Senator’s Son – Defense Industry

“We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex,” Dwight D. Eisenhower, former President and Supreme Commander of Allied Expeditionary Forces.

As we approach the crazy times, also known as the U.S Presidential primary season, there is a lot of rhetoric being thrown around by the candidates about how to fix America. Many of the suggested courses of action are little more than pandering to a particular part of the voting public. Whether it be to expand Obamacare or to do away with it is a major topic. Tightening welfare rules versus expanding social programs is a flashpoint of contention. Pushback on political action committees, lobbyists, and corporate contributions is very virulent.  It is more than likely that a constitutional amendment will be discussed in the next couple years to roll back the Citizen’s United decision. That Supreme Court ruling opened the door to almost unlimited campaign donations by individuals and corporations.

In this deluge of bombast, one of the biggest personal concerns I have is the talk of war. Not a single 2016 presidential candidate has ever worn a military uniform. Not one has ever served a day in the military. None has experienced what it’s like to be a soldier sent off to war to face an enemy that they’re not even sure is a threat to America.

The defense industry funds one of the largest lobbying groups in Washington. In just the second quarter of 2015, the defense lobby community, made up of 53 individual contractors, spent almost $60 million on their efforts in Washington. The largest participant, General Dynamics, employed 70+ lobbyists and spent almost $3 million – just in those three months alone.

In other words, defense is big business which, to most of the candidates, means big campaign contributions. These defense contractors do not donate to political candidates out of any sort of altruism or patriotic duty. Like any other business transaction, they expect to receive a return on their investment; and that return is war.

There is nothing like a war to generate income for defense companies. The more missiles fired, the more required. The more rounds shot, the more are needed for replacement. Boots and uniforms, food, gas and aviation fuel supplies, trucks, and weapons are consumables that must be used and replenished. This keeps the gears of the defense machine turning. Fighter jets and helicopters, submarines, and aircraft carriers are high expenditure expendables that can generate the billions and trillions of dollars for the industry. The U.S. has a higher defense budget than the next eight countries combined. Yet the defense industry walks through the halls of Congress with its hand out, soliciting like a Salvation Army bell ringer in the days leading up to Christmas. The difference is the Salvation Army doesn’t pay you to give them funding. The defense lobby feels, as do all lobby groups, it’s more of a give and take. They give the politicians money and the politicians give them business.

This activity is considered acceptable in the course of today’s capitalism. The results of this type of legal bribery, however, can be tragic. The Defense Department spent billions of dollars during the Viet Nam war with Boeing, General Dynamics, BAE, Grumman, Monsanto, and countless other contractors. The list of defense who’s who in the sixties is still the same. However, the difference today is that we are spending trillions instead of billions on unneeded weapons systems, planes that don’t work, and ships that don’t float.

Examples of this are:

  • The A-10 ground support fighter has done an incredible job for several decades and is still extremely effective. The military wants to keep it, but contractors want to replace it so Congress is putting pressure on the military to go along with a new development program.
  • The Secretary of the Air force said the new F-35 from Lockheed Martin is overpriced and does not work. The cost to build, operate, and maintain a fleet of these excessive albatrosses is almost $1.5 trillion.
  • In 1985, the Marines desired a new vertical lift off/landing aircraft to support their ground troops into the 21st Boeing won the contract for the V-22 Osprey and began design work on it. Thirty years later, $122 billion of taxpayer money has been invested in this program and the aircraft still doesn’t work as designed. There have been seven major crashes which have cost the lives of 36 Marines. The Marines keep trying to discontinue the project, but the lobbyists keep pressuring Congress to keep the funding coming.
  • The Navy recently launched the first of the Zumwalt class destroyers. This high tech warship looks like something out of a Star Wars movie. Sleek with very futuristic lines, the ship is full of cutting edge electronics and propulsion systems. The most advanced weapon systems have been installed. It runs with a crew about one third the size of a conventional destroyer. However, there are valid reports that the ship is very unstable. In other words, in the right circumstances, it may roll over. The small crews are based on the belief that automated systems on the ship can do damage control without human intervention. I wouldn’t want to rely on a machine to keep my ship from sinking. The ship is not designed to be used in naval combat. It is designed to attack shore-based installations. Considering that most shore batteries can outrange our naval weapons, it’s a suicide mission to send this ship against land based units. It’s defenses against attack are minimal and it can be disabled by a single surface-to-surface missile. Costs for this program have been a paltry $23 billion with a price tag of $3.4 billion each. Originally, the Navy ordered 32 ships, eventually cutting the order to 12 and then to 3. So, for 3 ships that are a total waste of time, we have spent between $35 and $40 billion.

The United states has not definitively won a war in seventy years. We wasted 15 years, 47,000 lives, and untold billions of dollars in Viet Nam. We’ve poured trillions of dollars into Iraq and Afghanistan and scores of thousands of our troops have been killed and wounded. And, to what end? We have thousands of homeless vets. We have an incredibly high suicide rate among veterans. The Republican-controlled Congress has consistently underfunded the VA Health Care System. The Republican Congress has also blocked one program after another to expand social programs and to provide employment opportunities for veterans. They also keep trying to cut retirement benefits and block pay raises for military personnel.

These are the same politicians who approve the defense budget to make sure the lobbyists have earned their money.

And now, those same politicians want to send more Americans into harm’s way to support their defense industry contributors. They are willing to kill more Americans using the same lies about protecting the country they’ve always used. With the exception of World War II, America has not had a war to truly protect its integrity since the Civil War, over 160 years ago. Examining the Spanish-American War, America’s participation in WWI, Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, not one of these wars was fought to protect America. They were fought to enhance the income of the defense contractors.

And now we have a whole clown car full of Presidential wannabees, half of whom are rattling sabers as part of their platform. These people do not understand the horror of war. They do not appreciate the men and women who sacrificed their lives in fruitless past military ventures that benefitted no one but shareholders. We cannot allow this to happen again.

If the politicians in Washington want to send America’s children off to a new war, let them be the first to volunteer their children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews to be at the front of the line. They should not have the right to order the assured execution of Americans unless they are willing to have their own family in the danger zone as well. This is the best way to prevent Americans being put into unjustified conflicts that benefit no one except politicians, the defense industry, their lobbyists, and their shareholders.