wanted to see what u guys think
the movie i keep referring to is Why We Fight...a great documentary about the MIC
Why We Fight: The Military-Industrial Complex
“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 the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”— President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Farewell Address, January 17, 1961
It was Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell warning that inspired filmmaker Eugene Jarecki to make the film, Why We Fight. Eisenhower recognized the huge weight of responsibility on the shoulders of the country, which had only recently began to build up its military. This was a new thing for America and Eisenhower warned that if we didn’t keep an eye on this collusive connection that he called the “military-industrial complex,” the interests of capitalism and corporations would become too closely entangled with the business of war. As the film shows, through the Cold War and now the current American fight against terrorism, though, Eisenhower’s greatest fears have come to fruition. America has begun to move away from the principles that it was created on and has turned into a militaristic empire.
Eugene Jarecki took the name for his documentary from the series of propaganda films made by the legendary Frank Capra during World War II. Capra was commissioned by the government to put together the series of documentaries to show to US soldiers in order to demonstrate the reason for the United States’ involvement in the war. It was also later shown to the general public and was effective in boosting people’s attitude towards the war and getting them to build up a “war fever.” In that respect, Eugene Jarecki’s 2005 documentary is much different than the films that it takes its name from. But, Jarecki felt that he was making the movie he thought that Frank Capra would make. As he said in an interview with Amy Goodman on the Counter Currents website:
“Frank Capra was an extraordinary defender of democracy, and he was ultimately one of the most committed artists we've ever had to protecting the little guy against the forces in our society that can compromise democracy and threaten the little guy. How do I see that? Well, in It's a Wonderful Life Jimmie Stuart plays George Bailey trying to protect little Bedford Falls essentially from Wal-Mart. In Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Jefferson Smith travels to Washington to stand until he’s weary on his feet to protect his little creek back home from special interests. And the fact is, when Frank Capra made the "Why We Fight" films, he took that concern for democracy global, and he told Americans that they had to stand up to fight to protect democracy… He wanted us to stand up and fight to protect democracy on a global scale. And at this moment in our history, like many people, I fear that our own democracy is in peril, both from without, but more importantly, from within, in many of the ways that Mr. Eisenhower pointed out.”
Capra was creating a film to convince a nation that, at that time, had a policy of isolationism that there was a need to become involved in the war in Europe. Yet, World War II was considered then, and is considered now, a just war. The current war in Iraq and the interventionist wars the United States has been involved throughout the last 50 years or so, on the other hand, have not been considered just wars. In Why We Fight, Jarecki shows that the government has been manipulating public opinion to gain support for wars that have commenced because of the benefits it brings to the vast, growing military-industrial complex.
The term “military-industrial complex”, coined by Eisenhower in his Farewell Address, refers to the close connection that borders on collusion between defense contractors, the Pentagon, and Congress. (On the special features section to the DVD, Eisenhower’s family confirms that in the original draft of the speech, the President had used the term “military-industrial-congressional complex”, but changed it in order to appease the members of the legislative branch). The military depends on these defense contractor companies for its weapons and these companies get huge contracts from the government (Congress) in order to produce the weapons. These defense contractors make bids to the members of the Pentagon, but there exists a close connection between the contractors and the folks in the Pentagon as Chalmers Johnson notes in The Sorrows of Empire: “…many executives of defense contractors receive appointments as high-ranking officials in the Pentagon.” The contracts for the construction of these planes, tanks, missiles, etc. are split up so that they are done all over the country. The film points out that the B-2 Bomber has a piece of it made in every state. Because of this, members of Congress (regardless of their political affiliation) are constantly pushing for defense expenditures so that there are always jobs in their states and creating jobs means keeping the voters happy. Therefore, Congress is probably the most vital part of the military-industrial complex. They are the ones who spend the taxpayers’ money on these projects, they make the decisions, and they appropriate the funds.
The money being spent on these defense purposes has become preposterous. The US spends more on defense than the sum total of all of the other 18 countries that are members of NATO. The United States government also spends an estimated 51% of its total budget on military spending (according to the Center for Defense Information). All of this public money is being spent in areas that don’t return any real value. In Why We Fight, there is footage of a speech given by Eisenhower in which he spoke of what the spending for military meant as a loss in domestic spending. The numbers he used are, of course, no longer the same as what they would be now but the point still stands. He asked, what was the cost of one modern heavy bomber? “One modern brick school in more than 30 cities or 2 electric power plants capable of serving a town of 60,000 people or 2 fine fully-equipped hospitals. We pay for one single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat.” The cost of one destroyer? “Homes that could house 8,000 people. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the threat of war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron,” Eisenhower so eloquently said. Reading this now, it is almost stunning that this man was the Supreme Allied Commander in the Second World War and a two-term Republican president. Some people forget that it was Eisenhower’s use of defense funding with the National Defense Highway Transportation Act that was responsible for the vast highway system that covers the surface of the land of the United States of America.
This type of heavy military spending had all begun at the start of World War II, of course. The booming economy that had been anchored by so much of the public money being put into defense production provided jobs and, as Gore Vidal said in Dreaming War, “not unnaturally, impressed the country’s postwar managers: If you want to avoid depression, spend money on war.” So it was that, after the war had ended and the country was in peacetime, the government began to paint the picture of communism being a huge threat to democracy and to the United States even though Russia was still in a phase of rebuilding after the war (a war in which they were our allies). Anti-communism propaganda was all over the place and the Cold War would soon begin. And with it, the armaments industry was back in full production. This lasted for years, reaching a high point in the 1980s with Ronald Reagan’s huge splurge on all kinds of new high-tech weaponry to try and win the machismo contest between the US and the Soviet Union. But, the Soviet Union would eventually collapse on its own in 1991 and leave the US government and policy-makers without an evil, scary enemy to frighten the American public with so that they could continue to fuel the growing war machine. Which brings us to where we are now with our “War on Terror” in the Middle East. The events of September 11th were bilked by the media and the government to the point where everybody was ready to rally behind the government no matter what their plan was and, unbeknownst to most of the American public, the invading and taking over of Iraq was a plan that had been in the works for almost a decade at that point. The 9-11 attacks had merely provided a tool to use in manipulating the attitudes of people towards the whole situation.
With the onset of this new war, the defense industry brought out a brand spankin’ new type of weapon to use: precision bombing. These weren’t exactly brand new, they had been scarcely used in the first Iraq war, but they were now going to be the main weapons used in the new war on terrorism. The film points out that 7% of the weapons used in the 1991 Gulf War were precision, but now 60% of the weapons in the current Iraq war would be of the precision type. This gave the military a sort of technological arrogance but the much-flaunted effectiveness of these weapons was a farce. The estimated number of Iraqi civilians that had been killed during the entire first Gulf War was 3,500 people. In the first month alone of the new battle there had been 6,000 killed. Of the 50 precision bombings the United States carried out in the first year of the war, none of the 50 hit their intended targets and the film shows footage of what happened on the first night of bombing when the bombs missed their intended target of one of Uday Hussein’s palaces and instead hit a batch of houses. The hospitals were filled with mangled women and children civilians and as one of the horrified doctors pointed out, “on the first night of war there are no soldiers, only civilians.” Where we stand now, in 2006, it is probable that millions of Iraqi civilians have already died because of the war and it still has not ended (contrary to what was said in early 2003 when photos of the President standing on an aircraft carrier with a “Mission Accomplished” banner circulated all over the media).
The great George Washington spoke out against the concept of having a standing army in his own Farewell Address, fearing that it posed a threat to democracy. “Overgrown military establishments are under any form of government inauspicious to liberty, and are to be regarded as particularly hostile to Republican liberty,” said our first President and our most famous Founding Father. Over 200 years later, here we are with the United States military seemingly “standing” over most of the globe with 860 military bases in 130 different countries. The reason for this is, in a very ironic sense, mostly due to the huge infatuation with the very piece of paper that bears the great man’s face: the dollar bill. The financial benefit of fighting has been huge; profits for the defense industry were up 25% last year and with Pentagon officials sliding in and out of high positions in defense contracting companies in a “revolving door” manner, there isn’t really a foreseeable end to all of this. The policy-makers and their “think tanks” only have more and more plans of extending the American Empire through the use of their military muscle and this is unfortunately what is most beneficial to the priorities of corporations instead of the country. What can be done about this? Well, the maker of the film Eugene Jarecki, pointed out in an interview on Charlie Rose’s television program his film isn’t solely about the evil military-industrial complex, but about the system which the MIC is a function of. This system, which cannot be pinpointed for it is an all-encompassing view of our society, is pushing the United States of America farther away from being a republic and closer to being an empire. In Tariq Ali’s Bush in Babylon, he refers to the old Anti-Imperialist League that was established by, among others, Mark Twain in 1899 and had a membership of over half a million with two years. He then says:
“Today, when the United States is the only imperial power, the need is for a global Anti-Imperialist League. But it is the US component of such a front that would be crucial. The most effective resistance of all starts at home. The history of the rise and fall of empires teaches us that it is when their own citizens finally lose faith in the virtue of infinite war and permanent occupations that the system enters into retreat.”
It is therefore up to us to stop this process. Chalmers Johnson feels that the one development that could conceivably do this would be for the people to retake control of Congress and to cut off the huge supply of taxpayers’ money being given to the Pentagon and secret intelligence agencies. As Johnson said, “we have a strong civil society that could, in theory, overcome the entrenched interests of the armed forces and the military-industrial complex.”