Tomgram: Chalmers Johnson, Warning: Mercenaries at Work

[Note for TomDispatch readers: Part 2 of Pepe Escobar’s RealNews.com TomDispatch interview is now posted. In it, Nick Turse discusses his new book The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives about which Chalmers Johnson has said: “Americans who still think they can free themselves from the clutches of the military-industrial complex need to read this book… Nick Turse has produced a brilliant exposé of the Pentagon’s pervasive influence in our lives.” To read, Part 1 of the interview, with Tom Engelhardt, click here.]

To offer a bit of context for Chalmers Johnson’s latest post on the privatization of U.S. intelligence, it’s important to know just how lucrative that intelligence “business” has become. According to the latest estimate, the cumulative 2009 intelligence budget for the 16 agencies in the U.S. Intelligence Community will be more than $55 billion. However, it’s possible that the real figure in the deeply classified budget may soar over $66 billion, which would mean that the U.S. budget for spooks has more than doubled in less than a decade. And as Robert Dreyfuss points out at his invaluable blog at the Nation, even more spectacularly (and wastefully), much of that money will end up in the hands of the “private contractors” who, by now, make up a mini intelligence-industrial complex of their own.

Chalmers Johnson, who once consulted for the CIA and more recently, in his book Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, the third volume of his Blowback Trilogy, called for the Agency to be shut down, knows a thing or two about the world of American intelligence. As he has written, “An incompetent or unscrupulous intelligence agency can be as great a threat to national security as not having one at all.” Now consider, with Johnson, just how incompetent and unscrupulous a thoroughly privatized intelligence “community” can turn out to be. Tom

The Military-Industrial Complex

It’s Much Later Than You Think
By Chalmers Johnson

Most Americans have a rough idea what the term “military-industrial complex” means when they come across it in a newspaper or hear a politician mention it. President Dwight D. Eisenhower introduced the idea to the public in his farewell address of January 17, 1961. “Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime,” he said, “or indeed by the fighting men of World War II and Korea… We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions… We must not fail to comprehend its grave implications… We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

Although Eisenhower’s reference to the military-industrial complex is, by now, well-known, his warning against its “unwarranted influence” has, I believe, largely been ignored. Since 1961, there has been too little serious study of, or discussion of, the origins of the military-industrial complex, how it has changed over time, how governmental secrecy has hidden it from oversight by members of Congress or attentive citizens, and how it degrades our Constitutional structure of checks and balances.

From its origins in the early 1940s, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was building up his “arsenal of democracy,” down to the present moment, public opinion has usually assumed that it involved more or less equitable relations — often termed a “partnership” — between the high command and civilian overlords of the United States military and privately-owned, for-profit manufacturing and service enterprises. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is that, from the time they first emerged, these relations were never equitable.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

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