Take a moment and step back from the everyday news bombardment regarding the latest terror threat, terror alerts and other pretexts for future war. Let’s be reflective and non-reactive and examine where we are from within a wider lens.
Worthwhile Perspectives on War From the Most Unlikely Sources
My claim is simple, if you want peace, you need to know your war. It seems that many of my younger friends understandably lack the context of what it means to live in a country continuously at war and in a country whose leadership in retrospect has purposefully manufactured and manipulated consent for the United States to go to war throughout its modern history.
The questions, “Why would our political leaders purposefully lead us into war? And who benefits?,” are actually remarkably easy to understand.
Let’s begin with an excerpt from Norman Cousins’s 1987 book, “The Pathology of Power.” Cousin writes,
“Were the Soviet Union to sink tomorrow under the waters of the ocean, the American military–industrial complex would have to remain, substantially unchanged, until some other adversary could be invented. Anything else would be an unacceptable shock to the American economy.”
That was 1987 – long before our next enemy invention (although in all fairness the United States began grooming, arming and funding the post-modern Jihadi Taliban and Al Qaeda movements as anti-Soviet proxies during this period).
Since the fall of Communism, we have indeed invented a new convenient enemy, one that can never be beaten because it’s neither an army nor a country – it’s a mere idea, a word, a thought – and it’s called, “terrorism.”
The military budget of the United States for the 2014 fiscal year was $515.4 billion. Adding emergency discretionary spending and supplemental spending brings the sum to $651.2 billion. This does not include many military-related items that are outside of the Defense Department budget. Overall the United States government is spending about $1 trillion annually on defense-related purposes.
If we are not already in one, we are in danger of being in a permanent war economy.
“Men who during war, who have tasted the powers of coercive control, may find it difficult to reconcile themselves with the humbler roles they will then have to play in peaceful times.” – Hayek, The Road to Serfdom
In his farewell address to the nation, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned the American people to keep a careful eye on what he called the “military-industrial complex” that developed in the post-World War II years. The phrase, “military-industrial complex,” is neither conspiratorial nor a scary possibility – it’s living and it’s factual.
A fiscal conservative, President Eisenhower had been concerned about the growing size and cost of the American defense establishment since he became president in 1953. In his final presidential address to the American people, he expressed those concerns in terms that frankly shocked some of his listeners.
President Eisenhower began by describing the changing nature of the American defense establishment since World War II. No longer could the U.S. afford the “emergency improvisation” that characterized its preparations for war against Germany and Japan. Instead, the United States was “compelled to create a permanent armaments industry” and a huge military force. He admitted that the Cold War made clear the “imperative need for this development,” but he was gravely concerned about “the acquisition of unwarranted influence…by the military-industrial complex.” In particular, he asked the American people to guard against the “danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a defense-scientific-technological elite.”
Eisenhower’s blunt language stunned some of his supporters. They believed that the man who led the country to victory in Europe in World War II and guided the nation through some of the darkest moments of the Cold War was too negative toward the military-industrial complex that served as the backbone of America’s defense. For most listeners, however, it seemed clear that Eisenhower was merely stating the obvious. World War II and the ensuing Cold War resulted in the development of a large and powerful defense establishment. Necessary though that development might be, Eisenhower warned, this new military-industrial complex could weaken or destroy the very institutions and principles it was designed to protect.
Worse still, the military-industrial complex and related defense industry subsidiaries contribute heavily to incumbent members of Congress. Take the sugar coating off of that statement and a direct question is being asked for you to ponder, “Are our political leaders either too cozy or are pawns in the pocket of an industry that far too often may be short-sightedly and diametrically opposed to peace and the very welfare of our country?”
There’s nothing but hard evidence here is my claim, so “What are the names of some of these companies within this so-called military-industrial complex?”
“Companies that employ millions of American workers?”
Danger 101: An Ongoing War Economy: Some of America’s Largest Employers Need/Needed War as a Profit Center Just to Stay in Business:
Lockheed Martin Corporation
North American Aviation
Hughes Aircraft Company
After Our Wars – Construction and War Re-Construction is Big Business, and a Few Companies Consistently Manage to Win Supply and Infrastructure Project Contracts:
Halliburton Kellogg Brown and Root
Washington Group Intl
Black and Veatch
Interestingly, it would be very simple to work in any of these industries and never really take stock as an employee in just what exactly the overall magnitude of violence and death that you’re involved in actually is. It is also the case that one could be a soldier, for all the right reasons, but be a cog in the wheel of something larger than what is immediately recognizable.
If you live long enough and pay just a little attention you can’t help but notice the same themes playing out over and over. After World War II and until the fall of the Soviet Union there was an idea that was fought for repeatedly without end – that idea was called Communism.
The Western world was full of hope – the year was 1991. Communism had completely collapsed. The long-awaited peace that the free world had always wanted was finally here. While the fall of communism was an extremely hopeful moment for the people of the world, there were some very painful and predictable side effects: There were layoffs at US defense contractors, there were the closing down and downsizing of armed service bases, a decreasing number of uniformed personnel – all were becoming increasingly common. Many heated debates were fought in the House and Senate about which bases would remain open as base closures were vital for many American cities viable health and survival.
For all the problems Communism created, it also provided the US with a consistently reliable source of military jobs, a firm tax base, defense contractor positions, and a large military on constant stand-by. There were always huge cost overruns, but there were also major technological achievements that came from these developments.
This was the era of the Cold War and there were continuous low to mid-level conflicts at all times from Central to South America, to Africa and the Middle East, all the way to SouthEast Asia. Enormous sums were spent on telecommunications, intelligence, space and satellite development to justify the enemy, for if there were no enemy – these sums, lives lost and energy would be both morally and financially unjustifiable.
American industry benefitted tremendously from continuous conflict. The contractors benefitted not just on the side of the war machine, but especially on the side of the construction and the reconstruction machine. Eisenhower was unfortunately right.
Whatever damage the United States did by tearing apart countries with its politics, bombs and guns it made right by turning right around and putting a friendly government in place and performing exactly the same tried-and-true routine: After overthrowing or undermining governments around the world, putting U.S. friendly governments in place – we then conveniently always helped them to rebuild. Always.
The first item on the agenda was to always have the new U.S. friendly government take out a series of loans from international banks that the U.S. and it’s close allies controlled: namely the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. There were commercial banks too, but these were the principal entities.
With US friendly leadership in place, these new governments would take out loans – specifically reconstruction and infrastructure loans. Almost all contracts for infrastructure would go to American companies, and that is how the world was geopolitically structured until the end of the Cold War. With great frequency, and conspicuously when the United States needed a specific vote at the United Nations, debt was often forgiven.
The best part of these new infrastructure loans that were made largely from the World Bank – they were made with often unreasonably long pay-back periods, but at a reasonable interest rate with this caveat: the currency the country would now use would either be the dollar or pegged directly to the dollar.
The United States was directly creating global hegemony on a scale that British colonialists from the 19th century could only envy. One consistent difficulty with this new American Century was that all of the governments that the US would put in power, all seemed strikingly opposed to the very people that they were supposed to represent. While the US was friendly with these self-created autocratic puppet governments, in most every case the people that lived under those governments understandably began to despise the United States and its self-serving foreign-policy.
From the overthrowing of the President of Iran, to the placement of Manuel Noriega in Panama, to befriending the likes of Saddam Hussein, to sustaining the brutal Saudi regime – the U.S. managed to isolate itself from the goodwill of the world for the sake of a wayward foreign policy run amok by defense, food, oil/energy, telecommunication, mining, and infrastructure contractors. All of this was financed by several very large international banks that held sway over the “free-world’s” governance through pegging US loans to the dollar as a float, without any further underlying standard.
One last item: the number of US military bases spread rapidly worldwide after World War Two to contain the spread of, “the idea of Communism.” The proportion of the U.S. economy controlled by Defense and Intelligence was sky-rocketing. The United States quickly became dependent on its Defense/War machine for its very economic survival. We became a nation that quite literally – had to be at war both to survive and justify its way of life in the eyes of more than just a few powerful interests.
Meanwhile the collateral damage were US friendly authoritarian (anti-democracy) rulers in place worldwide, millions of dead and wounded worldwide and thousands of honorable dead and wounded US soldiers.
Our future soldiers were often conscripted from high school ROTC, recruitment stations at lower-income shopping malls in rural areas, and from exciting television ads promoted at sporting events – far from the privileged class that was benefitting and pocketing from the spoils of war. Time and again the political leaders that were sending our children to die overseas evaded the very service they were now leading and had every financial and political power incentive to maintain.
To this day it amazes me that popular sporting events in our country have somehow become aligned and associated with and used as recruitment propaganda tools. Just what exactly does one have to with the other? Why are we saying the national anthem and having military jets fly overhead at stadiums? Just what exactly do football and baseball have to do with war? Why exactly do so many toys, video games and films glorify something so obscenely grotesque as modern warfare? Is there a purposeful attempt being made to familiarize, normalize and propagate war in every level of our social conscience?
Why exactly do the news channels voraciously repeat certain sensational acts of terror over and over again even though they are significantly disproportionate to the number of events taking place? Not until you leave the United States and live overseas (and I don’t mean in an Army Base or work for a contractor or work for the U.S. in anyway) would you truly discover how very weird all of this really is. We live in something of an odd container of an all-encompassing, all too-often violent sound bite news cycle.
To this day only thirty-eight percent of Americans have ever left the country and that is up substantially as of late according to current State Department statistics – simply because Americans now need a passport to travel to Mexico. Few other places are quite like the United States when it comes to violence. We are unique – something of a gladiator society. Even boxing has lost its popularity as a sport for us – it apparently has nothing compared to the latest rage: human cock-fighting. Armed to the teeth with guns – truly violence and household armaments are an incredible economic industry. Travel and you will see that the rest of the world, except where we have armed it – is anything like us at all.
From a certain perspective – much of what is taking place is well-beyond the banter of conspiracy buffs – it has simply becoming patently obvious by the oversized defense budget and the number of simultaneous low-grade continuous conflicts that are taking place. No other country comes close to what we spend on war. We dwarf all other countries – there is no arms race.
“Friendly US governments” were bought and paid for as was evidenced by almost strict uniform results of vote tallying at the United Nations along Free World-Communist lines until the end of the Cold War. It was a great time to be an investment banker on Wall Street, a lobbyist on K Street, or a politician who was under the heavy and corruptive influence of both, or a shareholder in these stable blue-chip companies. Ah, the good old days.
Well, they’re back. And they’ve been back. Perhaps there was a small hiatus between the fall of communism in 1991 and September 11, 2001 but we have a new idea to fight and it’s much more elusive than the old one. This new elusive enemy is called “Terrorism,” and it is a convenient idea but can never be beaten, but will always keep us employed. We can only kill terrorists but we can never beat an idea called terrorism. We are being sold a very deadly bill of goods. The war machine is back, the reconstruction and construction machines are back. The banks are back. And they’re all back with a vengeance.
There will be no end to this greed, there will be no end to this corruption until we as a society are educated, fed up with the fear and propaganda from select news, fed up with war, and begin to truly reevaluate our economy and transition it to peace.
There will always be a bomb that goes off here, a bomb that goes off there, there will always be a pretext for the next arms shipment, proxy war or invasion.
Realistically the Middle East hasn’t looked any less spiritually difficult for thousands of years. The only thing that’s different now, is the location of oil. Religion is a pretext. Clash of civilizations is a pretext. We are not stepping into a war with ISIS – we are just about to step into another war with a deception – a machine that cannot be seen, until you step back and see the wider context in which you are being asked to fight once more. Step back from the thirty second propaganda sound bites of breaking news. Get a birds eye view. There are larger forces at work.
We were never attacked by the people of of Afghanistan or Iraq, yet we’ve been at war with them for 15 years. We have never been attacked by Syria but we are being prepared to go and fight an enemy that appears we have largely created and tailor made to meet our war economy once again. The wisdom of peace is to not play into or at least minimize your part in this money and blood thirsty cycle of violence and never-ending war.
Paul Wolfowitz was conveniently nominated by George W. Bush to head the World Bank after the Iraq war was declared Mission Accomplished, and if you were in the Bush Administration, to some degree the mission in 2004 was indeed accomplished: a new friendly US government was in place, reconstruction had begun, the loans and the contracts were flying. And the oil was said to be flowing once more. From beginning to the end none of this was true. Literally trillions of dollars were erroneously and surreptitiously spent on a war to find non-existent weapons of mass destruction. The United States destroyed and then ineptly tried to rebuild Iraqi society – by all accounts a complete failure unless you were part of the machine that profited.
Truly a disgusting waste of human lives and a breeding ground was all that remained for the very worst of Saudi funded Wahhabist extremists to thrive in.
In Afghanistan, outside of attacking a few tented terrorist camps in Kandahar and a few caves at Bora Bora most of Al Qaeda had melted into Pakistan and beyond. New oil leases are ready to be exploited in the disputed Syrian Israeli-held Golan Heights and just offshore are thought to be some of the biggest reserves in the world.
Americans won’t be fooled by a simple oil pretext again, but perhaps a murderous group of Christian killing Islamist extremists might do the trick, that might be just enough pretext to ignite our war machine into full gear once more. And of course, Syria will need to be rebuilt after the fall of Assad. If you want to understand what we’re getting into, and how we might avoid another round of pain – follow the money, not the pretext for war.
In conclusion I leave you with a final gift as I attempt to coerce you toward the more noble aspirations of peace and love – from the Nuremberg diary of American prison psychologist G.M. Gilbert and his interviews with one of the chief architects of the The Third Reich and Commander of the Lufftwaffe, Hermann Goering:
We got around to the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to his attitude, “I did not think the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.”
“Why of course the people don’t want war,” Goering shrugged. “Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally the common people don’t want war, neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it’s a Democracy, a Fascist dictatorship or a Parliament, or a Communist dictatorship.”
“There is one difference,”I pointed out. “In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only the Congress can declare war.”
“Oh that is all well and good,” Goering replied, “but voice or no voice the people can always be brought to the bidding of their leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they’re being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”
Since World War II the United States has been in an almost continuous state of war and this is exactly how many times Congress has used the War Powers Act: Zero.
The people’s wish for peace are being circumvented by powerful lobby’s and interests, we are being sold a bill of violent goods through the pretext of a War on Terror. If you want peace you must see through the mirage, you must speak up – silence is the hidden enabler of violence. It is patriotic to want peace.
It is patriotic to want an end to the violence and destruction. It is human and it is humane to wish to leave this world a better place than we found it for our children and for our environment. Each of us is responsible to find our voice of peace and love.
May we be happy, may we be well, may we be safe, and may we peaceful and at ease. May we find peace within and may there be peace in our world.