Monday, May 31, 2010

War is a Racket

The book by two-time Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, Major General Smedley D. Butler, and a five-minute video by Congressman Ron Paul. Both presented here.

Mark Twain's War Prayer

The War Prayer

by Mark Twain

It was a time of great exulting and excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and sputtering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest depths of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles, beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener. It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast doubt upon its righteousness straight way got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety's sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came – next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams – visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! – then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation:

"God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest, Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!"

Then came the "long" prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory – An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher's side and stood there, waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, "Bless our arms, grant us victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside – which the startled minister did – and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

"I come from the Throne – bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import – that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of – except he pause and think.

"God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two – one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this – keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

"You have heard your servant's prayer – the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it – that part which the pastor – and also you in your hearts – fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory – must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle – be Thou near them! With them – in spirit – we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with hurricanes of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it – for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen."

[After a pause.] "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits."

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

Have you read 'WAR IS A RACKET'?

Anti-war films

Butler Shaffer presents his annual list of recommended anti-war films, rating each from 1 - 3 stars, with three stars signifying his favorites. The list is long. Among those he grants only honorable mention to is Born on the Fourth of July starring Tom Cruise. It's possible he has not seen it, but I would give it two stars at least. He also awards two stars to All Quiet on the Western Front. I would rate it three stars. One he omitted that I would include is In the Valley of Elah. Starring Tommy Lee Jones and Charlize Theron, it is a story of how war dehumanizes soldiers.

Bourne's classic

Randolph Bourne began an essay called "The State," but died in 1918 before finishing it. "War is the Health of the State" is the first part of that essay.

Paine on War and Taxes

In July, 2003 I had an article published on Strike-the-Root called "Thomas Paine on War and Taxes." I would refer readers to that link today if it were still in a readable format. Since it is not, I present the article here instead.

Thomas Paine on War and Taxes

by

George F. Smith

On January 10, 1776 Thomas Paine published Common Sense, which ignited a clamor for independence throughout the colonies. Only six months later the Virginia delegation to the Continental Congress proposed that these colonies are and of right ought to be free and independent states -- an idea that had only a few quiet advocates before Paine’s pamphlet.

Common Sense earned Paine a worldwide reputation. By 1790 he was in Europe, entangling himself in the politics of the French Revolution and defending it against intellectual attacks.

Edmund Burke, a member of the British Whig party, was alarmed at what he saw happening in France. Burke had always been suspicious of government power and years earlier had often urged Parliament to avoid going to war with the American colonies, saying that “a great many redcoats will never rule America.”

But on November 1, 1790, Burke published a 350-page book called Reflections on the Revolution in France, in which he attempted to alert those English gentlemen who had no desire to see “their mansions pulled down and pillaged, their persons abused, insulted, and destroyed.” [1]

Reflections earned Burke praise from his enemies and rebukes from his fellow Whigs. His old foe George III loved it and encouraged others to read it. Charles James Fox, once Burke’s “pupil,” criticized the tome as being in “very bad taste.” [2] The two men argued in Parliament over it, and Burke ended the quarrel by terminating their friendship.

Paine had been Burke’s friend, too, but his mission now was to defend the French Revolution. He studied Reflections and found himself agreeing with a great many points, such as Burke’s claim that “a jealous, ever-waking vigilance” was needed to “guard the treasure of liberty.” But Burke launched into ad hominen attacks on various individuals, including Paine, deriding his line from Common Sense that “government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence.” He also ripped the artisan class from which Paine originated, saying that such occupations cannot be a matter of honor to those employed in them. Burke made it clear that he preferred existing states of inequality in society and attacked the ideals of republican self-government.

Reflections was immensely popular and was finding sympathy in public replies. Paine knew that his answer to Burke had to be strong and expressed in a style commensurate with his views. Burke wrote in the familiar heavy style of the privileged status quo. Paine would need to write in a manner more fitting for a republican. As with Common Sense, his goal was to avoid “every literary ornament” and make his rebuttal “as plain as the alphabet.” [3]

Paine’s reply was Rights of Man, which eventually earned him an absentia conviction of seditious libel in England. Though parts of it delve into welfare and social security proposals, there is much in it that libertarians can treasure. I have extracted some of Paine’s insights on war and taxation, and present them here.

From Rights of Man, by Thomas Paine:

To reason with governments, as they have existed for ages, is to argue with brutes. It is only from the nations themselves that reforms can be expected.

. . .

Had governments agreed to quarrel on purpose to fleece their countries by taxes, they could not have succeeded better than they have done.

. . .

[G]overnment seems to be placarding its need of a foe; for unless it finds one somewhere, no pretext exists for the enormous revenue and taxation now deemed necessary.

. . .

War is the common harvest of all those who participate in the division and expenditure of public money, in all countries. It is the art of conquering at home; the object of it is an increase of revenue; and as revenue cannot be increased without taxes, a pretense must be made for expenditure. In reviewing the history of the English Government, its wars and its taxes, a bystander, not blinded by prejudice nor warped by interest, would declare that taxes were not raised to carry on wars, but that wars were raised to carry on taxes.

. . .

[T]he portion of liberty enjoyed in England is just enough to enslave a country more productively than by despotism, and that as the real object of all despotism is revenue, a government so formed obtains more than it could do either by direct despotism, or in a full state of freedom, and is, therefore on the ground of interest, opposed to both.

. . .

[T]he caterpillar principle of all Courts and Courtiers are alike. They form a common policy throughout Europe, detached and separate from the interest of Nations: and while they appear to quarrel, they agree to plunder.

. . .

Every war terminates with an addition of taxes, and consequently with an addition of revenue; and in any event of war, in the manner they are now commenced and concluded, the power and interest of Governments are increased. War, therefore, from its productiveness, as it easily furnishes the pretense of necessity for taxes and appointments to places and offices, becomes a principal part of the system of old Governments; and to establish any mode to abolish war, however advantageous it might be to Nations, would be to take from such Government the most lucrative of its branches.

. . .

It is time to dismiss that inattention which has so long been the encouraging cause of stretching taxation to excess.

. . .

To say that any people are not fit for freedom, is to make poverty their choice, and to say they had rather be loaded with taxes than not.

. . .

If, from the more wretched parts of the old world, we look at those which are in an advanced stage of improvement we still find the greedy hand of government thrusting itself into every corner and crevice of industry, and grasping the spoil of the multitude. Invention is continually exercised to furnish new pretenses for revenue and taxation. It watches prosperity as its prey, and permits none to escape without a tribute.

. . .

Can we possibly suppose that if governments had originated in a right principle, and had not an interest in pursuing a wrong one, the world could have been in the wretched and quarrelsome condition we have seen it? What inducement has the farmer, while following the plough, to lay aside his peaceful pursuit, and go to war with the farmer of another country? or what inducement has the manufacturer? What is dominion to them, or to any class of men in a nation? Does it add an acre to any man's estate, or raise its value? Are not conquest and defeat each of the same price, and taxes the never-failing consequence?

. . .

Government, on the old system, is an assumption of power, for the aggrandizement of itself; on the new, a delegation of power for the common benefit of society. The former supports itself by keeping up a system of war; the latter promotes a system of peace, as the true means of enriching a nation. The one encourages national prejudices; the other promotes universal society, as the means of universal commerce. The one measures its prosperity, by the quantity of revenue it extorts; the other proves its excellence, by the small quantity of taxes it requires.

. . .

It can only be by blinding the understanding of man, and making him believe that government is some wonderful mysterious thing, that excessive revenues are obtained. Monarchy is well calculated to ensure this end. It is the popery of government; a thing kept up to amuse the ignorant, and quiet them into taxes.

. . .

The government of a free country, properly speaking, is not in the persons, but in the laws. The enacting of those requires no great expense; and when they are administered, the whole of civil government is performed- the rest is all court contrivance.

. . .

Government ought to be as much open to improvement as anything which appertains to man, instead of which it has been monopolized from age to age, by the most ignorant and vicious of the human race. Need we any other proof of their wretched management, than the excess of debts and taxes with which every nation groans, and the quarrels into which they have precipitated the world?

. . .

If there is a country in the world where concord, according to common calculation, would be least expected, it is America. Made up as it is of people from different nations, accustomed to different forms and habits of government, speaking different languages, and more different in their modes of worship, it would appear that the union of such a people was impracticable; but by the simple operation of constructing government on the principles of society and the rights of man, every difficulty retires, and all the parts are brought into cordial unison. There the poor are not oppressed, the rich are not privileged. Industry is not mortified by the splendid extravagance of a court rioting at its expense. Their taxes are few, because their government is just: and as there is nothing to render them wretched, there is nothing to engender riots and tumults.


1. Keane, John Tom Paine: A Political Life, Grove Press, NY, 1995, p. 289.

2. Ibid, p. 290

3. Ibid., p. 295

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The U.S. is in "Psychiatric Denial"

Dana Visalli traveled to Afghanistan in March, 2010 to meet with local humanitarian groups. He writes:
The one thing that all of these groups that we met with had in common was, they were penniless. They all survived on rather tenuous donations made by philanthropic foundations in Europe.

I had read that the United States had spent $300 billion dollars in Afghanistan since the invasion and occupation of that country ten years ago, so I naturally became curious where this tremendous quantity of money and resources had gone. . . .

95% of the $300 billion that the U.S. has spent on its Afghanistan operation since we invaded the country in 2001 has gone to our military operations there. Several reports indicate that it costs one million dollars to keep one American soldier in that country for one year. We will soon have 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, which will cost a neat $100 billion a year.

US soldiers in Afghanistan spend almost all of their time on one of our 300 bases in that country, so there is nothing they can do to help the Afghan people, whose physical infrastructure has been destroyed by the "30-year war" there, and who are themselves mostly jobless in a society in which there is almost no economy and no work.

Some effort is made to see that the remaining 5% of the $300 billion spent to date in Afghanistan does help Afghan society, but there is so much corruption and general lawlessness that the endeavor is largely futile. . . .

Armed conflict and insecurity, along with criminality and lawlessness, are on the rise in Afghanistan. In this respect, the country mirrors experience elsewhere which indicates a near universal co-relation between heightened conflict, insecurity, and violence against women.

Once one understands that the US military presence in Afghanistan is not actually helping the Afghan people, the question of the effectiveness or goodwill of other major US military interventions in recent history arises. In Vietnam, for example, the country had been a colony of France for the 80 years prior to WW II, at which point the Japanese invaded and took over. When the Japanese surrendered, the Vietnamese declared their independence, on September 2, 1945. In their preamble they directly quoted the US Declaration of Independence ("All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness….").

The United States responded first by supporting the French in their efforts to recapture their lost colony, and when that failed, the US dropped 10 million tons of bombs on Vietnam – more than were dropped in all of World War II – sprayed 29 million gallons of the carcinogenic defoliant Agent Orange on the country, and dropped 400,000 tons of napalm, killing a total 3.4 million people. This is an appreciable level of savagery, and it would be reasonable to ask why the United States responded in this way to the Vietnamese simply declaring their inalienable rights.

There was a sideshow to the Vietnam war, and that is that the United States conducted massive bombing campaigns against Vietnam’s two western neighbors, Laos and Cambodia. From 1964 to 1973, the US dropped more than two million tons of ordnance over Laos in a operation consisting of 580,000 bombing missions – equal to a planeload of bombs every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, for nine years. This unprecedented, secret bombing campaign was conducted without authorization from the US Congress and without the knowledge of the American people.

The ten-year bombing exercise killed an estimated 1 million Laotians. Despite questions surrounding the legality of the bombings and the large toll of innocent lives that were taken, the US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs at the time, Alexis Johnson, stated, "The Laos operation is something of which we can be proud as Americans. It has involved virtually no American casualties. What we are getting for our money there . . . is, I think, to use the old phrase, very cost effective."
I can't verify the figures and quotes in this article from my own research, but if it is even close to accurate we've become a match for any enemy we've ever fought.