Sunday, June 26, 2011

Eisenhower and the Merchants of Death

In his farewell speech given on 17 January 1961, the President of the USA (1953–1961) Dwight Eisenhower, had used the expression 'military-industrial complex' and by doing so had caused kind of hype about this term ever since.

"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 alone more than the net income of all United States corporations.
Now 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 Statehouse, 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."

He had probably not been the first to use this composition: his speech writers Malcolm Moos and Ralph E. Williams might have borrowed the phrase from a book published in 1947. Whether they also had originally suggested the term 'military-industrial-congressional' in preceding drafts, as claimed by Geoffrey Perret, remains without official evidence. In his Eisenhower biography he wrote that Eisenhower “originally intended to include Congress in this indictment and deliver a blast at the ‘military-industrial-congressional complex.’ At the last minute, he struck out ‘congressional.’” maintains "his children suggest that in an earlier draft of the speech, he refered to the "military-industrial-congressional complex" and offer two links of which only one leading to a particular source: the documentary "Why We Fight (2005)". In fact it was none of his children but his granddaughter Susan Eisenhower appearing in this movie as one among many talking heads, claiming 

"It's interesting, most people don't realize that in the original draft it was actually 'military-industiral-congressional complex' but the 'congressional' part, it was removed because Dwight Eisenhower he was very proud of the fact that he had outstanding relationship with Congress.“

while the the camera is slowly crawling over a sheet of paper showing 

The quote starts at 02:04 of the following excerpt of the movie:

Susan Eisenhower repeated this statement during a discussion with talk show host Bill Maher on his Real Time, 2009-07-24).

However, the tightening links between economy, politics and the military sector in the USA have been seen as perilous now for 50 years, especially in times of politics being dominated by the doctrine of militarism (or neo-militarism). In a memorandum concerning the State of the Union speech 1961, speechwriter Williams expressed this concern as follows: "We must be very careful to insure that the "merchants of death do not come to dictate national policy".


English VersionWhy we fight (2005)

Deutsche Version: Why we fight - War sells - Die Kriegsgeschäfte der USA - German Arte-TV-Doku.avi


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