“Of course war to us seems so brutal and so unnecessary. That’s because we don’t own shares in arms companies. Those guys live in palatial penthouses full of shrunken heads and wank to the news”- Frankie Boyle
War is a racket, Major General Smedley Butler told us so in 1935. This man was a Major General in the U.S. Marine Corps, the highest rank authorized at that time, and at the time of his death in 1940 was the most decorated Marine in U.S. history after a 34-year career that saw him rise to the very top. So it is safe to say Smedley Butler knew what he was talking about when he tried to expose war for what it really is in his book titled War Is A Racket. Here is the opening passage from that book:
“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 same 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. For a great many years, as a soldier, I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not until I retired to civil life did I fully realize it. Now that I see the international war clouds gathering, as they are today, I must face it and speak out.”
And speak out he did, but to no avail unfortunately. Because despite all his warnings World War II commenced in 1939, carnage and bloodshed on unprecedented levels ensued on a global scale for 6 years and culminated in Atomic Bombs being dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killing an estimated 200,000 innocent people.
General Smedley mentions that war is a racket to make huge sums of money for an inside few. Well this week Oxfam announced that the wealth of the 85 richest people in the world was equal to the wealth of the poorest 3.5billion people combined. This is a staggering statistic, I still can’t get my head around it. How have these people acquired such enormous wealth? Well it certainly wasn’t acquired working minimum wage zero hour contracts or working 9-5 in the crooked corporations they operate. You can bet your bottom dollar (well pound for us English people) that every one of them has their finger in the arms trade pie. Do you remember last year when it was revealed that Britain has sold more than £12billion of arms to countries on the Government’s own blacklist for human rights abuses? When ministers approved the export of sniper rifles, machine guns, bullets, tear gas, military vehicles and other ‘crowd control’ equipment to 27 authoritarian regimes? No I bet you have forgotten about that. Now General Smedley doesn’t forget about the arms trade in his book:
“Take our friends the du Ponts, the powder people — didn’t one of them testify before a Senate committee recently that their powder won the war? Or saved the world for democracy? Or something? How did they do in the war? They were a patriotic corporation. Well, the average earnings of the du Ponts for the period 1910 to 1914 were $6,000,000 a year. It wasn’t much, but the du Ponts managed to get along on it. Now let’s look at their average yearly profit during the war years, 1914 to 1918. Fifty-eight million dollars a year profit we find! Nearly ten times that of normal times and the profits of normal times were pretty good. An increase in profits of more than 950 per cent.
Take one of our little steel companies that patriotically shunted aside the making of rails and girders and bridges to manufacture war materials. Well, their 1910-1914 yearly earnings averaged $6,000,000. Then came the war. And, like loyal citizens, Bethlehem Steel promptly turned to munitions making. Did their profits jump — or did they let Uncle Sam in for a bargain? Well, their 1914-1918 average was $49,000,000 a year!
Or, let’s take United States Steel. The normal earnings during the five-year period prior to the war were $105,000,000 a year. Not bad. Then along came the war and up went the profits. The average yearly profit for the period 1914-1918 was $240,000,000. Not bad. There you have some of the steel and powder earnings. Let’s look at something else. A little copper, perhaps. That always does well in war times. Anaconda, for instance. Average yearly earnings during the pre-war years 1910-1914 of $10,000,000. During the war years 1914-1918 profits leaped to $34,000,000 per year.
Or Utah Copper. Average of $5,000,000 per year during the 1910-1914 period. Jumped to an average of $21,000,000 yearly profits for the war period. Let’s group these five, with three smaller companies. The total yearly average profits of the pre-war period 1910-1914 were $137,480,000. Then along came the war. The average yearly profits for this group skyrocketed to $408,300,000.”
And that is just the corporations selling their goods, the Governments of the world have to pay for these weapons. How do they do that? Well they are bankrolled of course, by the banks. The banks bankroll both sides of a conflict, they do not care who wins. For more information on this I recommend the book Tragedy & Hope by Carol Quigley.
The bottom line is war is big business, granted the profits come at a heavy price, its costs blood and lives. But it is the blood and lives of the poor therefore it doesn’t really matter. I have been alive since 1989 and I don’t think a year of my life has passed without the US or the UK being involved in one conflict or another, they even lied and created fictitious WMD to get their claws in Iraq for the second time in 2003. In December 2013 the US Congress signed a military budget of $526.8 billion for the 2014 fiscal year. Imagine if this money was put to constructive use instead of destructive use, imagine what could be achieved and what a different world we would live in.
However the powers that be don’t want a harmonious world to be created, they are happy with how the world is today. For them the current system works perfectly, their profit comes from our pain. To create more profit they are going to create more pain. Think about that today as you go about your business of making other men and women wealthy whilst you are barely surviving.
This article is authored by Lee Cooper
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