On the Other Hand...
by Jim Davies
Swords and Plowshares
It's nine years since those imprisoned by it broke down the Berlin Wall, thirty six since JFK stood beside it and said he, too, was a Berliner, and thirty five since conspirators had him killed on a road in Dallas; and those events are all interlinked in a way too few people have noticed. The link is the question, what is the military for? On this Vets' Day, 1998, it's a good one.
In the early '60s it could reasonably be thought that America was under threat and that the values of freedom and prosperity that Capitalism had brought were in danger of being extinguished by the Communist hordes. At the time, I thought so too. I now know we were all wrong, and that the "arms race" was being led, not trailed, by the Pentagon; but at the time, that was not so clear.
Sometimes, as by the Berlin Wall and as in the Missile Crisis, Kennedy acted like a hawk. Other times, as at the Bay of Pigs, he behaved like a dove, and one with very bad timing to boot. But by 1963 he had come to the view that whatever might be the validity of the Domino Theory, the US had no place in Vietnam, and he set about winding down our involvement there. I can applaud very little about the Kennedy family (except the drug-smuggling activity of Joe Senior) but think that if, indeed, JFK had decided the Cold War could safely be wound down, he was exactly right and at least two decades ahead of his time.
Just as that would have been very good news for everyone else, it came as very bad news for the US Military - for what Eisenhower had called, in 1960, the "military industrial complex"; that powerful alliance of politicians, soldiers and "defense" contractors whose livelihood depends on the popular perception that without them, invasion is imminent. If the Cold War was to be wound down - if Vietnam was to be left to the Vietnamese - what future did they all have? Were their expensive swords all to be beaten into plowshares?
There are several theories about how and why JFK was killed but Congress did reluctantly conclude that the "lone gunman" theory was false and that a conspiracy did in fact occur. I've no ax to grind between competing theories but think that Oliver Stone's (in his movie, "JFK") is compelling; and it shares many features with others anyway.
It is that by mid-1963 several powerful interests had come to detest Kennedy and that their leaders put together a plan to kill him and cover up the hit.
Prominent was the military, whose future seemed bleak indeed under a doveish Commander in Chief; they put the plan together and ensured that protection in Dallas was unusually light. Then there were the FBI and CIA, both of whom also faced radical downsizing; the latter supplied the patsy (Oswald) and contracted with the Mafia, who hated the Kennedy brothers for doublecrossing them with heavy prosecution even after they had falsified the 1960 Election results so as to hand him the Oval Office, and who supplied the actual assassins. The FBI covered up what had taken place, with remarkable success. A coup d'etat. It's close, so let's accept that something very like that took place. We note that a key factor - arguably, THE key factor - was that the top brass of the Military Industrial Complex were the prime instigators and beneficiaries; in place of possible extinction, they grew and prospered, to this very day.
$300B/yr for What?
What JFK had come to believe, we now know for sure: there is today no credible, unprovoked, offensive threat against the US of A.
So why do we need to spend $300B a year on the greatest "defense" machine the world has ever known? If the military were worried about that in 1963, and they evidently were, just THINK how frantic they must be about it now! Yet they don't seem to show it. I wonder why?
Here's my theory, my answer to that intriguing question - which involves, remember, $3,000 per family per year. That's your money and mine, folks.
I think they don't panic about Peace because they have already been assured that nobody who has the power (Clinton, or Congress) is actually about to slash their funding. They may not have anything useful to do, but we're going to be made to go on paying them to do it anyway. Well-paid "make-work". Safe, too.
It may not be anything as crass as an open threat that if Clinton doesn't play ball he just might suffer the same fate as JFK, but the effect is the same. The pot-sampling Vietnam War Protestor has, for reasons not yet revealed, clearly promised to go on making us pay for the Military Industrial Complex.
The dilemma they all have is to prevent large numbers of people asking what I just did; they have to keep most of us supposing that they are still needed. That bit of deception is, alas, succeeding quite well and seems, Roman-circus style, to be based on periodic Spectacular Displays to Wow the People.
There was the Nab Noriega job, for example, in which the head of a foreign State with which ours was at peace was kidnapped and prosecuted on the silly pretexts that (a) the drug trade constitutes some kind of danger to Americans and that (b) taking out Noriega would in some way reduce that danger.
Then there was the Iraq Invasion, with its intimidating show of electronic fireworks; on the pretext that we have the right to control someone else's oil.
Most recently was the Aspirin Attack, in which with impressive precision Slick Willie blew away some tents in Afghanistan and a pharmaceutical factory in the Sudan. You get the picture: if there's no real war, invent one; for if We the People figure out the facts, we might each get to keep our own $3,000 a year, ex-employees of the "defense" industry would do productive work, so raising all our living standards, and the power of government would drop like a rock.
Back to Subject Index