Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Military-Industrial Complex - A Bunch of Good-Time(s) Guys?

I read Tom Engelhardt's TomDispatch on a regular basis and have begun to wonder why I hadn't given more attention (at least initially) to the essay he published by Chalmers Johnson on July 27, 2008 (and I recommend reading the entire essay as it is excellent). Maybe my reluctance to dive in was because it reiterates a number of facts about our government's policies (and history of such) that are unpleasant to think about for too long. It hits me where I live (in enjoying the exposing of what's behind political realities) - ouch! - and yet, I just didn't want to revisit those emotions (and his essay is not surprising in its conclusions to anyone who has been paying attention). Should the CIA be abolished? Is it causing more problems than it was set up to solve? (Are you joshing me? Is that a serious question? Did you see The Good Shepherd?) But - back to serious commentary - upon reading it (this time carefully), the following paragraphs (and much, much more) from both Tom's intro and Chalmers' essay stand out as eminently important, worthy of consideration by as many people as we can lasso into doing such as it exponentially increases one's comprehension of the dangers inherent in the so-called post-9/11 world (and what a country governed by a Constitution that heretofore has limited the actions of the executive, legislative and judicial branches with a working set of "checks and balances" will lose with the (s)election of John "BushLeagueCheneGang" McCain): Tom begins:

To offer a bit of context for Chalmers Johnson's latest post on the privatization of U.S. intelligence, it's important to know just how lucrative that intelligence "business" has become. According to the latest estimate, the cumulative 2009 intelligence budget for the 16 agencies in the U.S. Intelligence Community will be more than $55 billion. However, it's possible that the real figure in the deeply classified budget may soar over $66 billion, which would mean that the U.S. budget for spooks has more than doubled in less than a decade. And as Robert Dreyfuss points out at his invaluable blog at the Nation, even more spectacularly (and wastefully), much of that money will end up in the hands of the "private contractors" who, by now, make up a mini intelligence-industrial complex of their own. Chalmers Johnson, who once consulted for the CIA and more recently, in his book Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, the third volume of his Blowback Trilogy, called for the Agency to be shut down, knows a thing or two about the world of American intelligence. As he has written, "An incompetent or unscrupulous intelligence agency can be as great a threat to national security as not having one at all." Now consider, with Johnson, just how incompetent and unscrupulous a thoroughly privatized intelligence "community" can turn out to be.
Chalmers argues (from The Military-Industrial Complex - It's Much Later Than You Think):
Most Americans have a rough idea what the term "military-industrial complex" means when they come across it in a newspaper or hear a politician mention it. President Dwight D. Eisenhower introduced the idea to the public in his farewell address of January 17, 1961. "Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime," he said, "or indeed by the fighting men of World War II and Korea… We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions… We must not fail to comprehend its grave implications… We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex." Although Eisenhower's reference to the military-industrial complex is, by now, well-known, his warning against its "unwarranted influence" has, I believe, largely been ignored. Since 1961, there has been too little serious study of, or discussion of, the origins of the military-industrial complex, how it has changed over time, how governmental secrecy has hidden it from oversight by members of Congress or attentive citizens, and how it degrades our Constitutional structure of checks and balances. From its origins in the early 1940s, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was building up his "arsenal of democracy," down to the present moment, public opinion has usually assumed that it involved more or less equitable relations -- often termed a "partnership" -- between the high command and civilian overlords of the United States military and privately-owned, for-profit manufacturing and service enterprises. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is that, from the time they first emerged, these relations were never equitable. In the formative years of the military-industrial complex, the public still deeply distrusted privately owned industrial firms because of the way they had contributed to the Great Depression. Thus, the leading role in the newly emerging relationship was played by the official governmental sector. A deeply popular, charismatic president, FDR sponsored these public-private relationships. They gained further legitimacy because their purpose was to rearm the country, as well as allied nations around the world, against the gathering forces of fascism. The private sector was eager to go along with this largely as a way to regain public trust and disguise its wartime profit-making.
It's a long essay, but very worth your time. Read the rest here. As a note says at the bottom of this essay, this "focuses on the new book by Tim Shorrock, Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008). Other books noted: Eugene Jarecki's The American Way of War: Guided Missiles, Misguided Men, and a Republic in Peril (New York: Free Press, 2008); Thomas Frank's The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2008); and Sheldon Wolin's Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008)." I believe that this essay is one that the whole country would benefit from reading before election day, and that enough citizens doing so might be enough to save our endangered Constitutional form of government for our grandchildren to enjoy as well. Thank you Chalmers Johnson and Tom Engelhardt. Suzan ____________________________________

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