David R. Hoffman
During his farewell address in the year 1961 outgoing President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned that “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex [hereinafter MIC]. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”
Perhaps the most disturbing message in Michael Moore’s excellent documentary Fahrenheit 911 is that Eisenhower’s fears have now become America’s reality, as the MIC has become America’s shadow government, covertly manipulating elections and governmental policies, only revealing itself when its machinations fail to produce the desired results. Although Americans are given the illusion they are “voting” for candidates, rarely does a candidate arise to the position of being on the ballot without paying homage and alms to the MIC.
During the 1960s the MIC (as reported by the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, 3/21/93) covertly fought to undermine the civil rights and anti-war movements. The 20th Special Forces Group, stationed in Alabama, provided paramilitary training to the Ku Klux Klan in exchange for information on the civil rights movement. The 113th Military Intelligence Group based at Fort Sheridan in Illinois provided tear gas, electronic surveillance equipment, and funding to civilian groups attempting to undermine the anti-war movement. City police in Baltimore, Maryland received funding from the 109th Military Intelligence Group to harass “black radicals.” One such “radical,” Marshall “Eddie” Conway, remains imprisoned to this day, despite doubts about his guilt and overwhelming concern about the fairness of the trial used to convict him. And, on the eve of his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, agents from the 111th Military Intelligence Group were shadowing the movements of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In addition, conspiracy theories still abound about the role the MIC played, either by act or omission, in the assassination of John F. Kennedy after Kennedy sought to scale back American military involvement in Vietnam. But regardless of whether Kennedy was murdered by a group of conspirators or a “lone gunman,” the MIC celebrated as Kennedy’s replacement, Lyndon B. Johnson, committed more troops and resources to fight a prolonged “war of attrition” in Vietnam--the type of war that brings immense profits to the MIC. This escalation was continued by Johnson’s successor, Richard M. Nixon, and Nixon’s reward was gaining the MIC’s permission to let his hand-picked lackey, Gerald Ford, “pardon” him for the crimes he committed during the Watergate scandal.
But the MIC miscalculated the outrage the American people felt over Nixon’s pardon, and, much to its chagrin, an interloper named Jimmy Carter was elected to the United States Presidency in the mid-1970s. But this was a minor setback, and was quickly resolved when the MIC arranged the Iranian hostage crisis to mar Carter’s presidency-- a “crisis” that conveniently ended after Ronald Reagan was “elected.”
Reagan was the ideal puppet for the MIC. By mugging for the cameras, acting in accordance with the script provided him, and espousing “down home” virtues, Reagan successfully diverted the attention of most of the American people while the MIC ran rampant throughout the world, supporting the apartheid regime in South Africa, murdering bishops and nuns in Central America, training dictators and despots at the infamous “School of the Americas,” and resurrecting domestic spying programs, such as the FBI’s infamous COINTELPRO operation. The illusion worked not only to get Reagan “elected” twice, but also to place the first Bush dictatorship into power.
This dictatorship endeavored to reward the MIC by invading Panama. When this did not sufficiently fill MIC coffers, Bush encouraged America’s ally, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, to invade Kuwait. This led to the first Gulf War, and the “rallying around the flag,” which gauged how easily Americans could be duped into obsequiously supporting war.
But once again an interloper, William Jefferson Clinton, was elected. Thinking him destined to be a one-term failure, the MIC’s efforts to undermine his presidency were subdued until his reelection. Suddenly the MIC, coupled with its political wing the Republican Party (hereinafter GOP), labeled Clinton a murderer, spent billions trying to “investigate” his misdeeds, and ultimately attempted to impeach him for lying about an affair he had with a White House intern.
Yet, despite all the MIC and GOP venom, a majority of the American people elected Clinton’s Vice President Al Gore to be Clinton’s successor. This was something the MIC would not tolerate. So it was forced to expose its corrupting influence by orchestrating the coup of 2000, and, in the process, subjecting the nation, over two hundred years after the American revolution, to the madness of another King George.
Unlike Reagan, who managed to maintain some sense of decency, George W. Bush makes the perfect puppet for the MIC: He is ignorant, bigoted, hypocritical, cowardly, megalomaniacal, bloodthirsty, avaricious--in short the personification of humanity’s basest instincts and everything the MIC craves.
The hypocrisy that would mar Bush’s early months in office was evidenced when the GOP, which elevated hate speech to new levels during the Clinton years, suddenly began whining about the alleged “hate speech” directed against their corruptly-appointed lackey. When this didn’t work, the MIC borrowed a page from Hitler’s rise to power by orchestrating, again through acts or omissions, America’s version of the burning of the Reichstag--the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Suddenly Bush became a “wartime president,” which in turn permitted him and his fellow war criminals to lie unabashedly about the supposed “imminent threat” posed by the nation of Iraq, and the “weapons of mass destruction” it allegedly possessed. Yet, unlike Clinton, Bush’s lies did not result in a much deserved impeachment, but instead in platitudes about “faulty intelligence.”
Moore’s documentary asks two key questions. The first is why are Americans so supportive of cowards and hypocrites who promote and profit from wars, yet are unwilling to place themselves or their loved ones in harm’s way?
Moore touched upon this question by asking Congressional lawmakers who had voted in favor of the war against Iraq to enlist their teenage children in the military so they could directly participate in the war effort. While the reactions Moore received were humorous, they were also disturbing, because they openly demonstrated how readily these liars and hypocrites will sacrifice children other than their own. Moore pointed out that even Commander-in-Thief George W. Bush has daughters of military age, yet they apparently have no intention of supporting “daddy’s” war effort by enlisting in the military.
With the demise of the military draft, the Iraqi war has exposed the plethora of “chicken hawks” (those who promote wars, but were/are too gutless to fight in them) that are now formulating American policy. Dick Cheney received numerous deferments to avoid serving in Vietnam (because, as he stated, he had “other priorities"); Tom Delay, the ethically-deprived hypocrite from Texas claimed that his failure to fight in Vietnam allegedly occurred because “too many minorities had already enlisted”; Commander-in-thief Bush, who “bravely” tells Iraqi insurgents to “bring it on” from the safety of the most fortified building in the world, used his “daddy’s” influence to perform some murky National Guard duties during the Vietnam era; Rush Limbaugh, the right-wing’s favorite drug addict, whose rants are carried on Armed Forces Radio, avoided Vietnam because of a cyst on his posterior; Bill O’Reilly, the loudmouth on Fox “News” (i.e. Propaganda) Network, told Moore he would “sacrifice himself” for the Iraqi war effort, but has yet to give up his cushy job to do so; Toby Keith and Kid Rock have both enhanced their careers by hawking the Iraqi war, and were cheered by a crowd attending the NBA (National Basketball Association) finals in Detroit. Yet nobody asked why these two warmongers were sitting in expensive court side seats (that the average soldier could never afford), instead of fighting in the war they so actively promoted; Sean Hannity, John Ashcroft, Dennis Miller, Paul Wolfowitz, Karl Rove and countless others have all demonstrated both a willingness to hawk the Iraqi war, and an unwillingness to fight and die in it. Meanwhile, as Moore’s documentary so vividly illustrated, plush, air-conditioned boardrooms throughout America are now filled with corporate executives salivating over the profit-potential of the Iraqi war, while soldiers continue to suffer in the heat of the desert.
Yet where is the outrage directed? It is directed against singers like Linda Ronstadt, whose posters were torn down after she praised Moore during a concert in Las Vegas; against Whoopi Goldberg who was fired as a spokesperson for “Slim-Fast” because of her condemnation of the Bush dictatorship. Yet K-Mart Corporation has made no plans to discontinue the product line of the convicted Martha Stewart. Apparently in today’s America it is more economically dangerous to exercise one’s fundamental right to freedom of speech than to be convicted of a crime; Walt Disney’s media empire, that has already canceled television shows over political content, refused to distribute Fahrenheit 911. And even after another distributor was found, some theater chains, primarily in the Midwest, acting as self-appointed censors, refused to carry the documentary. Yet these same censors had no difficulty carrying Mel Gibson’s The Passion Of The Christ, despite complaints about its alleged anti-Semitism. Apparently bigotry is simply part of doing business, but making a film that will cause people to think and question is anathema; Clear Channel, the largest owner of radio stations in America, blacklisted the Dixie Chicks for their statements against Bush, while many of their affiliates conducted pro-war rallies; O’Reilly denounced anti-war groups for seeking to boycott companies that advertise on Limbaugh’s show, yet advocates boycotts of rap singers like Jakakiss for lyrics blaming Bush for the attacks on the World Trade Center. Jadakiss’s line, “Why did Bush knock down the towers?” was also banned from many radio stations; An Art Gallery owner in San Francisco was threatened, spat upon and physically assaulted for displaying a painting depicting the torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib--all events that seem more at home in 1938 Berlin than 2004 America.
The second question Moore asks is why are so many Americans willing to sacrifice the lives of their young in wars fought for nebulous (and often dishonest) reasons?
This question also arose during the anti-war movement of the 1960s. As resistance to the Vietnamese war became more revolutionary in nature, talk centered on how the revolution could be accomplished and who should participate in it. More traditional groups pointed out that revolutions were rarely successful without the support of the working class. Their opponents countered that in America it was primarily the working class that seemed to unquestioningly accept the government’s excuses for war, so an alliance would be impossible.
But what has created the America that embraces the vision of men, women and children being tortured and slaughtered while “chicken hawks” are cheered?; an America that will howl in outrage if taxes are raised to improve education or health care, yet will unquestioningly spend billions for warfare?; an America that claims to praise freedom, particularly freedom of speech, yet demonstrates nothing but contempt for those who exercise this freedom through dissent?
The answer is the basic military strategy of the MIC: Divide and Conquer. This Social Darwinistic strategy is particularly effective because it can actually make people believe that “cutting their own throats” is somehow a positive gesture. Unhealthy people, particularly those who cannot afford health insurance, are an economic drain on society, so the sooner they die the more money there is to devote to MIC projects. Educated people tend to be too inquisitive, so the less spent on education, the more complacent and accepting the populace will become. Labeling as “un-American” anyone who expresses dissent makes “freedom of speech” available only to those wealthy enough to endure the economic retaliation that is destined to follow. And, after the MIC’s “cold-war” struggle against communism silenced all legitimate political discussion about warfare and class, it has become unfashionable to talk about how the poor disproportionately die in wars, while the rich consistently profit from them.
But the MIC’s strategy could not succeed without the corrupt support of the corporate-controlled media. In 1968, in Vancouver, Canada, one of America’s forgotten prophets, folk-singer Phil Ochs, told his audience, “I’ll play for you now a protest song. A protest song is defined as a song you don’t hear on the radio. And they’ll say you don’t hear it on the radio because the guy can’t sing, or because the words are no good, as they play the s**t that they play these days. . . . In America they have the media syndrome, where they control everybody’s minds by the use of fairly mindless distortions of the facts, which led all of us into the Vietnamese war and the Kennedy assassinations.”
Things have not changed much in America since 1968, and Ochs, in his succinct statement, conveyed two fundamental MIC tactics still in use today: censorship and propaganda. Censorship is evidenced by the experiences of Ronstadt, Goldberg, and the other examples cited above. Propaganda is evidenced by the famous saying, “The mind abhors a vacuum.” Since a vacuum is precisely what censorship leaves, the corporate-controlled media have, as Moore’s documentary correctly points out, sacrificed their ethics and integrity (or what little ethics and integrity they supposedly had!) to become disseminators of propaganda and “cheerleaders” for the Iraqi war.
Both the MIC and the corporate-controlled media have learned that ratings and profits are not spawned by honesty, objective coverage of important issues, or the earnest pursuit of solutions. They are spawned by the dissemination of hatred, divisiveness, half-truths, screaming, self-promoting pseudo-journalism, war profiteering, the use of dubious “experts,” and outright lies.
The America of today, the America Eisenhower feared in 1961 and the America Ochs lamented in 1968, where one can do little to stop “the terrible, heartless men” who control and plunder the nation, is an America where it is even more tempting to become selfish, self- serving and cynical. Throughout the past few months I have struggled with this temptation. After all, I have no loved ones fighting in Iraq, so if Americans are willing to sacrifice their young to satiate Bush’s perverse megalomania, it doesn’t affect me personally. If Americans are gullible enough to embrace the hypocrisy of chicken hawks and enrich the war profiteers, then why complain? Isn’t an unwritten motto of American capitalism “Make all the money you can by exploiting anything you can?” If Americans were not outraged over the usurpation of democracy by the MIC during the coup of 2000, then why not permit the nation to continue its descent into the deceptive comforts of fascism? How refreshing it might be to have some omnipotent leader telling the populace who to hate and what to think, so nobody will have to think for themselves. How peaceful and utopian it will be when all voices of dissent are silenced.
Why fight an unbeatable foe? If history has shown us anything, it has shown that while evil might be subdued, it can never be defeated. Hatred and hypocrisy are always likely to triumph over hope, divisiveness over unity, greed over selflessness, and war over peace. Even when voices of courage and compassion arise to appeal to the nobility of humanity, their words, as has happened in the past, will quickly be distorted and exploited for self-serving gain.
Yet, if everyone throughout history had followed this pathway of cynicism, selfishness and greed, there would have been no social progress, no abolitionists in pre-civil war America fighting against slavery, no workers willing to risk their jobs and even their lives for safer and fairer wages and conditions, no civil rights movement, no women’s rights movement, no voices courageously crying in the wilderness, knowing they may never be heard.
In today’s America, with all the talk about “winning the war on terrorism,” few people have realized that, in many ways, the true terrorists have already won significant victories. Terrorism, after all, is simply the installation and perpetuation of fear. Americans are told that those the Bush dictatorship labels terrorists “resent our democracy and our freedoms,” yet it was not Al-Qaeda who placed democracy under the control of the MIC, who destroyed democracy during the coup of 2000, or who shattered those freedoms through the passage of the “Patriot Act” and the quashing of voices of dissent.
A popular Biblical saying goes, “What does it profit a person to gain the world and lose his own soul?” The same can be said of a nation. All the wealth and power the thieves, the liars, the censors, the propagandists, the hypocrites, the venal, the warmongers, and, of course, the MIC have accumulated by exploiting hatred and fear, will be constrained by the limitations of their own mortality. If justice delayed is not justice denied, then one day these criminals will be compelled to atone for their crimes. The evils of the Bush dictatorship have demonstrated the depths that far too many in America are willing to sink. Hopefully there are still enough voices left to show the world how high America can rise.