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The Helena Independent Record (Montana)

An Empire Can Be Terribly Expensive

John Smart

Forget the spin about WMD's or "Iraqi Freedom" or the "War On Terror." The White House is lying, Congress is lying, and the media stopped asking questions. What we are not told is that Iraq is about oil, war profiteering and a larger plan to control energy resources of the Middle East and Central Asia. This scheme goes beyond our domestic energy needs and seeks to give multinational corporations dominance over global markets while feeding a hungry American war machine.

The recent surprise called "terrorism" is essentially blowback from past covert and official foreign policy targeting the black gold of the Middle East. Our failure to understand the enemy we have created will result in endless cycles of violence without resolving the root cause of "terrorism." Rather than making the world a safer place, the present "war on terror" has become a smokescreen for 21st Century imperialism. This will generate perpetual conflict and an economic addiction to war that may bankrupt our nation in more ways than one. In order to find a solution we must first recognize the problem.

History teaches that imperialism can be terribly expensive. Empires require huge military forces to impose agendas designed by the economic elite. Yet, over time the military cost of maintaining an overextended empire can exceed the value of resources acquired. The brutality used to enforce injustice also creates determined enemies and alienates allies. The "old Europe" refused to join "Operation Iraqi Freedom" having lived through the rise and fall of many destructive empires. The British dumped Blair rather than return to their old imperial ways that eventually became a burden. Slavery is another economic system that eventually became dysfunctional and unacceptable.

The high-tech "shock and awe" invasion of Iraq has been a trillion dollar mistake producing little more than flag-draped coffins, 500,000 dead Iraqis, soaring national debt and global resentment. A largely unreported "benchmark" for the green zone "government" would grant various oil giants like ExxonMobil 80 percent of Iraq's reserves with 20 percent for Iraqis. This robber-baron exploitation will require a permanent occupation as Iraq continues to resist as they did under historic British rule.

The $3 billion per week occupation over 50 years of oil production could become a $7 trillion taxpayer subsidy for Big Oil and the military complex. This is much more than the value of the oil. The public is being deceived and used to further the interests of some of the wealthiest corporations on earth. The human toll in Iraq could be 50,000 dead and 500,000 wounded Americans and millions of dead Iraqis as "collateral damage." But someone has to suffer so that an oil CEO can be paid $400 million while subverting global warming reform. We would be better off purchasing the oil like other industrialized nations rather than taking it by force.

Yet, our imperial presence is well established with over 700 military bases around the world and fourteen new bases in Iraq. Others are in and around Afghanistan to secure gas and oil pipelines through hostile territory that was the downfall of Russia. This empire of bases is growing despite the end of the Cold War and provides military muscle for multinational corporations. And then we have 230 military golf courses around the world for computer screen generals who dream of retiring to a defense industry boardroom or private think tank.

Halliburton and Cheney and others are doing well for themselves thanks to the "War On Terror" and cost-plus insider contracts. With lies and fear mongering the chicken hawks ignited the most expensive conflict since WWII with no end in sight. Private interests have become public policy through Washington's revolving door of corporate cronyism. Weapons and military operations in the Middle East are have become bigger business than producing oil. Troops in Iraq are outnumbered by "private contractors" including armed mercenaries at $1,000 tax dollars per day operating outside any laws of warfare. Rather than subsidizing endless oil wars we should be developing alternatives to polluting fossil fuels.

Unfortunately, we are paying for this bloody corporate welfare in more ways than one. Iraq's oil production has declined, raising prices at the pump along with record profits. Our floating dollar is beginning to sink due to deficit war spending propped up by international loans. Inflation becomes a hardship for anyone on a fixed income. Our grandchildren will be paying interest on the debt after profiteers have taken their capital and moved on. Escalation of the Vietnam conflict also began with a presidential lie, became a devastating stalemate, was financed with debt, followed by inflation, and left the nation divided. But fortunes were made then as now by prolonging the carnage although leaked Pentagon papers revealed they knew it was a lost cause. When leaders betray our trust, the integrity of our nation and quality of life is changed forever.

The epicenter of this global nightmare is the expanding military industrial complex Eisenhower prophesized would subvert our democracy through "the disastrous rise of misplaced power" by the "conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry." The original draft of this 1961 speech contained the term "military industrial congressional complex," but he chose to not offend Congress with his farewell speech.

Today, the military establishment, arms industry, and Congress act in their mutual self-interest with little public accountability. Campaign donations and lobbyists have turned "lawmakers" into obedient defense industry lap-dogs while the White House promotes corporate wars and sells them to the public. Both military and "intelligence" operations have become increasingly "privatized" along with unprecedented executive secrecy and abuse of power by the incompetent. Public debt for private profit is the game played by an imperial White House and our complicit Congress of invertebrates. Checks and balances and the separation of powers have diminished while militarism is gaining ground. Our constitutional republic has been hijacked and not by Muslims.

As a decorated combat hero, General Smedley Butler said at the end of his career, "War is a racket. It always has been. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many." He adds, "Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few, the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill. And what is this bill? This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations." He concluded, "We must take the profit out of war."

John Smart lives at 125 Humbolt in Helena.

© 2007 The Independent Record

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