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Opinionista

Once again, the ‘military-industrial complex’ is calling the shots in the US

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Azubuike Ishiekwene is the editor-in-chief at Leadership Media Group.

Although it accounted for only about 3% of the US GDP two years ago, the military-industrial complex has been linked with nearly every bad thing – from the overthrow and murder of radical Chilean president Salvador Allende Gossens to the Vietnam War, and from the Iran-Contra Affair to Gulf Wars 1 and 2.

I was chatting with a friend last week, who, mid-speech, redirected our conversation to the situation in the Middle East. She wanted to know what the mood in the US was. More than 9,000 kilometres away in Nigeria, from where she was calling, she didn’t quite trust the media accounts. Since I was visiting the US, she thought I might have a better reading of the pulse. 

Her call coincided with the decision by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to launch a ground offensive in Rafah, in spite of warnings about compounding the current humanitarian disaster in Gaza where more than 32,000 Palestinians have been killed, not counting bodies still under the rubble. 

No one is sure how many more dead would be counted before Netanyahu finds the last Hamas, but is there still a chance – just one chance – that the dog in this deadly hunt will hear the hunter’s restraining whistle? Is the US unable or unwilling or both unable and unwilling to call on Netanyahu to stop? 

Calling America

I told the caller that the honest answer was, I don’t know. The mood on US campuses is clear. Students from Columbia to Yale and from Harvard to New York and the University of Texas in Austin, pitched tents outside for days in running battles with the police to demand an end to the war. They wanted the Biden administration to call Netanyahu to order.  

There were counter-protests, all right, but the overwhelming majority of students across US college campuses made their voices loud and clear: Israel had gone too far in avenging October 7. 

That was the mood on the campuses.  

It wasn’t very different on the streets, either. You could say that is to be expected. Two of three cab drivers I used were persons with Arab roots who wore their grief on their sleeves.  

They were not all Hamas sympathisers, just ordinary folks who might still have remained in Palestine under better leadership, but in whose eyes the worst Palestine leaders now look like saints, thanks to Israel’s ruthless war in Gaza. But you don’t have to be an Arab or Jew or Greek to ask, who can stop Netanyahu? You just have to be human to see that if two wrongs don’t make a right, a third only compounds it. 

So, who does the US listen to and why does it matter in the war in Gaza? In politico-speak, those who move the hand that moves the most powerful country in the world are called the “military-industrial complex”. 

What is the complex?

This is how Meta AI defines it: “The military-industrial complex (MIC) refers to the interconnected network of relationships between the military, defence contractors and the federal government. It involves the collaboration and cooperation between these entities to produce and profit from military weapons, equipment and services. 

“The term was first used by President Dwight D Eisenhower in his farewell address in 1961, where he warned of the potential dangers of an unchecked alliance between the military, defence contractors and politicians.” 

If there’s anyone who ought to know that a threesome involving the military, defence contractors and politicians can hardly end in any good, it was Eisenhower. He was on two of the three sides; and Dick Cheney who became vice-president decades later, was on the last two – defence contractor and politician.  

Eisenhower led two of the most consequential military campaigns in World War 2, before he later became president.

This complex is not large. In number terms, it would be a tiny fraction of the number of college students who besieged dozens of campuses last week, calling for an end to the war in Gaza. Statistics in 2009 suggested that it includes around 1,100 lobbyists who represent about 400 clients from the defence sector, mostly companies that make losses from peace.   

Size matters not

But you would be mistaken to judge its influence by its size. Although it accounted for about 3% of the US GDP two years ago, these folks, famous mostly for their notorious exploits, have been linked with nearly every bad thing from the overthrow and murder of radical Chilean president Salvador Allende Gossens to the Vietnam War and from the Iran-Contra Affair to Gulf Wars 1 and 2.  

As bad things go, the last one was the baddest. This complex instigated the US invasion of Iraq in spite of all evidence to the contrary. It made up its own convenient evidence, bomb after bomb, as hundreds of lives were destroyed and centuries of civilisation in Mesopotamia were pillaged and ruined. 

After the war, one of the last surviving White House peaceniks, Barack Obama, said in a declassified document: “Isis [Islamic State], is a direct outgrowth of al-Qaeda in Iraq that grew out of our invasion, which is an example of unintended consequences – which is why we should generally aim before we shoot.”

Unfortunately, even Obama the Dove shot before aiming in Libya. 

In the Middle East, the complex has President Biden by the balls. That was what I told the caller from Nigeria. It doesn’t matter what the students are saying on college campuses or what the cab drivers think – the complex has Biden by the balls. And what a hold they have on him and on anyone in the White House in an election year! The complex has got Israel’s back. Biden is damned if he calls out Netanyahu. Damned if he doesn’t.  

Owners of America

That’s what I told the caller. The Igbo of southeastern Nigeria have a profound way of saying it that is lacking in the English language: “Ana enwe obodo enwe! [A town is owned and the owners call the shots!]”

It’s a hard thing to say, even harder, perhaps, to accept. Because the logic of accepting that the complex owns America and has its ear is to deny the agency of actors within the system who may hold different, even stridently opposing views. 

But think of it this way: Why would America, a beacon of the rule of law, conveniently hide under its non-signatory status to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to allow Israel to continue bombarding Gaza in spite of warnings by the court and the UN of an impending humanitarian catastrophe?

Why would Biden, who regretted voting for the war in Iraq, and who as president, has prioritised diplomacy, become so impotent over Gaza? It’s the complex, folks! They’ve got him by the balls in an election year! 

And Netanyahu knows this, as do large sections of the Western media largely controlled by vested interests in the Middle East conflict. Netanyahu knows that Israel’s invincibility is an American yarn. The students said as much in their placards and graffiti last week, but who’s listening?  

Certainly not Biden, who along with his British ally, Rishi Sunak, scrambled military assets to defend Israel on 15 April when Iran launched what might otherwise have been a devastating retaliatory attack on Israel. The yarn of Israel’s invincibility, largely overplayed in the Western media, continues to feed the war. For how long? How many more lives before enough is enough? 

What price peace?

On the whole, the world is in a far more peaceful place today than it was in the 20th century when millions of people died from senseless, bloody conflicts over ego and territory. Yet, it has taken bloody hard work to bring us here, where prosperity is not only measured by the complex’s profit from wars, but also by how many ordinary folks around the world have bread on their table and milk for their babies. 

Now, it seems like from South Sudan to Yemen and from the meat grinder in Ukraine to Gaza, the world is adrift again, one war at a time, as America defies the voices of its own children. 

Someone must stop, listen and act. If not Biden, then who? DM

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  • Kanu Sukha says:

    A searing and insightful analysis ! Th only glimpse of ‘hope’ (dare we?) is the totally belated call by the ICC for the arrest warrants of Israeli and Hamas leaders, just announced. No doubt the ‘leader/s’ of the “complex” in America will put out ‘threats’ (sanctions) against ICC officials in an effort to stymy the impact of this ICC decision . BUT … the cat is out of the bag at last ! Regarding the ‘complex’ .. note the jump in the ‘dow jones’ recently to almost ‘record’ levels, with the increase in military ‘adventurism’ to an unprecedented level ! The insistence on a minimum of 2% of GDP spend by Europe on ‘security’ {sic} is going to ensure that the ‘complex’ is going to ‘thrive’ for a long while yet !

  • Kanu Sukha says:

    Note the sheer hypocrisy of continued military support for an invading and occupying force, while pretending to simultaneously send ‘aid’ for the ‘occupied’ ! Maybe it is the US notion of ‘multi-tasking’, taken to a new level ! The only reason for the US particularly (and allies) unconditional defense of the Israeli regime (not people) is its desperate need for a base and proxy, to carry on its ‘war’ against all those in the surrounding areas that challenge its hegemony. Note how the ‘western media’ have recently (even seasoned journalists!) stopped using the terms ‘occupying force’ and ‘occupied territories’ (both standard fare at UN) with the concomitant expanded and extensive use of the term ‘terrorist’.

    • Jean Racine says:

      Those of us who were on campus in the US, Canada and other “western” countries during late Apartheid in SA (1986-90), recognise this moment for what it is. Ironically, we now know from declassified Israeli documents that the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry said, as early as 1985, that Apartheid would be defeated by 1990 and Israel should distance itself accordingly. The Defence Ministry in Tel Aviv disagreed – the military-industrial complex in that country was making too much money – and we know whose analysis proved correct.
      With the current Apartheid, we don’t have to wait that long for internal deliberations, Gantz et al have pronounced their meek opposition.
      It’s the likes of this publication and others in SA – in similar vein to the Info-Scandal influenced Washington Times and others – acting as nose-wipers to Brenthurst et al hasbara that worries me.

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