“I think Smedley Butler was onto something,” Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former George W. Bush administration heavyweight, told Salon in an exclusive interview.
Major General Smedley Butler earned the highest rank in the U.S. Marine Corps, accumulating numerous accolades as he helped lead the United States through decades of war. He later became an ardent critic of such militarism and imperialism.
“War is a racket,” Butler famously said, and Wilkerson — who has also turned critical of U.S. imperialist policy — agrees with and admires the esteemed Marine.
Wilkerson, who served as chief of staff to former secretary of state, Colin Powell, has grown tired of “the corporate interests that we go abroad to slay monsters for.”
Of the profiteering scheme that wars have come to embody, Wilkerson quoted Butler:
“Looking back on it, I might 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.”
Noting Butler’s brief but accurate characterization of what Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex, Wilkerson added that today’s war machine “is more pernicious than Eisenhower ever thought it would be.”
The willingness of such weapons and military equipment corporations to excuse the transgressions of repressive and abusive regimes in the Middle East and Asia for the sake of profit, Wilkerson asserted, stands as evidence Eisenhower underestimated the extent the to which the problem would manifest.
“Was Bill Clinton’s expansion of NATO — after George H. W. Bush and [his Secretary of State] James Baker had assured Gorbachev and then Yeltsin that we wouldn’t go an inch further east — was this for Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon, and Boeing, and others, to increase their network of potential weapons sales?” Wilkerson asked.
“You bet it was,” he answered his own question.