Confessions of a Condor: Ike's warning at 50

By Judge Mark J. Plawecki

Today marks the 50th anniversary of President Dwight Eisenhower's Farewell Address. This 1961 speech of profound prescience contains the following: "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."

Eisenhower had been formulating his remarks since at least May 1959. One draft had him referring to the "military-industrial-congressional complex"; he had originally hoped to give the speech before Congress, and thought it might be bad form to harangue his hosts. Ike should have kept in the third element -- the invitation from Capitol Hill never came.

Ten years after Eisenhower's address, Senator J. William Fulbright (whose scholarship program became the largest educational exchange curriculum in history) wrote the all-but-suppressed The Pentagon Propaganda Machine. The longest serving chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee opined, "For almost twenty years now, many of us in Congress have more or less blindly followed our military spokesmen. Some have become captive of the military. We are on the verge of becoming a military nation." He also thought that our public policy's greatest danger lay in civilian authorities adopting the "narrowness of outlook of professional soldiers."

In between Eisenhower's adios and Fulbright's book, then Commander of the U.S. Marine Corps General David Shoup stated "America has become a militaristic and aggressive nation."

That was four and five decades ago. Today, our military has so completely metastasized over our nation's body that it imperils our soul. The $2.75 million military spending limit for public relations Congress lifted in 1959 has now grown to $5 billion per annum.

Military growth itself is regarded as reduction. Chief Orwellian media outlet The Wall Street Journal on January 7 headlined page one with "Pentagon Faces the Knife," the spin being that Defense Secretary Robert Gates' proposed $78 billion shift from obsolete to more useful programs over the next five years was somehow a cut. The story admitted, in its fourth paragraph, that Gates' outlined plans didn't "include an actual decrease in the military budget. But it will stop growing by 2015." Perhaps implicit in the article is the proposition that Americans don't peruse past paragraph three in stories anymore. (If true, then only Judge Allen is reading these and the words to follow.)

Eisenhower's fears have come to fruition. There are more than 47,000 prime contractors doing Department of Defense work, with more than 100,000 subcontractors in tow, making for a massive conglomerate penetrating nearly all sectors of society.

"The Pentagon's payroll is a veritable who's who of the top companies in the world," writes Nick Turse in The Complex. Virtually all aspects of American life, from entertainment and sports to basic consumer goods and education, are interconnected with our military.

And how do these companies win contracts? More than ever before, they use the revolving door of Washington to dizzying success. The Boston Globe recently ran an in-depth study of 750 retired generals and admirals who feast on government largesse for defense firms. Eighty to ninety percent of these three-and four star-ry knights went to work for firms lobbying for DoD contracts, and most were recruited well before they left the government.

The general in charge of our Air Force weapons systems, in fact, upon retirement immediately went to shill for Northrop Grumman (manufacturer of the B-2 stealth bomber) as a paid consultant and joined a top-secret Pentagon study program on stealth aircraft technology. No conflict there, say Pentagon brass.

The Pentagon is so huge that even it doesn't know how many offshore bases it has. Nicholas Kristoff 's December 26 New York Times column, relying on Pentagon documents, reported the figure as 560. He didn't include, because it didn't include, the 400 in Afghanistan. The best estimates are between 1,000 and 1,200, but it is indeed difficult to keep track. Ask (as you begin to trade your dollars for yuan) how many our feared rival, lender in chief, and now owner of the No. 2 economy in the world China has: the answer is zero.

The never-ending Afghan War provides, win, lose, or stalemate, never-ending riches for our former generals' new firms. Meanwhile, our continuous droning of suspected militants in the nearby tribal areas of Pakistan, which kills untold civilians, is making extremism and radicalism intensify, as that nuclear-armed nation creeps closer to chaos. The very worst thing that could happen for us -- fanatical Islamists in control of The Bomb -- is precisely the course our CIA and DoD geniuses are taking us toward.

Where is the "free" media in all this madness? The MIC of Ike's day is now MIC MAC. For an explanation see Condor's next column. . . .

Mark J. Plawecki is a District Court judge in Dearborn Heights. Confessions of a Condor pledges to continue a fondness for the quaint old U.S. Constitution.

Published: Mon, Jan 17, 2011