[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]
In 1961, President Eisenhower delivered his now famous farewell address, in which he warned the American people of the dangerous rise of a powerful “military industrial complex” in this country.
Last year, for the 50th anniversary of this prophetic speech, many of the leading thinkers and activists on U.S. militarism and war-making came together for a conference to take stock of how this complex has evolved and what can be done to reign it in. For those who weren’t able to attend, author and activist David Swanson has just published The Military Industrial Complex at 50, an edited collection of the insightful and inspiring remarks that were delivered at this timely event, in addition to several other complimentary essays.
As the wide-ranging articles in the book reveal, with the Pentagon’s budget now larger than at any point since World War II, militarism pervades and threatens our society today in ways that Eisenhower could not imagine when he introduced this scary new phrase into our vocabulary.
For example, Clare Hanrahan and Coleman Smith lay out in devastating detail the often overlooked environmental impact of the U.S. military’s enormous and deadly footprint around the globe. Jeff Fogel gives a thorough overview of how one of the first casualties of war — after the truth — is without fail our civil liberties, dating all the way back to the passage of the Alien and Sedition Act in 1798.
By following the money, Steve Horn and Allen Ruff look at one of the many ways that the tentacles of the military industrial complex reach into and corrupt our system of higher education, and Mia Austin Scoggins offers extensive evidence — including shocking statistics on PTSD, suicides and rape — to demonstrate that the official numbers of wounded and killed in U.S. wars are, in reality, only the tip of the iceberg.
The Military Industrial Complex at 50 then explores what it will take to turn this enormous ship around. With the top concern of most Americans these days revolving around reviving our economy and employment, several of the presentations argue that we must tackle these worries head on, citing a compelling study by Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, which found that spending money on the military creates far fewer jobs than spending the same amount on clean energy, health care, education, or even tax cuts. Mary Beth Sullivan addresses another crucial and rarely talked about piece of this puzzle in economic conversion, which involves planning how we will change “from military to civilian work in industrial facilities, in laboratories, and at U.S. military bases.”
In addition to offering these types of no-nonsense arguments and policy prescriptions for reversing the growth of our runaway military apparatus, many contributors to the book — including Code Pink’s Lisa Savage, retired U.S. Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, and former CIA officer Ray McGovern — deliver moving calls to action. With the next election approaching, David Swanson warns that:
voting alone will get us nowhere good. … [O]ur government will stop dumping our hard-earned pay into wars we don’t want and cannot survive only when we have made that path (that running of the gauntlet of K Street’s opposition) easier for every type of misrepresentative than continuing on the current trajectory.
Amen. With those words of advice and challenge to us all, I’d like to kick off what I’m sure will be an eye-opening conversation. Thanks so much for being with us David!