Sixty years ago this month, Republican President Dwight Eisenhower wrapped up his two terms in office, preceded by a military career that included being supreme commander of Allied forces in Western Europe during World War II, with a farewell address to the nation.
Much of the speech came from his heart and with knowledge, experience and wisdom in warning us about the military-industrial complex, which was just emerging at the time. His words, with my emphasis, follow.
“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 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 huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”
Sixty years ago, he spoke those words to our nation. Some 60 days ago, we witnessed the seductive economic, political and spiritual influence of the military-industrial complex when the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to give an economic development package worth $27 million to war profiteer Pratt & Whitney/Raytheon.
Some 30 citizens passionate about peace and justice made public comments against this deal. The commissioners heard but did not listen.
We also should understand the cost of war in terms of lost opportunities. President Eisenhower said, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
War drains our national treasure away from our real needs, such as providing health care, especially in this time of pandemic, investing in a Green New Deal in order to address climate change and providing reparations for our African American brothers and sisters in order to address the huge economic inequities in this country.
Using tax incentives to bring Raytheon’s jobs here is a clear example of a lost economic opportunity. We know that more and better jobs are created by spending on clean energy, health care, education and infrastructure than are created by the military-industrial complex. Why invest in a multinational industry that depends on fossil fuels and a war economy when we could be investing in our own people and getting a better return on our investment? And working toward a more sustainable future?
We Veterans for Peace know from firsthand experience the causes and costs of war and war profiteering.
We are all the alert and knowledgeable citizenry that President Eisenhower warned would be necessary to prevent what we see happening in Buncombe County and we say: “No more, reject Raytheon!”
— Gerry Werhan
President/Veterans For Peace, Western NC Chapter
P.S.: Further evidence of the unwarranted influence of the military-industrial complex in these times: According to Bloomberg News, retired Gen. Lloyd Austin, President Joe Biden’s pick for defense secretary, may get as much as $1.7 million in payments tied to the board seat he’d be giving up at defense contractor Raytheon Technologies Co.