Thursday September 23, 2021

Tackling a complex issue

September 16, 2020

The writer is a freelance journalist.

Donald Trump, the erratic incumbent of the Oval Office, is adroit at sparking controversies through his whimsical statements and bizarre tweets. His blunt comments over a number of issues have infuriated his opponents a number of times, landing him in trouble sometimes.

Sometimes his comments haunt him months after he passed them publicly or privately, generating a heated debate. This is what happened in the first week of this month when Trump was accused of repeatedly disparaging the intelligence of American service members after some media outlets reported that he passed such comments in the past. Trump, according to the media, described the dead soldiers as ‘suckers’ and ‘losers’. The revelations led to fury among various circles of the American society with Joe Biden and other politicians lambasting the American president for passing such ‘disrespectful comments’.

According to The Atlantic, “When President Donald Trump canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018, he blamed rain for the last-minute decision, saying that ‘the helicopter couldn’t fly’ and that the Secret Service wouldn’t drive him there. Neither claim was true.”

The publication further claimed that Trump rejected the idea of the visit because he feared his hair would become disheveled in the rain, and because he did not believe it important to honor American war dead. This was revealed by four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion that day. “In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, ‘Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers’. In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as ‘suckers’ for getting killed.”

The Republican president and his close circle have vehemently rejected such claims with Trump giving an impression that he is not opposed to soldiers or disrespectful towards them but the military-industrial complex that wants endless wars for the sake of business. “It’s one of the reasons the military – I’m not saying the military is in love with me; the soldiers are,” Trump said during a news conference at the White House some time ago. “The top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t, because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy."

Such comments have prompted some to declare Trump a great warrior waging a relentless struggle against the military-industrial complex and the deep state. But such eulogy on the Republican leader ignores the record arms sale under Trump and the phenomenal surge in the number of drone strikes that played havoc with the lives of people in countries like Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and other places. His blanket support for Israel, according to his critics, is also aimed at appeasing the arms businesses. He also increased the number of troops in Afghanistan besides allocating a hefty defence budget of over $700 billion.

Trump is not the first to criticize the military industrial complex; during his last speech, Dwight Eisenhower had also warned America against the rising power of the arms lobby. “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." Fearing that such power could jeopardise liberties and democratic processes, Eisenhower said, “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."

Trump is no Eisenhower. He may not be altruistic when he criticizes the arms lobby but the sections of American media have only focused his comments about the fallen soldiers ignoring the shred of truth that his statement reflects regarding the wars and its benefits for the generals and arms lobbies. Is it not true that American senior military officials really want wars, conflicts and military tensions all the time? Is it not correct to say that such tensions financially benefit not only them but their masters sitting in arms manufacturing units? Do we need rocket science to figure out why top generals of the American armed forces are offered lucrative positions in arms companies after their retirement? Is it not a reality that the US has not won any war since World War Two, which is believed to have been won because of the immense sacrifices made by the Russians?

Such questions raised by Trump’s comments should be taken seriously because the actions of American generals or the decisions that are made under pressure from arms lobbies do not affect just Americans but several countries of the world. Their military expedition in the Korean peninsula caused the deaths of over three million people. Their false flag in Vietnam inflicted deep wounds in the heart of the Vietnamese who lost three to seven million people. Their illegal war in Iraq decimated around 2.5 million people besides triggering a sectarian frenzy that tore the social fabric of Iraqi society. Their hegemonic approach gifted Syria with more than 555,000 corpses besides rendering 11 million hapless souls homeless. Their love for war gave Afghanistan nothing but death and destruction.

But is Trump really serious in taking on the unaccountable generals and the executives of arms companies with plenipotentiary powers. The answer is no – because arms sales greatly benefit not only the military-industrial complex and generals but politicians and even the working classes of the mighty state as well. Trump himself admitted that the $110-billion deal with Saudi Arabia could create 25,000 jobs besides asserting that the conservative kingdom spent a whopping $400 billion over the years that provided the Americans with 1.5 million jobs.

Arms manufacturing is benefitting the second largest democracy the way opium trade enriched the British ruling elite in the 19th century. Opium was part and parcel of British trade then and arms sale is an integral part of American economy now. One American historian claimed that the New Deal may have created a few million jobs but World War Two put every American into work. Until the president comes up with a mechanism whereby the arms industry could be used for manufacturing consumer goods, there cannot be any possibility of reducing the influence of the arms lobbies.

The current pandemic has underscored the need of spending on consumer goods and things that people really need in their day to day affairs. An exponential rise in social development budget could also be another way to counter the power of the arms lobbies but for that Americans will have to rise to demand free education up to university level, free housing, free medical facility and a substantial budget to deal with the environmental degradation.

Slashing of the federal budget and a genuine devolution of powers could also pave the way for reducing the defence budget that is prepared by Washington keeping in view the profit of the military-industrial complex and ignoring the needs of those living in various states.

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