Many apologies to Edwin Starr for co-opting the title of his 1969 classic.
When President Dwight David Eisenhower delivered his farewell address to the nation on January 17, 1961, he advocated keeping an established military always ready for action. Eisenhower had grown up in a time when the military was an occasional calling that would be mobilized only when a threat was imminent. After the threat was eliminated, the military demobilized and everyone went back to farming or whatever avocation they came from. But after World War One the military never truly demobilized. From that point on we had a permanent, professional military force. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing as we learned after Pearl Harbour.
Former five star General Eisenhower agreed with the necessity of keeping a well armed and ready defense force but he also warned that once the military became a business-like endeavour, then it was susceptible to the whims of business. Business needs consumers. A nation at peace is not necessarily a conducive business atmosphere if you are invested in making equipment for a war machine.
And so Eisenhower warned us of this in 1961 in his famous ‘military-industrial complex’ speech. His warning was that once we make war machines with profit in mind rather than defense, the industrial complex will require a continuous state of war to sustain itself. So far Eisenhower’s forecast has proven correct. Korean conflict, Cold War, Vietnam War, Gulf war, Iraq, Afghanistan; we haven’t really made a priority out of keeping the peace since WWII.
And that’s the presumption that going to war is predicated upon; that Americans want peace, not war. Sure, we must defend ourselves but other than dismantling al Qaeda in Afghanistan, have we really had a war that directly threatened United States territory since WWII?
We were a grieving and shocked nation on September 11, 2001. Pearl Harbour had just happened all over again. In the halls of infamy, 9/11 lives up there with December 7th, 1941. It was personal.
George W. Bush wasn’t expecting, nor was he prepared for anything so devastating to the country but he rallied and showed up at ground zero and declared in his cowboy manner that we would kick some terrorist ass. And we needed to hear that. But then a funny thing happened. Sure we invaded Afghanistan and pounded al Qaeda and the Taliban but then ‘W’ told us we needed to invade Iraq.
That’s right, Iraq. You know, Saddam Hussein the dictator we propped up that daddy had to spank for invading Kuwait back in 1991. Yeah, that guy is tangentially responsible for 9/11. Let’s kick his ass! I remember proudly standing in protest with thousands of my fellow citizens in my little city and in solidarity with similar events in cities around the world in 2003. It was the largest protest movement since Viet Nam.
Not long after failing to catch bin Laden at Tora Bora, Bush appeared and said he wasn’t concerned about bin Laden’s whereabouts.
Well, that was odd. Wasn’t this public enemy number one? Wasn’t there a $25 million bounty on his head? And Bush’s solution was to invade Iraq?
Amid a bunch of flawed intel that said we were under threat of nuclear attack from Saddam, we invaded Iraq. Corporations such as Bechtel, Halliburton and Blackwater were given no-bid contracts to manage the Iraq invasion. It was our first out-sourced war. The military went in and destroyed a nation that has been around since before Jesus. Then we contracted out to rebuild the nation in our own image. But we didn’t engage the citizens who lived there; no, we farmed that out to American corporations. We destabilized an entire nation under the auspices of fighting terrorism and inflamed a war between religious factions and generally gave disenfranchised Iraqi youths reason to join al Qaeda. Oh, and surprise! No weapons of mass destruction to be found. Oops.
Not only was destruction of a nation big business but reconstruction was, too. We set up the Green Zone in Bagdad, a big gated community with Pizza Huts and the HQ in Saddam’s Palace. While outside the walls general chaos raged among the Iraqi citizenry. What else could they do? We destroyed the infrastructure of their country. No Power, no communication, daily patrols to kick in their doors. Sunni and Shiite factions left to terrorize each other. The other day a US Congressman had the nerve to suggest that Iraq make monetary reparations to the US for the invasion. In the meantime, guess who is footing the bill for the Iraq invasion?
President Obama made apprehending Osama bin Laden a top priority and now that bin Laden has been eliminated and after a decade of war, the American people want out. We actually are a peace loving nation.
So if you’re puzzled by why Bush gave up on the hunt for bin Laden, it’s because catching him would have meant shortening a business opportunity for his partners and himself.
People are motivated to take specific actions out of two distinct impetuses: gaining a desired outcome and avoiding a painful one. After 9/11 we were a nation in fear and George W. Bush exploited that to gain an advantage. The time is long overdue to reject a world of reaction to fear and embrace one of vision and cooperation.