Bin Laden is
The Unwarranted Influence of America’s Global “Defense”
By Brian Bogart
-- - You know your country’s “democratic” leadership and
rationale for war are in trouble when the anointed most-evil
enemy makes more sense than they do.
Although for all we know Bin Laden’s “annual message to
Americans” originated below Dick Cheney’s office where Bin Laden
is living in luxury chained to a pool table, its contents ring
with refreshing logic relative to what usually passes for truth
in and around the White House.
Analyzing his message alongside bipartisan excuses for war --
and juxtaposed with President Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower’s
keep-an-eye-on-the-defense-industry speech of January 1961 --
only Bin Laden’s words and Eisenhower’s warnings stand up to
current United States Department of Defense statistics.
Outsourcing trends, hugely accelerated in the 1990s, have made
the Department of Defense the largest corporate entity in
history. Few big corporations in the world don’t have a handy
cash-cow D contract, and small businesses and schools are
especially welcome to apply. ($900 per toilet seat? Let’s sell
DoD contracts get dished out everyday for everything from
children’s books, cosmetics, organic dinners, and movie theater
tickets to good old-fashioned nano weaponry.
Defense is the world’s top user of fossil fuels, contributor to
climate change, and most financially alluring industry. All
considered, the industry has the strongest lobby power in
Washington and everywhere else. Defense is also the world’s
foremost motivator of advanced science and technology, a global
network capable of an entirely new direction in economics --
dependent, of course, on whether it’s a good D policy or a bad D
That’s where We the People come in, at least according to
President Eisenhower, who particularly worried about our
Said Ike: “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. In the same fashion, the free
university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and
scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the
conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved,
a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for
intellectual curiosity. The prospect of domination of the
nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations,
and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be
Judging by DoD’s own stats, we’re way past that point. More than
1,100 colleges and universities have had prime contracts with
the Department of Defense in the last six years. Around 950 of
those are in the United States, with the rest spread across 33
Although the number of DoD general assistance contracts to
schools remained relatively constant between 2000 and 2006, the
900% increase in defense-applied research contracts and total
dollar amounts awarded to schools during that period would’ve
made Ike toss his lunch on TV. The total number of
defense-applied research contracts to schools rose from 5,887 in
2000 to 52,667 in 2006. Total dollars to schools rose from $4.4
billion in 2000 to $46.7 billion in 2006.
Hundreds of thousands of companies in at least 198 nations and
territories have held prime contracts with DoD in this century,
including companies in China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia,
There were none in Iraq until 2003.
DoD contract trends with companies are at all-time highs, with
more than 300,000 prime contractors in the United States alone
(“prime” doesn’t count subcontractors and contracted
individuals), a 6,000 companies-per-state average. Between 2001
and 2006, the total amount of defense dollars to companies in
most states doubled. For fiscal year 2001, companies in Texas
received $9.5 billion. For fiscal year 2006, the total was $27
Between the end of World War II and December 2006, US armed
forces served abroad in 159 instances. These operations
increased in frequency each decade, with 6 in the 1950s, 8 in
the 1960s, 11 in the 70s, 22 in the 80s, 66 in the 90s, and 44
so far this decade.
It doesn’t take a bright citizen to make the case that peace is
a healthy idea. But then there are politicians. With a bad
policy, presidential candidates who don’t promise to increase
defense spending have no legitimate chance in any party, thanks
to big media’s industrial role. Money runs campaigns on strong
defense for a reason: reelection. Defense is by far the largest
job creator and money spender in all fifty states.
The problem is the bad policy excessively gives businesses our
taxes to invest in their own financial growth. We pay for
defense, defense showers that money on schools and companies,
and top executives buy yachts and build stadiums. State and
local leaders then raise taxes to cover what taxes should cover:
the people’s health and prosperity.
Good folks put their faith, families, careers, and lives on the
line for what they’re told by government. They don’t have time
to investigate. Every September 11 our leadership bows its
collective head before reminding us to keep shopping in “the
wealthiest nation” while its infrastructure crumbles.
This year the enemy told us to think about that. With a graduate
program untangling defense statistics, Bin Laden has a point
that makes me wonder. Which “side” in this supposedly black and
white world has the most evil to hide? Why does this man sound
more like Ike than anyone in government?
It would better serve the people to hear Eisenhower’s speech
every year instead of hollow tales about a bad guy our leaders
tell us to fear yet, conveniently for their personal-wealth
club, don’t see fit to chase down. Exploiting September 11 for
profit has (among other things) legitimized the largest-ever
expansion of the military industry using a nation that had
nothing to do with it. That perpetuation does indeed smell like
Whether you’re a student or selling ice cream, teddy bears,
tennis balls or shovels and oil rigs, chances are you’re part of
the defense industry. And in this age of confrontation with
Earth’s definition of diversity, truly hard-working diverse
Americans -- workers, students, parents, soldiers -- are
harnessed with a national brand of business-friendly diversity
that makes them equal low-income slaves for an old-fashioned,
wealthy white man’s profit scheme. Ike called it unwarranted
influence. Our founders called it tyranny.
Diversity is an awareness of the human family returning to unity
after a long and tortuous journey, celebrating its products of
division while embracing its single origin and destiny. The next
logical step for humanity is a leap beyond human-centric
diversity to perceiving and promoting the human family as a
fully responsible component of biodiversity.
As Ike feared, economic dependence on defense growth by the
perpetuation of tensions since World War II explains the
existence and growth of nearly every problem we face today.
Undoubtedly, he would agree that economic dependence on
defending Earth’s essential diversity is a far more lucrative
and lasting prospect.
Our taxes pay for a defense that doesn’t defend our future. Our
taxes go to companies that make profits we will never see. The
real threat President Eisenhower spoke of is a drug that poisons
society, spreads like a virus, and numbs the roots of
consciousness. The American dream has become a nightmare wherein
justice is irrelevant, and dishonest leaders both shun and cite
hard, courageous work.
The defense industry juggernaut is not a widespread corporate
conspiracy; it’s a bad-policy business trend running on inertia.
Instead of calling for contractors to give up profits, change
the policy, keep the network, and invest in a healthy planet.
But peace will not make money until it becomes the policy for
defense, and that won’t happen without a tax rebellion, general
strike, or similar surge in popular demand. (1,100 schools
sounds like a student movement network.) Until the day we have a
good D, the bad D pays our leaders. The people’s business is
making that day arrive, because lazy government won’t surrender
without a confrontation with the governed.
Meanwhile, “we must stop the terrorists in Iraq!” Terrorists,
communists, whatever. Business-wise, Vietnam never ends.
That’s where we are.
At a 1992 University of Oregon event discussing the American
people and their government, author Ken Kesey declared, “There
are times when you gotta stand up in church and shout
That’s what time it is.
Sources: Statistical Information Analysis Division, Department
of Defense; FY2000 through FY2006 CASE Multi-year Educational
Nonprofits Prime Contracts, ST25 Multi-year States and
Territories Prime Contracts, ST26 Multi-year Foreign Country
Prime Contracts; and “Instances of Use of United States Armed
Forces Abroad, 1798-2006,” updated January 8, 2007 by Richard F.
Grimmett, Specialist in National Defense, US Congressional
Brian Bogart is a peace studies graduate student, diversity
scholar, and defense statistics analyst at University of Oregon.
His thesis project follows the 60-year trend of acquiring what
President Dwight Eisenhower termed the “unwarranted influence”
of the defense industry by government. Contact Brian at
(Excerpt from Eisenhower’s speech)
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.
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.
Akin to and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our
industrial-military posture has been the technological
revolution during recent decades. In this revolution, research
has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex,
and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or
at the direction of, the Federal government.
In the same fashion, the free university, historically the
fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has
experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly
because of the huge costs involved, a government contract
becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity.
The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal
employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever
present and is gravely to be regarded. Yet, in holding
scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we
must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public
policy could itself become the captive of a
It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to
integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the
principles of our democratic system -- ever aiming toward the
supreme goals of our free society.
As we peer into society’s future, we -- you and I, and our
government -- must avoid the impulse to live only for today,
plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious
resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of
our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their
political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive
for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom
Down the long lane of the history yet to be written, America
knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid
becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be instead a
proud confederation of mutual trust and respect. Together we
must learn how to compose difference, not with arms, but with
intellect and decent purpose. Because this need is so sharp and
apparent, I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities
in this field with a definite sense of disappointment.
We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may
have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied
opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who
yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that
those who have freedom will understand its heavy
responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of
others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease
and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and
that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live
together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual
respect and love.
Brian Bogart -Diversity Scholar - Defense Statistics Analyst
- M.A. Candidate, Peace Studies; University of Oregon - Research
Associate, Institute for Policy Research and Development; London
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