Appeasing The Gods Of The Shareholders
There was a time when, as a matter of policy, America went to war only as a response to an attack by an aggressor. In 1962 John Kennedy had every reason to make war with Cuba and Russia when Kruschev talked Fidel into parking several dozen Soviet nuclear missiles ten minutes from Washington and 90 miles from spring break.
Most of the Joint Chiefs, especially Curtis Lemay,(General Bat Guano?) along with a sizable faction of Kennedy’s closest advisers urged the President to invade. Lemay wanted to send his B52s, (presumably not to drop leaflets) while others preferred a massive land invasion, perhaps to restore the Cosa Nostra to control of Cuban Casinos, the way God intended.
There is an apocryphal story told that Marine Commandant David Shoup (under whom I served at the time) presented the assemblage of top level civilian and military advisers with an easel containing a map of Cuba, over which he had placed an acetate overlay of a tiny Pacific atoll named Tarawa. Tarawa, which the Marines had invaded early in WW2 was shown graphically as a small speck against the background of Castro’s Caribbean worker’s paradise.
He then proceeded to inform the gathering that the insignificant speck had not been at all pacific, having cost the lives of over 1000 Marines and the wounding of 2200 others, creating a great storm of protest at home over what was seen as a needless squandering of lives to gain a tiny piece of real estate. Tarawa, he is reported to have explained, was defended by 4500 Japanese while Castro would field 150,000, and perhaps as many more.
The zeal for a land invasion was somewhat diminished by General Shoup’s presentation. Cooler heads prevailed, the young president proceeded to threaten Kruschev with massive nuclear retaliation, Niki packed up his nukes and went home, diplomacy or a good bluff, worked, the republic was saved, 250,000 young troops did not have to wade ashore and spill their guts on Fidel’s beautiful but hostile beaches and I pull shore leave in San Juan and discovered how to drink Cuba Libras past the point of absurdity.
Those were still the good old days in the world of war making, when Presidents, Congress, large segments of the press and a sizable portion of the body politic banded together with the men and women who were to be slaughtered, made whatever sacrifices necessary to get through the horrible, bloody task and achieve victory.
Businesses as well, were asked to make sacrifices, to retool from the making the products of peacetime, the creation of tractors or Packards or hula hoops to building tanks, rifles and ships, and asked to bid competitively for the right to participate in the glorious business of waging war.
It worked well, victories were had, foes were vanquished, medals were awarded to the mothers of the dead, the prosthetics business flourished and everyone was happy.
Then came Vietnam.
No one attacked us in Vietnam, the Gulf of Tonkin was as phony as Saddam’s WMDs
We became embroiled in a war with another sovereign nation in order to prevent the spread of an ideology with which we disagreed, in a region in which we saw resources and markets that we wished to exploit and to beat our major competitors to the loot that we perceived was laying in wait off the coast and beneath the earth of Indochina. Interestingly the cast of characters was similar to today’s tragic frolic in Iraq, Humble Oil (now Exxon) was there, Brown and Root (before Kellogg) was there, General Dynamics, General Electric, Bell, Dow Chemical, all the big players came to the game. I think these guys get lifetime season tickets to these things.
We encountered fierce resistance from a people who had suffered long on the pulling end of history’s colonial yoke. We were quickly mired embroiled in a civil war, quagmire they called it, between those who nominally supported us and the majority of Vietnamese (both North and South) who had equally as much love for us as they had for the Chinese and the French; with whom they had ample previous colonial experience. We spent ten frustrating years trying new strategies before the ferocious stubbornness of the enemy and the return to sanity of the American people and some of our leadership forced us to withdraw from the massive bloodletting.
We left the souls of nearly 60,000 of our sons and brothers and sisters in those fetid jungles. Another 300,000 of those still living may be seen from time to time in various VA hospitals. I have lunch twice a week with some of them, they seem distressed.
No one from Iraq attacked us in Manhattan either, nor in Virginia nor the wilds of Pennsylvania. No one from Iraq attacked us in our War on Terror. If memory serves 15 of the terrorists who attacked us were Saudis, two from the United Arab Emirates, one from Egypt, and one from Lebanon. They were working under the direction of a son of one of the most important families in Saudia Arabia, a follower of Wahabi Islam, whose name is still praised in many of that country’s madrasahs and to whom influential Saudis still send cards, letters and financial support
But we invaded Iraq, declaring it to be a hotbed of international terror when the evidence against Paraguay or Lichtenstein was just as damning, as that against any number of other places that had nothing to do with the 9/11 horrors.
But Iraq was a centerpiece in the textbook which had been provided by the Project for the New American Century.
The neocons needed access to Iraqi oil, natural gas, pipeline routes from the Caspian, a litany of colonial wants needs and desires. At the minimum they had to prevent the Russians and the Chinese from exercising their influence on this vital area and it’s riches and there was talk among the Iranians and others of moving to trade oil in Euros rather than dollars.
In the past, before the defense industry, Big Oil, the American Enterprise Institute and the Project for the New American Century invented the concept of preemptive war and presented it to the band of criminal sociopaths now posing as our government, war was seen as a serious and ugly business. A terrible thing involving death, destruction, anguish, pain and widespread human misery, something to be scrupulously avoided.
Now it was just business. There would be cruise missiles to sell, airplanes, helicopters, all the hardware and modern software of war. There would be bases to build, tents to pitch, meals to overcharge, there would be an enormous sales volume and concomitant profits, great steaming piles of tax payer provided cash to roll in. This would be the ultimate entrepreneurial experience, free enterprise on steroids and speed and unlimited greed.
Of course there would be casualties, but in all great human endeavors there are costs, sacrifices to be borne by someone else’s children or grandchildren. Besides, the losses were manageable, with our power to bring shock and awe, to bring a level of violence and destruction unknown in human history, a talent that had come to define us as a people in the eyes of the world, victory would be swiftly achieved, we would be welcomed in the Iraqi streets with garlands of roses and anointed with fragrant oils.
At any event we had a volunteer military, they knew the risks. This was simply a matter of throwing the occasional virgin into the volcanic caldera for the appeasement of the gods and the good of the established order.
For the good of all the major players.