Reading over the breadth of new stories popping up over the holidays–a time when few are paying attention–certain realizations are finally hitting the mainstream press. Before 2010 is wound out, I find it appropriate to discuss and summarize the complete usurpation of civilian power at the hands of the military-industrial complex, the resonating collusion first accurately summarized by President Dwight David Eisenhower in his farewell speech in January of 1961:
Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
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 must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
The comparisons between today and 1961 are startling.
As analyzed today in the New York Times, the United States of America allocates more on military spending than practically every other industrial power combined, encompassing a budget that surpasses China (the world’s second biggest military spender) six times over.
There isn’t an armed conflict that occurs worldwide without some sort of reaction from American forces, deployed at over 700 military bases in practically every continent.
These interventions abroad, sparking mostly from 1945 and on, documented on Liberty In Exile many times before (Video here), have continued to de-stabilize entire regions and initiate countless unnecessary wars and conflicts. The present examples, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, and much more, are bastions of instability and violence, plagued by the intervention by foreign forces for over one hundred years now.
For the purpose of this article, however, we look to the military’s continued grasp of power on the “Homeland”, as it is now effectively called, breeding countless examples of nicely-crafted Orwellian language.
The latest investigations and reports have pointed to a huge, overloaded bureaucracy of secret government agencies, all tasked to spy and report on the dealings of average Americans. The most prominent investigation, labeled Top Secret America by the Washington Post, elaborated on the massive security complex that has engulfed this country since 9/11, granting over 1,000,000 individuals across the country with top-secret security clearance. Thousands upon thousands of companies are engaged in targeting domestic Americans for seemingly “suspicious” behavior, anything from attending a rally to purchasing certain items at the store. The investigation has opened copious avenues of government and military abuse, practiced in the militarization of local police, granting of billion-dollar defense contracts to former military officials, and much more.
At the head of this intricate and complex system is the Department of Homeland Security, a perfect example of doublespeak if there ever was one. This department has, under its control, the national guard, millions of federal employees, and endless amounts of military hardware gladly sold by defense contractors. This is the same organization that has allowed local police officers to carry fully-automatic assault weapons, started this Soviet-style “See Something Say Something” campaign in Wal-Marts and public transit, invaded our privacy at local airports, and many other abuses of power and just constitutional rule.
Though much rambling focused on the DHS could easily ensue, the important focus here is the U.S. military, who have the power to murder other individuals under signed mandate from the President of the United States.
The Boston Globe recently reported on the expanding use of retired generals in the defense “advising” industry, pinning these former military leaders as “profiteers” of a warfare/welfare state. The Globe’s report merely scratches the surface of collusion between the military and its defense contractors, first alluded to by President Eisenhower, but it paints an appropriate scenario which conveys the message of the time: the military has usurped the state. The affairs of the government are primarily focused on the acquisition and maintenance of military might and power. The well-being of its own citizens is thrown by the wayside, favoring a system directed and initiated by men who claim their fortune by murdering millions of individuals abroad, as well as arming vicious dictators with more weapons to turn on their own populations.
What columnist Nicholas Kristof states in the New York Times, therefore, is that perhaps this “untouchable” military status quo is due for an economical evaluation. Perhaps the fact that our nation’s foreign policy is dictated by business interests instead of national interests will awake the people to its misdirection. Perhaps the ever-expanding role of security, paranoia, and policing will call to attention the inalienable rights the people of this nation once knew.
While military hotshots and the armament industry expand the American Empire abroad, the federal law enforcement agencies do their job to keep the people turned on themselves at home. The emphasis has turned on “home grown” terror, where any person could be considered a threat to the “Homeland”. Oddly enough, however, most of the “threats”–deemed so by the DHS–turn out to be groups which are opposed to the actions of the government. The most clear and recent examples include the illegal raids on anti-war activists in Chicago and Minneapolis, criticized unilaterally by the Justice Department, but kept outside of the mainstream press.
Whether it be the CIA paying off Hamid Karzi and his drug-dealing relatives in Afghanistan, or the military officers caught smuggling heroin, or the multiple reports that soldiers kill innocent men, women, and children for “sport“, there is something dreadfully wrong with how America carries itself in the rest of the world. The American people, rather than learning of the true facts of their country, are bombarded with mainstream media reports and advertising which effectively tout the benefits of the warfare state. Military intervention and state aggression are promoted and advocated in TV shows, Hollywood, and general cultural references. While some are tuned in to NBC’s Meet the Press to watch political interviews and information, the commercial slots sell the virtues of Boeing airplanes and General Electric technology, arguably some of the biggest benefiters in the military-industrial complex scheme. The idea of supporting the troops becomes necessarily synonymous with supporting the entire 21st century American Empire, labeling resisters as “anti-american” and shutting down any meaningful debate about the military’s role in society and in the world.
As the highly-informative book The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives by Nick Turse documents, American society has been replaced with a former version of itself, with the dedication to armed force outweighing all other legitimate functions of government. The resources, influence, and power that have been designated to the “defensive” arm of the state have surpassed any other in world history, allowing the military to gain an all-dominant influence in our society and culture.
Much like the Roman Empire became overrun with the demands and desires of its armed legions, the American Empire will surely face its own inevitable demise at the hands of the military-industrial complex. To avoid such a fate, we must once again channel the words of President Dwight David Eisenhower, and hope that an informed populace will change the destitute future which awaits us:
Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.