"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." -- Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961
"Hence, likewise, they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty." -- George Washington, 1796
While many are familiar with former President Eisenhower's farewell address warning concerning the nation's military-industrial complex, relatively few have recognized that the "Father of Our Country" was not only fearful of that same complex but likewise that "standing armies" endangered the structure of our government and eventually lead to an imperial presidency.
Washington also saw the threat that an imperial presidency would do irreparable damage to our system's checks and balances when he asserted, "The constitution vests the power of declaring war in Congress; therefore no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they shall have deliberated upon the subject and authorized such a measure."
Washington was not alone in these concerns among our founding fathers as Thomas Jefferson pointed out. "Governments constantly choose between telling lies and fighting wars, with the end result always being the same. One will always lead to the other," and, "if there is one principle more deeply rooted in the mind of every American, it is that we should have nothing to do with conquest."
Flying in the face of this reasoning George W. Bush, in asserting his self-proclaimed role as the "decider," believes that the current Congress is simply "lazy" and playing "politics" with the civil war taking place in Iraq.
As Newsweek's Michael Hirsh commented, in summarizing a recent Rose Garden presidential press conference, "The administration is justifiably worried that the new Congress will use its constitutional prerogative to cut off funding for the Iraq War at a time when, after four years of miscues, Bush thinks he's finally got the right strategy and team in place.
"But upon closer inspection, some of Bush's warnings suggest that the president is holding the Democrats to a different standard than he held his own party when it ruled Capitol Hill-and building a political case against Congress' course that doesn't quite add up."
As the Iraqi civil war continues unabated, its critics note that its "four years of miscues" are owed in large part to the fact that Bush, Rove, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al., intent on asserting this nation's imperial power, had no followup plan on how to handle a post-Saddam country and subsequent plan to leave the country when we had "democratized" it.
I would suggest that the reason they had no exit plan was due primarily to the fact, as an established imperial power, we never had any intention of leaving the country once were there, but rather establishing still another large military base in a volatile region of the world, let alone protecting our energy supply on behalf of the oil companies from ever becoming nationalized.
Recently, on C-SPAN, Chalmers Johnson, whose latest book is Nemesis and is a former member of the Council on Foreign Affairs (CFR), detailed how our country is being strangled by the military-industrial complex while Congress has been abdicating its responsibility to protect the Constitution while allowing the executive branch to dominate to the point of excluding Congress and US citizens from the decision-making process. He noted that the US has about a thousand military bases around the world. The official number is 737, he said, but when you throw in the secret ones, the number grows.
Clearly, there are already reports of the US forces establishing large bases within Iraq.
In his Rose Garden press conference, Bush sought to describe the war supplemental bill as ungainly and loaded up with Democratic "pork," i.e., unrelated funding for projects back home. But, as Newsweek's Hirsh reported, "the main reason for the supplemental in the first place, many Democrats charge, is to avoid tallying the real cost of the Iraq War in the regular budget."
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden, D-Del., called the supplemental a "shell game" and told Fox News Sunday: "If the president had been honest with what he needed for this war in his regular budget, then we wouldn't be having this."
It is ironic that Bush continues to answer his critics by insisting that opposition to his "surge" plans is all about politics, not policy. Meanwhile, Bush is desperately seeking a victory in the arena of public opinion, where, with each day and the needless loss of American lives reveals the public is clamoring for an early withdrawal.
As Hirsh concludes: "Perhaps that's one reason that Bush tried to make the case -- in what was no doubt his biggest stretch -- that the Democratic plan calling for a withdrawal date by 2008 "will mean that some of our military families could wait longer for their loved ones to return from the front lines." That's a particularly difficult case to make -- since the same day, the newspapers carried stories about how the surge was shrinking the amount of time troops had at home between tours of duty. And his own plan calls for an open-ended commitment -- not exactly a hurry-home strategy."
It is as Andrew Krepinevich, one of Bush's own leading military strategists in Washington, observes "the administration ... has lost control of the [Iraq] narrative."
As Johnson summarizes in his C-SPAN interview: "By the loss of liberty I mean that the structure of government bequeathed to us by the founders, is today, in tatters. If you believe the government in Washington D.C. bears any resemblance to the government outlined in the Constitution of 1787, the burden of proof is on you. ... That 40% of the defense budget is black, it's not reported. It's contrary to Article One of the Constitution that says, you will be told how your tax money is spent. You will never be told and that's not something George Bush did. It started with the Manhattan Project in World War II to build atomic bombs. These things are cumulative.
"There's now so [much] of it, so built up over such a long period of time that I believe there is a real threat to the continuation of the republican form of government. That is what provides our democracy; what provides our civil liberties and by this we mean divided government. The impossibility of somebody becoming a dictator; being checks and balances, a balance of power; imperial presidency is a good term for it today and it's out of control."
A.V. Krebs publishes the online newsletter, The Agribusiness Examiner, email firstname.lastname@example.org. He is author of The Corporate Reapers: The Book of Agribusiness.
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