Dwight D. Eisenhower
from his final address to the nation
January 17, 1961
For all his flaws (and he had many) I like Ike.
The night he gave that address, Eisenhower was thought by many of his countrymen and women to be pretty much of a failure. The American people were eager to begin anew with Jack Kennedy’s New Frontier which was due to commence in three days. Ike was, at that point in history, the oldest man ever to serve as chief-executive. JFK was the youngest man ever elected. The torch was about to be passed to a new generation of Americans. The retiring president’s remarks about the “military industrial complex” were soon forgotten. It was only decades of 20/20 historical hindsight that forced us to reexamine them.
Contrary to popular opinion, Eisenhower was not the befuddled old fool that many believed him to be at the time. In fact he was a fairly astute guy. His private writings, now available to scholars, prove this beyond a doubt. He saw the road that our economic reliance on the armaments industry was taking us down and he tried to sound a warning. The fact that historians payed little attention to that quote until years after his death is revealing. Ike was onto something and it took the rest of us a long time to catch on.
Cut to forty-nine years later: America is undeniably in economic ruins. Our health care system is an international joke. The American people are sick and getting sicker by the year. National health insurance – the kind they’ve had in England since 1947 – is not an option. As the Republicans (and more-than-a-few cowardly Democrats) love to remind us, that kind of system will surely bankrupt us. We simply can’t afford it!
Of course we can.
It is embarrassing to have to point this out, but of the five-hundred and thirty-five members of the House and Senate, only one man (Bernie Sanders of Vermont) has had the the sense to point out what should be a no-brainer: We need to make drastic cuts in military spending. Or, in terms that even your average right wing extremist will be able to understand:
We piss away far too much of our national treasure on things that go BOOM!
Surely England can afford to insure all of its citizens. In 2009 they did not spend (as we did) 651 billion on its military. This year their projected budget is not (as ours is) 680 billion. Think about that for a minute: That amounts to almost a trillion-and-a-half dollars every two years! For that kind of cash not only would we be able to easily afford medical insurance for every man, woman and child in this dysfunctional nation, we could start investing in our badly neglected infrastructure. And that would translate into jobs – lots and lots of them.
The phony and self-righteous “Christian” politicians that pollute the halls of Congress are never going to take seriously the words of Jesus when He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen any time soon. That being the case, I have a modest proposal. Let’s cut military spending in half. If current trends continue, in 2011 we’re looking at 700 billion in military expenditures alone. Why can’t we trim it down to a “mere” 350 billion? Is that such an extreme proposal? Why do we spend more on weapons of death than we do on the life of our own country? What the hell is the matter with us?
As I pointed out almost two months ago, we already have more-than-enough really neat bombs in our arsenal to totally wipe out life on this planet to begin with. What is it with our insatiable lust for these weapons? Is it a severe psychological flaw in the American character? Or is it something even more ominous and disturbing?
Could it possibly be that our very economic survival depends on us keeping the planet earth as a powder keg that will surely explode one day? How would we react if, say, Iran took it upon themselves to develop a military industrial complex equal or superior to our own? Were that to happen it’s a foregone conclusion that Iran would cease to exist in less than a week. How hypocritical is that? And please don’t give me the argument that it’s different set of circumstances – that we’re a responsible nation and Iran is not. To prove the utter fallacy of that argument, I have one word for you: IRAQ.
Well c’mon, Wall Street, don’t be slow
Oh man, this war’s au go-go!
There’s plenty good money to be made
Supplying the Army with the tools of the trade….
And it’s One, Two, Three – WHAT’RE WE FIGHTIN’ FOR?
Country Joe and the Fish
The most annoying thing about this intolerable situation is the fact that most people are not even aware of it. The problem, they’ll argue, lies in the fact that too many of our tax dollars are being spent on “social welfare programs”. Or if they are aware of the problem, they say that it’s just something that we can’t possibly do without. Military might is the key to our greatness as a nation, they will argue. I have to disagree.
Our “greatness as a nation” is in the promise put forward in the Bill of Rights. It has nothing to do with the fact that we have the technology to kill more human beings than any other country in the world. We’re better than that – or at least we used to be. What made us great was not that we were the toughest kid in the international schoolyard. It was the fact that we put so much stock in our people. Let’s start investing in America again.
Although Eisenhower was a pretty good domestic president, we are still paying a heavy price for his atrocious foreign policy a half century later – the worst of any president up to that time. The blame for the Islamic extremism that so torments the world today can be laid at the graves of he and his Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles. But as far as I am concerned his legacy is secure for no other reason than that final, televised address to the American people on the night of January 17, 1961. I’m trying to convince myself that it’s still not too late to heed Ike’s warning.
Isn’t it sad? They just don’t make Republicans like that anymore, do they? Come to think about it, they don’t make Democrats like that anymore either.
The Declassified Eisenhower
by Blanche Wiesen Cook
by Stephen Ambrose
War Is a Racket
by Major General Smedley Butler