Bin Laden is right about the unwarranted influence of America�s global �defense� corporation
By Brian Bogart
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Sep 12, 2007, 01:38
You know your country�s �democratic� leadership and
rationale for war are in trouble when the anointed most-evil enemy makes more
sense than they do.
Although for all we know Osama bin Laden�s �annual message
to Americans� originated below Dick Cheney�s office, where bin Laden is living
in luxury chained to a pool table. Its contents ring with refreshing logic
relative to what usually passes for truth in and around the White House.
Analyzing his message alongside bipartisan excuses for war
-- and juxtaposed with President Dwight �Ike� Eisenhower�s
keep-an-eye-on-the-defense-industry speech of January 1961 -- only bin Laden�s
words and Eisenhower�s warnings stand up to current United States Department of
Defense (DoD) statistics.
Outsourcing trends, hugely accelerated in the 1990s, have
made the Department of Defense the largest corporate entity in history. Few big
corporations in the world don�t have a handy cash cow D contract, and small
businesses and schools are especially welcome to apply. ($900 per toilet seat?
Let�s sell those!)
DoD contracts get dished out everyday for everything from
children�s books, cosmetics, organic dinners, and movie theater tickets to good
old-fashioned nano weaponry.
Defense is the world�s top user of fossil fuels, contributor
to climate change, and most financially alluring industry. All considered, the
industry has the strongest lobby power in Washington and everywhere else.
Defense is also the world�s foremost motivator of advanced science and
technology, a global network capable of an entirely new direction in economics
-- dependent, of course, on whether it�s a good D policy or a bad D policy.
That�s where We the People come in, at least according to
President Eisenhower, who particularly worried about our universities.
Said Ike: �Only an alert and
knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial
and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that
security and liberty may prosper together. In the same fashion, the free
university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific
discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly
because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a
substitute for intellectual curiosity. The prospect of domination of the
nation�s scholars by federal employment, project allocations, and the power of
money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.�
Judging by DoD�s own stats, we�re way past that point. More
than 1,100 colleges and universities have had prime contracts with the
Department of Defense in the last six years. Around 950 of those are in the
United States, with the rest spread across 33 countries.
Although the number
of DoD general assistance contracts to schools remained relatively constant
between 2000 and 2006, the 900 percent increase in defense-applied
research contracts and total dollar amounts awarded to schools during that period would�ve made Ike toss his
lunch on TV. The total number of defense-applied
research contracts to schools rose from 5,887 in 2000 to 52,667 in 2006.
Total dollars to schools rose from $4.4 billion in 2000 to $46.7 billion in
Hundreds of thousands of companies in at least 198 nations
and territories have held prime contracts with DoD in this century, including
companies in China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Syria.
There were none in Iraq until 2003.
DoD contract trends with companies are at all-time highs,
with more than 300,000 prime contractors in the United States alone (�prime�
doesn�t count subcontractors and contracted individuals), a 6,000
companies-per-state average. Between 2001 and 2006, the total amount of defense
dollars to companies in most states doubled. For fiscal year 2001, companies in
Texas received $9.5 billion. For fiscal year 2006, the total was $27 billion.
Between the end of World War II and December 2006, US armed
forces served abroad in 159 instances. These operations increased in frequency
each decade, with 6 in the 1950s, 8 in the 1960s, 11 in the 70s, 22 in the 80s,
66 in the 90s, and 44 so far this decade.
It doesn�t take a bright citizen to make the case that peace
is a healthy idea. But then there are politicians. With a bad policy,
presidential candidates who don�t promise to increase defense spending have no
legitimate chance in any party, thanks to big media�s industrial role. Money runs
campaigns on strong defense for a reason: reelection. Defense is by far the
largest job creator and money spender in all 50 states.
The problem is the bad policy excessively gives businesses
our taxes to invest in their own financial growth. We pay for defense, defense
showers that money on schools and companies, and top executives buy yachts and
build stadiums. State and local leaders then raise taxes to cover what taxes
should cover: the people�s health and prosperity.
Good folks put their faith, families, careers, and lives on
the line for what they�re told by government. They don�t have time to
investigate. Every September 11 our leadership bows its collective head before
reminding us to keep shopping in �the wealthiest nation� while its infrastructure
This year the enemy told us to think about that. With a
graduate program untangling defense statistics, bin Laden has a point that
makes me wonder. Which �side� in this supposedly black and white world has the
most evil to hide? Why does this man sound more like Ike than anyone in
It would better serve the people to hear Eisenhower�s speech
every year instead of hollow tales about a bad guy our leaders tell us to fear
yet, conveniently for their personal-wealth club, don�t see fit to chase down.
Exploiting September 11 for profit has (among other things) legitimized the
largest-ever expansion of the military industry using a nation that had nothing
to do with it. That perpetuation does indeed smell like bipartisan imperialism.
Whether you�re a student or selling ice cream, teddy bears,
tennis balls or shovels and oil rigs, chances are you�re part of the defense
industry. And in this age of confrontation with Earth�s definition of
diversity, truly hard-working diverse Americans -- workers, students, parents,
soldiers -- are harnessed with a national brand of business-friendly diversity
that makes them equal low-income slaves for an old-fashioned, wealthy white
man�s profit scheme. Ike called it unwarranted
influence. Our founders called it tyranny.
Diversity is an
awareness of the human family returning to unity after a long and tortuous
journey, celebrating its products of division while embracing its single origin
and destiny. The next logical step for humanity is a leap beyond human-centric
diversity to perceiving and promoting the human family as a fully responsible
component of biodiversity.
As Ike feared,
economic dependence on defense growth by the perpetuation of tensions since
World War II explains the existence and growth of nearly every problem we face
today. Undoubtedly, he would agree that economic dependence on defending
Earth�s essential diversity is a far more lucrative and lasting prospect.
Our taxes pay for a
defense that doesn�t defend our future. Our taxes go to companies that make
profits we will never see. The real threat President Eisenhower spoke of is a
drug that poisons society, spreads like a virus, and numbs the roots of
consciousness. The American dream has become a nightmare wherein justice is
irrelevant, and dishonest leaders both shun and cite hard, courageous work.
The defense industry
juggernaut is not a widespread corporate conspiracy; it�s a bad-policy business
trend running on inertia. Instead of calling for contractors to give up
profits, change the policy, keep the network, and invest in a healthy planet.
But peace will not make money until it becomes the policy
for defense, and that won�t happen without a tax rebellion, general strike, or
similar surge in popular demand. (1,100 schools sounds like a student movement
network.) Until the day we have a good D, the bad D pays our leaders. The
people�s business is making that day arrive, because lazy government won�t
surrender without a confrontation with the governed.
Meanwhile, �we must stop the terrorists in Iraq!�
Terrorists, communists, whatever. Business-wise, Vietnam never ends.
That�s where we are.
At a 1992 University
of Oregon event discussing the American people and their government, author Ken
Kesey declared, �There are times when you gotta stand up in church and shout
That�s what time it
Excerpt from Eisenhower�s
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of
unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial
complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and
will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our
liberties or democratic processes.
Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the
huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and
goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Akin to and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our
industrial-military posture has been the technological revolution during recent
decades. In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more
formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for,
by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.
In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free
ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of
research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract
becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity.
The prospect of domination of the nation�s scholars by Federal employment,
project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to
be regarded. Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as
we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public
policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.
It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and
other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system --
ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.
As we peer into society�s future, we -- you and I, and our government -- must
avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and
convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the
material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their
political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all
generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.
Down the long lane of the history yet to be written, America knows that this
world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of
dreadful fear and hate, and be instead a proud confederation of mutual trust
and respect. Together we must learn how to compose difference, not with arms,
but with intellect and decent purpose. Because this need is so sharp and
apparent, I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field
with a definite sense of disappointment.
We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their
great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to
enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its
spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand its heavy
responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will
learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made
to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples
will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual
respect and love.
Sources: Statistical Information Analysis Division,
Department of Defense; FY2000
through FY2006 CASE Multi-year Educational Nonprofits Prime Contracts, ST25
Multi-year States and Territories Prime Contracts, ST26 Multi-year Foreign
Country Prime Contracts; and �Instances
of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2006,� updated January 8, 2007 by Richard F. Grimmett,
Specialist in National Defense, US
Congressional Research Service.
Bogart is a peace studies graduate student, diversity scholar, and defense
statistics analyst at University of Oregon. His thesis project follows the
60-year trend of acquiring what President Dwight Eisenhower termed the
�unwarranted influence� of the defense industry by government. Contact Brian at
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