LINK TV's "Active Opposition" aired a show last Wednesday discussing the military industrial complex. It featured a panel discussion, opening with Dwight D. Eisenhower's famous farewell speech of 43 years ago.
In preparation for this panel, I re-read War Is a Racket, by two-time Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Lieutenant General Smedley Butler. Butler's post-World War I, pre-World War II assessment is far more direct than Ike's speech. Marines often tend to tell it like it is.
I wonder what Butler or Ike, generals who had served in several brutal wars, would have thought about the latest news from Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.
Smedley Butler noticed how defense industries carefully nurtured politicians for war. Like good cops, they emphasized the job creation benefits and their own outstanding ability to produce needed armaments and supplies. All you want, and then some, yessiree! If that didn't do the trick, the bad cop defense industrial establishment worried that without war, vast debts owed them by allies or opponents might never be collected, and domestic economic collapse would follow. Politicians, unchanging from the time of Plato, knew exactly what to do.
Ike was concerned that the average American did not really understand the sycophantic and co-dependent relationship between the defense industries, the military leadership, and the Congress. He noted "This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. …We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications."
Ike advised America to stay vigilant, observant, "alert and knowledgeable." Smedley Butler, more of a realist I suppose, simply advised that when talk of war raged, all of the industrialists and politician be conscripted first, then their children, and lastly, the rest of us. Butler conceived a simple democratic plan that would require a decision for war be approved by a majority of all those who would be sent to fight. Draftable young men would vote yea or nay for the next war. No votes by older folks or politicians and industrialists would be considered. Such a system would ensure that truly defensive wars would be fought, and all other wars rejected.
American soldiers today are quite familiar with the military industrial complex and outsourcing. They see inedible food, an extra burden of providing security, and shocking pay inequities. They see inscrutable accountability mysteries.