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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 9/16/10

The Power and Influence of the Military Establishment is Destroying Our Democracy

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Michael Payne
Message Michael Payne

We have been led to believe that ours is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. If you still believe that to be true then ask yourself this question: Who has more power and influence over the Congress and President Obama, the people of America or the military establishment? The answer is clear; it's no longer the people.

Now, what would you say is the most powerful, influential and dominant institution in America? If you said the U.S. presidency, the Congress or the financial sector you would be wrong. The most dominant institution is, without a doubt, the ever-expanding U.S. military establishment, including the highly profitable defense industry. Right now, this military powerhouse is controlling America's national priorities and agenda.

If you don't believe it just consider the degree to which all our lives are so dominated by the military and its actions around the world. We are constantly bombarded by media reports about Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Taliban insurgents, Al Qaeda, and the War on Terror. Radio hosts, cable news anchors, retired generals, and assorted military experts and observers offer up a steady stream of hype and blather about military actions, our "vital interests" and the need to continue our "mission." Many of our states stand at the edge of bankruptcy while the funding of the military continues unabated.

Next question. What is the major business of America? Well, it used to be manufacturing. We once were the world's leading exporter of manufactured products, but that is but a distant memory. Now we are the leading importer of said products and we have become the #1 exporter of the weapons of war. This is how radically America has changed. We're not good at manufacturing products but we excel at producing weapons for war and destruction. The business of America is now the proliferation of weaponry and war.

How about this for beefing up our exports? Mr. Obama recently announced a $60 billion deal to furnish jet fighters and helicopters to Saudi Arabia. That will be a boon to our export balance and to our GDP. Saudi Arabia may be heavily involved with funding terrorist organizations around the world, but that's ok because they are our allies and, besides, we badly need that business and their oil. Is that not the height of hypocrisy?

We currently are in the midst of a catastrophic economic crisis with the "effective" unemployment rate in America being about 17%. A growing number of unemployed people have no confidence whatsoever that they can ever get a decent paying job and are just trying to survive. In stark contrast, there is a business sector where no real unemployment problems exist, one in which profits are soaring and the workers are doing quite well.

It's the defense industry that is granted mega-billions of taxpayer dollars to produce the weapons of war; companies such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, United Technologies and, yes, Halliburton, the company that made Dick Cheney rich. Are any of these companies laying off workers, are they struggling? You can bet that those who work for these companies will not stand in unemployment lines, will not face home foreclosures, will not want for anything to speak of and can look forward to a nice retirement.

Whether we realize it or not, there is a war going on in our nation that is in its beginning stages, a war that does not involve bullets and bombs but, rather, ethics and morals, right versus wrong. This is a struggle between two forces with totally opposite objectives. It all comes down to this choice: You are either pro-war or anti-war, meaning unnecessary war. And, at this point in time, the people of America are not only losing the war but are, in fact, taking a terrible beating. That cannot continue. We cannot allow the war hawks to completely control the direction of our nation. They must be stopped and the only way to do it is by enlisting millions more Americans into the antiwar movement.

Let's be clear that the U.S. military is critical to the nation's safety and security and it needs to remain a strong and powerful force. But what we do not need and cannot tolerate is the military establishment assuming a new, unwarranted role; that is, to usurp the authority of the executive branch of our government and determine the foreign and domestic policies of America. That's not its job; its job is to take orders from the president and carry them out without reservation.

But who do you think is running this show? President Obama stands by his plan to begin troop withdrawals from Afghanistan in July 2011. General Patraeus, a media hero, who apparently is reading from a different book, has just said that "success over the insurgency" would take another 9-10 years. Also, the Pentagon is planning three $100 million air bases in Afghanistan that will come on board the latter half of 2011. Do you still wonder who is in charge - and do you think the U.S. will ever leave Afghanistan?

As bleak as things may seem there is hope. It's a fact that more than 60% of Americans now are convinced that the war in Afghanistan should be ended. That is a great plus for the antiwar movement and a foundation that can be strengthened with the addition of millions more Americans to the cause. Right now the agents of war are in control, they have the upper hand and hold all the aces; but that can be changed when the vast majority of over 300 million Americans finally determine that this situation can no longer be tolerated.

Polls indicate that the majority of Americans feel this nation is headed in the wrong direction. If we feel that way then we must take steps to change it. We need an army of millions more American peacemakers to stop our democracy from further erosion. The power must be returned to the people. How can this movement grow and expand its own power and influence? We can begin by working very hard to inform, educate and motivate our friends, members of our family, those with whom we work and anyone else we meet in our daily activities. It's amazing what dialogue and discussion can do, if we spend the time. Our goal must be to raise that 60% of Americans who now reject war up to 75% and then great things can happen.

We will need to make it clear to those who are in control that we the people have had enough of perpetual war and will no longer remain silent and submissive. If we can grow this peacemakers' army to three fourths of Americans, and our message is strong and demanding, then President Obama and the Congress will find it politically impossible to continue the "mission" in Iraq and Afghanistan; they will be forced to bend to the intense pressure of the people.

While this task may seem insurmountable, once we really get the movement into high gear we will become unstoppable. Why am I so confident? Well, I know that the American people are now very close to reaching the end of their patience. There is no way that they are going to continue watching more than $1 trillion being spent on the military each and every year while, at the same time, our nation's infrastructure is falling apart and millions of them can't find a job. When the pain becomes unbearable, the rage and outrage will kick in.

Of course, this entire process may seem like a pipe dream to many who are locked into America's black hole of hopelessness and negativity. That is America's problem today. We have, over a period of time, been mentally conditioned into thinking that as patriotic Americans we must accept the current misguided direction that is ripping our nation apart. That kind of thinking is totally obsolete and must be replaced by a can-do mentality one that, as a different, better version of President Obama used to say "yes we can." The one thing that we must do, and cannot fail to do, is end the wars; then we will preserve our democracy. Let's not even begin to think what might happen if we fail in our jobs as peacemakers.

Those currently in charge of this war agenda have no intention of changing. They will continue to expand the military empire until the power of this democracy, the people, take control of the agenda. That can only be done when the vast majority of Americans join the antiwar movement as peacemakers.

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