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U.S President Dwight D. Eisenhower on January 17, 1961 warned us about the military-industrial complex with these words:
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.
Fifty years later, these words have more resonance in today’s world than at any time since. We now have the security-industrial complex to add to the military-industrial complex. The idiotically named “war on terror” led by the United States, with Britain acting as its outrider, is being fought globally, supposedly to make us, in the West, safe.
Stephen Vizinczey in an article in the Telegraph entitled “Afghanistan is an unwinnable war, and our leaders know it” writes:
The most hollow justification for the Afghan war is that unless we fight the terrorists in Afghanistan and other foreign places we will have to fight them at home. But, as the convictions of terrorists in Britain demonstrate, it is only at home that terrorists can be fought effectively. No atrocity has succeeded here for quite some time, which is certainly not the case in Afghanistan. And it is difficult to believe that the Government’s main concern is to prevent terrorism at home, when it intends to cut the budget of the security services.
This begs the question of why Bush and those around him were determined to convince the American public, by deception and distortion of intelligence, particularly with the war on Iraq, that wars in faraway places were the appropriate response to the horror of 9/11. I believe that the anger and grief of the populace after 9/11 was exploited by the unscrupulous and powerful around a weak and uninformed president to enrich themselves and their corporations through arms sales, providing security services in those faraway places, and gaining oil concessions, the very scenario prophetically foreseen by President Eisenhower.
The ensuing decade of wars have caused death, injury and misery to millions of innocents with a final bill of up to $4.4 trillion to western tax payers, but have they made us any safer? The former head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller’s testimony to the Chilcot Iraq war inquiry, was reported in the Guardian thusly:
How she had warned about what sensible – but mostly frightened to speak out – senior Whitehall officials believed in 2003: that the invasion of Iraq would increase the terrorist threat to the UK. More than once, the former head of MI5 emphasised to the Chilcot inquiry that the invasion exacerbated the terrorist threat to the UK and was a “highly significant” factor in how “home-grown” extremists justified their actions. “Our involvement in Iraq radicalised a few among a generation of young people who saw [it] as an attack upon Islam,” she said. Manningham-Buller said she was therefore not surprised that UK citizens were involved in the 7/7 suicide attacks in London or by the increase in the number of Britons “attracted to the ideology of Osama bin Laden” who saw the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan as threatening their co-religionists and the Muslim world. The invasion of Iraq “undoubtedly” increased the terrorist threat in Britain, she said. There was no evidence of any link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida – not even the CIA believed that – Manningham-Buller reminded the inquiry, as she pointed to the alternative agenda-driven “intelligence service” set up at the Pentagon by Donald Rumsfeld.
Putting aside the immorality, the suffering, and sheer inhumanity of these wars, they have been a gigantic fraud on American and British taxpayers. The industry of manufacturing weapons of death and destruction is a peculiar one; its continued profitability is dependent on wars and conflict. Democratic societies need to be vigilant to the danger of it becoming a monster beyond the control of government and the democratic process, the very danger President Eisenhower warned us about.