Like George W. Bush in 2002, Donald Trump has decided to make himself look “Presidential” by launching unauthorized military strikes in the Middle East. What is particularly frightening is the fact that the incredibly corrupt GOP Congress has no intention of reining him in or holding him accountable. What is really fascinating, however is how glaringly apparent it has become that America’s entire involvement in the Middle East has nothing to do with “freedom” or – as was supposedly the case in last week’s missile attack – in retaliation for Syrian dictatir Bashar al-Assad’s attacks on his own people.

It was for two reasons: first, to divert the attention of the American people away from the fact that Trump is running the most corrupt, dysfunctional, thieving Administration in U.S. history, and secondly, to make a whole pile of money for his cronies.

Isn’t it interesting that Trump is cutting social programs and infrastructure funding right and left while the Repukes keep claiming we “can’t afford it”? And yet, there was no problem spending almost $100 million launching 59 Tomahawk missiles (proudly manufactured by the fine folks at Raytheon, which spent more than $7.7 million in 2016 buying politicians and lobbying lawmakers) at a target that had very little strategic value, in an attack that accomplished exactly nothing.

If this doesn’t clearly demonstrate that war is a racket carried out solely for the purpose of making certain people very, very rich, it’s hard to know what does. Historically of course, Progressives and liberals have been denigrated, attacked, and labeled traitorous (and worse) whenever they have attempted to point this out.

But don’t take my word for it. Listen to those who would know better than anyone else – the men and women who have put on the uniform and gone into harm’s way, who signed up out of a sense of duty and idealism – and came to realize that, like the rest of us, they were sold a bill of goods.

Such realizations started coming during the American Civil War, when someone, noting the inequality of conscription (boys of rich families could buy their way out of service), said, “It’s a rich man’s war, but a poor man’s fight.”  However, it was Marine Corps Major General Smedley D. Butler (1881-1940), the most decorated Marine in history, who finally laid it out in 1935:

“War is a racket. 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 racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the 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 very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.”

Remember, this was not some tree-hugging, liberal hippie peacenik talking. This was an officer of the U.S. Marine Corps who served with distinction over a 34-year period, and who saw action in the Philippines, Central America, and France during the First World War.

He wasn’t the last prominent military figure to speak out. Before leaving office in 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower – who served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe during the Second World War – warned the country in his famous Farewell Address:

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Prior to that, in a speech made before journalists in 1953, Eisenhower pointed out that

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children…”

Today, a new generation of military leaders are speaking out against the military-industrial complex and the corrupt corporations that are making obscene amounts of wealth on blood, death, and destruction. In September 2015, former Marine and activist Ken O’Keefe went public:

“We [the U.S. and its allies] don’t operate under international law…what we have is the color of law, the law of the jungle, in which the rich and powerful basically determine what goes and what doesn’t go. Iraq is a perfect example of that. Why aren’t Tony Blair and George W. Bush rotting away in a prison cell for the rest of their lives? Because the law isn’t being applied…we really need to understand the truth here. First of all, these players, these politicians are nothing more than puppets. They don’t serve the people. There is no real democracy. They really serve the rich and powerful who run the world, and that would be the bankers who control the money supply.”

Last week, appearing on MSNBC’s Hardball, U.S. Army General Barry McCaffrey – a longtime critic of Trump – blasted the Trump Administration’s actions. To Chris Matthews, he said:

“Now we’re going to respond with military power over 100 people murdered with chemical weapons? I’m not too sure there’s clarity in what they’re trying to achieve…the question might be, why don’t we consider significant humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees in border regions of Turkey and Jordan and Iraq, in lieu of ineffective military strikes?”

Why not, indeed? The reason: “humanitarian assistance” doesn’t sell newspapers or generate ad revenue. Nor does it make money for Raytheon. Not coincidentally, Raytheon shares jumped following last Friday’s missile strike. It also turns out that Donald Trump once owned Raytheon stock (and probably still does).

Nobody has a greater stake in peace than those who are called upon to fight in times of war. Ideally, soldiers are there to protect the rest of us – but the last time that actually happened was in 1945. Since then, former military leaders have attempted to sound the alarm: War is a Racket, carried on for the profit of small, corrupt elite.

Do we get it now?

K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.