Today not only marks what would have been Martin Luther King’s 82nd birthday, but it’s also the 50th anniversary of President Eisenhower’s farewell address to the nation – the one in which he warned of the growing influence of the military industrial complex. I was just watching it, and reflecting yet again on how far the Republican party has fallen since the days of Eisenhower, when my friend Kerri shared this second video with me. And I know it’s an unfair comparison, but I do think something can be learned from watching both back to back. I’m just not sure what that is.
Here’s an excerpt from Eisenhower’s speech:
…Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well.
But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal government.
We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
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.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted.
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…
And, here, while we’re at it, is another Eisenhower quote. This one comes from a 1953 speech in front of the American Society of Newspaper editors. Read it and imagine what would happen to a Republican today if he or she were to express the same views.
…Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron…
In 50 short years, we went from that to the pridefully ignorant, increasingly bellicose, fear-mongering demagoguery of Sarah Palin. I wonder where we’ll be in another 50.