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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Thoughts on War is a Racket...




Smedley Butler’s “War is a Racket” was published in 1935. It is a damning visceral attack on what Dwight D. Eisenhower termed the Military Industrial Complex. Mr. Butler’s observations rang frighteningly true when they were published in 1935, we would do well to heed his message as we enter our own dark imperial age.


Those who profit from war must go to war. That is, the various elites (banking, business, government) will be the first human wave in any conflict. War would quickly become an antiquated notion best left for the history books. The question of going to war when “you” have to bleed and die for your country makes the entire idea of war much less enticing.

This is not an unpatriotic proposition. If people can make obscene profits in the conduct the business of war why should they not personally feed the bloody gaping maw that war is? Why do the poor have the seemingly exclusive right to die for their country? Bankers, beggars… both qualify as “boots on the ground” and both bleed and die the same way.

War is viciously egalitarian; it takes the young, the old, the rich, the poor. It is our distorted social system of values that makes the prospect of going to war so inviting. The haughty, insular elite makes the profit while the poor are summarily consigned to their graves. Are the poor particularly in tune with defending democracy? Is the elite sector of society particularly unpatriotic because of their decidedly hands-off attitude towards participating in war?

The rhetoric of the privileged is tempered with the assurance that their blood will not be gracing the field of battle. Coupled with the profitability of war, the lack of personal responsibility allows societies such as ours to rush too quickly into misguided (often Imperial) ventures that are intrinsically immoral and unjust.

I propose as Mr. Butler did in ‘War is a Racket’ (highly recommended reading) that we allow the privileged in our society first blush at the horrors of war. Butler’s second suggestion is that the people that are directly involved in war would have the right to vote whether they shall bear arms and participate in the war in question. As Canada has a standing professional army I am hesitant to forecast how they would vote. The level of conditioning and indoctrination involved in breaking the empathic bonds we have to the rest of humanity is significant. It would be my hope that they could reconnect with their humanity and base their decision on the facts of the situation, while looking past the inevitable propaganda and the dehumanizing aspects of their training.

Between these two anti-war methodologies I would be willing to be a large sum that Canada would only engage in war in the most dire of circumstances, as it should be.

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