The Military-Industrial Complex at age 57: A bomb made in Pennsylvania obliterates a school bus in Yemen.

It’s been nearly a month since an August 9th airstrike by the Saudi coalition destroyed a school bus in Northern Yemen. Over 40 children were killed in the attack by a bomb made in America. Initially, the Saudi’s claimed the bombing in the Saada province had targeted missile launchers, but they have since acknowledged the strike against the bus was “unjustified.” [1]

2 Report-Yemen-school-bus-bombing-not-justified

The tragedies of this event exist on many levels. I would argue that all have their roots in the ingrained aggression and greed that appears to frequently define our species. Exacerbating the problem is that our cleverness in adapting technology to the purpose of causing death and destruction seems limitless.

Not only are we superbly adept at advancing the technology of destruction, the profitability of selling the fruits of that labor to countries around the world is a massive incentive to continue their development.

The Military-Industrial complex is 57 years old

Much has been said about President Eisenhower’s prescient warning about the rise of a military-industrial complex. In his farewell speech on January 17, 1961, the president noted that in the post-World War II era, he believed “Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.”

However, he also noted that there could be an evolving danger saying, “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.”  [Full transcript below]

It’s is hard to dismiss the notion that an American-made bomb landing on a school bus in Yemen reflects anything but a “disastrous rise of misplaced power.”

The video below is President Eisenhower’s full farewell address queued to start at the 6:52 mark where he begins his discussion of the military-industrial complex.

We’re #1!

Yea! American arm manufacturers’ thirst for profits has resulted in America being the number one exporter of military arms in the worldwide, multi-billion-dollar market.

Consider the following data points from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) [2]

  • In 2013–17 the USA accounted for 34 per cent of total arms exports.
  • The USA supplied major arms to 98 states in 2013–17
  • Exports to states in the Middle East accounted for 49 per cent of total US arms exports
  • USA and European states remain the main arms exporters to the region and supplied over 98 per cent of weapons imported by Saudi Arabia.
  • In 2013–17 Saudi Arabia was the world’s second largest arms importer, with arms imports increasing by 225 per cent compared with 2008–12.

Indiscriminate destruction

The thing about selling weapons of war to other countries is that it’s difficult to control how those weapons are used. That’s exactly what happened in Yemen. The US can object to the Saudi’s handling of the Houthi rebels in Yemen, but clearly our influence doesn’t always extend to the command and control centers. Nevertheless, the bus attack clearly has the stamp of “Made in America” on it.

The MK 82 Paveway: Made in America, sold to Saudi Arabia, dropped in Yemen

Based on markings found on shrapnel, reporting from CNN indicates the ordinance dropped on the bus was a 500 pound, MK 82 Paveway Laser Guided Bomb (LGB) manufactured at the Lockheed Martin facility in Archbald, Pennsylvania.[3]

Shrapnel reported by CNN to be from the bomb dropped on the school bus (CNN)

The MK 82 (PDF Specs) is an effective and lethal workhorse in the fields of conflict [4] and a money-maker for its manufacturers. In 2016, Lockheed announced they received an 87-million-dollar contract from the US Air Force for the MK 82. The press release touted the success of the MK 82 product line by stating: “The company has delivered…more than 75,000 Paveway II LGB kits and approximately 7,000 dual-mode systems to the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and more than 20 international customers.” [5] (emphasis added)

A year later Lockheed celebrated the delivery of their 100,000th Paveway LGB.[6] This is the military-industrial complex in action.

Paveway Laser Guided Bomb (By Defence Imagery –, OGL)

While Lockheed seems quite proud of their production of the MK 82, I’m not convinced the same can be said for a manufacturer of MK 80 series bomb bodies, General Dynamics. In January 2018, The U.S. Army Contracting Command announced its intention to award a sole-source, firm-fixed price contract to General Dynamics in, Garland, Texas, for Fiscal Year 2019-2023 for MK80 Series General Purpose (GP) Bomb Bodies.[7]

The disappearing MK 80 product literature on the General Dynamics website

The reason I question General Dynamics’ pride in manufacturing MK 80 series bodies is that the marketing literature for the product line on their website seems to have been removed. A google search indicates that at one time a brochure was available for the MK 80 series. However, that brochure is no longer available.

GD google search
Google search results showing a PDF of the MK 80 series bomb hardware was indexed from the General Dynamics website.
GD 404 error
The MK 80 series PDF is no longer on the General Dynamics website.

Correlation is not causation, but I find the timing of the disappearance of the MK 80 series literature from the General Dynamics website suspicious. The Internet Archive website captured a snapshot of their website on August 8th, clearly showing the MK 80 marketing page was active and the brochure was available for download.[8] The Yemen bombing was the next day.

GD MK80 wayback machine
The Internet Archive has a snapshot of the General Dynamics website showing the MK 80 series was available on August 8 – one day before the bombing in Yemen.

I’m not sure why or when the General Dynamics marketing team decided to pull the MK 80 page, but I wonder if it could be due to the possibility that one of the bomb bodies manufactured in their Garland facility may have been the one that killed the children in Yemen. I hope that’s the case as it would indicate that at least part of the military-industrial complex may have a conscious. Alternatively, it may just have been a response to stockholders’ concerns or a prudent public relations move.

Desensitization to the purpose of the product?

In looking at the bus destroyed by the Saudi-dropped MK 82 and thinking of the children killed and their parents I found myself wondering what life was like in the small towns that made the bombs.

The Lockheed plant that manufactures the MK 82 is in Archbald, Pennsylvania – population 6,900. The differences between that small, rural town in Pennsylvania and the small rural town in Yemen where the bus was bombed could not be starker. And yet, children are children, and parents are parents, regardless of the geographical or cultural divide.

How do workers at the Lockheed plant reconcile the fact that one of the bombs they built killed innocent children half way around the world? I suspect there’s a hefty dose of rationalization or compartmentalization involved, as well as the succor of a solid paycheck.

But, I just can’t escape the peculiar juxtaposition of life in small-town America with an arms manufacturing facility that exports lethal weapons around the world. After all, the Lockheed plant in Archbald and the Valley View High School are only 100 feet apart.[9] The General Dynamics facility in Garland is across the street from Garland Independent School District’s Williams Stadium. [10]

lockheed-high school.PNG
The Lockheed Martin facility is hundreds of feet away from the Valley View High School.
garland stadium
The General Dynamics facility is across the street from the Garland Independent School District’s Williams Stadium.

Where is Eisenhower’s Military-Industrial complex?

It is not secreted away in a remote desert. It is not cloistered under a distant mountain.

No, it is scattered throughout America, in cities large and small.

It is interwoven in the lives of hundreds of thousands of working men and women simply trying to make a living and get through life. It is what allows its employees in Archbald, Pennsylvania or Garland, Texas to buy hot dogs at a high school football game a few hundred feet away from a bomb-making plant. It is what allows a parent to buy their child an ice cream cone while watching the Labor Day parade in Garland.

It is in the boardroom and shareholder meetings of Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and hundreds of other suppliers of military products and parts.

It is the pork on the barrel for politicians wanting to bring lucrative defense contracts and the associated jobs to voters in their district, as well as to ensure a healthy flow of contributions to their campaign coffers.

Where is Eisenhower’s Military-Industrial complex? – It’s everywhere.

An addiction without an intervention is sight

The military-industrial complex is like a drug to which we have become addicted. It is lethal and destructive, but the financial high it induces prevents us from even wanting to consider sobriety.

Supporters of the defense industry may argue that exporting military arms makes the world a safer place. I would argue that is a rationalization and only a partial truth. The defense industry is only partially about defense, it’s mostly about increasing arms sales to almost any willing party in the insatiable pursuit of ever-increasing profits. It’s certainly not simply about maintaining a “ready and able military force” Eisenhower envisioned as necessary. The cold reality is if we build it, they will bomb.

It is profoundly disturbing that the bombing of a bus filled with children half a world away is just the cost of maintaining the profits that sustain the military-industrial machine.













Transcript of President Dwight D. Eisenhowers Farewell Address (1961)

My fellow Americans:

Three days from now, after half a century in the service of our country, I shall lay down the responsibilities of office as, in traditional and solemn ceremony, the authority of the Presidency is vested in my successor.

This evening I come to you with a message of leave-taking and farewell, and to share a few final thoughts with you, my countrymen.

Like every other citizen, I wish the new President, and all who will labor with him, Godspeed. I pray that the coming years will be blessed with peace and prosperity for all.
Our people expect their President and the Congress to find essential agreement on issues of great moment, the wise resolution of which will better shape the future of the Nation.

My own relations with the Congress, which began on a remote and tenuous basis when, long ago, a member of the Senate appointed me to West Point, have since ranged to the intimate during the war and immediate post-war period, and, finally, to the mutually interdependent during these past eight years.

In this final relationship, the Congress and the Administration have, on most vital issues, cooperated well, to serve the national good rather than mere partisanship, and so have assured that the business of the Nation should go forward. So, my official relationship with the Congress ends in a feeling, on my part, of gratitude that we have been able to do so much together.

We now stand ten years past the midpoint of a century that has witnessed four major wars among great nations. Three of these involved our own country. Despite these holocausts America is today the strongest, the most influential and most productive nation in the world. Understandably proud of this pre-eminence, we yet realize that America’s leadership and prestige depend, not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches and military strength, but on how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment.


Throughout America’s adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations. To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people. Any failure traceable to arrogance, or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us grievous hurt both at home and abroad.

Progress toward these noble goals is persistently threatened by the conflict now engulfing the world. It commands our whole attention, absorbs our very beings. We face a hostile ideology-global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. Unhappily the danger it poses promises to be of indefinite duration. To meet it successfully, there is called for, not so much the emotional and transitory sacrifices of crisis, but rather those which enable us to carry forward steadily, surely, and without complaint the burdens of a prolonged and complex struggle-with liberty at stake. Only thus shall we remain, despite every provocation, on our charted course toward permanent peace and human betterment.

Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small,there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties. A huge increase in newer elements of our defense; development of unrealistic programs to cure every ill in agriculture; a dramatic expansion in basic and applied research-these and many other possibilities, each possibly promising in itself, may be suggested as the only way to the road we which to travel.

But each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs-balance between the private and the public economy, balance between cost and hoped for advantage-balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable; balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation upon the individual; balance between action of the moment and the national welfare of the future. Good judgment seeks balance and progress; lack of it eventually finds imbalance and frustration.

The record of many decades stands as proof that our people and their government have, in the main, understood these truths and have responded to them well, in the face of stress and threat. But threats, new in kind or degree, constantly arise. I mention two only.


A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.

Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peace time, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United State corporations.

This 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 huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.

In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been over shadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system-ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.

Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society’s future, we-you and I, and our government-must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.

Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.

Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.

Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose difference, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose. Because this need is so sharp and apparent I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field with a definite sense of disappointment. As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war-as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years-I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight.

Happily, I can say that war has been avoided. Steady progress toward our ultimate goal has been made. But, so much remains to be done. As a private citizen, I shall never cease to do what little I can to help the world advance along that road.

So-in this my last good night to you as your President-I thank you for the many opportunities you have given me for public service in war and peace. I trust that in that service you find somethings worthy; as for the rest of it, I know you will find ways to improve performance in the future.

You and I-my fellow citizens-need to be strong in our faith that all nations, under God, will reach the goal of peace with justice. May we be ever unswerving in devotion to principle, confident but humble with power, diligent in pursuit of the Nation’s great goals.

To all the peoples of the world, I once more give expression to America’s prayerful and continuing inspiration:

We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.


Transcription courtesy of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum.


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