Gallery H
The Big Business Of War
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Is The Military Industrial Machine Overpowering Obama’s Efforts To Achieve Peace?

By James Donahue

While running for office, President Barack Obama called for a withdrawal of troops from Iraq and a swift completion of the unfinished job the Bush Administration started when it invaded Afghanistan. Voters liked his plan and many analysts believe it gave him a critical edge among Democrats during the hard fought campaign against Hillary Clinton for the party nomination.

Since taking office, Obama’s plans to wind down the conflict in Iraq have been stalled by what some say have been changes in the political climate in Iraq. Troops still remain there, although some units have were reassigned to Afghanistan to participate in a campaign that appears to have driven the Taliban across the border into Pakistan. There the Pakistan army is now embroiled in a fierce resistance against Taliban forces.  

Thus we now have three wars raging in the Middle East even as Mr. Obama is involved in a major tour of the area, with planned stops in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. He plans to give a major speech at Cairo University, billing it as his “address to the Muslim world.”

While his actions call for world peace and unity among nations, a troublesome military buildup appears to belie Mr. Obama’s words.

The London Telegraph this week reported comments by General George Casey that the Pentagon is prepared to remain in Iraq for 10 more years, in spite of an agreement between Washington and Baghdad that all American troops will be out of that country by 2012.

Said Casey:  the world remains “dangerous and unpredictable.” He said that he believes the Pentagon must plan for extended US combat and stability operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan that could deploy 50,000 US military personnel for the next decade.

So who is making the decisions about the number of forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, is it the Pentagon or President Obama? And why has Mr. Obama’s overall assessment of the wars, and his plans to withdraw forces been altered since taking office?

Yet another little story by Jeremy Scahill in a web site called Rebel Reports, quotes new Pentagon statistics that show an increase in the number of armed mercenaries like the notorious organization Blackwater employed both in Iraq and Afghanistan since Mr. Obama came to power.

Scahill’s story says the U.S. currently is employing 150,000 armed contractors and possibly as many as 242,657 “private security contractors” working for the Department of Defense in these two countries in place of regular U.S. military forces.

Since Mr. Obama became commander in chief, Scahill reports a 23 percent increase in private security contractors in Iraq during the second quarter of 2009, and a 29 percent increase in Afghanistan. This, the story notes “correlates to the build up of forces” in Afghanistan.

He wrote that companies like Blackwater and Triple Canopy work on contracts with the State Department, so it is not clear if they are included in the Pentagon statistics. It is possible, Scahill wrote, that the numbers of “individual security contractors could be quite higher, as could the scope of their expansion.”

So what is going on here? Has President Obama been somehow overwhelmed by the power of the great American military complex? And if so, for what cause has this occurred?

Former President and General Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his farewell speech delivered in 1961, warned about such military power and the greed that comes with it.

Eisenhower said: “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,” Eisenhower warned.

He concluded by noting that because of the huge costs involved in scientific studies and development of new military technology, government contracts have become “virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

“The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations and the power of money is every present, and is gravely to be regarded,” Eisenhower warned.