Calvin “Silent Cal” Coolidge, the President of the United States by default upon the death of Warren G. Harding, declared that the “business of America is business”. Notwithstanding President Eisenhower’s warning to prevent the industrial-military complex from becoming America’s leading industry subsequent presidents have seen to it that the business of America is not business but war.
Government is supposedly for the people and by the people. But the Supreme Court of the United States has decided in Citizens United that corporations are people too. As a result, corporations run government. Not only do they run it, they own it outright, corporations having bought and paid for their own wholly owned personal government.
In order to have a profitable well-funded business you need a product that people want and will be willing to pay for. But do not mistake “want” for “need”. To “need” something is mandated by the laws of nature as in “I need to breath”, “I need to eat” or “I need to rest”. To “want” is to desire something unnecessary say a Ferrari Testarossa, a Hermès scarf or a Ralph Lauren Ricky alligator bag for $22,500.
Most often wars are a product of “want” and not “need”. Except for World War II, a war of necessity brought on by Pearl Harbor, recent wars were wars of choice. World War I was fought to make the world “safe for democracy” and “American business interests globally”. The Korean War, the Vietnam War, Iraq and Afghanistan were also wars of choice as were the military invasions of Granada and Panama and the armed intervention in Haiti and Somalia.
Wars were “the continuation of political intercourse with the addition of other means” as noted by Carl von Clausewitz in his treatise On War. This is no longer true. Wars are no longer an “extreme exercise of politics” with the use of arms but are the ultimate consumer of the products manufactured and services rendered by the civilian industrial-military complex.
General Smedley Butler, with two Medals of Honor to his credit, had a more up to date view of war in 1935: “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.”
The arms merchants of yesterday, the Samuel Colts, the John Brownings, the Richard Gattlings have been superseded by the Boeings, Northrop Grunmans, the Dow Chemicals, the United Technologies, General Dynamics, the Halliburtons and theLockhead Martins of today, all billion dollar suppliers of arms and munitions.
Conventional wars as consumers of goods and services are not enough to keep the industrial-military complex running and profitable. New wars have been invented to fill the void, the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs, and the ever expanding, mind boggling War on Terror.
Take the War on Drugs which has been fought for 43 years ever since President Nixon “declared war” in 1971. The Drug Enforcement Agency runs on an annual budget of $2.1 billion dollars a year which does not account for participation by the Department of Justice, State and local enforcement agencies, the Department of Justice, FBI, CIA and others. The actual cost of this war to taxpayers is estimated at $45 billion dollars a year and counts 1,500,000 “prisoners of war” [60% of the 2,418,352 men, women and children in America’s jails as of 2012].
The latest of these wars is the ever expanding War on Terror. Like the War on Drugs it has both domestic and international components. Domestically it has spawned the bloated Department of Homeland Security with 187 federal agencies and departments including the 14 agencies that constitute the United States “Intelligence Community.” In addition the separate and distinct National Security Agency operates domestic and international surveillance from its glass clad headquarters of 3,000,000 square feet [68 acres/28 hectares] in Fort Mead, Maryland.
Major human, economic and natural resources have been marshaled in support of this enterprise, the business of war and it has become, unfortunately, America’s business. “Just remember: in the grand bargain that is war, it’s their product[s] and their profit … [T]hat’s no bargain for America, or for that matter the world.”
DeyanRankoBrashich, an attorney and Op Ed columnist writes from New York and is a contributing writer. A collection of essays “Letters from America” has just been published in June, 2013. His contact and blog “Contrary Views” is at www.deyanbrashich.com.