Home > Uncategorized > The Business of War

The Business of War

from Asad Zaman and the WEA Pedagogy Blog

Twarishellhe highly decorated war hero, Major General Smedley Butler, described a well-hidden secret in his classic book, War is a Racket: “I made Mexico safe for American oil in 1914 … I helped in the raping of a half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street … In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.” Butler came to see himself as a gangster, a muscle-man for the protection of business interests. History textbooks fail to mention what Butler saw as the main cause of the First World War: the more than 20,000 millionaires and billionaires created by war profiteering.

Butler writes that a “racket” is a deception: war is not what it appears to be to the majority of people. Only a small “inside” group knows the truth, and makes huge fortunes from war while the masses sacrifice their lives for fabricated causes. A recent article in Foreign Policy re-iterated the message that “War is still a racket” by showing how some groups are making trillions in profits from the perpetual war against terror.

As plans for war against Syria heat up, new myths are being manufactured to support it.  read more 

  1. blocke
    January 5, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    This post indicates why it is so urgent for this blog to include historians. The historical literature on the origins of WWI and post WWII wars is vast. Asad should know better than to explain the trouble in the Islamic world solely in terms of Western capitalist greed. What I would hope to find from him is something about how the sources of conflict are rooted in the dynamic of the Islamic world. He would do the West a great service if he would try to weave that scenario into the one he is presenting, because economists in the West do not know a Sunni from a Shite.

    • Paul Schächterle
      January 5, 2016 at 1:26 pm

      Well, whether the invasion and destruction of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and the planned or attempted plan to wage war against Iran by forces of “the West” and their oil partner dictatorships has much to do with the “dynamic of the Islamic world” is up for discussion. All those wars in “muslim countries” – are they in countries without oil or pipeline routes?
      Also what has the fact that there is a lot of literature on the causes of WWI and WWII to do with the causes of other conflicts?

      • blocke
        January 6, 2016 at 7:40 am

        “History textbooks fail to mention what Butler saw as the main cause of the First World War: the more than 20,000 millionaires and billionaires created by war profiteering.”

        When I took a diplomatic history of Europe in 1955 in UCLA’s history department as an undergraduate, we read Sydney Fay’s Origins of the World War, published in 1929, so without the need to explain Hitler. Fay blamed the War on the alliance system, great power rivalry, assigning the most blame to Austria, Russia, and France, not Germany, despite the War Guilt clause. Fay was an American. we read Lenin, Imperialism the Highest stage of capitalism, the text that blamed the bankers, Schumpter’s On Imperialism, which viewed Imperialism as an atavism, that is, capitalism is not in its essence in favor of war because it disrupts markets, and a diplomatic history of Europe by Gordon Craig. No a bad education right in the middle of Macarthyism.

      • January 6, 2016 at 11:14 am

        On world wars, causes include predatory dispositions as well as means institutionalised by reinforcing feedbacks, viz not so much the original capitalism (increasing wealth by investing surplus resources in science and mass production) as the bastard money-making version created by the combination of Henry VIII’s re-legalisation of usury and William III’s legalisation of the baker’s fraud (Reserve Banking, i.e. the mass production of paper money to finance profiting from real mass-production). The predatory personality types we have inherited from the animal kingdom (the lion kings, the indiscriminate foxes and scavenging hyenas) have always been with us. Packs of hyenas, able to persuade foxes to borrow to invest in weapons of mass destruction and tempt the lions with easy prey while stirring up rivalry between them, are the ones who make an easy living by getting others to do their dirty work for them. In short, the ambiguous abstraction Capitalism is not the cause of war, but given the God of chrematistic neo-Capitalism (easy money), the people who run the arms industry, the indiscriminate stock exchanges and the banking system surely are.

        The Christian reformation followed within four years of Machiavelli’s “The Prince”, the First World War within a year of the unconstitutional legalisation of the American Federal Reserve Bank. Hitler’s war machine was financed not just by German industrialists but by American bankers: notably Grandfather Bush, whose descendents surely have a lot to answer for in the present Middle Eastern conflicts. The post- Hitler Cold War hinged on competitive militarism rather than demilitarisation to permit peaceful coexistence, its rival lions still fighting each other for sustenance in the territories of easy prey: the financial foxes dividing and arming the defenders to mass-produce indiscriminate kill on which the lions cannot prey but the hyenas can gorge themselves.

      • January 6, 2016 at 11:27 am

        Apologies for my typo to any bakers here! Should have read: “William III’s legalisation of the BANKER’S fraud”. (Of course that means only that his name was on the paperwork; part of the deal was that he got handsomely pensioned off).

  2. January 5, 2016 at 3:18 pm

    Lovely frankness. Having been pondering all the above. Thank you.

  3. January 6, 2016 at 2:20 am

    Historical and political studies, as well as sociological and psychological research clearly show the multiple roots of middle east and Islamic conflicts. So it’s really incorrect to blame all the wars and other conflicts in Islamic nations or in the middle east on capitalism, whether oil and other “capitalist” companies are involved or not. That being said these same studies and research also show that many capitalist companies did indeed use western governments and their armies, navies, and marines to protect company interests and profits. Capitalism and the economic entities that make it up is a focused and tenacious ideology. But it’s not the only one such, either today or historically. It’s always had to fight for its place and rewards. And it did not historically and does not today win all those fights.

  4. January 6, 2016 at 10:18 am

    As the power/knowledge thesis suggests, an extremely important element of the power exercised by capitalism is its hegemony on the production of knowledge. Even though it was known to be false, the myth that Iraq had WMD’s was spread as disinformation to fool the public into going to war. There are so many documented False Flag operations, where the public is deceived into providing support for wars against the public interest, but in the favor of the military industrial complex. Anyone with human feelings cannot help but feel compassion for the millions of Syrians, Iraqis, Libyans, Afghanis who were bombed and lost lives and limbs, relatives, homes, as well as access to amenities like electricity, water, food, hospitals, schools — for no fault of their own.

    Complicating the narrative, by saying that these things are due to internal dynamics of Islam, that chaos always reigns in the world, that these conflict have roots going back centuries and you and I cannot possibly hope to understand or dis-entangle them — this is to hand the victory to the plutocrats — all they want from us is to be silent bystanders, they have all they need to do the rest. There are links to sources provided in the post itself, which provide documentation for all the claims. See for example: Ben Swann: Reality Check: GOP Candidates Completely Wrong on Origin of ISIS in Latest Debate

    However, we are all witness to myths manufactured to justify carpet bombing of Iraq — WMD’s, Al-Qaeda connections, etc. These myths were used to justify one of the greatest crimes witnessed in history — the destruction of entire countries, millions of innocent lives — for the sake of profits. This crime was done in the open, just like many others of this type. The power of the media is totally amazing and flabbergasting — having destroyed the entire country by bombing, it continues to be publicly maintained that this was done for the benefit of the Iraqi people. Just like arming rebels in Syria and Libya to create a civil war which made millions homeless in both countries was done for the benefit of the people. The ability to do these things depends on controlling the narrative — To be complicit in the crime, it is enough for us to say that it is all very confusing, and complex, and thereby implicitly acquiesce to the status quo. .

    • blocke
      January 6, 2016 at 1:58 pm

      “Complicating the narrative, by saying that these things are due to internal dynamics of Islam, that chaos always reigns in the world, that these conflict have roots going back centuries and you and I cannot possibly hope to understand or dis-entangle them — this is to hand the victory to the plutocrats — all they want from us is to be silent bystanders, they have all they need to do the rest.”

      Nobody said any of this, at least I didn’t; As an historian I believe explanations of events are much more complicated that you suggest in this excerpt I thought it would be enlightening to hear something about the Islamic world from somebody familiar with it, rather than the usual diatribe. But I haven’t got it. Its diatribe on both sides and no history.

  5. Paul Schächterle
    January 6, 2016 at 4:01 pm

    This is a very interesting discussion. I would like to add a perspective:

    We could assume that war is the result of irrational actions.

    But we should also contemplate the possibility that wars are the result of rational, cold calculated actions. In this case we would have to look for the possible motives, means and opportunities.

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