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Sally Field 1, Stepford TV 0: The Unwarranted Influence of America's Global "Defense" Industry

By       Message Brian Bogart       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   No comments

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My, what it takes to be a patriot these days.

This year’s Emmy Awards ceremony on Fox TV seemed on the verge of presenting the national anthem as the song of the year before Sally Field managed to break the media stranglehold on substance and opinion.

For today’s mainstream television, her brief and partly censored antiwar statement sounded refreshingly like something a real person would say. (Call Homeland Security!)

And I’ll bet she recalls a speech by another televised courageous American.

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In analyzing responsibility for Vietnam in Iraq, the warning words of President Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower’s January 1961 keep-an-eye-on-the-defense-industry speech shout from the page, particularly alongside current United States Department of Defense statistics.

Hundreds of thousands of companies in 198 nations and territories hold prime contracts with DoD, including companies in China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Syria.

There were none in Iraq until 2003.

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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. ($1,000 per toilet seat? Let’s sell those!)

DoD prime contracts are dished out for everything from children’s books, cosmetics, organic dinners, and movie theater tickets to good old-fashioned nano weaponry. “Prime” doesn’t count contracted individuals and subcontracted companies, so add a few million subcontracted firms and several million employees to the equation.

Defense is the world’s top user of fossil fuels, contributor to climate change, and most financially alluring industry, with the strongest lobby power in and out of Washington. Defense is also the world’s leading motivator of advanced science and technology, a global network capable of an entirely new direction in economics—depending on whether it’s a good D policy or a bad D policy.

That’s where We the People come in, at least according to President Eisenhower, who particularly worried about universities.

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 regarded.”

Judging by DoD’s own stats, we’re way past that point. More than 1,100 colleges and universities have held prime contracts with the Department of Defense in this century. 950 of those are in the United States, with the rest spread across 33 countries.

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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 defense dollars to schools rose from $4.4 billion in 2000 to $46.7 billion in 2006.

(Professors and campus administrators refer to DoD’s term “defense-applied research” as “basic research” and justify its pursuit by citing academic freedom—as recommended to CIA in 1968 by UC Berkeley administrator Earl Bolton.)

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Brian Bogart is a defense statistics analyst and a diversity scholar and peace studies graduate student at University of Oregon. His thesis project follows 60-year trends in what President Dwight Eisenhower termed the "unwarranted influence " of (more...)
 

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Sally Field 1, Stepford TV 0: The Unwarranted Influence of America's Global "Defense" Industry