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Friday, 14 January 2011

Eisenhower, Lockheed Martin and the Military Industrial Complex Today

Fifty years ago, on 17 January 1961, US President Dwight Eisenhower warned Americans about the rise of what he called "the military industrial complex" - the enmeshing of the massive military establishment (built during and especially after World War II) with weapons manufacturing corporations. He also noted that American universities had become dominated by government and corporate reserach contract income such that obtaining grants had replaced intellectual curiosity as their raison d'etre. "The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present," he stated.

Below is reprinted part of Eisenhower's speech that is most often quoted as well as its context. There is, in addition, a brief summary of the power of one particular US coporation, Lockheed Martin, to demonstrate the continuing and growing power of the state-corporate nexus.

Eisenhower's warning about the incestuous character of state, academic and coporate power may well have been sincere yet he personified that very nexus. Eisenhower rose through the military ranks to Supreme Commander in Europe and head of NATO, was appointed president of Columbia University after 1946, before running for president in 1952. As president, Eisenhower presided over a massive and growing military budget which was aimed at the "communist threat". As he noted, in a style eerily similar and so easily adapted to today's enemies: "We face a hostile ideology -- global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method."

Noth only that, the enemy poses a "danger... of indefinite duration... [requiring]... not so much the emotional and trasitory sacrifices of crisis, but rather those which enable us to carry forward steadily, surely, and without complaint the burdens of a prolonged and complex struggle -- with liberty at stake".

What Eisenhower warned about in one breath was earmarked as a vital necessity in the next.

Extract from Eisenhower's Farewell Address:

"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.

Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

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 militaryindustrial 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.

Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.

In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientifictechnological elite.

It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system -- ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society."

Lockheed Martin: From Arms to Surveillance to Promoting Democracy

According to William Hartung, author of a new study of the corporation, "Lockheed Martin doesn't actually run the U.S. government, but sometimes it seems as if it might as well. After all, it received $36 billion in government contracts in 2008 alone, more than any company in history. It now does work for more than two dozen government agencies from the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy to the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency. It's involved in surveillance and information processing for the CIA, the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Pentagon, the Census Bureau, and the Postal Service.

Oh, and Lockheed Martin has even helped train those friendly Transportation Security Administration agents who pat you down at the airport. Naturally, the company produces cluster bombs, designs nuclear weapons, and makes theF-35 Lightning (an overpriced, behind-schedule, underperforming combat aircraft that is slated to be bought by customers in more than a dozen countries) -- and when it comes to weaponry, that's just the start of a long list. In recent times, though, it's moved beyond anything usually associated with a weapons corporation and has been virtually running its own foreign policy, doing everything from hiring interrogators for U.S. overseas prisons (including at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and Abu Ghraib in Iraq) to managing a private intelligence network in Pakistan and helping write the Afghan constitution.

William D. Hartung, Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex (Nation Books, January 2011).

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Wikileaks and the Bush-Obama Transition


The publication of up to 251,000 secret US Embassy cables by the Wikileaks organisation helps address a key question:

To what extent do President Barack Obama’s foreign and national security policies differ from those pursued by President George W. Bush? Has Obama lived up to his promise of “change we can believe in”?

The secret US embassy cables broadly cover the period 2004 to April 2010 (although some stretch back to the 1990s as well). They therefore allow analysis of continuities and change from Bush to Obama. This is interesting and useful because it allows us to compare Obama’s election campaign promises with his performance since taking office. It allows American citizens more clearly to see whether Obama has made a difference and judge his performance, and perhaps vote or otherwise act accordingly, and it allows people outside the US to better understand the realities of American power: that it changes little from one administration to another even when such radically different leaders and parties control the White House. It is useful for non-Americans’ assessments of US power and election manifestoes and declarations.

It should be recalled that authoritative opinion surveys in the US and across the world in the closing years of the Bush administration showed very high levels of US unpopularity around the globe and high levels of American citizen opposition to US global leadership/hegemony, unilateralism, sidelining of the UN, and so on.

A key attitude survey by the University of Maryland at the end of 2010, before the Wikileaks publication of secret embassy cables, showed declining international support for the leadership and policies of Barack Obama. It will be interesting to see post-Wikileaks opinion surveys to consider their effects on US power and global standing.

Secret embassy cables:

1. Predator Drone attacks in Pakistan exposed by the cables: the cables confirmed what was previously believed by many journalists and observers. Indeed, the Obama administration has used drone attacks with greater frequency than had the Bush administration. What is further exposed is that Pakistan’s president and prime minister knew about and supported, but publicly denied, drone attacks. Obama is therefore shown to have stepped up this aspect of the ‘war on terror’. Under Bush, 9 drone attacks from 2004-7 and 33 in 2008; under Obama, there were 53 in 2009, 118 in 2010, and 4 up to now in January 2011 (according to the Drone database maintained by the New America Foundation think tank in Washington, DC.

2. US Special Forces embedded in Pakistan: Obama took that decision in October 2009, according to Bob Woodward, Obama’s Wars (2010); exposed by Wikileaks in December 2010. Bush had not embedded US military units into the Pakistan military – that had been a ‘red-line’ issue with Pakistan’s army.

3. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) was known under Bush to be funding Taliban and other terror groups; embassy cables show continued ISI backing of terror groups fighting US and other NATO troops, and passing of information to warn terror groups of US planned attacks. It was an ISI-supported group, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT, meaning ‘Army of the Pure’) that carried out the attacks on Mumbai in November 2008.

The Obama administration continues to support the Pakistani state, including ISI, to the tune of $2 billion p.a. in military aid.

4. Spying on UN leaders and diplomats: in January 2009, according to cables, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered US diplomats to collect information on Ban Ki Moon, secretary-general of the UN, and his secretariat; and on the permanent UNSC representatives, including Britain and France. Information requested included iris scans, DNA, fingerprints, passwords for email and other computer accounts.

It is also the case that Condoleeza Rice, as US secretary of state under Bush, had ordered illegal surveillance of the-then UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, in the run up to the Iraq War of 2003. It will be recalled that a GCHQ ‘whistle-blower’, Katharine Gun, had exposed in 2004 that Condoleeza Rice had asked for British diplomats to spy on Kofi Annan and his staff and had also ‘bugged’ his office. In 2004, Clare Short MP claimed to have read transcripts of Annan’s illegally recorded conversations (BBC News online, 26 Feb 2004).

What the Wikileaks cables suggest is a programme of illegal surveillance that violates the 1946 US-UN HQ agreement and the 1961 Vienna Convention, and which the Obama administration appears to have placed on a far more ambitious basis and scale. In the case of Africa, diplomats were ordered to collect military base location and size information, including aircraft and other vehicular markings and insignia. In relation to Palestine Authority and Hamas, information was requested on mobile telephone numbers, vehicles used, and so on.

5. Saudi Arabia was the site of large financial flows to Taliban, al Qaeda, and other terror groups fighting US and other NATO troops in Afghanistan and Pakistan: this was known under the Bush administration and continues to be the case under Obama, with little achieved. This is exposed in embassy cables, as are funding flows to Taliban etc.. from other US allies in the Gulf, including Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE.

6. Israel: Bush tied the Obama administration to Israel aid by agreeing to provide $30 billion over 10 years from 2008. Despite claims to the contrary, Obama has failed to halt Israel from expanding settlements in disputed territories and continues to guarantee Israel’s “Qualitative Military Edge” over other Middle Eastern powers, including US allies like Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Cables reveal this, including the fact that US sells to Egypt and Saudi Arabia weapons to replace previously sold arms, rather than new generation arms, equipment and systems.

On the Goldstone Report on War Crimes in Gaza (late 2008), cables reveal that US officials would continue their efforts to deflect criticism of Israeli actions and would hinder the Report’s progress to the UNSC. US officials also requested Israeli information to further deflect criticism of Israel’s attack on Gaza that left over one thousand Gazans and 13 Israelis dead and caused massive destruction.

7. Yemen: While Bush had no strategy for Yemen’s growing al Qaeda problems, Obama ordered airstrikes against targets that killed over 120 people in two attacks in December 2009. While the Pentagon denied the airstrikes were by US forces, and the Yemeni government claimed they had carried out the attacks, Wikileaks showed that the US was responsible after all, and that the Yemenis had agreed to keep the attacks’ US provenance quiet.

Of course, to the above it is possible to add policies towards Iran have exhibited little change, despite early ‘peace’ feelers. In regard to rendition, Guantanamo, Bagram and secret prisons run by the CIA, little has changed since the Bush administration left office in January 2009. The Wikileaks cables, therefore, add to a growing awareness of the continuities between Obama’s and Bush’s foreign policies, but provide all-important official confirmation of ‘open secrets’ known to journalists and other experts, as well providing significant information to American and other publics.