Thu, Jun

The Cost of War and Empire

AT LENGTH - On the 10th anniversary of the United States invasion of Iraq, Reuters news agency cited a study of the Costs of War Project by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University. The study noted that, “The US war in Iraq has cost $1.7 trillion with an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to war veterans– expenses that could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next four decades counting interest.” 

That war which has “officially ended,” still drains the budget some $9 billion per month.  The cost of both Afghanistan and Iraq wars now totals more than $1.4 trillion. This does not even take into consideration the human suffering and lives lost on all sides. As we now know, the Iraq War was based upon a presidential deception not unlike the Bay of Tonkin incident that promulgated the Vietnam War. 


The ongoing costs of these wars of empire are enough to stem the tide of austerity cuts that our nation, states and even our school districts face. Yet, if another war were to be declared tomorrow, the Republicans and some hawkish Democrats would patriotically vote to flush another trillion dollars down the toilet. For well over 100 years, big business and Wall Street bankers have known that “war is good business.” But it is hell for those who have to fight them. The real truth of this relationship is best explained by Maj. Gen. Smedly Butler (USMC 1881-1940): 

It may seem odd for me, a military man to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent thirty- three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country’s most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. 

So, now when you ask yourself why it is the stock market is soaring with record profits while your local school district is on the verge of financial failure, just remember the words of General Butler:  War is a racket. It always has been. According to him, the only reason to go to war is to “defend our homes or to protect the Bill of Rights.” 

Deception does seem to be a public policy strategy that recurs like a B movie on late night television in our national subconsciousness. The recently declassified tapes held at the Presidential Library of Lyndon Johnson reveal that prior to the 1968 election–the election in which Hubert Humphrey lost to Richard Nixon– the FBI taped the phone conversations between the South Vietnamese counsel and Nixon before he defeated Hubert Humphrey for the presidency that “they’d get a much better deal” with him if they delay the Paris Peace talks. 

In President Johnson’s view, this act of deception was not only treasonous, but it prolonged the immensely unpopular war by another six years at the cost of many billions of dollars and 22,000 more American lives. Nixon never got what he deserved even with the subsequent Watergate scandal and his ignominious resignation from office. He deserved to be jailed for being the crook that he so vehemently denied. 

Along this same line of treasonous deception is the well-documented intrusion by the Reagan campaign 1980, during the Iranian hostage crisis. Using the same sort of back-channel pre-election negotiations as Nixon, Reagan’s operatives circumvented President Jimmy Carter’s initiatives to release the hostages, telling the Iranians once again, “that they’d get a much better deal with Reagan than Carter!” 

This deception was only later outed when the Iran-Contra scandal was exposed and Oliver North took the fall for the Gipper. Few were prosecuted, most were pardoned and none served time in jail as I recall for participating in felonies against our republic. These seem to be recurring strategies in the playbook for getting elected president and racking up the deficit of “gangster capitalism.” 

Fast-forward a few more years to the end of Bill Clinton’s second term, when he was pushing a legacy initiative to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Once again, the GOP campaign intercedes telling Israel’s leaders, you guessed it, “you’ll get a better deal from Bush than Clinton.” And there’s still no end to this seminal conflict to this very day. 

One day our nation will have to atone for these lies– lies that have lead us into the wars-for-profit while bankrupting our future, and undermined the very foundation of our democracy and liberty as a people. In short, what is needed is a Commission of Truth and Reconciliation. A commission that former Cong. Dennis Kucinich recently called for “to lead us out of the moral cul-de-sac in which reside the monstrous crimes of mass murder, torture, kidnapping and rendition.” 

And I might add the prosecution of the gangsters of capitalism.


(James Preston Allen is the Publisher of Random Lengths News and an occasional contributor to CityWatch. More of Allen and other views and news at  randomlengthsnews.com where this column was first posted) –cw




Vol 11 Issue 26

Pub: Mar 29, 2013