“War is just a racket, something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses. During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts, I operated on three continents. War is a racket. It always has been.”
These are neither the words of a Mafioso nor those of Pablo Escobar, the Columbian drug lord. It is an excerpt from a speech and book, “War is a racket” by Maj-Gen Smedley Butler who, till his death, was the most decorated marine in US history. Ironically, these words were said after he had operated these global rackets. One can only wonder if years down the line we hear words to the same effect from General Petraeus and Leon Panetta who terms drone attacks on Fata as “the only game in town”. Hindsight, crystalline as it, could change the world for the better, if only it could transform into foresight.
In the post World War II era much of the western world was looking to bring Nazi war criminals to justice. The only blatant exception was the United States as it Americanised some of the worst Nazi war criminals because of their “skill set”. Initially termed “high level ardent Nazis”, more than 1600 Nazis and their dependants were granted American citizenship. This adoption of war criminals was coined as “Operation Paperclip”. Thus, wanted Nazis became American assets.
The most notorious amongst those naturalised were, Reinhard Gehlen, Hitler’s spymaster who had built an intelligence network in the Soviet Union. Creating the “Gehlen Organisation,” a band of Nazi spies, Gehlen reactivated networks in Russia and supplied the US with its only intelligence on the Soviet Union for a decade. It also served as a bridge between the abolishment of the OSS and the subsequent creation of the CIA. Gehlen Organisation included Nazi SS intelligence officers Alfred Six and Emil Augsburg, who had massacred Jews; Klaus Barbie, the “Butcher of Lyon”; Otto von Bolschwing, the Holocaust mastermind who worked with Eichmann and SS Colonel Otto Skorzeny, Hitler’s personal friend.
The list also included Wernher von Braun, the technical director of the Peenemunde rocket research center that developed the V-2 rocket which devastated England; Kurt Blome, a high-ranking Nazi scientist who was tried at Nuremberg on charges of exterminating sick prisoners by conducting experiments on them and German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun who operated the Mittelwerk factory at the Dora-Nordhausen concentration camps. Here 20,000 workers died from beatings, hangings, and starvation. He became a US citizen and later designed the Saturn 5 rocket used in the Apollo moon landings.
This is a brief glimpse into a history of preserving American self-interests. This dichotomous self-righteousness has been the hallmark of US foreign policy. “Their way of life”, as American presidents love to say, has resulted globally in the death of more than 140 million people. In Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq alone 125,000 innocent civilians have perished. In Afghanistan, the latest United Nations figures put life expectancy at just 44.6 years, the lowest in the world. More than 60 percent of the 28 million Afghans are suffering from stress disorders or related mental problems. The same holds true for the traumatised people of Pakistan. However, the undaunted Joseph Brodsky challenge by the Afghans is, “Sir, you are tough and I am tough, but who will write whose epitaph?” American benevolence has also endowed us with our own Operation Paperclip, the despised NRO. Shady mechanisations have helped bring into and perpetuate power of individuals who were facing serious charges of crime and corruption.
Truth is the first casualty in wars. This racket, labeled the “war on terror”, has been based on lies and deceit from day one. Cover-ups, self-glorification and passing the buck in wars are as old as history itself. Only the most ignorant or those immersed in self-deception should be surprised or feel betrayed by the perpetual American salvos. The most recent buzzword, the “Haqqani network” is not the stumbling block for peace, it is the pax American mindset that stokes the fire. It is absolutely useless to remind Washington that during the Afghan-Soviet war, the US gave Jalaluddin Haqqani millions of dollars, Stinger missiles and tanks. He was also a venerable guest at the Reagan White House. The Washington elite were so enamored with the mujahid that Texan Congressman Charlie Wilson called him “goodness personified.”
Ezra Pound, an iconoclastic, flamboyant poet, was branded a traitor and incarcerated for 13 long years in a Washington DC mental asylum because he dared criticise the American government for their participation in World War II. His poetry focused on the insanity and senseless violence of wars theorising that they were destructive for nation states with a clique benefiting from the same. He said: “Sometimes the Anglo-Saxon may awaken to the fact that nations are shoved into wars in order to destroy them, to break up their structure, to destroy their social order, to destroy their populations”. In a poem titled “1915: February” he says: “We are outlaws, this war is not our war, neither side is on our side”. These are not words of a raving lunatic. They are so crystalline in clarity that a multitude today, suffering at the hands of the United States war machine, would term them prophetic.
In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech President Obama said: “Meeting future challenges would require new ways to think about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace”. Today, come election year, fueling unjust wars and shunning peace, he is as much a hostage to political expediency as he is to a militarised White House, Pentagon and the CIA. His epitaph to a lost war is maligning and threatening Pakistan; our Operation Paperclip brigand with billions stashed abroad, eggs him on with reasoned antipathy.
In his book “In Retrospect” Robert S. McNamara, an architect of the Vietnam War, wrote: “We were wrong, terribly wrong.” To American retrospective hindsight one can only quote French poet Paul Valery who said: “Your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood, more and more; blood and time.”
By: Mir Adnan Aziz