You can hear the sound of freedom from the beach. It’s the low rumble of explosives, the chatter of helicopter blades or the tandem footsteps of young men with the distinctive “high and tight” haircuts as they jog down the tide line. Nearly inaudible reminders that soldiers are being prepared for war, blending with the sound of children playing, seabirds squealing and waves breaking on the white sands of Emerald Isle.
Freedom isn’t free, as they say and here, so close to Camp Lejuene, the 246-square-mile U.S. military training facility, I’m unable to forget it. The training facility was named after the Commanding General of the 2d Army Division in World War I, Major General John A. Lejeune (luh-JERN.) The 11,000 acre tract with 11 miles of shoreline is perfect for supporting multiple types of maneuvers. And support they do, with a population on base of 170,000.
Bob and I drove past troops in full camo gear working around their tiny tents in the sweltering North Carolina heat along the stretch of I-24 known as Freedom Way. My heart cried out in protest at the sight. I felt like I was looking into a hopper of human flesh. I wanted to get out of the car and do something but there was nothing we could do and so we kept on driving towards the beach for a few days alone at the shore.
Minutes later we arrived on beautiful Emerald Isle. We settled in our comfy room and shared a beer. We walked down the beach to the pier and back and frolicked in the surf until we were salt-saturated and worn out from riding the waves. Then we sat in our little blue beach chairs and drank in the wonderful sounds and smells and felt the breeze take turns on our skin with the sun, the shade and the little droplets of rain.
Later, we showered and made love and got dressed in our clean clothes and drove to a nice restaurant where we had dinner with friends. I thought about the camo’ed kids in their hot little tents and wondered what they were going to eat for dinner.
I love everything about my life but I don’t think for one minute I owe it to the MICC (Military Industrial Congressional Complex.) Our armed forces are not sending young people to war to keep me safe and free but rather to feed a firmly established industry which voraciously devours taxes, life and limb to protect their own interests.
In fact, ever since 1941, when the MICC came into existence it has been feeding itself and gaining power. Not so coincidentally, construction was approved for Camp Lejune in April 1941.
Bob and I are not alone in our belief that we are being had by the MICC. Robert Higgs, Senior Fellow in Political Economy at the Independent Institute and editor of Independent Review wrote:
During that period [between mid-1940 and late 1941] Congress appropriated $36 billion for the War Department alone — more than the army and navy combined had spent during World War I. With congressional authorization, the War and Navy departments switched from using mainly sealed-bid contracts to mainly negotiated contracts, often providing that the contractor be paid his full costs, however much they might be, plus a fixed fee. Contracts could be changed to accommodate changes in the contractor’s circumstances or poor management in performing the work. In these and other ways, military contracting was rendered less risky and more rewarding. As Secretary of War Henry Stimson said at the time, “If you are going to try to go to war, or to prepare for war, in a capitalistic country, you have got to let business make money out of the process or business won’t work.”
Businessmen worked, to be sure, and they made money — far more than anyone had dreamed of making during the Depression. Much of the more than $300 billion the government spent for war goods and services ended up in the pockets of the contractors and their employees. According to a contemporary study, rates of return on net worth ranged from twenty-two percent for the largest companies to forty-nine percent for the smaller firms — extraordinary profits given that the contractors bore little or no risk.
From “World War II and the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex”
by Robert Higgs” May 1995
Higgs is also as outraged as Bob and I are about the present day carnage being wrought at the hands of the war industry.
The common thread [in my 2005 book, “Resurgence of the Warfare State”] is my outrage against the U.S. government’s exploitation of the 9/11 attacks to launch the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq and to occupy these countries thereafter. I cover the period from September 2001 to December 2004, devoting much of my commentary to exposing the scare tactics, illogic, lies, distortions, and other propaganda the Bush administration used to sell the Iraq war to the public and Congress.
From “Robert Higgs: Free-Market Thinking & the Impact of the Internet” – May 2, 2010
And we also agree with Higgs that we are not buying freedom with our bloated $500 billion defense budget and trillion dollar wars.
In fact, Bob and I were so upset at the turn of events during this period of time that we left the country in December of 2004 to avoid supporting the war with our taxes. When people find out we lived on Maui for four years and left they are incredulous. “Why did you leave Maui?” they all ask and if we know them well enough, we tell them why.
So, no – I don’t for one minute think the young men and women I see down here by Camp Lejune are keeping me free and safe. I see their lives being wasted just like our taxes – resources that could be put to good use growing food, building community, providing public education and making healthcare available to everyone.
But even if it were true that my lifestyle depended on continued war, I would happily give up my American lifestyle in exchange for peace – in a heartbeat!