Letter: Ike’s timely warning and our current reality

Graphic by Lori Deaton

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.


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Letters
We want to hear from you! Send your letters and commentary to letters@mountainx.com

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

2 thoughts on “Letter: Ike’s timely warning and our current reality

  1. Lou

    A very wise and detailed account of a truth that nobody wants to talk about…as evidenced by the lack of any comments to your letter besides this one. An inconvenient truth and yet one more reason it’s time to move on. North Carolina is losing what made it so attractive in the first place; a connection to nature in its purest form.

  2. Bertrand

    Why is tax payer funded AB tech constructing a new building to serve this company when it has a campus within a few miles of the company’s new site with much unused space including that empty high rise? Is the county still paying for the school’s facilities as their owner? What do the school’s finances look like after it was in the news this past year due to a projected budget shortfall and talk of cuts to personnel and services? How are its enrollment, retention, and graduation rates, programs, staffing, and revenue faring with the cheap tuition offered by WCU and other local schools and during the pandemic when many schools are struggling and the financial forecast of higher education is problematic? If the school is having trouble making ends meet and with facility upkeep now, then how can it and the county afford to add and then maintain a new site to the school? What are the projected costs of this facility and what is the plan for paying for it in the short and long run? Why aren’t these things being discussed with the taxpayers who foot the bill?

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.