Progressive Writers Bloc

War as Racketeering?

Uncle Bill Warner

Wars are generally sold to the public as something unavoidable, and with a lofty moral purpose. As a student and teacher of history, I have found very few wars, even the "holy" ones, that didn't have a component of greed and acquisition about them. In some, like the invasion of Iraq, the lies on which we based our actions were pretty transparent. In others, like our entry into the two World Wars, not so evident. People like to ignore the fact that it was mainly about getting a share of the pie.

Does anyone still believe that we are in Iraq just to "bring them democracy" and not partly (or mainly) for the corporate profits to be made in rebuilding it, and control of the second largest oil fields in the world? As an ex-Marine, I always enjoyed the lines in an old Tom Lehrer song: "When someone makes a move, of which we don't approve, who is it that always intervenes? U.N. and O.A.S., they have their place, I guess, but when in doubt, SEND THE MARINES!"

Back when the U.S. was losing in the Korean war after the retreat from "Frozen Chosin" in November 1950, I remember General "Chesty" Puller giving us a pep talk in the mess hall. He stressed that we had to stop those evil commies from their campaign to take over their country . He may have used words having to do with "saving the world for democracy and freedom" instead of saving Korea for U.S investment. I don't think any of us really knew what a "commie" was, or why they wanted to have Korea for the Koreans. It never occurred to us that had the Korean or the Vietnamese communists gotten control of their own countries, U.S. corporations taking big profits out might have been given the boot.

Here are some interesting words from another Marine a few years earlier (from a speech delivered in 1933, by Major General Smedley Butler, USMC, recipient of two Congressional Medals of Honor):

"War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses.

"I believe in adequate defense at the coastline and nothing else. If a nation comes over here to fight, then we'll fight. The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.

"I wouldn't go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.

"There isn't a trick in the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. It has its 'finger men' to point out enemies, its 'muscle men' to destroy enemies, its 'brain men' to plan war preparations, and a 'Big Boss' Super-Nationalistic-Capitalism.

"I spent thirty- three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps...and during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.

"The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912 ... I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested. During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents."

It took a lot of courage for General Butler to speak out, and I doubt that any big corporation hired him as a vice president when he retired. I defy you to look at Iraq today with the unconscionable profiteering by "no-bid" companies like Halliburton (from which our VP, Dick Cheney retired with some 40 million dollars), and say that General Butler didn't have any idea how the system works. If it smells like a racket, sounds like a racket, looks like a racket, it just might be a racket.

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