the military. Democrats such as Kennedy, Johnson and Bill Clinton, as well as Republicans such as Mr. Reagan and the two Presidents Bush, have deferred too readily to the military. They devoted too many resources to the military and often resorted to the use of power instead of diplomacy and statecraft.
The twin military setbacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, where failed counterinsurgency strategies have cost billions of dollars and thousands of lives, should lead to a serious national security debate to prevent the mistakes of the past two decades. But President Obama finds himself in a position where the military wields far too much influence on Capitol Hill and within the intelligence community; controls too much of the weak U.S. economy; and has the leading policy voice on security issues. Instead of catering to the military, Mr. Obama would do well to heed the philosophy and advice of Eisenhower, who stood alone in understanding America's infatuation with military power.