“War is a racket,” wrote General Smedley Butler in the 1930s. Dwight D. Eisenhower warned at the end of his presidency about the military-industrial complex and its misplaced, anti-democratic power. Martin Luther King Jr spoke against militarism and the “spiritual death” he believed Americans were suffering from in the 1960s. As MLK put it, we’ve become a country of guided missiles and misguided men, a generation maimed and mutilated by militarism, a country seemingly in a state of permanent war. And let’s not forget James Madison’s warning about long wars as being pernicious to liberty and freedom.
I often find myself writing variations of what Butler, Ike, MLK, and Madison warned us about generations (or centuries) ago. All I can say in my defense is that the message bears repeating. We’ve become a country that celebrates “our” military and militarism, a country that leads every other country in the world in weapons sales, a country that spends enormous sums ($750 billion in 2020, if Trump gets his way) on “defense” that impoverishes health care, education, infrastructure repairs, and other areas of societal wellness.
Americans are warned about socialism by the mainstream media, but they’re never warned about militarism. I wonder why?
America is the victim of a long con orchestrated by the Pentagon and the National Security State, as I explain today in my latest article for TomDispatch. You can read the entire article here; what follows is an extract. As MLK said, America needs a revolution in values; we must overcome our arrogance of power and set our own house in order. But we can’t do that until we end our mindless militarism.
How the Pentagon Took Ownership of Donald Trump
Donald Trump is a con man. Think of Trump University or a juicy Trump steak or can’t-lose casinos (that never won). But as president, one crew he hasn’t conned is the Pentagon. Quite the opposite, they’ve conned him because they’ve been at the game a lot longer and lie (in Trump-speak) in far biglier ways.
People condemn President Trump for his incessant lying and his con games — and rightly so. But few Americans condemn the Pentagon and the rest of the national security state, even though we’ve been the victims of their long con for decades now. As it happens, from the beginning of the Cold War to late last night, they’ve remained remarkably skilled at exaggerating the threats the U.S. faces and, believe me, that represents the longest con of all. It’s kept the military-industrial complex humming along, thanks to countless trillions of taxpayer dollars, while attempts to focus a spotlight on that scam have been largely discredited or ignored.
One thing should have, but hasn’t, cut through all the lies: the grimly downbeat results of America’s actual wars. War by its nature tells harsh truths — in this case, that the U.S. military is anything but “the finest fighting force that the world has ever known.” Why? Because of its almost unblemished record of losing, or at least never winning, the wars it engages in. Consider the disasters that make up its record from Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s to, in the twenty-first century, the Iraq War that began with the invasion of 2003 and the nearly 18-year debacle in Afghanistan — and that’s just to start down a list. You could easily add Korea (a 70-year stalemate/truce that remains troublesome to this day), a disastrous eight-year-old intervention in Libya, a quarter century in (and out and in) Somalia, and the devastating U.S.-backed Saudi war in Yemen, among so many other failed interventions.
In short, the U.S. spends staggering sums annually, essentially stolen from a domestic economy and infrastructure that’s fraying at the seams, on what still passes for “defense.” The result: botched wars in distant lands that have little, if anything, to do with true defense, but which the Pentagon uses to justify yet more funding, often in the name of “rebuilding” a “depleted” military. Instead of a three-pointed pyramid scheme, you might think of this as a five-pointed Pentagon scheme, where losing only wins you ever more, abetted by lies that just grow and grow. When it comes to raising money based on false claims, this president has nothing on the Pentagon. And worse yet, like America’s wars, the Pentagon’s long con shows no sign of ending. Eat your heart out, Donald Trump!
“So many lies, so little time” is a phrase that comes to mind when I think of the 40 years I’ve spent up close and personal with the U.S. military, half on active duty as an Air Force officer. Where to begin? How about with those bomber and missile “gaps,” those alleged shortfalls vis-à-vis the Soviet Union in the 1950s and 1960s? They amounted to Chicken Little-style sky-is-falling hoaxes, but they brought in countless billions of dollars in military funding. In fact, the “gaps” then were all in our favor, as this country held a decisive edge in both strategic bombers and nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs.
Or consider the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that served to authorize horrific attacks on Vietnam in retaliation for a North Vietnamese attack on U.S. Navy destroyers that never happened. Or think about the consistent exaggeration of Soviet weapons capabilities in the 1970s (the hype surrounding its MiG-25 Foxbat fighter jet, for example) that was used to justify a new generation of ultra-expensive American weaponry. Or the justifications for the Reagan military buildup of the 1980s — remember the Strategic Defense Initiative (aka “Star Wars”) or the MX ICBM and Pershing II missiles, not to speak of the neutron bomb and alarming military exercises that nearly brought us to nuclear war with the “Evil Empire” in 1983. Or think of another military miracle: the “peace dividend” that never arrived after the Soviet Union imploded in 1991 and the last superpower (you know which one) was left alone on a planet of minor “rogue states.” And don’t forget that calamitous “shock and awe” invasion of Iraq in 2003 in the name of neutralizing weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist or the endless global war on terror that still ignores the fact that 15 of the 19 September 11th terrorist hijackers came from Saudi Arabia.
And this endless long con of the Pentagon’s was all the more effective because so many of its lies were sold by self-serving politicians.
Please go to TomDispatch.com to read the rest of this article.
20 thoughts on “The Pentagon’s Long Con”
Please tell me I’m not the only one, but I’ve noticed that in the name of keeping America’s military record “perfect,” every time the U.S. loses a war, that war is reclassified as something else – usually a “police action.” Sure, Uncle Sam. *Rolls eyes and walks away*
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That’s American culture in micro. Even the greatest of victories are usually at least 50% sham.
Hence the complete disregard for the bulk of Second World War history in particular. WWII offers a foundational myth for the American Empire, a noble battle against evil and all that.
Rarely acknowledged are the contributions of the many (actual) resistance movements, sabotage of German military production, and of course the actual lives of tens of millions of citizens of the USSR.
Never acknowledged is the dark reality that Nazi Germany looked to the USA for inspiration, and intended the genocides in the East to mimic the USA’s genocide against North America’s First Nations.
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Yes, that he inspiration for the national socialist political ideology of the NSDAP originated in the US with Bellamy, creator of the Bellamy salute and the pledge of allegiance, is never acknowledged. Nor is the sale of equipment to Nazi Germany by US businesses right up until 1943 acknowledged.
A good and timely article. There is indeed only one real political party in the US; the Pentagon Party. All else is a thin sham. How much more money does it have to transfer to wealthy globalists before people begin to notice? Clearly a $750B budget and $20T ‘accounting error’ is not yet enough.
Saw this on Deutsche Welle this morning:
So basically, that metric we’ve all heard spouted a billion times over the past 18 years? How much of Afghanistan the Taliban controls?
Well, now that they’re steadily gaining in ground, the Pentagon no longer sees that metric as relevant!
How the Pentagon admits defeat, without actually admitting it.
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So true. Another metric pointing our way to defeat: “As the Trump administration tries to wind down the long war in Afghanistan, the number of private military contractors operating the country is booming, U.S. News and World Report’s Paul Shinkman reports. When Trump first became president in January 2017, there were 3,400 private military contractors in Afghanistan. Now, the number stands at over 5,800. There are about 17,000 NATO and partner country troops in Afghanistan, 8,500 of whom are Americans.”
Put differently, the U.S. military is losing, but private mercs are winning — lots of money, that is.
And this snippet, also courtesy of FP: Foreign Policy: “The top U.S. watchdog for the American occupation of Afghanistan warned on Wednesday that overseeing the conflict is becoming increasingly difficult due to mounting U.S. restrictions on information, Defense One reports. ‘What we are finding is now almost every indicator, metric for success or failure is now classified or nonexistent. Over time it’s been classified or it’s no longer being collected,’ John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, told reporters.”
Don’t like your grades? Just hide them — or eliminate them.
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Vietnam all over again.
My dad was lucky to get posted to Hawai’i to do ELINT work during that war (he thought he’d be on river boats in the Mekong Delta). There he saw *real* casualty reports from South Asia, and knew the Pentagon was lying to the media (as journalists later revealed).
Same tactics still at work – and working. Frustrating to the extreme.
The career U.S. military establishment doesn’t do “wars.” These greasy-pole-climbing grifters do…
Ordnance Expenditure Expeditions
Ordnance Expenditure Expeditions,
Use up and then order more munitions.
Make sure to run down the inventory.
Start wars for profits: the same old story.
“Give us the money or we’ll huff and puff.
Buy from us all of these weapons and stuff.
No-bid, cost-plus guarantees we demand.
And if we don’t get them, no jobs for this land.”
How? First a false flag: a made-up “good reason”
Summer, Spring, Winter, or Fall: any season.
“Gas” attacks “on his own people” will do it.
“Brutal dictator must go.” Then see to it.
Second: “advisers” deploy for a tour,
Helping make countries with little more poor,
Calling in airstrikes to wipe out the towns
Whenever local folks fight back with frowns.
Third: the “straight-legs” force us all to include them.
Regular Army. No way to exclude them.
They’ve got their generals, too; they demand it:
Their chance to play the Big Cheese (meaning, bandit).
Fourth: then the Air Force and Navy want in,
Bringing Marines as their “infantry” kin.
Some to pin medals and stars on their shirts.
Some to catch bullets and shrapnel, which hurts.
Generals, admirals, colonels, commanders:
Aimless amphibians, swamp salamanders,
Punching their tickets while lost in a land which
Doesn’t need them fucking up a soup sandwich.
Still, screwing pooches can make a career.
Just learn to lie with a lisp and a leer.
No one will know, if your jargon’s opaque,
How to distinguish the real from the fake.
Just babble bullshit and throw in some numbers,
Then keep it up until everyone slumbers.
You’ll have succeeded when their eyes start crossing.
Soon they won’t know a toothbrush from a flossing.
Fifth: let the dogs-of-war piss on the fire:
“Contractors” who’ll kill their mothers for hire,
Shooting at anything moving on roads.
Selling some “Safety” to rich loathsome toads.
Last: the camp-following big corporations
Feeding the troops on their overpriced rations.
Petrol at four-hundred bucks to a gallon.
Taxpayers sliced with a razor-sharp talon.
No thought to budgets that balance the books.
Just like Dick Nixon, these people are crooks:
Buying Republicans who’ll chant “God bless!”
Renting the Democrats who’ll lose for less.
Dining at Davos in Switzerland’s mountains,
Oligarchs drink to wealth spurting in fountains.
Then with The Donald they swap salutations,
Making our country a plague among nations.
Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2018
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Saw this quote online, Mike: “We used to build weapons to make war, now we make war to build weapons.”
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I have not much more to add. The Government is firmly in the hands of the Wall Street-Security-Militarily-Industrial Complex. The only other Lobbying force that comes close is the Wall Street-Big Pharma-Health Insurance Companies, that have organized themselves to fight Single Payer or Medicare for For All. Both the Defense Department and the For Profit Health Care Industry have their stooges in elected office.
The Fourth Estate (The McMega-Media Press) is just another Corporate Conglomeration dedicated to defending the interests of Wall Street Profits at all costs.
Joe Biden that so-called moderate, pragmatic, centrist, candidate is backing the administration of President Agent Orange in terms of over throwing the government of Venezuela. Biden supported Bush the Younger’s invasion of Iraq in 2002. https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/05/01/biden-sides-trump-bolton-and-pompeo-backing-coup-effort-venezuela
So OK for the last few years we have heard about Russian meddling in “OUR ELECTION”. Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and caldron bubble, with reports on Russian meddling, collusion, etc, 24/7/365 on CNN and MSDNC. Oh, those terrible Russians.
Here in Venezuela, we have a clear statement by the Neo-Cons that supporting a coup is OK, as long as the USA initiates it.
Funny, thing about Venezuela back in the late 1950’s Richard Nixon while on a “Goodwill Tour” in South America was berated by demonstrators during his motorcade. I was only ten years old at the time, I do remember the videos. America finally had a view of the extent of Anti-American feelings in Latin America.
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And you’ve likely heard Erik Prince wants us to farm out regime change in Venezuela to mercenaries. Hiring mercenaries is the final proof of a state where wealth is available to make war. Truth to tell plenty of people are already mercenary who work in the “defense” industry and are doing quite well.
It isn’t just the waste of money for the military, it is the thinking of those at the top that has no consideration for the innocent individuals in foreign lands that are slaughtered when we intervene. Those at the top such as John Bolton routinely rail about and threaten foreign governments without a thought to the thousands, even ten of thousands of citizens of countries that our leaders unilaterally decide to invade. We know this because we hear such as Madeleine Albright come out and say so directly with no regrets. Saddam Hussein had to go, so let a multitude die. The powerful live in a tiny world of players where their games justify any sacrifice of humanity. All this in the name of promoting democracy while it is forgotten that we offer no vote to the people we are going to kill to do so.
And finally, the outrage of Congress laying down and refusing its responsibility to be the body to declare war. This in the face of the fact that our founding fathers knew well – that a single person in charge, president no less than king, will too easily decide on war so restraint on him is mandatory if reason is to be obeyed in the design of government.
As I ride my bicycle around my community, I notice small businesses with names I have never heard of. I remember the names and then look them up on the Internet to see what these little companies do. A few weeks back I looked one up and discovered it makes generators for the military. The military industrial complex extends its fingers into every area of the United States making it a point to share the wealth and thereby get the support of the little guy, and through him, state representatives and senators. You might call it a bullet producing system that is bullet proof.
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“You might call it a bullet producing system that is bullet proof” — very well put. Military contractors are very skilled at farming out work across America. The B-1 bomber was an early example of this. Today’s F-35 jet fighter is the culmination. You can go to Lockheed Martin’s website to see how many jobs the F-35 allegedly creates in your state. Here’s the link: https://www.f35.com/about/economic-impact-map
Click on Texas, for example, and you see 52K jobs and an economic impact of nearly $10 billion. How about “liberal” Massachusetts? More than 3700 jobs and an economic impact of nearly $320 million. Now who’s for cutting all those “great” jobs?
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And my last “regular” job was one of them! Seriously, the paperwork for each part, arranged into stacks, is about the same size as the completed F-35, and weighs a lot more. I know this because, as a product inspector, I handled about as many papers as parts. Assemblies and sub-assemblies both generate a lot more paperwork each, and computers generate MORE paperwork, not less. THAT’s where the money is going.
How crazy it is, weapons as a jobs program. The F-35 will end up where all its predecessors are, baking in the sun in Tucson, AZ
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It just occurred to me. Some say the ancient Egyptians used the building of the pyramids as a jobs program. It supported the national religion and our weapons systems jobs program supports a national religion of military/technology worship. The pyramids, however, did offer something we can’t match – they last forever. It’s true all that metal doesn’t rust in Arizona, and like the pyramids can be seen from space, but will it last 4000 years, I don’t think so. The Air Force should do what was done after the Civil War, offer communities a weapon to display in the town square…maybe a retired B-52 placed in an abandoned shopping mall parking lot? But that would remind people where all the money went…bad idea!
Interesting point, Clif. I’m sure workers died while building the pyramids, but they weren’t designed to kill. Our weapons are.
There is a retired B-52 at the North Gate of the Air Force Academy. I used to pass it every work day as I drove onto the Academy.
Amazing that these planes, designed in the 1950s, are still flying nearly 70 years later. Maybe they will persist, and not just on film as in Dr Strangelove.
My question about the B-52 is not so much a question about the bomber itself, but about its successors the B-1 and the B-2.
Has anyone else noted that, despite the expenditure of at least billions of dollars or more likely trillions on the research, development, construction, deployment and maintenance of the Lancer and the Spirit, anytime the United States armed forces decide to engage in some “real killing” from the air, the bomber of choice is the B-52 an airplane that first entered service in 1952-54 well before most of its pilots today were even born? Maybe it’s time to dust off the plans and reopen the production line for the BUFFs (Big Ugly Fat Fuckers) and quit wasting money on their more high tech successors, since when things get tight it’s the BUFFs we turn to, to bail us out.
Another future expenditure that already baffles me is the Columbia class replacement for the Ohio class SSBN. In both fiction (mostly Tom Clancy novels) and the barroom accounts of its operators detecting the Ohio class is already akin to finding the darkest spot in a completely dark room. Basically, the Ohio class is already quieter than the environment in which it operates and isn’t that the whole point of a submarine whether a boomer or a fast attack, to remain undetected by making so little noise no one can hear the submarine? If that’s truly the case, why spend all the R&D dollars on the Columbia class instead of dusting off the plans, eliminated whatever little mouse whispers the Ohio class does make and modifying its missile tubes to accommodate the newest generation of missiles and reopen the production line.
How true! But there’s so much money to be made buying and fielding the “next” generation, whether it’s the B-21 bomber (basically, a more expensive B-2) or the latest and quietest submarine and so on.
When it comes to weapons, the USA is really in competition with itself, but there’s so much money to be made that we persist in it. A form of madness, I suppose, with profit as the method/meaning.
I’m pleased to see more dissent now regarding our empire’s expensive wars. I was first introduced to this nonsense in the books by George M James. In “Voices” he tells of war crimes by the US military and in “American Military Might–Debunked” he . . . well he tells of the sad state of our equipment. https://www.georgemjames.com/non-fiction.html
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