Mel Goodman, senior analyst at the Center for International Policy and ex-CIA whistleblower, spoke Wednesday evening to a crowd of 200 people at the Illinois State campus.
The talk and discussion was co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Illinois State University Honors Society.
Mel Goodman organized his talk around the questions of what the military is for and why the United States has a bloated military and a hawkish defense policy that cannot be justified by national security concerns. Mr. Goodman focused on four points made by General Eisenhower in the 1950s to answer those questions, arguing that the present wars and occupations stem from the power of the military-industrial complex and a culture of militarism in the United States:
* President Eisenhower, said Mr. Goodman, warned the nation of the the rise of the military-industrial complex. Mr. Goodman views Eisenhower’s speech as prescient, proven by the the U.S. Congress’ consistent capitulation to military demands.
* It has been proven true that the nation is being starved for funds, with the military receiving the bulk of the nation’s tax money. Meanwhile, social needs go unmet.
* In times of war, the rights of the people are lost, and this is especially dangerous when war becomes a permanent feature of the nation’s life. Mr. Goodman argued, with specific examples, how every U.S. war resulted in the lost of civil liberties.
* Lastly, Mr. Goodman said that Eisenhower had communicated a private warning that future presidents would not know how to deal with the military and would bow down before the generals rather than maintain independence. He cited as absurd the comments in the previous night’s Republican Party debate where candidates said they would do whatever the generals asked of them.
Mr. Goodman argued that the people needed to demand that the size of the military be reduced and that the military not be used as foreign policy. Currently, the military has a budget of $800 billion per year, with the bloated nature of the military unjustifiable even for the imperial aims of the United States. Mr. Goodman asked why the Navy is stronger than all other navies combined, why the Navy has its own airforce, and why the other forces have similar redundancies.
In addressing the question of what the military should be used for, Mr. Goodman relayed the odious history of U.S. military involvement to affect regime change in other countries. He relayed how President Eisenhower started the practice of covert military action, overthrowing regimes, with the overthrow of Mossadegh and the imposition of the hated Shaw in Iran. Then came the covert action in the Congo, the overthrow of democratically-elected Arbenz in Guatemala and the imposition of military dictators there, the support of the Mujaheddin in the Middle East which contributed directly to 9/11, among many others.
In the vibrant discussion that followed, many topics were addressed. Some commentators drew analogies between the U.S. as an empire compared to the Roman, Greek, and USSR empires.
Also addressed was the role economic policy, the influence of corporations, on U.S. military policy. While Mr. Goodman thinks that economic policy does have an affect in particular decisions to go to war – Iran in 1953 and Chile in 1973 were cited as examples – he said that he was not an economic determinist and that he believed oil was not a reason the U.S. invaded Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Goodman said that corporations nevertheless exercise too much political power and that more jobs could be created if tax dollars went to other areas such as education and other industries.
A couple of times during his talk, Mr. Goodman made reference to the current Occupy Together movement, and discussed its positive significance with Occupy BloNo participants. He thought that it was unsurprising that the current wage inequality in the United States would cause an uprising, given that in other parts of the world such wage disparities cause revolutions. When told about the Occupy BloNo presence at ISU and invited to stop by, Mr. Goodman said that he was pleasantly surprised that the occupation movement had reached Bloomington-Normal.