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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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The Monstrous Cancer of the Military-Industrial Complex


A front-page article in yesterday’s New York Times reminds us of the ominous 1961 warning of President Dwight Eisenhower, a warning that unfortunately the American people decided to ignore. Eisenhower wrote:

“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 the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Yesterday’s New York Times article, details the monstrous cancer of the military-industrial complex that has come to infect the American body politic. The article details the intricate connections between the Pentagon and the “independent” military analysts who appear on the major television networks, analysts who also serve as representatives for the contractors who are vying for military contracts as part of the “war on terror” and the war on Iraq.

As most anyone who watches television knows, ever since 9/11 the television networks have relied upon a group of military analysts consisting mostly of retired generals and colonels. The job of these analysts has been to provide television viewers with “independent” expert military analysis.

As the Times investigative article points out, however, the analysts were not quite as independent as one might believe. They were actually part of an orchestrated Pentagon propaganda campaign to mold the minds of the American people into accepting and embracing the official government line with respect to both the “war on terrorism” and the war on Iraq.

How did the Pentagon convert the analysts into propaganda puppets? When generals and colonels retire, they sometimes feel a need to supplement their government pensions. What better way to do that than by joining a firm that is vying for all those fat military contracts or by joining a lobbying firm that represents such firms, especially after 9/11 when military spending started going through the roof?

A lobbyist’s value is going to depend on how successful he is in securing government contracts. Such success depends on having access to the people who have the power to award the contracts, i.e., officials in the Pentagon.

So, in order to gain the required access to Pentagon officials, the analysts were expected to spout the official government line on the television networks on which they were appearing. If they criticized or challenged any official Pentagon position, they knew that Pentagon officials would simply stop granting them access, which would mean no more military contracts for their companies or clients. The more appearances they made on television spouting the official government line, the more brownie points they received from Pentagon officials.

Consider, for example, the run-up to the Iraq war, a war that was waged against a country that never attacked the United States. According to the article, “In the fall and winter leading up to the invasion, the Pentagon armed its analysts with talking points portraying Iraq as an urgent threat. The basic case became a familiar mantra: Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons, was developing nuclear weapons, and might one day slip some to Al Qaeda; an invasion would be a relatively quick and inexpensive ‘war of liberation.’”

Later, the analysts were told the importance of converting Iraq to a central role in the global war on terror. Lately, they’ve been told to emphasize Iran as a major threat in Iraq.

The scenario was the same with respect to the Pentagon’s prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. To counteract negative press about the camp, including Amnesty International’s reference to the camp as a gulag, the Pentagon flew many of the analysts into Cuba, after which they dutifully returned to the United States to report how well the prison camp was being run.

The entire process, which stinks to high heavens, reminds me of what Republican presidential candidate George Romney said after he returned from a fact-finding trip to Vietnam: “When I came back from Viet Nam, I’d just had the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get.”

The ominous part of the process, however, is not the successful effort to convert those “independent” military analysts into Pentagon puppets but rather the orchestrated Pentagon effort to brainwash the American people, especially through the use of the major television networks.

Unfortunately, the television networks are most likely going to remain silent about this story, for obvious reasons. According to the article, CBS News, NBC News, and ABC News either declined comment or issued innocuous statements regarding their conflict-of-interest policies. A spokesman for Fox News, which has heavily relied on the military analysts, said executives “refused to participate” in the New York Times article.

Every American concerned about liberty owes it to himself to read this article. It is extremely long but it provides an excellent, detailed description of the monstrous cancer about which President Eisenhower warned us almost 50 years ago.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.