Sunday, March 07, 2010

It's The Military Industrial Complex, Stupid!

"In the councils of government we must guard against the acquisition of power, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties and democratic processes."

Dwight D. Eisenhower
from his final address to the nation
January 17, 1961

For all his flaws (and he had many) I like Ike.

That has got to be at least the seventh or eighth time I've used that quotation since I started this site almost four years ago; the second time I've used it this year alone. It's content and meaning cannot be emphasized enough. I'll probably use it again before the year is out. It is the most prophetic statement made by an American president in the twentieth century.

The night he gave that address, Eisenhower was thought by many of his countrymen and women to be pretty much of a failure. The American people were eager to begin anew with Jack Kennedy's New Frontier which was due to commence in three days. By that point in history Ike was the oldest man ever to serve as chief-executive. JFK was the youngest man ever elected. The torch was about to be "passed to a new generation of Americans". The retiring president's remarks about the "military industrial complex" were soon forgotten. It was only decades of 20/20 historical hindsight that forced us to reexamine them.

Contrary to popular opinion, Eisenhower was not the befuddled old fool that many believed him to be at the time. In fact he was a fairly astute guy. His private writings, now available to scholars, prove this beyond a doubt. He saw the road that our economic reliance on the armaments industry was taking us down and he tried to sound a warning. The fact that historians payed little attention to that quote until years after his death is revealing. Ike was onto something and it took the rest of us a long time to catch on.

Cut to forty-nine years later: America is undeniably in economic ruins. Our health care system is an international joke. The American people are sick and getting sicker by the year. National health insurance - the kind they've had in England since 1947 - is not an option. As the Republicans (and more-than-a-few cowardly Democrats) love to remind us, that kind of system will surely bankrupt us. We simply can't afford it!

Of course we can.

It is embarrassing to have to point this out, but of the five-hundred and thirty-five members of the House and Senate, only one man (Bernie Sanders of Vermont) has had the the sense to point out what should be a no-brainer: We need to make drastic cuts in military spending. Or, in terms that even your average right wing extremist will be able to understand:

We piss away far too much of our national treasure on things that go BOOM!

Surely England can afford to insure all of its citizens. In 2009 they did not spend (as we did) 651 billion on its military. This year their projected defense budget is not (as ours is) 680 billion. Think about that for a minute: That amounts to almost a trillion-and-a-half dollars every two years! For that kind of cash not only would we be able to easily afford medical insurance for every man, woman and child in this dysfunctional nation, we could start investing in our badly neglected infrastructure. And that would translate into jobs - lots and lots of them.

The phony and self-righteous "Christian" politicians that pollute the halls of Congress are never going to take seriously the words of Jesus when He said, "Blessed are the peacemakers." Don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen any time soon. That being the case, I have a modest proposal. Let's cut military spending in half. If current trends continue, in 2011 we're looking at 700 billion in military expenditures alone. Why can't we trim it down to a "mere" 350 billion? Is that such an extreme proposal? Why do we spend more on weapons of death than we do on the life of our own country? What the hell is the matter with us?

"A nation that continues - year after year - to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom."

Martin Luther King

As I pointed out almost two months ago, we already have more-than-enough really neat bombs in our arsenal to totally wipe out life on this planet to begin with. What is it with our insatiable lust for these weapons? Is it a severe psychological flaw in the American character? Or is it something even more ominous and disturbing?

Could it possibly be that our very economic survival depends on us keeping the planet earth as a powder keg that will surely explode one day? How would we react if, say, Iran took it upon themselves to develop a military industrial complex equal or superior to our own? Were that to happen it's a foregone conclusion that Iran would cease to exist in less than a week. How hypocritical is that? And please don't give me the argument that it's different set of circumstances - that we're a responsible nation and Iran is not. To prove the utter fallacy of that argument, I have one word for you: IRAQ.

Well c'mon, Wall Street, don't be slow
Oh man, this war's au go-go!
There's plenty good money to be made
Supplying the Army with the tools of the trade....
And it's One, Two, Three - WHAT'RE WE FIGHTIN' FOR?

Country Joe and the Fish

The most annoying thing about this intolerable situation is the fact that most people are not even aware of it. The problem, they'll argue, lies in the fact that too many of our tax dollars are being spent on "social welfare programs". Or if they are aware of the problem, they say that it's just something that we can't possibly do without. Military might is the key to our greatness as a nation, they argue. I have to disagree.

Our "greatness as a nation" is in the guarantees put forward in the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. It has nothing to do with the fact that we have the technology to kill more human beings than any other country in the world. We're better than that - or at least we used to be. What made us great was not that we were the toughest kid in the international schoolyard. It was the fact that we put so much stock in our people. Let's start investing in America again.

Although Eisenhower was a pretty good domestic president, we are still paying a heavy price for his atrocious foreign policy a half century later - the worst of any president up to that time. The blame for the Islamic extremism that so torments the world today may be fairly laid at the graves of he and his Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles. But as far as I am concerned his legacy is secure for no other reason than that final, televised address to the American people on the night of January 17, 1961. I'm trying to convince myself that it's still not too late to heed Ike's warning.

Isn't it sad? They just don't make Republicans like that anymore, do they? Come to think about it, they don't make Democrats like that anymore either.

Tom Degan
Goshen NY

For more recent postings on this atrocious, French-loving site, please go to the link below:

"The Rant" by Tom Degan


The Declassified Eisenhower
by Blanche Wiesen Cook

by Stephen Ambrose

War Is A Racket
by Major General Smedley Butler


At 8:00 AM, Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

Listen to Part 1 of a speech by Lawrence Wilkerson from Real News, titled, The Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex. Pay particular attention starting at 7:40 and continuing through the end. (NOTE: Interestingly, to all you conservatives and Republicans who follow Tom's blog, Mr. Wilkerson is one of yours.) Please take the time to listen to the second and third installments, because he has some very important and uncomfortable points to make regarding what's occurring and why.

It's unfortunate that conservatives can't see beyond the tips of their collective noses; nor can they connect the dots. If they could, and heeded Mr. Wilkerson's prophetic words, then possibly the right and left could work together to rid this country of the insidious corpocracy that has seized it. Until then, splintered and fragmented, the left (at least those who "get it") will continue to rail against the true enemy, while the right will chase imaginary bogeymen whenever they can.

"Better a cruel truth than a comfortable delusion." Edward Abbey (1927 - 1989)

At 8:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great resource!

At 9:15 AM, Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

"Why do we spend more on weapons of death than we do the health of our own people?"

Tom, your question begs an answer. And the answer has become quite apparent. War is great for business. The profit margins far exceed anything spent on domestic or non-defense related items. There are people, an elite few, who benefit greatly from war and the war-related armaments we manufacture. Which, for all practical purposes, is essentially the only manufacturing left in this country. There's not too much, if any, competition, and the financial rewards are astounding. One just has to see the underlying reasons for the series of wars this country has been in since the Eisenhower years to comprehend the truth behind this.

Beyond the disgusting horror that war brings upon those who don't have a say, it's really what has driven the economic machine in this country for a very long time. I've seen the term, "Military Keynesianism" used, and it's very appropriate for describing the way we fund our current imperialistic empire. Unfortunately, where Keynesian economics when applied to military expenditures fails, it doesn't retain the high "trickle-down" effect of creating more jobs. Once a bomb explodes, it's over. Another bomb has to me made. But, once a bridge is built, or a train rail laid, it creates additional jobs for years to come.

We're in dire straits. We're on the verge of economic ruin, and the conservative majority wants to keep feeding the monster which holds it hostage.

Explain that to me. (I know, it's the million, billion dollar[s] question, isn't it?)

At 6:50 PM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

J.G., Thanks for that link. Very eye opening.

And now a word from our dear friend, Smedley Butler:

At 10:39 PM, Blogger Ken Riches said...

I agree that a nation with so many resources and extravagent expenses, we would find a way to pay for something so basic.

At 5:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another must-read from the Ike Library is "Crusade In Europe", his memoirs from the war. If for no other reason, it should be read for what he says about the concentration camps. He made a point of visiting them personally, a descendant of German immigrants, to bear witness to the atrocities committed by the Nazis so that future generations would never be able to deny what had happened there.
That has not stopped the crazies, of course, but it does seriously undermine their arguments.
- JRDegan, brother to His Rantitudeness

At 10:29 AM, Blogger finefroghair said...

this country is sick
and no longer grand
a terminal illness
that blankets our land

we accomplish nothing
and continually fail
to shore up our nation
we can't hit the nail

let's support our troops
by bringing them home
why our we more warlike
than ancient Rome

Wow all of that money
just wasted and gone
pissed down a rathole
and it didn't take long

Congress is worthless
those self serving dogs
always so ravenous
must we slop the hogs

there is no doubt about it
Eisenhower was right
Military Industrial Complex
is a continual blight

can we turn off this spigot
and stopper the drain
or will this last forever
it just boggles the brain

At 10:52 AM, Blogger charles moore said...


Thanks for another great article. You and JG are right on target; it is all about money and the military manufacturing complex. Why do we continue to build weapons and machines of war that are too expensive, unneeded, sometimes unwanted and even obsolete? And yet in all of these we could not provide the soldiers in Iraq with properly armored vehicles or body armor?

Can you imagine what we could accomplish if half of this money was turned to humanitarian uses - food, medicine, health care, housing?

At 3:33 PM, Anonymous Freya said...

Ever notice how a lot of bombs (and bullets) are phallus shaped?
You ever wonder if that might be a subconscious reason those old impotent farts in congress keep voting for war as an extension of their manhood?

At 4:26 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I want to sit at your kitchen table in your apt across the street from the porn shop and drink whiskey sours while listening to you expound on the ways this country is so fucked up and how kind and gentle people like us are going to fix it. Every once in awhile I will get up and go to the stove and stir some big pot of stew that I've been adding to all day in preparation for the arrival of others who need their stomachs filled as well as their souls. I'm just keepin' the dream alive, baby, and in your own way, so are you.

At 4:48 PM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Actually, Mary, it's a house - not an apartment - but other than that, it sounds like a perfectly fine and dandy idea. My doors always open to you. You'll just have to show me how to make a whiskey sour. Truth be told, the last time I drank one I was about fifteen!

See you soon!

Tom Degan

At 4:51 PM, Blogger wagelaborer said...

Too bad that Eisenhower "warned" the nation after he had already presided over the building of the military industrial complex.

I agree that the Dulles brothers and their compadres were largely responsible for the horrible things that the US did in the 50s, but Eisenhower didn't object, that we know of.

Kennedy, on the other hand, tried to do something about it. I'm reading "JFK and the Unspeakable", about how Kennedy was turning away from war and the CIA.

He fired Allen Dulles.

They put Allen Dulles in charge of the Warren Commission, "investigating" Kennedy's murder.

At 5:00 PM, Blogger Ellis D., Esq. said...

You know every time money is needed for positive social purposes the establishment always cries poverty !! BUT when the establishment wants money for WAR the sky is the limit !!! Gee they just love to spend money on things that go BOOM !! I find it ironic that Eisenhower, a military guy, was the first one to bring this point up. However, considering the imperialistic nature of the establishment his point SHOULD have been obvious to anyone with any degree of intelligence. What bothers me the most is that all these military expenditures do not make us safer. They sure make the buddies of our so called legislators very wealthy. These clowns move back and forth between government and the private sector a la Cheney and arrogantly laugh at us while fleecing the tax revenue for private gain. But hey I sure feel safer knowing that innocent civilians in foreign lands are dying at our hands from weapons made from my tax dollars !! As long as some weapons manufacturer made money that's good enough for me !!! SERIOUSLY folks the approach we are taking toward fighting terrorism is only going to lead to more terrorism. How about we stop our imperialistic policies and leave the rest of the world alone ?? That in conjunction with a rational immigration policy that scrutinizes who we let into our country will keep us safer than this policy of constant wars. Oh wait...the establishment won't be able to fleece as much of our tax revenue to give their friends that way !! Too bad we can't pay the establishment off to go away and leave WE THE PEOPLE alone. You know, buy back our own freedom !! Now THAT would be tax revenue well spent !!!

At 5:24 PM, Blogger Tom Degan said...


Not two hours ago I was reading a passage from Merle Miller's oral biography of Harry Truman where he quotes the late president saying the exact thing you just said:

"It's an amazing thing. Every ten cents that was spent for those work relief projects, the WPA and the PWA and those, every dime was looked into, and somebody was always against spending a nickel that would help poor people and give the men that didn't have any.

But the minute we started spending all that defense money, the sky was the limit and no questions asked. The 'economy boys' never opened their mouths about that, and I don't understand it. I don't now, and I didn't then."

Good ol' Harry. Gotta love him!


Plain Speaking
An Oral Biography of Harry S Truman
by Merle Miller

At 8:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Tom I agree to disagree in part. Bear with me. The Military in the hands of the correct managers is a much needed thing. Thats what keeps Iran from really making a nuke and using it. That what keeps China from evading the world, its what keeps the Arabs from attacking Israel etc. Now this all comes with a price.What you failed to mention about Ike was thats who put us in, where else but Vietnam. It started with him. The fuse was lite by Ike. How much dough would we still have in our pockets had we not been there. Fast forward to Iran 1979, and Jimmy Carter uncertain what to do after hostages taken. So Jeese Jackson no one could convince Iran to free hostage's. Then comes Ron Reagan iching to pull a trigger like his cowboy movies, result hostage's freed within a week. Now fast forward to the republic of Panama 1987 a country run by a dictator drug dealer, home to the most valuable shipping lane in the world, annexed nicely by who else us. 1987 Panama was Saturated with Cuban soldiers, why would you think. So to shorten the story we knocked them out gave them back the country, this was a good thing. Then Comes Irag and the GUlf war, could have gone either way as far as to get involed or not, in the end it was probaly the right thing, except George W. didn't listen to his Military adviser's they didn't finish the job.Now comes slick Willie. We cut the military to bare bones balanced the budget to some degree, and had a little spending money, after we saw the wall fall in Germany and shook hands with China and russia. This is where credence comes to what you have to say. (blessed are the peacemakers). Then along comes Sept 11, 61 miles from your hometown an hour and 10 mins drive with no traffic. So we are in the state of shock similar to I'm sure what happened when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The first thing 911 showed was how screwed up our intelligence agency's are, and how ill prepared we are for some sort of catastrophe. Then you got George Jr chopping at the bit looking for revenge, total loose cannon.Now we know who was responsilbe the guy sent us video's bragging about it. So we decide ok he's hanging in afganistan so we pound them back to the stone age looking for Osama, then we decide that because Suddam is next door and he is laughing at us and singing praise for what happen that he has weapons of mass distruction and will be a threat. Now we dicide to go after Irag, basically for laughing at us, because in the first gulf war we destroyed anything they had worth a shit. We left them a few daisey BB guns some super high power water guns, and an air pump for the Nissan and Toyota Pickups they were using as miltary vehicles.End result we bomb them back again to the stone ages, the cost excess of a trillion dollars excess 4,000 of our most precious resource soldiers dead, not comming back final chapter in there lives. The one thing I like about Obamma is I don't think he will be as quick to pull the trigger. He stated on nurmous times that before you send someone in harms way you must think it through which wasn't the case before. We will spend another trillion before there is any light at the end of the tunnel. In closing i gave you needed use of the military and bad use, the defense of this nation lies on the backbone of young men and woman. We need a Miltary and a strong one. That is what has kept us speaking the language we speak and enjoying the freedoms we have. I have traveled to more countries than we have states, some i could see myself living in, but by far we enjoy the greatest quality of life second to none, Many wars never happened because of our military, many more will not also happen. Yea there are some cost cutting that could be made in the Military our Gov't as a whole gets ripped of dailey, but if we have to raise the price of gas, sugar cigars, tampoons whatever.We need a strong Military. Thats about all I got to say about that. Tom your know me Elsie's

At 6:28 AM, Anonymous Bennett said...

I find it amusing that half of your posts echo both the topic and approach of conversations I've had with friends and family in the prior 6 months...

However, your writing is far superior to mine so it's extremely satisfying to see what I've been thinking put down so eloquently! Thank you, Tom, for ALL that you write.

@Jefferson's Guardian: BIG thanks for the link to Mr. Wilkerson's speech! I knew the phrase Military Industrial, but not with "Congressional" added to it. This is so clearly the Truth that I'm a bit uneasy, knowing that I have parts 2 and 3 to listen to today...

Speaking of Truth, this: "while the right will chase imaginary bogeymen whenever they can." is spot on and well said. Thank you Sir.

At 8:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boy - If we only paid heed to the parting shot from that other George W - "Beware of foreign entanglements" -Eisenhower's admonition might not have been needed. I find it interesting that in various rankings of US presidents Eisenhower rating keeps moving up while Reagan's keeps moving down...

Another great bit of clarity, Tom. Maybe you could become this administration's Czar of Sensible Thinking.

At 10:07 AM, Blogger Brian said...

Kucinich (one of the few worthwhile Democrats) has been vocal about this too.

At 4:36 PM, Blogger Hal Horvath said...

I've written on this on my blog also ("America, Empire and Soul"), and am pleased to see that more than only a few voices in the wilderness are being raised on this. (Just found this blog for the first time. Like Tom, I've loved the Eisenhower insight since I first heard it...25 years ago?)

But...I find Anon @ 8:55pm to be so valuable, honest, such a fascinating comment.

See, he represents the views of many millions. Probably more than 100 million.

Here's my key insight regarding this view:

They have no idea how much $680 billion is, not in a real way.

$680 billion is *exactly* the same as $180 billion to them.

*That's* a crucial piece of the political situation.

Those of us that want to write on this more convincingly (and I like my recent post, but there is this larger game:) -- we will need to communicate real understanding, somehow, to people that simply *cannot* conceive of the meaning, the magnitude, of $680 billion vs. say a more appropriate 2% of GDP.

Even the GDP percentages that I point out on my blog will only communicate to a portion of such people.

Proportion doesn't help much when math is meaningless.

There's nothing wrong with not really understanding numbers.

We have to find a way to communicate with them.

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At 11:40 PM, Anonymous Bennett said...

Wow, Hal, great stuff. Your blog is worthy, and I've added it to my daily read, so get busy.

I too, was fascinated by Anon 5:00's post but didn't quite know how to respond to it.

He's young, either post deployment or about to join up, and is full of military patriotism. The financial aspects of of being the world's policemen are beyond him at this point, as you note.

I look forward to more of your observations!

At 9:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 4:03 PM, Anonymous Kate James said...

Tom, your blog is so insightful. Thanks for sending me the link.

At 8:10 PM, Anonymous Conway said...

I have tertiary syphilis.

At 2:50 PM, Blogger Bill_in_DE said...

I'm pretty sure that the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq, and its mishandling of the subsequent occupation can be summed up by a quote from '1984':

"The consciousness of being at war, and therefore in danger, makes the handing-over of all power to a small caste seem the natural unavoidable condition of survival."

At 2:26 AM, Anonymous John Ethier said...

Very well put. We need a Food Inc type exposé on the military industrial complex. I wonder if Michael Moore is working on something.

At 10:37 AM, Blogger susan vesuvius said...

Another wonderful post, Tom. We Canadians feel nothing but sympathy for the many, many American citizens who would earnestly love to cut back on military spending (and enjoy better health care)It WILL happen (remember a time when we thought the money being dumped into the space programm was frivilous?)and it's words and blogs like yours which will drive the movement forward.


At 7:03 AM, Blogger rjhuntington said...

The bloated US military budget "defends" the profits of the Bankster owned and operated MIC empire. The MSM are its sock puppets. The US government, all three branches corrupted by corporate money and the threat of assassination, is its ass-kissing toady. Persians, Arabs and Islam are the patsies. American youth, too poor at minimum wage to refuse the fake carrots dangled in front of their hungry noses, are the fodder, and We the People of America are the bamboozled schmucks who bend over to take the taxpayer shaft while phony patriotism, phony religion and phony glory are shamelessly paraded. How much longer are we going to put up with it?


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