President Eisenhower, previously General Eisenhower of WWII fame, warned of the Military Industrial Complex in his farewell addresses in 1961.1
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”
We Are Number 1!
Long ago, I renamed Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex to be the Presidential-Congressional-Military-Industrial Complex. Every President and Congress in my lifetime (that spans the entire post-WWII era) has done nothing but bow down to this bloated machine while also using it to commit aggressions around the world. All this in the name of defending America. Congress shies away from taking any real responsibility under the Constitution to declare war, but Congresspeople and Senators love to take home the gelt of defense contracts to their districts. The defense industry has so cleverly sited manufacturing plants and suppliers in virtually every Congressional district. Every President has deployed his military toys. It is not lost on me that the President flies away from the White House lawn on the Marine One helicopter to get to the Air Force One jet.
The US war budget (DOD and Dept of Energy (atomic bombs)) is more than twice the size in real terms that it was when Eisenhower made his comments.
What have we gotten for all this spending? Continuous war, aggressions, secret combat, drone murders, overthrown governments, propped up dictatorships, we’re spreading democracy everywhere. This has been going on for my entire 75 years of life…. Are we safer here in the US? We are surrounded on two sides by vast oceans and bounded north and south by countries that cannot be considered political or military foes? People doubt that we are an imperial power because our national rhetoric demands that we are a progressive, democratic force in the world. How to explain over 750 military bases scattered on every continent except Antarctica? We don’t know how many dark, secret bases and operations are hidden under the blanket of security clearances. Currently, 1.4 million people hold Top Secret access within the 4.2. million who hold some security clearance access.2
Meanwhile, we have all sorts of urgent issues that need attention.
- Eisenhower’s farewell speech is well worth a read. It is not very long. Many of its themes remain relevant. https://www.archives.gov/milestone-documents/president-dwight-d-eisenhowers-farewell-address#transcript
Your post is so important information for folks to think about….and act on. I’d love an even deeper dive into the various eras within the 75 years you cite. For example, when Bush pushed to invade Iraq because of (non-existent) weapons of mass destruction hundreds of billions of dollars went that war over the years and we ended up quagmired in Afghanistan (whether or not we should have invaded that country is also up for debate in my view) as the military’s attention was divided between two wars. Once troops were engaged in the Iraq War they had to be supported. Democrats, like Nancy Pelosi, who vehemently opposed the war (there were very few!) felt they had to vote for funding the troops because they couldn’t leave them unprotected. The Iraq War debacle further lessened our international reputation and created dissatisfaction and anger among a large portion of the populace who were soldiers returning with wounds or PTSD (or returning in body bags) and the families and friends of those soldiers. It is clear that the decision to go to war was based on knowingly false information (Pelosi, at the time, on the House Intelligence Committee but not yet Speaker, said the intelligence does not support an invasion). Once in the war was completely mismanaged AND Halliburton and others profited (perhaps the main objective after all)! Then as veterans have come back they have not been served even as they suffer maladies from burn pits, etc. Enter Stage Left: Donald Trump. He is the conduit of the anger so many have about the incompetence and gross negligence and profit mongering that that war was all about. His popularity is not just about quality of living, jobs, and culture wars. It’s also about young people coming home with disabilities seen and unseen. Many of these young people joined the armed services after 9/11 out of patriotism and ended up in THAT war. Can you imagine? The insult is so great. The gulf between patriotism and craven greed and power is so great that even the large corpus of Trump managed to fit into it. Our country is incalculably harmed by Bush’s policies in Iraq.
One thing I would like to see in terms of action, is that we take Veterans Benefits out of Domestic Discretionary Funding and put it in the Military Budget. That is the only way we can begin to see the true cost of war.
Thanks, Brenda. The Costs of War project at the Watson Institute at Brown U is an excellent source of info: https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/
A maddening aspect for me is how deeply ingrained and continually reaffirmed by media is the notion of American exceptionalism. We are busy spreading democracy around the world. Our global military and overwhelming economic power is the new model of empire.