War is a Racket

July 15, 2009

“How is it possible,” Tolstoy asked, “For people endowed with reason and conscience to be deceived by argument so manifestly irrational and directed by the self-interest of the privileged few?”

War is a Racket

War is a Racket

In 1935, a U.S. Marine Corps Major General, Smedley Butler, wrote a fascinating book that really hasn’t been bested, although time and circumstance are catching up to some of it. Butler certainly knew his subject. He was awarded two Medals of Honor and at the time of his death, in 1940, he was the most decorated Marine in history. He was one of the first to describe the working of the military-industrial complex about which U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower would later offer a warning.

Butler’s book title: War is a Racket.  Here is a quote from it:

“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 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.”

Find the full text here: http://www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/warisaracket.html

Some other relevant words of wisdom have come down to us from our even deeper past:

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Jesus of Nazareth, Matthew 6:21

From a contemporary perspective, this admonition speaks to the power of the subconscious mind. If we consciously and rationally apportion our resources to reasonable defense and equally to a concerted effort to put an end to wars, the very act of putting our money to that desirable end will affect us so as to keep our hearts, and our efforts, focused on an ending-war goal. We need to reassess our spending priorities, shift our entire economies if you will, so that our primary focus is kept on abolishing this obscenity, not planning for new ways to fight and kill.

Albert Einstein is said to have defined insanity as “doing the same thing and expecting a different result.”  This typically evokes a chuckle. But it also rings true. We cannot continue to devote the greatest bulk of our discretionary national wealth, in amounts grossly out of proportion to what we spend on the projects designed to avoid wars and resolve conflicts nonviolently, and expect to get a different result. The military budgets of too many countries are grotesque in their waste on buying war weapons and maintaining standing armies (for an example, using the U.S. budget for 2008, see Budgeting and War) . It’s time for the veil to be lifted from the face of our budgets, time for us to realize that continuing on this path is a form of mass delusion.

Unfortunately, the unholy duo of money outlined by Major General Butler has in our time has become an unholy trio: the military-industrial-corporate complex.

“No sane person seeks a world divided between billions of excluded people living in absolute deprivation and a tiny elite guarding their wealth and luxury behind fortress walls.  No one rejoices at the prospect of life in a world of collapsing social and ecological system. Yet we continue to place human civilization and even the survival of our species at risk mainly to allow a few million people to accumulate money beyond any conceivable need. We continue to go boldly where no one wants to go.”
David Korten
When Corporations Rule the World

David Korten is a brilliant economic thinker. His series of books provide both historical background on the development of corporations and their contributions to environmental and political woes, and also an economic vision for building a better future:
When Corporations Rule the World
The Great Turning
The Post-corporate World
Agenda for a New Economy

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