Ask anyone what they know about Dwight D. Eisenhower and you will probably hear that he was the military commander of the Allied forces in WWII and was later elected President of the United States. That’s where the general knowledge of him stops. However, during his Presidential farewell speech on January 17, 1961, he made several profound statements and warnings that have become very prophetic.
During his ten minute televised farewell speech from the Oval Office, President Eisenhower, despite his long and historical military background, surprised everyone by warning the American people about the growing influence and power of the Military-Industrial Complex.
“A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction…. Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions.
We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.… 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. We should take nothing for granted, only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”
Having died in 1969, I think it would be safe to say that President Eisenhower would be very distraught over the current level of “unwarranted influence” that the Military-Industrial Complex has over our councils of government, our society, and the lives of Americans and other peoples around the world.
Since his speech over fifty years ago, this “unwarranted influence” has kept us in a perpetual state-of-war: the Cold War, Nuclear Arms Race, Vietnam, Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan, and numerous other interventions around the world. Of course, this perpetual state-of-war also provides perpetual profits for the government with its continuously expanding military budgets and the industrial complex that has been developed to support these on-going and continuously expanding military needs.
The attack on 9-11, orchestrated by a small radical, extremist group based in the middle-east, opened the door to the ultimate Military-Industrial Complex dream…the never-ending “War-on-Terror.”
Seizing the moment after 9-11, President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick “Lucifer” Cheney pounced. The Military-Industrial Complex war machine, riding the wave of American patriotism and the need to get revenge on those attacking our innocent citizens on our soil, jumped into high gear. The onslaught of fear-mongering started with warnings that there are terrorists everywhere, trying to get weapons-of-mass-destruction so they can kill Americans. This was enough to send the military might of the United States to Afghanistan chasing those terrorists responsible for 9-11 and the Taliban that was supposedly harboring and supporting them. Thirteen years later we’re still there, so too are the Taliban. The only winner in this war was the Military-Industrial Complex.
Once we had our military forces in place in Afghanistan, the Bush-Cheney cabal advanced the fear-mongering by convincing the world that Iraq was building up their weapons-of-mass-destruction so they could attack America. This was enough to preemptively send the military might of the United States into Iraq chasing Saddam Hussein and his weapons-of-mass-destruction. Eight years later, we left without finding any weapons-of-mass-destruction. Again, the only winner in this war was the Military-Industrial Complex.
By the way, both of these wars were unfunded and cost trillions of dollars, for which we, the everyday taxpayers, are having to pay for and contributes to the stagnation of our economy to this day.
Fourteen years after 9-11, the Military-Industrial Complex has continued to profit exponentially from all this fear-mongering, but how has it affected our lives and society in general…
We are now living in a society that is suffering from “terrorist phobia.” We have been convinced there are terrorists waiting around every corner with a knife just waiting to kill us and our family because they don’t like our freedoms; every middle-east person is a possible terrorist; those that go to pray daily in a mosques are just plotting to kill Americans; etc… So to protect ourselves we pass surveillance laws allowing the government (and God knows who else) to spy on our phone calls, emails, where we go, what we do, where we pray, who we meet with… We pass gun laws allowing everyone to carry a gun, everywhere, so you can be prepared for a shootout when that terrorist tries to ambush you… We are allowing our police forces to become more and more “militarized”; filling the ranks with ex-military specialists and incorporating heavy-duty firepower, armor and vehicles into daily peacekeeping activities; and using military-style, SWAT-team type tactics to break up peaceful protests; etc… Where does it end?
Again, President Eisenhower forewarned us:
“Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. 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.”
Unfortunately, we have become that “community of dreadful fear and hate” which he said we must avoid.
In closing I believe it would bode well for ALL OF US to take to heart what President Dwight D. Eisenhower offered us in his closing remarks from his farewell speech:
“To all the peoples of the world, I once more give expression to America’s prayerful and continuing inspiration: 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, also, 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.”
[ Source: Transcript of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Farewell Address (1961) http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?doc=90&page=transcript ]