5-4: Reflections on War Is a Lie, Chapter 6

[This blog consists of titles and one-sentence excerpts from David Swanson’s War Is a Lie, Chapter 6, “War Makers Do Not Have Noble Motives,” followed by my own comments.] 


“The important motivations, the things the war masters mostly discuss in private, include electoral calculations, control of natural resources, intimidation of other countries, domination of geographic regions, financial profits for friends and campaign funders, the opening up of consumer markets, and prospects for testing new weapons.”  Let’s just look at the last. As much as there was no need to bomb Hiroshima, there was even less of a strategic need to destroy Nagasaki, except for one thing. The second bomb contained plutonium which the U.S. had never tested live, so to speak. Thus, with one flip of a switch, President Truman’s favorability numbers rose, America warned the world (e.g., Russia) that it had and would use this weapon of mass destruction, and field tested its newest, fiercest weapon.

In Their Own Words

“Cheney wanted forcible ‘regime change’ in all Middle Eastern countries that he considered hostile to U.S. interests …” Why, one might ask, does political change have to be “forcible”? And it seems to me that the predominant interest America has in Middle Eastern states is the existence of oil. Cheney and his neo-con gang of thugs allowed hundreds of thousands of people to lose their lives and shed blood for what he perceives as U.S. interests. The word megalomania comes to mind.

Conspiracy Theories

“The motivation for U.S control over areas of ‘vital interest’ … is aided and abetted by the motivations of those who profit from the war making itself.” Profiteers come in all sizes, ranging from Cheney-connected Haliburton, to black ops mercenaries like Xe, to the little subcontractor that makes roller bearings for landing gear on bombers.

For Money and Markets

“As George McGovern and William Polk noted in 2006: ‘In 2002, just before the invasion [of Iraq], only one of the world’s most profitable corporations was in the oil and gas field; in 2005 four of the ten were.” It was inevitable. Because of the on-going conflicts the price of oil jumped and soared. You know how smart and trustworthy those Wall Streeters are. Corporations such as Exxon-Mobil, Shell, and BP were able to employ the old supply and demand farce to argue the precarious ability of Middle Eastern countries providing enough crude to satisfy the West’s demand for black gold.

For the Profits

“During the 2003 war on Iraq, Vice President Cheney directed massive no-bid contracts to a company, Haliburton, from which he was still receiving compensation, and profited from the same illegal war he defrauded the American public into launching.” Yes, I believe Cheney is a war criminal. So does a militant lawyer in Canada who threatened to have Cheney arrested if he ever stepped foot in the country. Cheney cancelled his book tour and has not gone abroad since leaving office.

For Money and Class

“McCarthyism led many struggling for the rights of working people to place militarism ahead of their own struggles for the latter half of the twentieth century.” Labor union memberships have declined in great numbers while, ironically, the military-industrial complex just hums along. Maybe that’s not ironic at all. As the oligarchic industrialists at the top of the ladder continue to land government contracts to support unending war, they acquire greater leverage over workers struggling just to stay on the bottom rungs.

For Oil

“A major motivation for wars is the seizing of control over other nation’s resources.” There are legitimately moderate states in the Middle East–Jordan comes to mind–and there are pretenders–I nominate Saudi Arabia. By any of the standards we hold other allies to, e.g., human rights, Saudi Arabia fails dismally. But they have oil. As a leader of OPEC Saudi Arabia wields great control over the daily worldwide flow of oil and therefore its price. Saudi Arabia appeases the American beast, the beast looks away. Prior to what became known as the “Saudiization” of their country the company that pumped and poured Saudi oil was called Aramco, which stood for Arab American Company. Aramco had headquarters in Houston, Texas. How is that for being close?

For Empire

“Fighting for territory, whatever rocks may lie beneath it, is a venerable motivation for war.” … and detestable.

For the Guns

“Another motivation for wars is the justification they provide for maintaining a large military and producing more weapons.” Profiteering. When the Soviet Union collapsed thereby putting an end to the Cold War, there was all kind of happy talk about the “peace dividend.” With the ominous threat of a communist attempt at world domination gone, we wouldn’t need to spend as much of our GDP on military weapons and materiel. Right? No, don’t be silly.


“One of the most dramatic news stories that came out of Daniel Ellsberg’s release of the Pentagon Papers was the news that 70% of the motivation of the people behind the war on Vietnam was to ‘save face.'” Imagine that. Sixty thousand Americans died in Vietnam, who knows how many Vietnamese (North and South) died, and all because arm chair generals did not want to be embarrassed. This one gets to me the most because I always feel it and take it personally. Those who are willing and anxious to send others into actual combat (see Cheney) are never willing to take up arms themselves.

Are These People Crazy?

“President George W. Bush at times suggested that the war on Iraq was revenge for Saddam Hussein’s alleged (and likely fictitious) role in an assassination attempt against Bush’s father, and at other times Bush the lesser revealed that God had told him what to do.” Yes, these people are crazy. But we let them get away with it.

Spreading Democracy and Manure

“When they think it will work, even temporarily, war makers will simply lie and tell the public that a war isn’t happening at all.” Swanson mentions places like Indonesia, Angola, Cambodia, Nicaragua, and El Salvador where the U.S. has either provided troops and/or funding and materials of war. In 1967 a mission in Vietnam took me and my squad into Cambodia. We did not meet a friendly border toll collector along the way who would remind us that the U.S. and Cambodia were officially not at war with each other. Maybe not, but I was there. To deny that would be to accept the manure.

So Many Secrets

“The masters of war fear, above all, two things: transparency and peace.” Why? For the life of me I cannot figure out who “they” are and how they got the way they did. I refuse to call “them” the best and brightest, preferring the worst and vilest. Sure, there are legitimate disputes among countries and they need to be dealt with. (Imperialism, oil, and machismo are not among them.) After wars, “we,” whoever we are, set up organizations to forestall future wars: The League of Nations, NATO, SEATO, The United Nations; but we largely ignore them. (Here “we” is the U.S.) If America were willing to accept the decisions set forth by these peace seeking organizations, there would be a precipitous drop in our shoot first, ask questions later attitude.

Make Sure Americans Die

“(When Americans die) Then a war can not only be begun but also continued indefinitely so that those already killed shall not have died in vain.” This singular thought brought tears to my eyes at “The Wall” in Washington, D.C.

Catapulting the Propaganda

“(the use of fear) We can go to war or die horrible deaths at the hands of fiendish beasts, but it’s your choice, entirely up to you, no pressure, except that our executioners will be here by next week, if you don’t hurry it up.” Acts of terror have been an unfortunate part of American life in the 21st century. And they will likely continue. But they have to be placed in perspective. And let me be clear, we have to defend ourselves from terrorist acts and we need to hold terrorists accountable to the fullest extent of our laws. But targets of terror and war zone battlefields generally have little in common. There is size alone, time span, identifiable enemies (hopefully, but not always), clear cut chains of command, government sanctions.


I mentioned several blogs ago that good writers get readers to think … for themselves. What I have tried to accomplish here is to illustrate that point. Although David Swanson is certainly a persuasive writer, he is also a gadfly. he raises important issues and lets the reader (me) make conclusions. It helps, of course, that we begin with basically the same point of view about war and the search for peace.

2 thoughts on “5-4: Reflections on War Is a Lie, Chapter 6”

  1. What bothered me immensely during Viet Nam was the contention we couldn’t leave because Johnson or Nixon didn’t want to be the first American President to lose a war.

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