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Fifty Years After Eisenhower’s Farewell Address, A Look at "Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex"

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This week marks the 50th anniversary of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s famous farewell speech to the nation in which he warned against the rise of a "military-industrial complex." We speak with William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation, who traces the rise of the military-industrial complex through the story of the nation’s largest weapons contractor, Lockheed Martin. Hartung’s new book is Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZALEZ: This week marks the 50th anniversary of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s famous farewell speech to the nation. It was January 17th, 1961.

PRESIDENT DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER: My fellow Americans, this evening I come to you with a message of leave-taking and farewell and to share a few final thoughts with you, my countrymen. We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Three-and-a-half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development, yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. 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.

JUAN GONZALEZ: President Eisenhower’s farewell address on January 17th, 1961, excerpt from the documentary Why We Fight. Fifty years after that speech, many argue that the military-industrial complex is stronger than ever.

AMY GOODMAN: Our next guest traces the rise of the military-industrial complex through the story of the nation’s largest weapons contractor, Lockheed Martin. As a full-service weapons contractor, Lockheed Martin receives over $29 billion per year in Pentagon contracts, or roughly one out of every 10 dollars the Defense Department doles out to private contractors.

William Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation — his book is called Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex — joining us here in our studio.

Welcome to Democracy Now!

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Thanks.

AMY GOODMAN: The significance of this massive weapons manufacturer in the United States and why you chose to write a book on it?

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, I think they’re the largest, they’re the most corrupt, and they have the most political influence. So, for example, they make cluster bombs, which are used in the Middle East. They design nuclear weapons. They make fighter planes. They make combat ships. So they have the full gamut of weapons. But they also have branched out. They work for the CIA, the FBI. They work for the IRS, the Census Bureau. So they’ve become this full-service government contractor, which really is involved in every aspects of our lives. Every time we interact with the government, Lockheed Martin is likely to be there.

JUAN GONZALEZ: I was struck, some of the ones you talked about. The Census Bureau — what does the Lockheed Martin do for the Census Bureau?

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, they help count the census. They have these people in little Lockheed Martin, you know, polo shirts who are — they have truckloads of data that they’re processing. They also helped design it. So they’re really in the middle of it. They’re running it, in some sense.

AMY GOODMAN: How did Lockheed get so big?

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, the mergers of the '90s were one of the big things. I mean, World War II was the first. Then, when Norm Augustine engineered the Lockheed-Martin Marietta merger, that's when they really became by far the biggest company, and they didn’t have a real competitor at that point.

AMY GOODMAN: Lockheed and Martin Marietta.

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Became one company, yes.

JUAN GONZALEZ: They also branched out, as you note, into services to local governments. For instance, here in New York City, Lockheed Martin had the contract with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to basically develop a surveillance system in the subways.

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Yes.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And so, they increasingly got into this intelligence gathering or in information systems for local governments. Could you talk about how that developed?

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, they bought a company that had been involved in a New York City parking violations scandal. And then they branched out into social services in Florida. They tried to get the welfare contract in Texas. As you said, they worked on the New York City subway surveillance system, which was a disaster. They were fired after a $212 million contract. So they went into that for about five years, and they had contracts in 44 states. But they just couldn’t get the job done. Finally, they were fired from so many places, they decided to get out of the business.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the significance of President Eisenhower’s speech, what he meant by the "military-industrial complex" 50 years ago.

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, he was concerned not just about the size, not just about the budget, but that it was going to undermine our democracy. And I think that’s what Lockheed Martin is about in many ways. I mean, they were involved with the Pentagon in doing surveillance on antiwar protesters. They build biometric identification systems for the FBI. The fact that they’re in the IRS makes me kind of nervous. It’s sort of creepy in a way. They’ve got so many kinds of data about us. I’m not sure, you know, a military contractor should really be in that position.

JUAN GONZALEZ: They were the firm that was involved in Total Information Awareness?

WILLIAM HARTUNG: The Counterintelligence Field Activity, which was closely related to that.

AMY GOODMAN: You say that Lockheed Martin makes foreign policy, has its own foreign policy.

WILLIAM HARTUNG: In many ways. I mean, not only were they involved in lobbying for the war in Iraq, but they have people in Liberia helping rebuild the justice system. They’re building refugee camps. They helped run elections in the Ukraine. They helped write the Afghan constitution. So, all kinds of things that you would think of as sort of the soft side of foreign policy, they’re making money from.

AMY GOODMAN: And its role in elections?

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, they recruit the monitors who monitor the elections in places like Bosnia.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean here.

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Oh.

AMY GOODMAN: The money that they pour into elections at home.

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Oh, they spend about $12 million per election cycle, either on lobbying or on candidates. And they have people like Buck McKeon, who runs the Armed Services Committee now. They’re the biggest donor to him. They’re the biggest donor to Daniel Inouye, who runs the Appropriations Committee in the Senate.

AMY GOODMAN: So, they get money from the Pentagon, from the U.S. taxpayer, and then decide who they want to elect.

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Essentially, they recycle our money into the political system, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to have to leave it there. It’s a remarkable book. Bill Hartung, director of Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation. His latest book is Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex_. We will link to an complex">exclusive continued interview with him after on our website at democracynow.org.

Next week we’ll be broadcasting from the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. You can email story ideas to us about Utah, or if you’re submitting films to the festival, let us know — any ideas that you’d like us to cover next week — at stories(at)democracynow.org.

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