“War is a racket.” So spoke Marine Brigadier General Smedley D Butler, America’s most decorated general. “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 twice recipient of the Medal of Honor, Smedley, also a devout Quaker, spoke those words in 1935. The general was perhaps more famous for organizing his men the “Bonus Marchers” to stay in camp in defiance of the administration until they received their just compensation. This spirit of defiance in pursuit of justice was evident throughout the Veterans for Peace National Convention I attended in Minneapolis last month.
Amongst the speakers was Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector and Marine intelligence officer. In advance of the Iraq invasion Ritter tried repeatedly to notify Congress that Iraq posed no threat to the US. Despite his unique position of knowledge and authority, Ritter was thwarted from testifying in Congress by vice presidential candidate, Joseph Biden, amongst others.
Ritter, his assertions vindicated when no WMDs were found, spoke passionately about the risks of US violations of airspace against Iran. He noted the seriousness of sending our military, risking both blood and treasure, when once again Iran poses no threat to the US.
David Gonzales, a Vietnam veteran and president of Local 10 of the ILWU spoke about the misuse of the military. Gonzales spearheaded the ILWU shut down of all West Coast ports last May in protest of the continued occupation of Iraq.
James Yee, former US Army Muslim chaplain related his experiences at Guantanamo Bay and being charged with espionage. All charges were dropped against Yee and he received a meritorious award for exemplary service upon his honorable discharge from the Army.
Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. Scahill was deeply concerned about threats to civil liberties that every veteran in the room had hoped and believed they were fighting for. He noted both McCain and Obama have not voted to defend the constitution 100% of the time and decried violations of the 1st Amendment including freedom of the press.
The next day, fellow journalist Amy Goodman, also present at the event, was arrested while trying to protect her producers at the Republican National Convention. Video of that arrest is available on my website at mgx.com as is an interview of Scott Ritter by Amy Goodman.
Ritter noted that war is a failure of diplomatic and political processes. The veterans attending this event, many having seen and participated first hand in the horrors of war, seek to honor the sacrifice and courage of the men and women in uniform by not allowing diplomatic failures to take us to war.
Nevertheless, universally the convention goers believe corporate greed is at the root of sending our young men and women into battle. Smedley Butler would agree as he wrote in 1937, “Why don’t those damned oil companies fly their own flags on their personal property – maybe a flag with a gas pump on it.”