I Liked Ike

When I was a senior in college I shook hands with President Eisenhower. Honest! He came to my college to dedicate an auditorium named after Francis Scott Key and the seniors and faculty got to shake hands with that very popular President. I recall later in his presidency Eisenhower warning us to beware the miitary-industrial complex. Indeed, the man was not only president, he was prescient. The military now gets nearly $900 billion each year to spend on “defense,” and apparently is policing the world, as a recent Yahoo story suggests. It says, in part,

The U.S. military is expanding its intelligence-gathering operations across Africa, the Washington Post reports, mainly using small, unarmed planes “equipped with hidden sensors that can record full-motion video, track infrared heat patterns, and vacuum up radio and cellphone signals”—part of a “shadow war” against al-Qaida and other militants.

I didn’t know we were conducting yet another war, albeit a “shadow-war.” Does this bother anyone else? Or am I the only one that thinks our nation is in the grip of crazies? The military is convinced it can do anything it wants, even to the point of killing innocent civilians in the name of the “war on terror.” I am certainly not pro-terrorism, by any means, but I ponder the Geneva Conventions to which we signed our name and I worry that the people who run my country no longer have a conscience. Eisenhower was assuredly right, the combined power of the military and the multinationals (the “industrial” element in Ike’s comment) is seemingly unfettered. The rest of us must simply stand by and watch and wonder where it will take us.

I recall bomber pilots after the Second World War telling about their nightmares following  dropping bombs in Japan — especially the two Atom bombs. They never saw the faces of their enemies; they simply pushed a button and flew away knowing that they had left behind widespread death and destruction. And that was a war of retaliation against the bombing of Pearl Harbor — which may or may not justify the firebombing and subsequent dropping of the Atom bombs on heavily populated areas of Japan. But we no longer hear of pilots unable to sleep at night; we hear about pilot-less “drones” that are flown remotely and kill indiscriminately.

Is it possible that the military simply wants to exercise its power, employ the latest technical war-toy against real people in the name of “keeping the world safe for democracy”? I shudder to think so. Lord Acton told us long ago that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. As the power of the military grows, so does its love of power. And the mechanism for restraint of military power in this country is frail and imperfect. Eisenhower was right: beware!

4 thoughts on “I Liked Ike

  1. A lot of prosperity occurred during Ike’s terms. I agree to comment on being wary of the military industrial complex with his perspective is extraordinary. Plus, he started us on the path toward space discovery. I think my major concern during Ike’s term was him punting on civil rights. It is easy to say in hindsight, but it would have been great if he called people out, especially after Brown v Board of Education and the terrible photos that began appearing in Life showing what was happening.

  2. Hugh, like some of the bomber pilots from World War II or Vietnam, some drone “pilots” are suffering from PTSD — they’re basically in a comfortable office somewhere (sometimes in North Dakota) and push the “fire” button to kill people. Typically, the military is trying to downplay the psychological impact. http://www.npr.org/2011/12/19/143926857/report-high-levels-of-burnout-in-u-s-drone-pilots or simply pretending people aren’t pushing the buttons: http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/06/drone-pilot-ptsd/ All the way around, really sad — no one’s accountable, and even those who might feel some guilt are either getting ignored or minimalized.

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