Thursday, June 17, 2010

"War is a racket"

They also replaced the word “capitalism” throughout their texts with the “free-enterprise system.”
“Let’s face it, capitalism does have a negative connotation,”
said one conservative member, Terri Leo. “You know, ‘capitalist pig!’ ”
- from a New York Times story on the Texas school book committee’s rewrite of history

“I’m ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday. I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown — in this case a $20 billion shakedown.”
-Joe Barton, Texas Congressman (and product of the Texas educational system), apologizing to BP’s Tony Hayward, earlier today

Lone Star conservatives flexed their political muscle recently by rewriting the textbooks to be used by students in Texas and, ultimately, many other states.

Call it the Palinization of America, accelerating the dumbing-down of the already dumb. According to the new history, as revised by the Texas school book committee, Senator Joseph McCarthy was a vigilant defender of the American way of life, rather than a noxious demagogue. On the other hand, the Texans downplayed the legacy of Thomas Jefferson due to his heretical insistence upon the separation of church and state.

I guess it doesn't matter, though. People seem incapable of learning from history anyhow, given their stubborn determination to repeat it...over and over and over again. So why not make the subject as simplistic and unrealistic as an old Hollywood western?

Cowboys. Indians. Showdown at high noon...

What more do the little kiddies need to know on their way to becoming full-fledged jingoistic, xenophobic subjects of the corporate overlords?

One thing's for sure. That Texas gang won't be carving out any textbook space for one war hero from the past. When he died in 1940, the retired Major General Smedley Butler was the most decorated Marine in U. S. history. However, Butler was best known for his message, "War is a racket." He toured the lecture circuit and published a pamphlet of the same title.

In 1934 he was involved in a controversy known as the Business Plot when he told a congressional committee that a group of wealthy industrialists had approached him to lead a military coup to overthrow Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Nowadays, they'd probably fling the "socialist" epithet at him for speaking out against the military-industrial complex. In fact, Butler did pen several articles for a socialist magazine, and was criticized for sharing the podium with subversives. Butler’s response?

"They told me I'd find a nest of communists here. I told them 'What the hell of it!' In 1917 the government went around drafting boys into the army; they didn't ask then what a man's politics were; they merely asked if he had a sound body and a strong back."

From Butler’s 1935 pamphlet, "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. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes

A few profit – and the many pay. But there is a way to stop it. You can't end it by disarmament conferences. You can't eliminate it by peace parleys at Geneva. Well-meaning but impractical groups can't wipe it out by resolutions. It can be smashed effectively only by taking the profit out of war.

The only way to smash this racket is to conscript capital and industry and labor before the nations manhood can be conscripted. One month before the Government can conscript the young men of the nation – it must conscript capital and industry and labor. Let the officers and the directors and the high-powered executives of our armament factories and our munitions makers and our shipbuilders and our airplane builders and the manufacturers of all the other things that provide profit in war time as well as the bankers and the speculators, be conscripted – to get $30 a month, the same wage as the lads in the trenches get.

Let the workers in these plants get the same wages – all the workers, all presidents, all executives, all directors, all managers, all bankers – yes, and all generals and all admirals and all officers and all politicians and all government office holders – everyone in the nation be restricted to a total monthly income not to exceed that paid to the soldier in the trenches!

The next war, according to experts, will be fought not with battleships, not by artillery, not with rifles and not with machine guns. It will be fought with deadly chemicals and gases.

Secretly each nation is studying and perfecting newer and ghastlier means of annihilating its foes wholesale. Yes, ships will continue to be built, for the shipbuilders must make their profits. And guns still will be manufactured and powder and rifles will be made, for the munitions makers must make their huge profits. And the soldiers, of course, must wear uniforms, for the manufacturer must make their war profits too.

But victory or defeat will be determined by the skill and ingenuity of our scientists.

If we put them to work making poison gas and more and more fiendish mechanical and explosive instruments of destruction, they will have no time for the constructive job of building greater prosperity for all peoples. By putting them to this useful job, we can all make more money out of peace than we can out of war – even the munitions makers.

So...I say,

The entire book is online at

According to a recent report, we spend one million dollars to send one soldier into war for one year. Presumably, about 2 to 3% of that million covers the soldier's pay. So who pockets the other 97%? Regardless of the outcome in Iraq and Afghanistan, those who've been
feasting on the 97% are already big winners.

Let's take a closer look. is a project of OMB Watch and provides detailed information on federal contracts. Fascinating stuff and an hour well spent.

If you examine the federal contracts awarded in our own (NC 11) congressional district, the Department of Defense and other agencies associated with the military dominate the top of the list of contracting agencies. The top contractor in the district in FY2008 was Haywood County’s Wellco Enterprises. The footwear manufacturer (which has since relocated its operations) received $45,616,411.
(Link - )

Oddly enough, back in 1935, Smedley Butler took aim at the boot makers:

Take the shoe people. They like war. It brings business with abnormal profits. They made huge profits on sales abroad to our allies. Perhaps, like the munitions manufacturers and armament makers, they also sold to the enemy. For a dollar is a dollar whether it comes from Germany or from France. But they did well by Uncle Sam too. For instance, they sold Uncle Sam 35,000,000 pairs of hobnailed service shoes. There were 4,000,000 soldiers. Eight pairs, and more, to a soldier. My regiment during the war had only one pair to a soldier. Some of these shoes probably are still in existence. They were good shoes. But when the war was over Uncle Sam has a matter of 25,000,000 pairs left over. Bought – and paid for. Profits recorded and pocketed.

This brings back memories of visiting Army surplus stores in the early 1960s, filled with mountains of surplus boots!

Dwight Eisenhower's farewell address (1961) has to be one of the most prophetic speeches delivered by an American president in the past fifty years, but I don’t know if you’ll find any mention of it in the latest history books from Texas!

Ike warned:

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 States 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 Statehouse, 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 the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together….
(Entire speech at )

And just this week, the New York Times reported:

The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

(Link - )

I think we’ve just found one trillion more reasons to “stay the course!”

Although they’ll never admit it in Texas.


Anonymous said...

Great article! When nature split off from the mindbody and when the mind and body split we were doomed. We can, however, reverse this. It just takes a little 'feeling.' There was a time when humanity actuality FELT. Going from feeling to thinking and academizing what our former hearts knew is a recipe for spiralling downward as a people. The BP disaster had to happen to raise our consciousness.

Neither our government NOR private industry should be left to their own devices. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

When the people stand together we can change all of this.

Western North Carolina Writer's Underground said...

War is just another form of human enslavement perpetrated on regular people by totalitarians and collectivists; just two forms of which are fascists and communists. An argument could be made that collectivism also includes capitalists. Why? Because the real capitalists (Wall Street types) tend to collect together physically and fiscally. Free market Libertarians just want to be left alone by totalitarians and collectivists so that they can coexist in reasonable harmony with their families, friends, and communities. Unfortunately totalitarians and collectivists cannot allow that to happen.

When the time comes, be prepared to "go to the woods" and fight the totalitarians and collectivists. Otherwise they will kill you and take everything that you value--arts, literature, music, culture, freedom.

Lose your illusions.

While there is still time.

Anonymous said...

Did you mean "love" your illusions while there is still time?

Well written. Thanks!

A writer above ground.

Anonymous said...

Ahh the great Libertarian egoist construction, "It is all about me, what I want, what I feel what I desire." Libertarianism is nothing more than utopian self-absorption, a desire to deconstruct civilization into a self-relating bubble.
Arts, literature, culture, music - tell me how these things would exist in a Libertarian Utopia.
A current theory popular among Libertarian thinkers (an oxymoron?) is that even if global warming exists we owe no debt to future generations. We have a right, a duty and obligation even, to use the world and its resources to maximize our current profits and enjoyments. What can such a bankrupt and self referential philosophy know about the Arts, music,literature and culture? The realm of the beautiful is beyond those who fail to recognize the immanent.
A wonderful thoughtful post Gulahiyi. Clausewitz posited that war was merely an extension of politics; perhaps politics has become little more than the extension of economics and so we come to Genral Butler's conclusion.