by James Corbett
February 11, 2014
Since 1996, the United States Department of Defense has accumulated an $8.5 trillion black hole in its budget. The number is so staggering that it is quite literally inconceivable. Several times larger than the annual budget for the entire federal government, it is equivalent to half of the entire fraudulent debt of the United States government itself. Aside from a recent report by Reuters or the occasional back-of-the-paper mention in one of the dinosaur media outlets, however, you’d have to turn to Russian state-sponsored media to discover this fact.
An alien visiting earth from another planet could be forgiven for legitimately questioning why this scandal is virtually unknown while the details of Justin Bieber’s latest arrest or Miley Cyrus’ latest antics are literally unavoidable in the cultural zeitgeist. Or why the use of steroids in Major League Baseball is considered worthy of earnest Congressional investigation while this unaccounted for $8.5 trillion is relegated to passing mention in the occasional Congressional hearing.
What seems perplexing from an outside perspective, however, is mundane reality to those inside the system. The truth is that despite all the fuzzy rhetoric about republics and inalienable rights and the rule of law, the United States is nothing but an oligarchy, run by a handful of international banking syndicates, their multinational corporate cronies, and the politicians in their back pocket. The Pentagon budget story is not reported on for the simple reason that it is the defense contractors that own much of the media, and have intimate relations with those outlets that are not directly under their control.
And the defense contractors, in turn, own the political figures that decide who receive the government’s defense contracts. The classic example of this is Dick Cheney. As George H.W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense, he awarded a contract to KBR, a Halliburton subsidiary, to investigate the possibility of contracting out military services to private companies. Unsurprisingly, KBR concluded this would be a good thing, and soon Halliburton and other private companies were receiving a larger and larger slice of the Washington defense budget pie. Also unsurprisingly, Cheney left his post as Defense Secretary at the end of the Bush Administration and became CEO of Halliburton.
But this is not the only example of the defense contractor revolving door. As Ryan Dawson of The ANC Report notes in his new e-book, The Separation of Business and State:
“Thomas White, the Secretary of the Army, was involved with Enron as a senior executive. He unloaded 200,000 shares (12 million dollars’ worth) of their stock during that scandal. While White was serving as the Vice Chairman of Enron Energy Services, he actively used his political contacts to give Enron a single bidder contract to privatize the power supply for Fort Hamilton. He was also fond of using military jets for personal trips for himself and his wife.”
“Gordon England, the Secretary of the Navy, flipped back and forth between General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin is at the top of the list when it comes to Pentagon contracts and General Dynamics is usually in the top five. England was the President of General Dynamics’ Land Systems Division and later became President for General Dynamics’ entire Fort Worth Division. That Division was sold to Lockheed and he became a President there.”
Sadly, the list of such blatant conflicts of interest is nearly endless and by no means limited to the military-industrial complex. The same is true of the revolving door in the biotech industry around companies like Monsanto and in the healthcare sector, where high-ranking insurance company executives literally write the legislation that mandates everyone to purchase health insurance from the corporations.
The problem is so blatant, so obvious, so out in the open that even its opponents readily admit to its existence. And yet it continues without significant opposition from the public. How can this happen? Because–in a twist that again would be difficult to explain to anyone not steeped in this system–people disagree not on the problem itself, but on what to call it.
This is the ultimate example of divide and conquer in action. A small, readily-identifiable ruling oligarchy that no serious political observer denies the existence of is able to keep the public from attacking it by dividing them along ideological grounds so that the public spends all their time arguing over definitions and splitting doctrinal hairs instead of attacking the commonly acknowledged enemy. You couldn’t ask for a more perfect system of control.
Thankfully, the corollary of this divide and conquer strategy is that it is possible to unite the people against their common enemy simply by employing some rhetorical strategies of their own.
As we shall see next week, the idea of uniting the public against the oligarchs is not only possible, it is actually happening in case after case. But as always it is a question of whether it is enough to push back against this oligarchical control, or if it is too little, too late.