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2/5/2007

WAR IS A RACKET

"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."

This quote could very easily be used to describe the current war in Iraq. It comprises the opening lines from Major General Smedley Butler's book War is a Racket written in 1935 by the two-time Congressional Medal of Honor winner. At the time of the book's publishing, Butler was the most decorated war hero in American history. He wrote from firsthand experience in more wars than any living American could currently claim. A second excerpt from his writing reveals with apt ire what one of our bravest citizens witnessed in foreign wars a hundred years ago:

"I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested."

These are not the words of some left-wing radical, but the heart felt and reasoned assessments of a battle-wise war veteran. They are as true today as they were when he wrote them and should serve as grim warning to all Americans as they watch the horror and destruction of what is currently taking place in Iraq. War is about profits.

When George Bush recently asked for a troop increase of 21,500 soldiers in Iraq and, essentially, another six-month to a year lease on his war, he was pandering for defense contractors and related transnational corporations. With each day that this war persists, more bullets are fired, more equipment is needed, and all the more reconstruction will take place after the damned thing is over. The latest price tag on the war in Iraq fills out to $6 billion a month and long ago surpassed a half trillion dollar total. Be sure that between the no-bid reconstruction contracts and the skimming off the top of weapons and military equipment costs, someone is taking home a hot billion a month. If not more. And this doesn't touch the vast profits awaiting the oil industry when the blood bath ends. Whenever that might be.

The criminal aspect of this on-going fiasco merits impeachment and jail time for the top echelon of the current administration. The intelligence manipulation, the lies incorporated into our presentations to the United Nations, the lie, told over and over again, to the American public about the connection of Iraq to terrorism and the 9/11 incident, the falsifications regarding weapons of mass destruction, the systematic attacks on the critics of the war, the gutlesss jingoism from a bevy of Neo-Con chicken hawks, all of it was about profit for a few at the mortal cost of many. There could be no better example of General Bulter's concept of a racket. It is enough to make you retch. And at the center of this remarkable snowjob is Dick Cheney and Halliburton, oil, and a Skull and Bones cowboy who's just happy as a lark to turn the crank on the money machine for his good ol'boy friends. Make no mistake about it, remove the veils of ideology and the pretense of national security, and this is organized crime of the highest order.

A cursory review of failed or mismanaged reconstruction contracts reads like a who's who of the heaviest hitters in the defense reconstruction and oil infrastructure industry. Bechtel is currently undergoing government auditing for gross mismanagement of its $2.85 billion in Iraq contracts. Parson Inc. who initially contracted to build 142 primary health centers in Iraq has run out of money after building but 20 of those clinics. The Associated Press reported that defense giant DynCorp International is being investigated for several contract irregularities including $4.2 million in expenditures for 20 VIP trailers and an Olypmic-sized swimming pool. A collection of companies donating $500,000 to George Bush's presidential campaign have received in excess of $8 billion in construction contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pentagon officials report that ex-Halliburton CEO Vice President Dick Cheney coordinated portions of Halliburton's no-bid contract to restore oil production in Iraq. Amid many complaints about the work, pricing gouging, and cost overruns, Halliburton contracts now exceed the $10 billion mark. Aggrhhh. The list could go on and on.

When the President brags about a growing economy, stop and think about what he's really saying. The war as a economic machine has been a success. It's a money maker, a deep dark money machine. Look at the companies that have contributed the most to the Dow Jones rebound. Those same reconstruction contractors, oil companies, and weapon makers are taking it in hand over fist in Iraq. (Exxon Mobil posted $39.9 billion in profits in 2006. The largest ever reported in American history. The doubling of the price of petroleum since the war's inception is not an unrelated event.) It may be that the wealthiest Americans will crow about their recent stock market gains, but it comes at the cost of more than 3,000 dead and 20,000 injured American soldiers and the absolute descration of Iraq, including a death toll in the tens of tens of thousands, mostly innocent civilians. What a way to make money.

General Butler hit the nail right on the head. Big Business has no qualms about starting wars to create markets or trading human lives for profit. There may be real contentions in any war, but at bottom, war is a racket, especially when it's fought in someone else's country. As in Vietnam, so it goes in Iraq, the longer the war can be maintained, the more weaponry that is expended, the more infrastructure there is to rebuild, the higher the profits and the deeper the graft.

Oh, sure, we get our political discussions. We have our high and mighty democrats and republicans decrying the strategy or this deployment or another. But it's all foot-dragging and profiteering now. Until someone says NO. The same can be said of our holier than thou War on Terror. It may be that, yes, Islamic radicals struck a severe blow to this country in 2001. And, yes, they will surely do it again, if not here in the States, then at one of our embassies or military bases in some foreign country. But the truth is we have a bigger and more ingrained problem in this country with domestic abuse. Yes, terrorism is real, but it's over blown and what we're doing in Iraq is only fanning the flames. Even worse, it's being marketed to us like a product line. It's an advertising push. And no matter what name they use to label it, it's smoke and mirrors for a racket where America's most powerful businesses make money by selling fear as a commodity.

If Congress does not seriously address the way the Iraq war was sold to the American public, if George Bush and his Vice President are not held accountable for their lies and manipulations, if both of these men are not impeached, we have to figure the majority of Congress has also given itself over to the war racket.