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Our search for the bogeyman

Mar 31, 2013 - By Randy Tucker

If there isn't one handy, we'll just create him ourselves.

After half a century of service to his country, service that included leading the desperate assault on Hitler's European wall, Dwight Eisenhower spoke for the last time as an American president on Jan. 17, 1961.

Compared to his immortalized speech on June 6, 1944, it was a dire warning of consequences he foresaw for the country he loved, consequences that have sadly come to complete fruition in the 52 years since his final announcement.

Eisenhower's voice echoed in the hearts of every American on that dark day in 1944. Bringing a mixture of hope and resolution to the last time we faced a foe capable of actually defeating us in battle.

"Soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force: You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you" Eisenhower's speech began.

The message was heard in thousands of towns by millions of worried mothers, fathers, wives and children back home.

A scant 17 years later, a different man spoke for the final time, a man embittered by the process of America's reaction to the Cold War, a man tired of listening to sensationalized excuses from military, political and corporate leadership bent on spending every last dime to battle a constant influx of bogeymen.

"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," Eisenhower warned.

The boy from Abilene, Kan., grew up to lead the largest, most complex group of American, Canadian and English military ever assembled, a Horatio Alger myth that actually came to life.

Eisenhower has always been an enigmatic figure in modern history, difficult to put a political finger on. Imagine someone recruited to run for president today by both the Democratic and Republican parties. It could never happen in the splintered America of today. Yet, Eisenhower was coveted by both prior to his presidential victory in 1952. It was a very different time in America.

While the times were different, the modern American political theme of always having a new enemy at the door, of forever living in fear, and steadily relinquishing freedom, bit by bit, in an insane quest for unneeded security has arrived in force.

During the final days of the European war, as Hitler poisoned Eva Braun then shot himself, the military industrial complex that Eisenhower warned against came into existence.

With the Nazis fallen and the defeat of Japan just a few months away, suddenly the Soviet Union, which had been a U.S. ally until that point, became the greatest threat to the American way of life. The Russian Bear was everywhere.

The "Red Scare" brought paranoia on a nationwide scale. When the "commies" detonated their own atomic bomb in 1949, the irrationality hit an all-time high, fueled by the bullying tactics of U.S. Joseph McCarthy. Even men as noted as America's pre-eminent physicist, Robert Oppenheimer, and Eisenhower himself were held under close scrutiny by some, claiming they were communist sympathizers.

The dark, institutional mental illness of the McCarthy years witnessed American soldiers marching through atomic bomb tests in the Nevada desert. It saw 91 of the 220 cast and crew of the John Wayne film "The Conquerors" contract cancer, with 46 dying of it over the next 25 years when the radioactive cloud from a 1955 open air A-bomb test blew across their set, including The Duke himself.

But this paranoia is mere child's play to the rhetoric used in our era to support the insane level of military preparedness we now purchase each year.

Did anyone else notice that within a year of the Berlin Wall falling in October of 1989 that a new "bogeyman" had arrived in the form of former another former ally -- Saddam Hussein?

Did you notice that as American troops gradually pull out of Afghanistan that suddenly North Korea has the A-bomb, missiles and a huge army, albeit a barefoot one, ready to invade?

It is just too coincidental that North Korea creates a need for maintaining and possibly increasing spending on conventional military expenditures just as the House and Senate try to hammer out a reduced budget?

America spends more on our military than the next 28 largest countries combined.

Ike was right. We not only need fear the undue influence of the military industrial complex, but we need to recognize it when it is right in front of us.

Is a tiny nation with a comic book style leader, with much of its population hungry all the time and living in dire poverty, really a threat to our national security? Or is just the latest excuse for lobbyists from Boeing, Raytheon and DuPont to call for more lucrative contracts?

It's obvious that someone has to be the bogeyman. It might as well be Kim Jong Un. At least he fits the mold.

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