Sunday, August 22, 2010

This Should Be Required Reading in Middle School -- and in High School, Just as a Reminder...

War Is A Racket by Smedley Butler:

War is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the 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 very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

In the World War [I] a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows.

How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dug-out? How many of them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun bullets? How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them were wounded or killed in battle?

Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few -- the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.

And what is this bill? This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations...


This was first published in 1935. Nothing much new under the sun here, is there?

Smedley Butler died in 1940, so he didn't witness any part of the Second World War. But he damn sure saw it coming:

...

At each session of Congress the question of further naval appropriations comes up. The swivel-chair admirals of Washington (and there are always a lot of them) are very adroit lobbyists. And they are smart. They don't shout that "We need a lot of battleships to war on this nation or that nation." Oh no. First of all, they let it be known that America is menaced by a great naval power. Almost any day, these admirals will tell you, the great fleet of this supposed enemy will strike suddenly and annihilate 125,000,000 people. Just like that. Then they begin to cry for a larger navy. For what? To fight the enemy? Oh my, no. Oh, no. For defense purposes only.

Then, incidentally, they announce maneuvers in the Pacific. For defense. Uh, huh.

The Pacific is a great big ocean. We have a tremendous coastline on the Pacific. Will the maneuvers be off the coast, two or three hundred miles? Oh, no. The maneuvers will be two thousand, yes, perhaps even thirty-five hundred miles, off the coast.

The Japanese, a proud people, of course will be pleased beyond expression to see the United States fleet so close to Nippon's shores. Even as pleased as would be the residents of California were they to dimly discern through the morning mist, the Japanese fleet playing at war games off Los Angeles...


He said that six years before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

It wasn't always like this with America, though. George Washington himself warned Americans not to get involved in foreign wars. Many generations later, Dwight Eisenhower warned Americans of the growing military-industrial complex. Their words went unheeded.

Now we have soldiers stuck in Afghanistan -- commonly known as the place where empires die. That war is now the longest one in our nation's history. While we also have many soldiers in Iraq, that colossal mistake is being slowly, and thankfully, wound down. But all that means, if the last century or so is any guide, is that we'll soon be gearing up for another invasion somewhere else. In the name of National Security, of course. Most likely Iran, with the wild card slot currently occupied by Pakistan.

"Let me ask you one question," sang Bob Dylan to the masters of war: "Is your money that good?" Apparently, their answer is yes...


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