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Taking the Profit Out of War

by PETER G. COHEN

We now have a huge war machine that dwarfs President Eisenhower’s warning about the undue influence of the military-industrial complex. In an Aug. 29, 2013 editorial for Common Dreams, Bruce Gagnon of the Global Network says, “We’ve become a killer nation. We have to have endless war, like a drunk needs a drink at the bar, in order for American workers to put food on the tables for their families. What does this say about the soul of our nation?”

Yes the “complex,” as we call the whole security business, has become so huge that it is now the central engine of our economy, absorbing more than half of all discretionary spending. At the same time, our nation is decaying from lack of maintenance and investment. Whether we look at the national infrastructure, the health of the people, the education of our children, the employment of our workers or other measures of well being, the United States is behind other developed nations.

Our people are discouraged. Parents no longer have confidence that their children will lead better lives. They see that we have done very little to slow violent climate change or to prepare for the increasing devastation of our homes and businesses, which have cost billions in property damage and thousands of lives in the last decade. We are no longer the forward-looking nation, investing in the future, that we were for most of our history.

This imbalance of national priorities is strongly influenced by the flood of money that Congress is lavishing on wars and military spending. With the mantra of “supporting our troops,” Congress often has given the Pentagon more than they asked for. Some of this money gets spent in the Congress person’s district. The large defense corporations have taken care to spread their work across most of the states. Corporate lobbyists make sure that funding committee chairmen receive the largest campaign contributions and military facilities in their districts.

The lobbyists for schools, roads and bridges are insignificant compared to the banking and defense lobbyists. Their contracts are not “cost plus.” The research and development of a bridge, for example, does not go on for decades like the costly F-35, which is designed to have the maneuverability of a hummingbird, if and when they finally get it right.

Being the world’s policeman and maintaining worldwide influence is an expensive business. We are now building new bases in Asia and Africa. They make it easier for international corporations to buy up resources – including cheap labor. We pay the price with our taxes, while the corporations often hold their profits overseas to avoid paying their share of those taxes. We are told that these bases, their troops and supplies protect our “interests.” Watch out for that one!

The Money System

A system is a dynamic, self-regulating network of interrelated elements. Perhaps our military system started with the need to defend our nation in the days before the power of nonviolent methods were known, but has now grown to be the self-regulating system of aggressive expansion and maintenance of worldwide domination. Of course, this is not publicly admitted. Each element, such as anti-missile systems on the Russian borders or the huge naval base now building on Jeju Island, S. Korea, 100 miles from Shanghai, is advanced as absolutely essential to our national security. They are not.

The truth is that they only seem necessary to the ever-more-costly effort to maintain the predatory capitalist advantage we had at the end of World War II, when the rest of the industrialized world was in ruins. This project cannot succeed in the long run. Nations such as Brazil, China, India and Russia are growing rapidly. They will not long endure the arrogant effort at their containment and our world dominance.

While this effort is doomed to failure and is exhausting our national resources, it is making some corporations exceedingly rich. They supply Congressional supporters of these efforts with abundant campaign contributions. The shockingly common story of General Dynamics contributing massively to key Congressional members just when a vote was taken on the Abrams tanks—tanks the Pentagon not only did not request but in fact had mothballed surplus Abrams tanks in the Mohave and planned to save $3 billion by not ordering more—is one investigated and reported case of corporate welfare and congressional corruption seated in the military-industrial-congressional complex. The corporate congressional contributions had their effect and your money was utterly wasted on more tanks and more war profits for corporate elites.

We are facing elections in the next few years. Can we make breaking the influence of money on national decisions our essential demand of every candidate? Can we insist that the Oath of Office, to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, must be more important in our decision-making than corporate campaign contributions? The domination of money is ruining our nation. Will we, the people, fight for a decent future for the United States?

Peter G. Cohen, Santa Barbara, CA, is the author of www.nukefreeworld.com and other internet writing.

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