John Simkin Posted February 13, 2006 Share Posted February 13, 2006 The beginning of Oliver Stone’s film, JFK, shows Dwight Eisenhower making his “Farewell to the Nation” speech. Some people have argued that this was Stone’s way of illustrating his belief that the Military Industrial Complex was behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Oliver Stone is not the only one who holds this view. Several members of this Forum, including myself, have argued that the Military Industrial Complex was in some way involved in his death. See for example: http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=3580 However, the weakness of this argument is that researchers rarely identify the people involved in this conspiracy. Over the next few weeks I intend to name the people who made up what I prefer to call, the Military Industrial Congressional Complex. Part 1 On 17th January, 1961, Dwight Eisenhower gave his Farewell Address to the nation. It included the following passage: “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. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations. This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence - economic, political, even spiritual - is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. 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 the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.” (1) The speech was written by two of Eisenhower’s advisers, Malcolm Moos and Ralph Williams. However, this was not the speech they had written. Eisenhower had made some important changes to the original draft. For example, Eisenhower’s speech is a warning about the future. He does not explain how he dealt with this problem during his presidency. After all, Eisenhower gave important posts to John McCone and Robert Anderson, two key figures in the “Military-Industrial Complex”. He was also the president who succumbed to the pressures of Tommy Corcoran to order the CIA to work with United Fruit in the overthrow of democratically elected government in Guatemala. Eisenhower also encouraged and benefited from the activities of Joe McCarthy in the 1950s. It was this fanatical anti-communism that fueled Cold War tensions and stimulated the arms race that was such an important ingredient in the development of the “Military-Industrial Complex”. Another important aspect of the speech is that Eisenhower does not mention the role of politicians in this problem. This is strange as it was only through politicians that the military and the business community got what they wanted. This was one aspect of the speech that Eisenhower changed. In the original draft, Moos and Williams had used the phrase, the “Military-Industrial Congressional Complex”. This is of course a more accurate description of this relationship. However, to use the term “Congressional” would have highlighted the corruption that was taking place in the United States and illustrated the role played by Eisenhower in this scandal. The idea that an informal group of people from the military, government and business would work together in order to make profits out of war was not a new one. For example, Tom Paine wrote in the introduction to the Rights of Man: “What is the history of all monarchical governments but a disgustful picture of human wretchedness, and the accidental respite of a few years’ repose? War is their trade, plunder and revenue their objects. While such governments continue, peace has not the absolute security of a day.” (2) Tom Paine believed that rulers often resorted to war in an attempt to deal with internal conflicts. Abraham Lincoln was another who had identified this strategy. In 1848 he attacked President James Polk for his policy over Mexico: “Trusting to escape scrutiny, by fixing the public gaze upon the exceeding brightness of military glory – that attractive rainbow, that rises in shadows of blood – that serpent’s eye, that charms to destroy – he plunged into war.” Lincoln added: “Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object.” According to Lincoln, this was “the most oppressive of all kingly oppressions” and that it was important that the United States should make sure that “no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us”. (3) The first person to identify the modern Industrial-Military-Political Complex was J. A. Hobson. A strong opponent of British imperialist adventures, Hobson published “Imperialism: A Study” in 1902. It included the following passage: “Our economic analysis has disclosed the fact that it is only the interests of competing cliques of business men – investors, contractors, export manufacturers, and certain professional classes – that are antagonistic; that these cliques, usurping the authority and voice of the people, use the public resources to push their private interests, and spend the blood and money of the people in this vast and disastrous military game, feigning national antagonism which have no basis in reality.” (4) Hobson’s views had a significant impact on the consciousness of people in Europe. It helped to develop a belief in pacifism that was very strong in the early years of the 20th century. George Bernard Shaw was an example of someone who shared the views of Hobson and in his play Major Barbara, the armament maker Undershaft says: “You will make war when it suits us and keep peace when it doesn’t… When I want anything to keep my dividends up, you will call out the police and the military.” (5) This mood changed in 1914 with the outbreak of the First World War. James Keir Hardie, the leader of the Labour Party, organized a national strike against Britain's participation in the war. However, he underestimated the ability of the state to persuade people of the need to go to war. Hardie was denounced as a traitor and died a broken man in 1915. David Kirkwood, was one of those who saw through this propaganda: “I hated war. I believed that the peoples of the world hated war, and had no hate for each other. A terrific struggle tore my breast. I could not hate the Germans. They loved their land as I loved mine. To them, their traditions and their history, their religion and their songs were what mine were to me. Yet I was working in an arsenal, making guns and shells for one purpose - to kill men in order to keep them from killing men. What was I to do? I was not a conscientious objector. I was a political objector. I believed that finance and commercial rivalry had led to war.” (6) Gerald Nye was one of the first people to identify the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex. Nye was elected to Congress in 1926 and immediately began to question the relationship between politicians and the armament manufacturers. In a speech in 1930, Nye argued: “That in nearly every war it is the people who bear the burdens and that it is not the people who cause wars bringing them no advantage, but that they are caused by fear and jealousy coupled with the purpose of men and interests who expect to profit by them.” (7) On 8th February, 1934, Nye submitted a Senate Resolution calling for an investigation of the munitions industry by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee under Key Pittman of Nevada. Pittman disliked the idea and the resolution was referred to the Military Affairs Committee. It was eventually combined with one introduced earlier by Arthur H. Vandenberg of Michigan, who sought to take the profits out of war. Public hearings before the Munitions Investigating Committee began on 4th September, 1934. In the reports published by the committee it was claimed that there was a strong link between the American government's decision to enter the First World War and the lobbying of the munitions industry. The committee was also highly critical of the nation's bankers. In a speech in 1936 Nye argued that "the record of facts makes it altogether fair to say that these bankers were in the heart and center of a system that made our going to war inevitable". (8) The Report on Activities and Sales of Munition Companies was published in April, 1936. It included the following passage: “Almost without exception, the American munitions companies investigated have at times resorted to such unusual approaches, questionable favors and commissions, and methods of 'doing the needful' as to constitute, in effect, a form of bribery of foreign governmental officials or of their close friends in order to secure business. These business methods carried within themselves the seeds of disturbance to the peace and stability of those nations in which they take place.” (9) Nye became a strong supporter of “isolationism” and was a founder member of the America First Committee. Nye's known isolationist views became very unpopular after America entered the war and he lost his seat in Congress in November 1944. During the war politicians like Nye found it impossible to raise the issue of war profiteering. It was a different matter after victory had been achieved and Owen Brewster was appointed chairman of the Senate War Investigating Committee. In 1946 Brewster announced that he was very concerned that the government had given Howard Hughes $40m for the development and production of two aircraft that had never been delivered. Brewster also pointed out the President Franklin D. Roosevelt had overruled his military experts in order to hand out the contracts to Hughes for the F-11 and HK-1 (also known as the Spruce Goose). Hughes was able to get this investigation closed down by launching a smear campaign against Owen Brewster. The Senate War Investigating Committee never completed its report on the non-delivery of the F-11 and the HK-1. The committee stopped meeting and was eventually disbanded. (10) Notes 1. Dwight Eisenhower, Farewell Address to the Nation (17th January, 1961) 2. Tom Paine, The Rights of Man (1791) 3. John G. Nicolay and John Hay, Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln (pages 111-12) 4. J. A. Hobson, Imperialism: A Study, 1902 (page 127) 5. George Bernard Shaw, Major Barbara, 1905 6. David Kirkland, My Life of Revolt, 1935 (page 84) 7. Gerald Nye, speech at the Conference of Causes and Cures of War (January, 1930) 8. Gerald Nye, speech reported in the New York Times (10th February, 1936) 9. Senate Report on Activities and Sales of Munition Companies (April, 1936) 10. Jack Anderson, Confessions of a Muckraker, 1979 (pages 49-99) Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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