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A Public Service Message from the American Income Life Insurance Co.Waco, TexasBernard Rapoport, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer Part IV Feeding the “Trillion-Dollar Rat Hole” By Tristram Coffin This is the fourth in a series of reprints from Tristram Coffin’s newsletter, The Washington Spectator, describing the Pentagon’s extravagance and mismanagement of military contracts. “These murderers of our cause ought to be hunted down as pests of society and the greatest enemies to the happiness of America. I wish to God that the most atrocious of each state was hung . . . upon a gallows five times as high as the one prepared for Haman.” The angry words of George Washington were aimed at the merchants who supplied his Continental army with defective arms and bullets. This is not simply a macabre note from the past. Regularly, the nation erupts with outrage at scandals involving the “merchants of death.” The Nye Committee offered “sensational disclosures of WWI profiteering and arms lobbying.” \(The United States, American Democracy in World Perspective, Senator from Missouri, Harry Truman, found himself catapulted into the Vice Presidency because of his investigation of WW II arms-makers. Today, news of profiteering and shoddy war goods pours out almost daily to feed the “trillion-dollar rat hole.” The effect of cheating by military contractors today could be a universal disaster. The Washington Monthly reports: “On June 3, 1980, three miles inside Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, the computers of the Strategic Air Command signaled that Soviet nuclear submarines had launched two missiles toward the U.S. Within 18 seconds, the terminals showed 22 Soviet missiles. Then, 222. B-52’s carrying nuclear bombs were prepared for takeoff while SAC frantically sought to confirm the impending attack through its other monitoring sites.” The report was false: the signal was activated by a faulty silicon chip in a communications multiplex, an electronic device that converts information into messages for transmission. The Washington Monthly observes: “The false alarm at Cheyenne Mountain was a harrowing lesson in how failure in the smallest link in the system can cause the machinery of nuclear war to whir into action.” The chips have become “the nuts and bolts of the electronic military age,” used to detonate nuclear warheads, aim guns and guide pilots. Companies that manufacture the chips “have regularly been caught cutting corners in testing military chips. Over the past four years, five semiconductor companies have admitted to ‘irregularities,’ ranging from minor infractions to full-scale cheating on critical heat tests.” One company pleaded guilty to 40 counts of fraud. The corruption that is inherent in war-making is a side effect of a basic human emotion, a fascination with warmaking. This lies deep in the human subconscious, inherited from primitive times. Fighting was a diversion from the grim and boring business of survival. It ennobled such savage emotions as greed, vanity and hate. The strong stole food, women and baubles from the weak and were honored for it. Such heroic terms as “patriotism . . . national security . . . bravery” were coined to entrap man’s imagination and sanctify mass murder. Ogres were invented to frighten taxpayers and conscripts into accepting the bloody business of war. Poets, priests and politicians more often than not went along with the game. Politicians found out that arousing primitive emotions was a quick and easy way for entertaining the public and taking its mind off such unpleasant subjects as taxes and famine. There was no logical reason for Caesar’s conquests except the lure of booty and the emperor’s overweening vanity. The British would have been far smarter to have junked repressive taxes, such as the one on tea, and to have given a measure of self-government to the American colony than to fight an exhausting and losing war. Hitler bamboozled the Germans by calling them “the master race” and lured them into the folly of WW II. Japan was led by its lust for the resources of Asia. The Vietnam war was begun to restore France’s pride, humbled by the Nazi occupation, and to recover the cheap resources of Indochina. The American past is loaded with demagogic appeals to similar emotions. The unhappy War of 1812 was brought about in part by a gang of grandstand politicians in Congress who proudly called themselves the “War Hawks.” They “spoke for a generation which had grown up since the Revolution. The Federalists might sneer at them as ‘young politicians, half hatched, the shell still on their heads,’ but their words and gestures thrilled the country. They talked, breathed and dreamed of a glorious war which would end with Canada, Florida, Mexico and various points south all safely wrapped up in the American Union. They were supremely confident that Americans could take on anybody.” \(The American Past, They won such public support that they could extract from President Madison a promise to declare war in return for their backing of his reelection bid. Reprinted by permission from the April 1985 issue of The Washington Spectator, Tristram Coffin, Editor. A oneMerrifield, Virginia 22116. 18 NOVEMBER 8, 1985