By David Swanson
Remarks at Democracy Fest, San Diego, July 15, 2006
More than any other weapons system, the chief products of the military industrial complex are lies. We just learned this week that Congress was cracking down on corruption by denying another contract to Halliburton. In reality, Halliburton has completed its main task of building five permanent bases and doesn’t care as much about more contracts for services for soldiers. And, in fact, last month the Senate rejected, nearly along party lines, a bill to create honest contracting and impose penalties for fraud of the sort almost openly engaged in by Halliburton.
Lies and secrets are what the military industrial media complex sells us. We say the phrase “military industrial complex,” but the lies that it hides behind permeate our thinking and dominate the politics of both major parties. Some of these lies are:
Being tough and hungry for war makes us safer.
The wars we wage have something to do with defense.
The wars we wage are fought for reasons related to foreign threats or international relations.
We wage our wars reluctantly.
Working for peace is weak.
These lies are engrained in all of us, and you will find vestiges of them in yourself long after you reject them. The fact is that the larger our military grows, the less safe we are – because the size of it encourages its use, and its use creates enemies and terrorists.
The Bush Cheney gang has increased spending on weapons and wars to create the largest deficit ever. Our kids and grandkids will pay for this with their dollars and possibly their lives.
What drives our government to behave this way?
Congressman John Murtha recently sent his colleagues a letter comparing the $8 billion a month we’re spending to kill Iraqis with the costs of various other projects, but Murtha has voted each year to spend that war money, and the alternatives he offered focused on so-called “Homeland Security” and included a plea to build more ships and planes for the military.
Where does this drive come from to only oppose a war with language that encourages the growth of the Military Industrial Media complex?
The first place we instinctively look is bribes, or what in Washington we call campaign contributions. And those are not insignificant: $16 million in 2004 from weapons makers, 63% of it to Republicans, and $53 million from energy companies, 75% of it to Republicans. The biggest profiteers in the current war are oil companies. If the illegal war bothers you and the price of gas bothers you, it may be even more disturbing to understand that the war was fought in order to raise the price of gas.
But the bribes from weapons makers and oil drillers are small beside those of other industries. And there are members of Congress who do not take them but still behave as if they took them. I’d like to suggest three ways to explain this.
FIRST, Congress Members fear and pander to the corporate media, and the corporate media will not tolerate opposition to the military industrial complex. Just prior to the attack on Iraq, FAIR found that over three quarters of the guests discussing the coming war on ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS news were current or former government officials, and three-quarters of those who were not government officials were still supporters of the war. Meanwhile less than 1% were identified with organized protests or anti-war groups.
Of course that makes sense if you’re covering a coming war, as opposed to covering a real debate that might not lead to war. When the Downing Street Memo came out, we promoted it at AfterDowningStreet.org, and editors and producers told us it was old news. It was to them. They had known that the war was decided on. They just hadn’t told their viewers.
One force that integrates the media into the military industrial complex is advertising. Another is ownership. Many media magnates – people like Rupert Murdoch, who is hosting a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton, his designated ’08 loser, have links to weapons companies. GE, which owns NBC, is a weapons company. The Carlyle Group is also getting into media ownership.
Another force is ratings. More people watch TV when there’s a war. Another force is think tanks. The Project for a New American Century, whose Deputy Director has been hired by Lockheed Martin, had a heavy presence of talking heads and columnists selling the war.
The MIM Complex sold us the WMD lies and profited handsomely. Halliburton even got $40 million to search for the mythical weapons. But a lot of Democrats refused and still refuse to oppose the lie machine. Here’s a typical self-destructive pseudo attack on Bush’s war penned by Josh Marshall in October ’03:
“Every big new piece of legislation needs a catchy title. And I think I’ve come up with a good one for the $87 billion. How about ‘The Bush Crony Full Employment Act of 2003’? Now, before you get up in arms, I’m for however much money our troops need to get the job done in Iraq….”
Were you about to get up in arms? I don’t even carry arms.
But we are afraid to speak against war and have been for many years. I’m convinced that the ease with which we’ve accepted the utterly incoherent notion of a “war on terror” can be partially credited to our acceptance of such language as “war on poverty” or “war on drugs.”
How about peace to end poverty, and prosperity to end terrorism? How about media reform, public media, independent media, and honest news?
The SECOND explanation I would offer for why we fight is that the MIM Complex is the major engine driving our economy. Democratic Congress Members support weapons factories for the sake of the jobs, even knowing that two-thirds of the bribes from the profits will go to Republicans. Within weeks of 9-11, the Department of Attack asked weapons makers for proposals to help “fight terrorism,” and the Carlyle Group took a company public, citing 9-11 as a reason why it could.
Under Bush, military spending is up dramatically – it’s at roughly $400 billion per year, not counting another $500 billion for war, not counting Homeland Insecurity, and not counting weapons sales to other countries. But this is a horribly inefficient way to stimulate an economy. Just like Bush’s tax cuts (which, in contrast to his military spending, Democrats are not afraid to criticize) military spending puts too much money in the few pockets that are already bulging – and it is incredibly wasteful and corrupt. We need a way to drive our economy that benefits those who need it and does so without sacrificing American lives to kill other people. And we need to spend in a sector of the economy not associated with flag waving and war anthems, thus allowing Congress to exercise sober oversight. Some ideas include infrastructure in our cities, renewable energy, energy-efficient transportation, and retraining all of those people who can now stop searching our shoes and laptops when we get on planes.
We also need a ban on sending the National Guard abroad, a mandatory use of the draft for any war, taxes for war paid weekly and called a War Tax, and a requirement that children of Members of Congress, the President, and the Vice President go to war.
The THIRD and final explanation I’ll propose for the MIM Complex’s influence on our government is this: The Bush White House is a wholey owned subsidiary of Weapons R Us. The National Institute for Public Policy, which hired several so-called thinkers from weapons makers has three alumni in the Bush Administration. The Center for Security Policy, which has 8 weapons executives on its board, has 22 former board members or associates in the Bush Cheney gang. Thirty-two major appointees in the Bush Administration are former executives, consultants, or significant shareholders of weapons companies. Seven members of the Bush Administration came from Northrop Grumman and eight from Lockheed Martin – on whose board Dick Cheney’s wife served until 2001, receiving a half a million dollars for whatever it was she did.
The Secretary of the Navy came from General Dynamics, and the Deputy Secretary of State from Raytheon and Boeing – a company that Karl Rove owned $100,000 to $250,000 worth of stock in. Then there are those, like James Woolsey, who serve on advisory boards to the Bush Administration, while simultaneously profiting from the policies they advise on. The LA Times had a lengthy article a year ago yesterday on the long list of people who helped promote a war on Iraq and then set up new companies to profit from it. Bush himself has an uncle and two brothers profiting from this war. But then he had a grandfather who profited from the Nazis and worked with one of Hitler’s top funders. So there is a substantial family tradition to uphold. Speaking of which, well known people connected to the Carlyle Group include not just the bin Laden family, but also James Baker, Frank Carlucci, and George Bush the First. The Carlyle Group owns an arm of the British Ministry of Defense, a former branch of the Italian military, and the company in Santa Clara, United Defense, where Bush Jr. gave a speech after waddling across a flight deck to declare mission accomplished.
And then there is Cheney. As Secretary of Attack he paid Halliburton to write a report recommending shifting more work to companies like Halliburton, which got most of the work. Cheney then worked for Halliburton for 5 years and $44 million before going back to what he calls governing. But he continued to receive a salary and hold stock options.
We’ve moved beyond the sort of war profiteering that Truman called treason. We’ve moved into a threat to our democracy that is exactly what Madison and Jefferson meant by high crimes and misdemeanors. There is only one thing we can decently do, and that is to impeach the criminals and remove them from office.
And while it is obscene to put electoral considerations ahead of our duty to impeach, those who do so should attempt to remember that no matter how many times they’re told impeachment is good for Republicans, all of the evidence points exactly the other way.