Current Affairs

Why the Military-Industrial Complex Keeps Growing and Growing

Journalist Andrew Cockburn discusses his new book “The Spoils of War: Power, Profit, and the American War Machine.”

Andrew Cockburn is the Washington editor of Harper’s magazine and the author of the new book, The Spoils of War: Power, Profit and the American War Machine, available from Verso. He spoke recently about the book with Current Affairs editor Nathan J. Robinson for the Current Affairs podcast. The transcript has been lightly edited for grammar and clarity.

Robinson

The new book is a collection of reporting on various aspects of the military industrial complex, and the role of money in American politics—specifically, the defense establishment. I think Americans generally are fairly aware that there is a sprawling thing called the “military industrial complex.” And I think they are aware that the Pentagon budgets seem to go up and up every year. But one of the useful things about your book is that it dives more into what we are actually talking about when we’re talking about this system, this institution: Where is the money going? What are the underlying factors that are driving the growth and maintenance of U.S. defense? And I think there are a couple of counterintuitive findings that come out of your reporting. One thing that hadn’t crossed my mind up until reading your book is that war is almost ancillary or incidental. One of the central themes that comes up over and over is that the drive for increased budgets, and the financial incentives of players in the system, really have to be put at the center of our analysis. Is that right?

Cockburn   

That’s absolutely right. It is the basic fact. And it took a long time for me to really internalize that, to understand that. Even if you prick them with a pen, they’ll say, of course, you know, we want to fight and win. But their actions, what really appears to drive them is, as you said, the desire for power and profit, increased bureaucratic influence at the expense of others. And on a baser level, of course, more and more these days, greasing the skids for graceful descent from high military office into highly paid relationships with defense contractors once they retire, which is a distressingly ever more prominent feature of our military system. But yeah. Most people have a problem with this, the idea that the armed forces, our defense system, don’t really care that much about defense.

Robinson   

It’s remarkable. One of the things that comes up in your chapters on nuclear weapons—also on the war in Afghanistan and across the system—is that it’s not actually clear that the United States military, for all its size and for all its sophistication, or all its technology, for all of its hundreds of bases around the world, would actually be good at fighting and winning any kind of war, whether our disastrous wars in the Middle East (which no one seems to defend anymore) or with our nuclear weapons systems and all these fighter planes that cost hundreds of millions of dollars. You point out numerous examples of the ways in which it’s really not very clear that the United States military is any good at defense.

Cockburn 

Well, that’s right. And people draw the inference that they are therefore a bunch of incompetents. But they’re not. They’re very smart people. It all depends what the object of the exercise is. If the object of the exercise is to find the most efficient and effective way of violently exercising our national will, or defending it, then obviously, they’re incompetent. But if the object of the exercise is to maximize power and profit, then their record is actually shining bright. And they’ve done incredibly well. I mean, the budget is now rising to $800 billion a year—actually a trillion if you really count everything. The new nuclear weapons, the VA, all of that the entire defense system. That’s basically what they’re taking home. And very good business it is, too.

Robinson  

So perhaps we could dive into it and you could explain a little more about how this works. In the abstract, we are talking about the motive to increase budgets, the diversion of taxpayer money into corporate profit. Maybe you could give one or two examples of what you mean by this and how it works. 

Cockburn

Sure. The first two chapters of the book do show the process at work. There’s an account of two small actions in Afghanistan in the recent hostilities. One was where a pair of A-10 close support planes was flying along in eastern Afghanistan on a routine patrol. And then they get orders from the controller who was many miles away—or from a ground controller—to go bomb a particular position because they say it is firing on American troops. So they find the location, and they look, and it’s an Afghan farm compound, very peaceful with the family, clearly. It’s getting towards evening and they’re bringing the animals in for the night, the sheep and the goats. And they radio back, saying, “well, there’s nothing much going on here. In fact, this must be a bad target.” And they get orders saying, “no, we know it’s an enemy stronghold, bomb it.” And they end up refusing. 

And then, meanwhile, a B-1 bomber miles overhead higher up happily accepts the assignment, drops bombs on the compound and wipes out an Afghan family. So just one small tragedy among hundreds of thousands in that war. But what that tells us—and what I try to explain in that chapter—is that the reason the A-10 was able to report back that this was not a proper target was because that plane was specifically designed so the pilot could have a clear-eyed view of the ground, to be able to fly low and slower, if necessary. It has a big wide windscreen and can actually see what’s going on in contact with the real world. The B-1 bomber way ahead, way up high overhead, was not built with that in mind. It was extremely expensive—the A-10 was cheap—and cost $300 million. It was designed to go and bomb Moscow with nuclear weapons. And basically, the bombs were dropped by someone manipulating a cursor on a video display. They couldn’t see the target at all. And yet the Pentagon is trying to get rid of the A-10 in favor of more bombers like the B-1, even more expensive ones. And what that tells us is that they prefer the very expensive, ineffective weapon to the very effective, cheap weapon. And it’s just one clear example of that happening. The object of the exercise is not, how do we fight the enemy effectively? The object is, how do we spend the money? How do we get the money? How do we justify the money? How do we spend it? The more, the better. This is a real world example. In the following chapter, more or less the same thing happens, but this time, the B-1 killed five American soldiers. So I pursue that theme throughout the book.

Robinson   

One of the results of this, as I understand it, is that oftentimes the technology gets more and more sophisticated without necessarily the efficiency corresponding in its gains, because anything that’s more expensive or more sophisticated or requires more intensive design work is more impressive. How much is this driven by the raw desire for profit versus a kind of ideological belief that things that are more complex are inherently better? 

Cockburn  

It’s basically the former. That’s the basic underlying drive. But again, if you torture it out of them, they say, well, we believe in the technology. That they really believe in this, which they do. But what they really mean is that if it wasn’t very profitable, they certainly wouldn’t be doing it. And the effect is that you make the system more and more complex. The budget is therefore much higher, which means you get more people involved in more companies, more industries, more employees involved. Politically it’s very useful, because then they generate further support for the whole thing. And it is extremely profitable. It always turns out to be more expensive than projected. You could buy less of the actual weapon than you’d originally claimed you were going to. So then you’re able to say, “Oh, we’re falling short, we’re falling behind the Russians, or the Chinese, because our forces are getting smaller. So we need more money to buy more of these ludicrously expensive things.” And the cycle repeats itself. A friend of mine, Franklin Spinney, a brilliant Pentagon analyst, years ago called it the defense death spiral, which is spending more and more to buy less and less.

Robinson  

So they say “we have to buy 100 planes,” and then there are cost overruns, and it’s “we only got 50. So now we are short of what we need. Clearly, we need to invest a great deal more.” You compare it, quite vividly—who was it that compared it to a virus?

Cockburn

It was me drawing on something Spinney had figured out, which was that the defense complex budget had grown overall at a rate of 5% a year ever since 1954. He analyzed the figures and came up with that. Every time it dips below that 5% growth curve, along comes a threat to justify jacking it up again. So at the end of the 1950s, Eisenhower, who had a lot of authority over the military since he was a war hero himself, was actually cutting the budget because he wanted to spend the money on other things. Hey, presto, the missile gap. Suddenly, we were hearing that the Russians had more missiles, which was a total lie, of course. And so defense spending soared again. Then, at the end of the Vietnam War, the budget briefly did go down. But then, the Soviets. It became, the Russians are much stronger than we thought. They’re spending much more than we thought. They’ve got a massive civil defense program, bigger missiles, better missiles. And we need to jack up the budget. And that’s what happened. And again, the same thing happened with the fall of the USSR and so forth. Spinney came up with this. Spending is almost like an organism. It’s like a giant, single-celled organism that exists only to maintain its food supply or increase its food supply and grow. And that’s what it does. That’s all it does.

Robinson

So when it experiences a threat, it reacts. It has defenses to make sure that it doesn’t ever shrink.

Cockburn

Exactly.

Robinson

And the logical conclusion of that is, we’ve had the end of two American wars that have been extremely costly, and the threat of Islamic terrorism that hung over the United States for many years is no longer seriously discussed. I suppose you would probably say that it’s no coincidence that we are now all of a sudden hearing about what terrible threats Russia and the Chinese are, and that the Chinese are testing new hypersonic missiles.

Cockburn 

Absolutely. Right on cue. There was one of those sickening descents below the 5% curve at the end of the Obama period. Trump increased the defense budget. And Biden is increasing it even more, and the Congress is increasing it yet more. It is driven to a certain extent by Russia but much more by China. Every day we hear—yesterday, General Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said that these unsourced reports of the new Chinese hypersonic missile are a Sputnik moment for the United States. The head of the Raytheon Corporation said the Chinese are years ahead of us in hypersonic missile development. Well, for this hypersonic business, the word hype is merited.

Robinson  

You have a section on this in the book.

Cockburn

Yeah, the hypersonic weapons. In recent years, they’ve been invoked as a Russian threat because Vladimir Putin said they had a wonderful new hypersonic weapon that could nullify American missile defenses, and it really gave Russia a one-up status. I explained in a chapter that Putin was clearly doing that for internal political reasons, because things weren’t going so well otherwise in Russia. His constituency in the ruling apparatus might be threatened if people thought that he’d let Russia be weak. So he had a good reason to claim he had this wonder weapon. In fact, it’s a ludicrous notion. First of all, the idea that hypersonic weapons are the answer to missile defenses—but there are no missile defenses. We’ve tried for years—for decades now—to mount a strategic missile defense system against ICBMs. And it has never worked. It doesn’t work.

Robinson  

So it cuts a few hours off of the amount of time you have to live once the missile is in launch. But otherwise, it doesn’t really change the—

Cockburn

Right. It doesn’t doesn’t make any difference at all. Without getting too much into the technical details, hypersonic simply means more than five times the speed of sound. And the whole notion is that they’re launched from a booster rocket at the very edge of the atmosphere and they can therefore maneuver because there’s enough friction even at that very high altitude for the control surfaces to work like on a plane–with flaps and so forth. And therefore they can maneuver and therefore you can’t predict the course. The trouble is that you’ve run out of range and you run out of energy in a hurry if you’re maneuvering a glider at high speeds. And that is the problem every attempted test has run into. It’s a very silly idea. If the Chinese want to pour their national resources into this, good luck to them. It’s no threat to us.

Robinson   

So people read about this. I see this. It’s interesting how difficult it can be to reason your way past propaganda, right? You read in the paper that the Chinese have tested this new missile, and there is some part of you that thinks that sounds terrifying. Better be worried about this big new missile. But even if they are, it doesn’t really make a difference. But what we should focus on is that there are a lot of United States companies, there is this giant virus right in our society that has to have an ongoing threat in order to survive. If we accept Milton Friedman’s dictum that the only social responsibility of business is to maximize its profits, then it is not only rational, but necessary, for defense companies to continue to justify making something. And if they don’t have something to make, they’re not serving the investor. So from a pure economic theory standpoint, we would expect constant fake threats.

Cockburn 

Exactly right. You put it very well. They’d be remiss not to. If I were a stockholder in Lockheed—which I’m certainly not—I would be up in arms myself if they weren’t whipping up a threat. Whenever Lockheed tried to go into civilian production, as they did right after World War Two—and again I think in the early 60s, there was the Grumman bus, notable disaster…or the canoe. I had a Grumman canoe that worked rather well. Actually, they just couldn’t do it. It’s worth bearing in mind that the Boeing Corporation, which was the showcase of American civilian manufacturing even though it had a huge defense side, made wonderful airliners. But as Boeing was taken over—actually by another defense corporation, McDonnell Douglas—the defense practices took over the defense executives and the civilian side became more defense-ified—if I can make up a horrible word. So the civilian airliners don’t work so well anymore. And we saw that with the horribly, horribly tragic 737 crashes a couple of years ago. I should extend the virus analogy even further to say that it’s a virus that also has infected so much of American business. The things we used to do well, we don’t do well anymore, because of that contagion of defense.

Robinson  

You said that there used to be a rule at Boeing that the people in the defense side weren’t allowed to be transferred to the civilian side, because they knew that if they ever put the defense guys in charge of making civilian products, you’d get the same level of bureaucracy, cost overruns, and total incompetence that characterize production for military use in this country.

Cockburn 

That’s exactly what happened. They did. That broke down and look what happened.

Robinson 

It’s remarkable. There is an entity that is looting the American taxpayer. I mean, you talk about the war in Afghanistan as essentially just a money funnel with obviously horrible effects for the people of Afghanistan. Is it worth drawing our attention away from all of the ostensible military objectives and just looking at the flows of money and seeing something like the war in Afghanistan mainly as a looting operation?

Cockburn   

Well, I think so. How else would you understand it? For a long time on the edge of the runway at Bagram base there were some very ancient, very wrecked transport planes called the G.222 which had been bought as transport planes for the Afghan airports which were allegedly needed. And there was $500 million of your money and mine spent on them, but they were pretty much wrecks when they were bought. They barely were able to make it to Afghanistan and to the base, and they never flew again. And that was a corrupt deal organized by a former U.S. Air Force general. That was a straightforward piece of looting, which had nothing to do with the war effort, except in a negative way. I see that as characteristic. In fact, the person who told me that story was John Sopko, who was the Special Inspector General for Afghan reconstruction and was kind of the Cassandra of the whole fiasco, because he kept pointing out what was going on, and no one paid much attention. That was the way the whole thing worked. There were enormous amounts of money poured out. No one really cared. I mean, they kept on doing things that they knew didn’t work and wouldn’t work. But it was enormously wonderful for the budget. In fact, I relate a story in the book told to me by a good friend of mine, who was a mid-ranking officer. He had an assignment as a staff job at one point. And in 2018, Trump was talked into a minor surge in Afghanistan. And he was at a meeting of very senior generals, four-star generals, who were discussing Trump’s initiative. And they were laughing, saying, this won’t make any difference in the war, but it’ll do us good at budget time. So we’re going to go along with it. And my friend felt completely disgusted because he knew people were going to die. You know, men he’d worked with and fought with were going to die purely because of this cynical exercise. And you know, we’ll do well at budget time, so who cares? A few people get killed.

Robinson  

You mentioned in the book that there’s a kind of liberal criticism of the American war machine. You critique that view as kind of a limited criticism. You highlight some of the rhetoric that is used even by critics of American militarism, who focus on specific wars and say, “we need to stop waging these disastrous wars around the world.” And one of the things that you point out is that in some ways, this overlooks the real source of the problem. Yes, obviously the wars have the most disastrous human consequences. But it’s not just individual wars. It is also the ordinary way of doing business. It’s the incentives that are built into the defense establishment. And, you know, even now that we have pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan, we still have this system that is essentially programmed for an arms race.

Cockburn

That’s right. There are progressive people on the left who missed the point. They say we have too many bases and all that and if we got rid of all that, defense spending would fall and we could spend the money on hospitals and schools. But that misses the point. The whole point is that the wars and the bases and everything are just there to justify the budget, and they’ll find another way to do it. If we didn’t have a war in Afghanistan, we’re going to have a threatened war with China. You know, most of the money doesn’t get spent. A huge portion of the Afghan money never actually left the United States. It was all spent here. In fact, as I point out, for years we had something called OCO—overseas contingency operations. That was a supplement to the budget introduced in 2010 or 2011, which was for fighting wars. This was on top of the defense budget, which was, at the time, $600 billion or something. And we’re going to add this extra supplement because we have to go and fight these wars. And we need more money for that. It’s like a police department charging extra money for catching criminals. It turned out that the OCO money wasn’t even being spent on the wars. They were just spending it on other things.

Robinson  

They needed another supplement for actually fighting the wars. 

Cockburn   

The left has to take more of an interest in war. Going back to the A-10 and the efforts of the Air Force to get rid of it because it’s too cheap and brings unwholesome association with the army, which they hate doing. That was a very well organized lobby to keep the A-10 in defiance of the Air Force, and a lot of Democrats on the left didn’t want to go along with this, because they say, “Hey, here’s a weapon system that even the Pentagon wants to kill. Great. Let’s kill this weapon system.” I thought that was so depressing, because they hadn’t bothered to really think through what was going on. This was the Pentagon’s way of getting rid of cheap weapons so they could buy more expensive ones.

And so, anyway, sometimes I get frustrated with the left. Someone I respect a great deal on the left was saying the other day, “Well, I love your book, except for all that stuff about the A-10. You just want to make the empire more efficient.” I said, “No, that’s not it.” First of all, people have to understand the forms of corruption that exist. In order to enable the financial corruption, you have to have an intellectual corruption that argues against this kind of weapon. Which, by the way, saves a lot of civilian lives as well, if you keep the A-10, as opposed to the bombers. That’s the sort of knee-jerk attitude. I just think the left should educate itself more about the way the whole system works. 

Robinson   

That’s interesting, the critique that you want the empire to be more efficient. One of the points that you make is that when this system operates mindlessly in the pursuit of private economic interests, and is built on corruption, then the threat to human lives can actually be greater than if it was operated by sincere ideologues. There’s an old Chomsky quote about how he’d rather the government be run by people who are just corrupt and in it for the money than by people who are sincerely committed to their convictions. But as you point out, civilians die when systems are built badly. And also, I did want to discuss your chapter on nuclear war because I think that is something that is just truly terrifying. Another strangely overlooked thing that apparently nobody talks about or cares about, is the way that we have fallen back into an escalating arms race. After a period in which it was very, very scary and unstable, it was rolled back a little bit and seems to be getting worse now. That was my takeaway from that chapter. Is that right?

Cockburn 

Yeah, it is. It was pretty great at the end of the Cold War, when they did withdraw nuclear weapons from Europe, almost all. I think they managed to leave a few there. There was a scaling back in the amount of nuclear weaponry littered around the place that was rather cheering. But those days are over, and things have become more dangerous because there’s this very pernicious way of thinking which is that we can have smaller and smaller nukes, which we could use in an ordinary war because they’re so tiny compared to the big multi-megaton strategic weapons. So the U.S. has been building one called a B-6112. You can allegedly dial it down to a third of a kiloton–well, that’s 300 tons of TNT, which still sounds like a pretty big explosion to me. But what that’s doing is it’s making it a bit more usable. The Russians or Chinese make it clear in every public statement on this issue. They say, you drop any kind of a nuclear weapon on us and we are giving you back everything we’ve got. And I think there are truly demented people in positions of influence and power in our system who are advocating this.

I will say again, this is the product of the hunt for profit and bureaucratic advantage, in terms of nuclear weapons and the renewed nuclear build up—which Obama, to his eternal discredit, gave a huge impetus to. We take a look at the nuclear labs. People are vaguely familiar with names like Lockheed and Raytheon, BA Systems and General Dynamics, but people need to understand more how banefully influential the nuclear labs are–the nuclear weapons labs, Los Alamos, Sandia, Lawrence Livermore, whose business model is to build and maintain nuclear weapons or think of new nuclear weapons to build. I give an example of just how pernicious the influence of the whole military machine is, in this instance the nuclear component there. New Mexico has Los Alamos. The modernization program that Obama launched has proposed to build new plutonium pits at Los Alamos, which is the heart of our nuclear weapons. Actually, we have a huge surplus of pits already. We don’t need more. Not to keep us going through World War Three, Four, Five, and Six. Los Alamos wanted the business. Tom Udall, who was then a Senator for New Mexico—as liberal and decent a senator as you could possibly hope for in the USA—fought like a tiger to get that appropriation for Los Alamos to build these horrible plutonium pits, because there was business for Los Alamos. The whole nuclear thing I find completely horrifying. There’s this endless urge to streamline the whole process by which the order to launch is given. As I explained in one of the chapters, there has been a big overhaul of that in recent years in a wholly bad direction. So, now, it’s just become easier for it all to happen.

Robinson  

In your discussion of the history of the launch process, one of the alarming moments was when people tried to figure out how they could lock the president into the decision to launch where the president would have to agree to launch a colossal nuclear strike if they had the right information. And another alarming thing was the two totally unsatisfactory answers to the questions of whether Donald Trump could unilaterally destroy a small country if he decided that he preferred this. We would explain that that was illegal. What if he says, okay, but you have to do it anyway because I’m the commander in chief? Well, we would explore other options with him. Are there any fail-safes? No, there are no fail-safes.

Cockburn 

That’s right. There was an awkward moment for the nuclear high command when Donald Trump did focus people’s attention on the fact that, oh, my God, we have this lunatic, you know, with his finger on the button. And they had all these very unsatisfactory answers. But, this is the system. And only Trump looked like he might discredit it a bit. But they had no intention of dismantling the system, no intention of doing what should obviously be done, which was to not have a doctrine of launch on warning. The idea is you see the enemy missiles coming and you should as quickly as possible fire back. There’s no need for that. It’s been incredibly dangerous and has brought us to the brink of total disaster at least a couple of times, maybe more. But yet they will fight like tigers to maintain it.

Robinson   

When you mentioned Tom Udall fighting for the plutonium pit, it reminded me that even Bernie Sanders in Vermont ended up fighting for the F-35 construction to be in Vermont. Every single one of the senators—no matter how principled an opponent of American militarism they may be—there’s this deal you can’t refuse where if you turn down thousands of jobs, this is real money up for grabs and real jobs. So how could even Bernie Sanders say, oh, I don’t want the plane in Vermont?

Cockburn

Right. And the extra twist, of course, is that it’s usually not thousands of jobs. So with Bernie Sanders, the background to the story is that the Air National Guard in Vermont was going to shift from F-16s, which are based at Burlington airport, to F-35s. And the problem with the F-35 is that it’s incredibly noisy. An unbelievably noisy plane. If you’re anywhere near it when it’s taking off, it’s four times as loud as an F-16, which meant that thousands of people living nearby–mostly poor people or relatively poor, and immigrants living around Burlington airport–were going to have to leave their homes because there’s noisy planes, making it unbearable. So people said, just stop it, Bernie. Prevent this from happening. And Bernie said no, because it means jobs for Vermont. But the trouble is, actually, it turns out that there’ll be fewer jobs with the F-35 than their was with the F-16 because more of the maintenance is done elsewhere back at the Lockheed facility, as opposed to on the base, so there certainly won’t be thousands of jobs and quite possibly will be fewer jobs.

Robinson   

You have an important statistic somewhere in here about how many jobs are created by the average billion dollars of military spending versus education spending or health spending. And in fact, it turns out that defense spending is a horrible use of money if your concern is to create jobs for people.

Cockburn

Exactly. Healthcare generates far more. Education generates far more. I mean, defense does create some jobs, no denying it. It’s just not as many. It’s something that congressmen or senators can wave, saying, I’m bringing jobs to wherever. What they’re certainly doing is bringing money into their campaign coffers, which is the point.

Robinson  

Well, I do want to ask you a difficult question. It’s easy to come away from your book quite cynical. I haven’t even touched on the last section, which explores Wall Street theft. You can come away feeling as if your country is run entirely by crooks. And there’s nothing you can do about it, because it’s just a giant metastasizing cancer. Because it is driven by a sort of internal logic independent of human ideology or desire. That can make people feel a little bit powerless. So have you thought about a vision for how we would begin to roll back or change the direction of this giant machine? What do we need? Is it international arms control agreements? Is it just the fact that the first thing we need to do is actually start talking about the fact that we have a military industrial complex? Because it just falls off the radar? Nobody cares. What’s the hopeful vision?

 Cockburn

That would be a good start, actually, to start acknowledging what’s going on. And this point that we’ve been talking about throughout this discussion, which is to understand how little this has to do with defense. In other words, start calling a spade a spade. I’m not so sure about international arms control agreements, because of what they’ve actually served to do in the past. That’s basically saying, let’s regulate the arms race, not end it, curb it, just regulate it. So you’re gonna have this weapon, but not that weapon, and so forth. But it never actually puts a crimp in the budgets. I don’t think it made us much safer. We had an ABM Treaty, and the Americans opted out of it, but we never had an ABM. So what was the point of that? No one else did, either.

I wish I could offer a roadmap for how we turn everything around. An outbreak of honesty would be enormously helpful, and truth telling, so that we don’t have this parade of basically corrupt three- and four-star generals and admirals touting a threat. And then the necessary answer to that threat will certainly earn them a big fat job on the board of some major defense contractor. I quote something in the book by a guy called Ivan Selin who was a senior official in the Pentagon in the 1960s. He used to give addresses to his subordinates, and he would say, “welcome to the world of strategic analysis, where we program weapons that don’t work to meet threats that don’t exist.” And that covers a lot of what’s going on. The more we have a recognition of that–I’m feeling particularly prescient, but also irritated at the moment, about the hype about the allegedly amazing Chinese hypersonic missiles and the fact that this has been obediently repeated in the press by journalists who really ought to know better. It will certainly cost us billions of dollars under a purported need to respond to it. We’ve really got to demand proper answers for a start. If you want an effective defense, I’d say, you know, the progressives rather timidly call for a 10% reduction—I say, let’s start with 50% reduction, you might be getting somewhere that might actually get an effective military out of it.

Robinson 

So we can’t give in to fear-mongering. People on the left need to educate themselves. Not to diminish your original reporting, but a lot of things are publicly available. You scrutinize the statements of the Pentagon and public officials. They can be exposed. And so I think that the first thing is just to try and puncture the propaganda and have it not be taken as fact, which it too often is even by those who should know better. Your book is a good start. I hope people consider picking up Andrew Cockburn’s The Spoils of War: Power, Profit and the American War Machine available from Verso. Thank you so much for talking to me, Andrew Cockburn.

Cockburn 

Nathan, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you.

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