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.

30 Comments

  1. dirigo says:

    I would imagine part of the reason for your post here is the attached story about Eisenhower’s edits on his famous farewell speech, which I include for context.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/10/eisenhower-speech-papers-military_n_795309.html

    It’s necessary to say that, whether intended or not, for good or ill, the ways in which the government has waged war over the last generation – with no draft and no meaningful requirement for public service – has pretty much led to a severing of ties between the civilian population and the military, except of course for those who are part of the so-called professional military class, the cohort who represent the core of the “all volunteer” force.

    It’s clear that if a nation does not ask or demand that people serve in some way, they won’t, except for the small percentage who, foolishly or not, do step up.

    I say this as a veteran and possibly a fool, adding that people who have no ties to military service, or any memory of direct contact with it (most Americans today), can only wax abstractly about issues and policies concerning war. These days most people commenting about service, on the major news shows, in publications, at the mall or the dinner table, have no experience in it or with it. They probably think fighter planes and missiles are purchased at a Price Club in Alabama to which they don’t belong.

    Even with the article about Eisenhower’s speech and his attempts to find the right phrasing for the warning about the rise of corporate influence on defense contracts, people below a certain age today, say 40, probably can’t relate to it.

    This was after all something about the ’50s – ancient history by American standards.

    • cocktailhag says:

      I also think there was a certain obligation, then, to tell the American people something resembling the truth, that is gone today. How ironic that Ike’s VP was Tricky Dick….

      • dirigo says:

        I didn’t want to bring him up since, for half my time in the service, he was my CIC, and because of the collateral story this week-end about the tapes.

        No comment.

        • meremark says:

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          I didn’t see the Huffington Post article. Was it lifted from … uh, I mean, a reprint of, this Jim Newton item at The New Yorker?

          http://www.newyorker.com/talk/2010/12/20/101220ta_talk_newton

          And there was Robert Parry’s perspective on the story of ‘Nixon bigotry tapes,’ in which Parry says the bigotry is the least of Nixon’s offenses and probably overmuch protested by this week’s punditry as a smoke screen to obscure (in the same tapes) conclusive evidence of Nixon’s most offense: Treason.

          http://consortiumnews.com/2010/121110.html

          [ and if you go to read it, toss whatever donation you can to Parry; none more deserving, and he's being $tarved into silence by TPTB who he's defaming with the true historic facts they are trying to suppress beneath their fictional revisionist history ]

          Big Media’s Curious Nixon Judgment
          By Robert Parry – December 11, 2010

          When Richard Nixon’s presidential library this week released tapes of him making bigoted remarks about blacks, Jews and various ethnic groups, major American news outlets jumped at the juicy details, recounting them on NBC’s Nightly News, in the New York Times and elsewhere.

          … the Nixon-Kissinger Realpolitik wasn’t limited to such an unlikely prospect as the Soviets undertaking a Jewish extermination campaign. More shocking was the powerful evidence released two years ago by Lyndon B. Johnson’s library corroborating long-held suspicions that Nixon and Kissinger conspired to sabotage the 1968 Vietnam peace talks to ensure their ascension to power.

          In that case, however, the major U.S. news media looked the other way. Except for a brief reference to an Associated Press dispatch, the New York Times and other leading news outlets apparently didn’t regard as newsworthy that Nixon and Kissinger had consigned more than 20,000 American soldiers and millions of Indochinese to their deaths in order to win an election.

          By extending the Vietnam War for those four years, Nixon and Kissinger also ripped apart the social and political fabric of the United States – turning parents against their children and creating hatreds between the American Left and the Right, which continue to this day.

          One might have thought that the LBJ Library’s evidence, which included a dramatic pre-election confrontation between President Johnson and then-Republican presidential candidate Nixon over what Johnson had termed Nixon’s “treason,” would be worthy of some serious attention. But none was forthcoming. (It fell to us [i.e., Robert Parry] at Consortiumnews.com to provide a detailed account [link in the source article] of these exchanges.)

          For the mainstream media, it’s safer to focus on the foibles of an individual like Nixon than to accept that respected members of the ruling elite in the United States are so corrupt that they would sacrifice the lives of ordinary citizens for the achievement of some political or foreign policy goal.

          So, we get to learn from the new Nixon tapes that he made bigoted assertions about “abrasive and obnoxious” Jews, Irish who get “mean” drunk, Italians without “heads screwed on tight,” and blacks who would need “500 years” and have to “be, frankly, inbred” to become useful contributors to the nation.

          The Peace Talk Gambit

          As offensive as those remarks are, however, they pale in newsworthiness to the now unavoidable conclusion that Nixon, aided by Kissinger, struck a deal with South Vietnamese President Nguyen van Thieu in fall 1968 to block Johnson’s negotiated end to the Vietnam War.

          The significance of Nixon’s “treason” was that – while 500,000 U.S. soldiers were serving in Vietnam – Nixon’s campaign assured Thieu that Nixon would, as U.S. president, continue the war to get a better deal for Thieu. That left Nixon little choice but to extend the war and expand the fighting because, otherwise, Thieu would have been in a position to expose Nixon’s treachery to the American people.

          Yet, what was also stunning to me about the “treason” tapes when the LBJ library released them in December 2008 was how much Johnson knew about Nixon’s sabotage and why the Democrats chose to keep silent.

          Sorry you were fodder of imperialism, dirgo.

          There is yet time — and means more than ever: The Internet — to scream bloody murder, “Nixon TREASON,” “Kissinger TREASON” to set history awright. The bastard traitors are still alive.
          There is no statute of limitations for murder and TREASON.

          Again, join force, voice, and dollar donations with Robert Parry to the common purpose: INDICT Kissinger for TREASON

          cred. – Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there.

          • meremark says:

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            more sorry I misspelled you, DIRIGO

            -

          • dirigo says:

            I don’t see myself that way thank you, which is why I might think there’s a place for national service in this country. It’s the idea of it, see?

            I know all about Nixon’s ’68 election gambit, and I carry a well of negative emotions about him you probably couldn’t fathom. The distortions from that era have harmed us such that rhetorical flourishes, or slurs, framing Vietnam vets as victims continue to be fashionable.

            How odd.

            I have always thought it’s an insult and an attack on my integrity.

            I had a choice to make, and I made it. Good or bad.

            Give it up.

            Actually, my service was relatively easy and thoroughly unremarkable, and I must put it in perspective when I think that my father, who served under George Patton in Europe, was active Army from 1939 to ’45.

            Put simply: My father had better leadership than I did. That was over sixty years ago, and therein lies the rub.

            I’m not a raving nationalist, nor a member of a “military” family. But a lot of this stuff about the “imperium” is itself a bit of cant, along with some faux piety (“Oh boo hoo! So sorry you were cannon fodder.”) – which is not to deny things have gone horribly wrong. But war is hell, whether it’s a good one, a bad one, or a long one.

            Harking back to Eisenhower’s warning is probably the best place to begin pulling things back, if that can be done.

            How do you get the major news outfits to do their job and inform the mass sufficient to focus on the problems?

            I don’t know, which is one reason I got out of it.

    • You’re right Dirigo. We have witnessed “a severing of ties between the civilian population and the military.” Today, people relate to “military life” based on their hands-on combat experiences with X-Box.

      Ike knew, first hand, the perils of military imperialism. Unfortunately, his prescient words were well published, but never heeded.

      We’ve got two wars going on (More if we consider our clandestine operations in Pakistan and Yemen). And, if all goes according to Pax Americana planning, we’ll be into Iran soon, perhaps North Korea as well.

      The “Average Joe” needs to feel the pain of warfare before anything changes. Unfortunately, there are no indications that this will happen anytime soon.

      • dirigo says:

        Check out the BBC drama “Spooks”, or “MI-5″. In that storyline, the U.S. is ready to go against Iran. Handy dandy.

        Fiction you say?

      • dirigo says:

        “Every citizen should be a soldier. This was the case with the Greeks and Romans, and must be that of every free state.”

        – Jefferson

  2. dirigo says:

    Related. Salvadore Dali might give us pictures of gun barrels tied in knots and databases dripping butter. It’s old, and new too.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/dec/11/henry-porter-wikileaks-cables

    Say, whazzzup, Julian?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENKIwESsA8o

  3. cocktailhag says:

    Great article; naturally in a UK paper….

  4. ouranos says:

    I have to respectfully disagree w/ dirigo. Requiring people to serve the nation does not befit a nation of free people. They should always be free to choose whether or not to serve.

    CH, you mustn’t forget Eisenhower’s earlier shot across the bow of the MIC.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGQ-wgPGTp8

    “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

    This world in arms in not spending money alone.

    It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”

    Dwight Eisenhower, April 16, 1953.

    • cocktailhag says:

      I hadn’t forgotten it; I just couldn’t find it on youtube… Thanks for posting it.

    • dirigo says:

      It’s kind of a waste of time arguing about national service, forced or otherwise, because, as I said, if people are not asked, formally, they won’t serve for the most part.

      So unless a day comes where a kind of mobilization may be necessary (like when men under Eisenhower’s command actually did it, took care of business), it’s all temporizing isn’t it, merely theoretical chat? Something said from a safe seat?

      I don’t think service is so terrible, but then I was involved at one point, although admittedly none too enthused at the time.

      Curiously enough, considering 9-11 and the way the government has handled it – by not asking the young to put any skin in the security game, or maybe show up on Sundays at the old folks home to wheel some residents down the hall to pray or whatever – talk about this issue is cheaper than ever.

      Official lies are a different matter.

      • ouranos says:

        dirigo, I served, too, as did my all my brothers, my father and both my uncles, so it’s not a matter of thinking that the service is terrible.

        I just don’t think requiring service is right. A country whose actions engender support would have no problem attracting people to its service voluntarily. I feel the same about compelling people to vote.

        • dirigo says:

          Right. And my short-term beef rests precisely on the recent actions which have not engendered support, except within a minority and the interests who have benefited – those of George W. Bush – who did not, not once, ask for any sacrifice of any kind from the nation as a whole.

          I would be most interested in what President Eisenhower would have said, were he alive to speak, about how this went down. On service, Eisenhower knew the ground he examined. W. was a mere fantasist.

          At least Eisenhower earned the right to be a peacenik of sorts and a critic of defense procurement upon leaving the White House.

          And still, to this day, oddly enough, there are some on the hard right who think Ike was a closet commie.

          The rank distortions carry through, from the witch hunt era to today’s tea party honk.

          What a joke.

          By the way, I’m not tangling with you, but I don’t think national service is a bad thing, even in peace time. That’s about it.

          Oh gawwwwddd! – I must be a Swede or something.

    • The Heel says:

      Haven’t served in any Army but have an opinion, never the less – as always.

      It appears to be a fact that open societies elect a more peace oriented leadership when their sons and daughters are put on the line. As long as you can watch war on CNN fought by whoever ends up in the Army, it is easy to elect war mongers. No immediate consequences.

      Another, important aspect is that a military should be reflective of the general population’s values, believes, moral standards.

      • dirigo says:

        Your last graph says it, Heel. I didn’t have enough wit, or even a half wit, to be that clear.

        Some classical political theorists, very likely Europeans, and socialists, have said something along these lines.

        There might have been a political thinker from Abilene, Kansas who thought that, or even said it, but I wouldn’t try to put words in his mouth.

      • cocktailhag says:

        That’s an important point, Heel. Once a society chooses to let its military self-select, it tends to attract an unrepresentative group. Here, that means more Southern, more rural, less educated, and more comfortable with violence as a problem solver.
        As we’ve seen with the capture of the military by the religious right in recent years, this is the road to hell. Once, when I was threatening some children with military school, as I often do, I added, “So you can learn to kill Habibs for Jesus.”
        Their mother turned to me, more in awe than horror, and said, “That’s offensive on so many levels,” but during the Bush years, it was true for a lot of people, including the infamous General Boykin.

      • meremark says:

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        Re-enstate the Draft draws faint discussion by its half-sincerity. Crank the AUDACIOUS knob to level 11 and break it off!

        DRAFT ALL public employment.

        Conscript EVERYbody for 2 years to be cops, firemen, postmen, teachers, DMV clerks, staff at City Hall. Draft the guy holding the STOP/SLOW sign on the road construction crew, draft the dozer operator and the dump truck driver. Draft ‘em ALL: man, woman, LGBT and illegal alien on a naturalization track, draft every last one of them … us.

        Same way as jurors are conscripted into jury DUTY.

        Draft our Mayors! Draft our Representatives and Senators and DRAFT the President of the United States. “To whom these presents may come: Greetings. Report for DUTY these next 4 years. Or in the pool of eligibles.

        Some details would need to be worked out — draft a committee to first-draft the policy details — such that the term of service would be adjustable, and the age of duty selectable. Some may choose to serve at age 18, others may defer induction until age 30 or later, for federal Congress Members waiting list. ALL must serve before age 50. Duration of term could vary with assignment, and assignment could vary with screening and qualification — from each according to ABILITY. (Stanford-Binet got up their little grading test to begin with, on funding of a Defense contract — the Dept. of War it was, at the time — to sort out the candidates for Officer School among the too-many who voluntarily came for the post-Pearl Harbor call of duty.) Some are Congress-qualified, and inclined, and must report after graduation from Law School … could-be wannabe doctors or nurses in the socialized medical system report after graduation from Medical School … in the pools of eligibility and ready for service. Not all would serve at age 18, some details need to be worked out, then tried, then adapted.

        Every local state and federal Dept. would have its ration of reserved openings, positions, and assignments, which draftees would fill on rotation. Some may stay on, after their conscription term, and find their Departmental suit and career same as it ever was found, all through the ages, for civic-minded bureaucrats — in some degree and amount it could be Destiny. Others may find themselves unsuited in their first choice, and need to be re-assigned after a month or two.

        And if nothing else works for some and some disdain or fail to work for anything, only THEN they go in the reject pile and serve in the last resort: Military.

        Everybody has to serve somebody … uh, serve ALL of us somebodies. Everyone growing up learns a lesson in civics along the way. And years later, when we go to get our Driver License renewed, we have some empathy for the bedeviled clerk behind the counter, the daylong dopiness in a 2-year stint calling ‘next number, please.’

        Hell yes bring back the draft. Universal conscription. All public employments draw from draftees first and, second, hire whatever more careerists and professionals that bureau requires for functional service, and the ‘client’ public we-the-peeps define the ‘functional’ and ‘service’ standards.

        It just tickles me too to excess to imagine every 4th year the pool of draftees eligible to be elected President, each having deferred their duty past their age of 35, and the ones not elected then default into something ‘less,’ let’s say Dept. of State, cabinet Secr. under-assistant (West Coast promotion men?), the diplomatic corps, maybe clerk a Supreme Court Justice or some other Judiciary assignment, or Legislative staffer, investigator, otherwise. All things and positions for the more-suitably mature and responsible because each in the pool would have life-tracked their deferral beyond the 20somethings.

        An audacious proposal — let’s eat us.

        -

  5. meremark says:

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    Oh, yeah, and another thing … Eisenhower spoke TWO warnings, of equally dire and dangerous developments he foresaw.

    Military industrial complex was one.

    Scientific technological elite was his other worry — an entrenched systemic cabal who decided what would be ‘researched’ and what would be ‘unfunded’ across the panoply of creativity, invention, and science. (Now, for instances, Butcher Bush abolished funding for global warming science, and stem cell research ….)

    It has peeved me much and I’ve reminded my intertubes audiences that too many have forgotten and too little is noted of IKE saying both, “MIC and STE.” Newton’s New Yorker piece is the first place I have seen someone else mention the evil STE, Scientific Technological Elite. We should pass on it, and the MIC, too. Pass it on.

    -

  6. FunnyDiva says:

    Bravo, Hag
    And thanks for the history lesson. I’ll watch the clip when I get home from work, I promise.

    FunnyDiva
    whose parents didn’t marry for until almost 4 years after this speech, and who wasn’t born until about 7 years after same.

    • cocktailhag says:

      Sounds like you’re but a few years younger than I, circa 1964, but I did study history in college, when I didn’t have anything better to do, that is.
      I think you’ll like the clip.

  7. mikeinportc says:

    “Once, when I was threatening some children with military school, as I often do…..”

    You do? :) )) What’s the story?

    • cocktailhag says:

      I’m a remodeling contractor, a job which often leaves me spending a lot of time with people’s kids, who, if you’ve probably noticed, can sometimes be bratty. Because I’m kind of scary anyway, with the booming hag voice and power tools, kids are naturally a little afraid of me, so why not capitalize on that with threats? Whatever works.

      • dirigo says:

        And the frog-croaking laugh, which I experienced once up close – in Brooklyn.

        Scared the shit outta me!