The US War Machine
In his farewell address to the nation on January 17, 1961 President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of the increasing influence of the military-industrial complex and counseled US citizens to monitor it vigilantly. As military commander of Allied forces during WWII, Eisenhower, a five-star General of the Army, urged balance between a strong defense and diplomacy.
He was concerned by the vast, and permanent, armaments industry that had emerged after the defense production build-up of the war and warned that the federal government’s collaboration with military and industrial leaders, while necessary, was vulnerable to abuse of power.
Opposition is dangerous
Three days after Eisenhower’s speech, on January 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy was inaugurated as president and he too was concerned about the overreach of the military industrial complex. Kennedy ran afoul of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CIA for refusing to heed their advice to authorize military intervention in Cuba, Laos, and Berlin. He further antagonized the CIA by firing its first civilian director, Allen W. Dulles, who had overseen coup d’états in Iran and Guatemala as well as the ill-fated Bay of Pigs Invasion.
Kennedy advocated for world peace and disarmament at a time when this was radical. In a June 10, 1963 speech at the American University in Washington, DC, he recommended peaceful co-existence with Russia and Cuba and proposed curbing nuclear weapons, negotiating a nuclear test ban treaty, and postponing atmospheric tests.
In the film, Fog of War, Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, says that Kennedy was strongly considering pulling the US out of Vietnam after the 1964 election. In fact, on October 11, 1963, six weeks before his assasination, Kennedy signed a National Security Action Memorandum ordering the withdrawal of 1,000 military personnel from Vietnam by the year’s end and the bulk of them out by 1965. Four days after the assassination, President Johnson reversed this memorandum and reaffirmed the US commitment to assist South Vietnam.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, one year exactly from the day he delivered his…