All This and Mamie, Too
In light of the Wikileaks fiasco, I’ve gotten to thinking a lot about good ol’ Ike, who chose to use his final speech as President, a mere two and a half minutes long, to warn America that we’d end up, well, how we have ended up if we didn’t watch out. Clearly, we didn’t watch out. We have given up both liberty and prosperity to fatten America’s War Industry, which is, globally, about the last place where our products still rule, and the threat to Democracy Ike warned so darkly about is no longer some faint, distant possibility, but a plain fact we live with each day. Both parties are War Parties now, and America only survives, albeit haltingly, on war.
Take our media…. Please. Stung by the reality of their death-dealing credulity over the last decade, the pancaked know-nothings that pollute the airwaves are in angelic unison touching manicured hands to their fevered foreheads at the audacity, the noive, if you speak Bugs Bunny, of people they don’t even know, like that Assange person, running around behind their backs and committing actual journalism. Everyone who’s anyone knows that sort of thing simply isn’t done anymore; it’s all about comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted these days, which is quite evidently a lot less work than that old way. (see Gregory, David and Mitchell, Andrea, just for starters…)
I have to wonder what would happen on the Sunday talk shows today had, say, President Obama delivered something like Eisenhower’s 1961 speech. Naturally, the panel would include Liz Cheney, Bill Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, and/or David Brooks, with maybe Joe Lieberman for balance. Ike’s words, though demonstrably true, would have gone over like a fart in church in that crowd, whose very existence in such a public square not only owes itself to the military industrial complex, but to the complete capture of the purported Fourth Estate by it.
It was inevitable, really, that virtually all government spending would eventually end up in the hands of the military; no other government function is so immune to oversight and performance review, and like a bunch of Willie Suttons (selling guns instead of toting them), the sharp operators went where the money was. You see, unlike the previous plutocrats the government lavishly sponsored from the railroad, oil, and infrastructure industries, the war industry doesn’t even have to do anything to scoop up deficit-financed dollars by the truckload; the tedious tasks of, say building a dam or a bridge that won’t fall down or getting an actual product to market have been completely eliminated. They’ve already gone Galt, simply taking the money and running, leaving the corpses behind. Ike, who unlike the chickenhawks of today abhorred war as one who experienced it must, saw the danger and tried to warn us, but was utterly drowned out by the McNamaras, Cheneys, Rumsfelds, Powells, (and the medal-hungry generals who served them) in the ensuing decades.
Now, we’re faced with increasing economic hardship and dire predictions of national doom without so-called austerity for everyone but the richest, but yet the half of our “discretionary” budget that goes to fighting failed and never-ending wars remains so sacrosanct that only Ron Paul and a few lefty Democrats in congress dare to question it, even as poll after poll shows that most Americans want the wars to stop, now. The media religiously gloss over this inconvenient truth, in increasingly crazy and obvious ways, of which Wikileaks is only the most recent example.
Just as Eisenhower predicted way back in 1961, the military industrial complex would, if left unchecked, first destroy our Democracy, and then go on to destroy our prosperity. While Ike may have spent more time on the golf course than President Obama (despite what you hear on Fox), he clearly did a little more thinking out there.