The Nossiter Net
The net that shall enmesh them all
Edited, Written, and Published by Josh Nossiter
Selfish Men
Tuesday, March 7th, 2006
The Nossiter Net is cast  to snare some of  the riper rascalities of the day.  Comments?  editor@nossiter.net
News Item: “The Army has decided to reimburse a Halliburton subsidiary for nearly all of its disputed costs on a $2.41 billion no-bid contract to deliver fuel and repair oil equipment in Iraq, even though the Pentagon's own auditors had identified more than $250 million in charges as potentially excessive or unjustified.”  New York Times

As a Senator from Missouri, Harry S. Truman chaired a Senate committee investigating fraudulent military contracts and profiteering by defense contractors during WWII.  Biographer David McCullough cites estimates that he saved the nation $15 billion.  That’s about 156 billion in today’s dollars.  The acclaim and national reputation he won for his work on the Truman Committee led Roosevelt to make him his vice president.  Do we need be reminded that our present vice president Mr. Cheney used to be Halliburton’s CEO?

There are no present day Trumans to save taxpayers from rapacious defense contractors, but Representative Henry Waxman, D-Calif., is our closest equivalent.  About the Pentagon payment to Halliburton he told the
NYT ''Halliburton gouged the taxpayer, government auditors caught the company red-handed, yet the Pentagon ignored the auditors and paid Halliburton hundreds of millions of dollars and a huge bonus.''  Waxman might as well be talking to himself;  Truman forced the contractors to pay restitution, while fear of the Truman Committee subsequently kept them relatively honest.

Those of course were the good old days, when Democrats had courage, tongues, and majorities.  Campaigning for his second term, President Truman said that "selfish men… have always tried to skim the cream from our natural resources to satisfy their own greed… and their instrument is the Republican party."*  The difference between then and now is that selfish men no longer need to use the Republican party as their instrument,  because they are the Republican party.

Imagine, for example, a modern Republican saying that the ”conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

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.”

And yet those are the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Truman’s Republican successor, in his farewell address in 1961.  For a member of the Bush administration to think along those lines, much less speak them, is about as likely as an “alert and knowledgeable citizenry” electing a defense contractor as their very vice president. Or, as it happens, not.

*Truman, David McCullough, p. 661 (Amazon.com)

©Joshua C. Nossiter, 2006
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