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Reflections on Washington, D.C. March

The March on Washington, January 27, 2007.

“Sometimes, to be silent is to lie.” –Miguel de Unamuno

The National Mall in Washington, D.C. was filled Jan. 27th with ordinary citizens, peace activists, Congresspeople, military personnel, labor leaders, children, actors, and actresses. The hundreds of thousands overflowed from the Mall and it seemed the unified voices for peace and nonviolence would permeate the surrounding edifices of governmental power. And yet I remembered how easily most members of Congress and citizens were duped into supporting military action against Iraq while attempts at nonviolent conflict resolution were still ongoing. I reflected on those factors that underlie our country’s addiction to war:
The military-industrial complex is still alive and well, demonstrating tremendous power in the halls of Congress. Yes, war is more profitable than peace for some—just ask Halliburton, Bechtel, Blackwater or George David, the CEO of United Technologies (Black Hawk helicopters), who was paid $88.3 million in 2004.
Excessive nationalism and our demand to power our Hummers and other conveniences often convince us that we have an innate right to all the world’s resources. Thus to many, invading countries such as Iraq in order to control their oil is justified, and their injured civilians are acceptable “collateral damage.”
Many Americans espouse a religious tradition which can condemns millions of people in the world to an eternity of suffering because they call their supreme being by a different name. Hence we refuse to negotiate with their “evil” governments, preferring bombs for the nonbelievers, and we tolerate torture. Americans barely noticed the Lancet report of the excess deaths of 650,000 Iraqis since March 2003.
The U.S. continues to allow state killing of humans through the death penalty. (Japan and S. Korea are the only other developed democracies permitting capital punishment.). This action reinforces the mindset that killing is an acceptable way of dealing with human problems.
American entertainment in which watching the death of numerous people (body count films) is considered enjoyable must reflect a distorted sense of pleasure and a lessened value of human life. Most popular video games provide a vicarious thrill of killing, and many portray war as sport. Under the influence of our culture, a 4 year old child tragically described to me a video game “head shot.”
Finally, the media is vitally important as our provider of reality beyond our immediate personal experience. But the corporate media is often owned by companies that profit from war, and usually functions as cheerleaders for those profiting from military conflict. Thus, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) found that shortly before the Iraq invasion less than 1% of “experts” appearing on major network news shows were antiwar activists. And once the war started, the media adopted the government propaganda in its language (“Operation Iraqi Freedom”) and used attractive video game-like graphics and rousing music to support military adventures. So “Shock and Awe” consisted of beautiful images of bombs lighting up the Baghdad night, rather than the image of an Iraqi parent holding the mutilated body of his child. War became entertainment.
Yet with all these influences opposing peace, as the massive march encircled the Congress we felt hopeful that the members inside would hear our voices and the voices of a majority of Americans and take decisive action to end the occupation of Iraq. And we were hopeful that Iraq would be the last Vietnam.

Written by Alan Northcutt. Edited and published by the Waco Tribune Herald, February 10, 2007.


  1. Your post has some excellent points. I am a 2 tour Vietnam Veteran who recently retired after 36 years of working in the Defense Industrial Complex on many of the weapons systems being used by our forces as we speak. Here's some additional data:

    The U.S. Department of Defense, headquartered in the Pentagon, is one of the most massive organizations on the planet, with net annual operating costs of $635 billion, assets worth $1.3 trillion, liabilities of $1.9 trillion and more that 2.9 million military and civilian personnel as of fiscal year 2005.

    It is difficult to convey the complexity of the way DOD works to someone who has not experienced it. This is a massive machine with so many departments and so much beaurocracy that no president, including Bush totally understands it.

    Presidents, Congressmen, Cabinet Members and Appointees project a knowledgeable demeanor but they are spouting what they are told by career people who never go away and who train their replacements carefully. These are military and civil servants with enormous collective power, armed with the Federal Acquisition Regulation, Defense Industrial Security Manuals, compartmentalized classification structures and "Rice Bowls" which are never mixed.

    Our society has slowly given this power structure its momentum which is constant and extraordinarily tough to bend. The cost to the average American is exhorbitant in terms of real dollars and bad decisions. Every major power structure member in the Pentagon's many Washington Offices and Field locations in the US and Overseas has a counterpart in Defense Industry Corporate America. That collective body has undergone major consolidation in the last 10 years.

    What used to be a broad base of competitive firms is now a few huge monoliths, such as Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and Boeing.

    Government oversight committees are carefully stroked. Sam Nunn and others who were around for years in military and policy oversight roles have been cajoled, given into on occasion but kept in the dark about the real status of things until it is too late to do anything but what the establishment wants. This still continues - with increasing high technology and potential for abuse.

    Please examine the following link to testimony given by Franklin C. Spinney before Congress in 2002. It provides very specific information from a whistle blower who is still blowing his whistle (Look him up in your browser and you get lots of feedback) Frank spent the same amount of time as I did in the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) but in government quarters. His job in government was a similar role to mine in defense companies. Frank's emphasis in this testimony is on the money the machine costs us. It is compelling and it is noteworthy that he was still a staff analyst at the Pentagon when he gave this speech. I still can't figure out how he got his superior's permission to say such blunt things. He was extremely highly respected and is now retired.

    The brick wall I often refer to is the Pentagon's own arrogance. It will implode by it's own volition, go broke, or so drastically let down the American people that it will fall in shambles. Rest assured the day of the implosion is coming. The machine is out of control.

    If you are interested in a view of the inside of the Pentagon procurement process from Vietnam to Iraq please check the posting on this blog entitled, "Odyssey of Armaments"

    On the same subject, you may also be interested in the following sites from the "Project On Government Oversight", observing it's 25th Anniversary and from "Defense In the National Interest", inspired by Franklin Spinney and contributed to by active/reserve, former, or retired military personnel.


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