Peace Train: Misplaced power among the military-industrial complex

Weapons contractors have spent vast sums of money on lobbying and campaigning

In his farewell address to the nation on Jan. 17, 1961, former United States president and five-star general during World War II, Dwight D. Eisenhower, said:

“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. 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.”

Are we alert and knowledgeable? Or do we take for granted that we must live our lives in the murky shadows of the 13,890 nuclear bombs on submarines that are navigating through the world’s oceans, in missile silos buried in the earth and aboard planes flying high in the skies?

Keeping that warning in mind, consider how do the Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMS) survive the corruption, accidents, stunning breakdowns and high-level condemnation that so many citizens of the world, including scientists, have for them?

One answer is in a Feb. 9 report by William Hartung of the Center for International Policy, titled “Inside the ICBM Lobby: Special Interests or the National Interest?” Hartung describes the vast sums of money spent by weapons contractors on lobbying and campaigning contributions in order to buy votes from lawmakers in states that host the missiles, air bases, or the contractors themselves (Montana, North Dakota, Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming) — even though, as the report notes, there is “no militarily sound reason to build a new ICBM.” The plan now is to replace all of the current underground missiles with new ones that are each the length of a bowling lane. They will be able to travel some 6,000 miles carrying a warhead more than 20 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Each one will be able to kill hundreds of thousands of people in a single shot.

The U.S. Air Force plans to order more than 600 of them.

Hartung’s report states that Northrop Grumman and its major subcontractors have given $1.2 million to the current members of the Senate ICBM Coalition since 2012 and over $15 million more to members of key congressional committees that help determine how much money is to be spent. In addition, the top 11 contractors working on the new missile project spent over $119 million on lobbying in 2019 and 2020, and employed 410 lobbyists.

Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), said, as she accepted the Nobel Peace Prize with Setsuko Thurlow (a hibakusha survivor of the atomic bombings on Japan), “The story of nuclear weapons will have an ending, and it is up to us what the ending will be. Will it be the end of nuclear weapons, or will it be the end of us?”