“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 quote from 'War is a Racket', an essay by Major General Smedley Butler (1881 – 1940)
As a veteran of battles in Mexico and Haiti, Smedley Butler was in a greater position of authority than most to describe this most corrupt form of human behaviour. I was reminded of this essay when I recently received a viral joke on January 26th, 2003 (via Declan Mcullogh's Politech mailing list).
The email joke takes the form of a 'Nigerian Scam' email (a.k.a. Advance Fee Fraud, 419 Fraud), a very common Internet fraud where greedy westerners are tempted into sending money to con-men in the anticpation of receiving a commission for handling a vast quantity of stolen money.
I have since seen this email posted to a number of newspaper and blog web-sites. Today this parody made the front page of The Register. They announced that the original author of this joke is:
Professor Zoltan Grossman, Assistant Professor of Geography at the University of Wisconsin, and a veteran environment and peace campaigner.
- The Register
Whilst it's by no means an objective political commentary, it's an humorous depiction of what part of America and much of Europe feels about an impending '2nd Gulf War'. I think we should preserve this kind of joke for the same reason that we preserve satirical cartoons. They eventually provide insights into the way people feel about current issues.
And since this joke is almost certainly in the public domain now, I have included as I received it in this writeup:
IMMEDIATE ATTENTION NEEDED:
FROM: GEORGE WALKER BUSH
DEAR SIR / MADAM,
I AM GEORGE WALKER BUSH, SON OF THE FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH, AND CURRENTLY SERVING AS PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. THIS LETTER MIGHT SURPRISE YOU BECAUSE WE HAVE NOT MET NEITHER IN PERSON NOR BY CORRESPONDENCE. I CAME TO KNOW OF YOU IN MY SEARCH FOR A RELIABLE AND REPUTABLE PERSON TO HANDLE A VERY CONFIDENTIAL BUSINESS TRANSACTION, WHICH INVOLVES THE TRANSFER OF A HUGE SUM OF MONEY TO AN ACCOUNT REQUIRING MAXIMUM CONFIDENCE.
I AM WRITING YOU IN ABSOLUTE CONFIDENCE PRIMARILY TO SEEK YOUR ASSISTANCE IN ACQUIRING OIL FUNDS THAT ARE PRESENTLY TRAPPED IN THE REPUBLIC OF IRAQ. MY PARTNERS AND I SOLICIT YOUR ASSISTANCE IN COMPLETING A TRANSACTION BEGUN BY MY FATHER, WHO HAS LONG BEEN ACTIVELY ENGAGED IN THE EXTRACTION OF PETROLEUM IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, AND BRAVELY SERVED HIS COUNTRY AS DIRECTOR OF THE UNITED STATES CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY.
IN THE DECADE OF THE NINETEEN-EIGHTIES, MY FATHER, THEN VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, SOUGHT TO WORK WITH THE GOOD OFFICES OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF IRAQ TO REGAIN LOST OIL REVENUE SOURCES IN THE NEIGHBORING ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN. THIS UNSUCCESSFUL VENTURE WAS SOON FOLLOWED BY A FALLING OUT WITH HIS IRAQI PARTNER, WHO SOUGHT TO ACQUIRE ADDITIONAL OIL REVENUE SOURCES IN THE NEIGHBORING EMIRATE OF KUWAIT, A WHOLLY-OWNED U.S.-BRITISH SUBSIDIARY.
MY FATHER RE-SECURED THE PETROLEUM ASSETS OF KUWAIT IN 1991 AT A COST OF SIXTY-ONE BILLION U.S. DOLLARS ($61,000,000,000). OUT OF THAT COST.
THIRTY-SIX BILLION DOLLARS ($36,000,000,000) WERE SUPPLIED BY HIS PARTNERS IN THE KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA AND OTHER PERSIAN GULF MONARCHIES, AND SIXTEEN BILLION DOLLARS ($16,000,000,000) BY GERMAN AND JAPANESE PARTNERS.
BUT MY FATHER'S FORMER IRAQI BUSINESS PARTNER REMAINED IN CONTROL OF THE REPUBLIC OF IRAQ AND ITS PETROLEUM RESERVES.
MY FAMILY IS CALLING FOR YOUR URGENT ASSISTANCE IN FUNDING THE REMOVAL OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF IRAQ AND ACQUIRING THE PETROLEUM ASSETS OF HIS COUNTRY, AS COMPENSATION FOR THE COSTS OF REMOVING HIM FROM POWER.
UNFORTUNATELY, OUR PARTNERS FROM 1991 ARE NOT WILLING TO SHOULDER THE BURDEN OF THIS NEW VENTURE, WHICH IN ITS UPCOMING PHASE MAY COST THE SUM OF 100 BILLION TO 200 BILLION DOLLARS ($100,000,000,000 - $200,000,000,000), BOTH IN THE INITIAL ACQUISITION AND IN LONG-TERM MANAGEMENT.
WITHOUT THE FUNDS FROM OUR 1991 PARTNERS, WE WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO ACQUIRE THE OIL REVENUE TRAPPED WITHIN IRAQ. THAT IS WHY MY FAMILY AND OUR COLLEAGUES ARE URGENTLY SEEKING YOUR GRACIOUS ASSISTANCE. OUR DISTINGUISHED COLLEAGUES IN THIS BUSINESS TRANSACTION INCLUDE THE SITTING VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, RICHARD CHENEY, WHO IS AN ORIGINAL PARTNER IN THE IRAQ VENTURE AND FORMER HEAD OF THE ALLIBURTON OIL COMPANY, AND CONDOLEEZA RICE, WHOSE PROFESSIONAL DEDICATION TO THE VENTURE WAS DEMONSTRATED IN THE NAMING OF A CHEVRON OIL TANKER AFTER HER.
I WOULD BESEECH YOU TO TRANSFER A SUM EQUALING TEN TO TWENTY-FIVE PERCENT (10-25 %) OF YOUR YEARLY INCOME TO OUR ACCOUNT TO AID IN THIS IMPORTANT VENTURE. THE INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA WILL FUNCTION AS OUR TRUSTED INTERMEDIARY. I PROPOSE THAT YOU MAKE THIS TRANSFER BEFORE THE FIFTEENTH (15TH) OF THE MONTH OF APRIL.
I KNOW THAT A TRANSACTION OF THIS MAGNITUDE WOULD MAKE ANYONE APPREHENSIVE AND WORRIED. BUT I AM ASSURING YOU THAT ALL WILL BE WELL AT THE END OF THE DAY. A BOLD STEP TAKEN SHALL NOT BE REGRETTED, I ASSURE YOU. PLEASE DO BE INFORMED THAT THIS BUSINESS TRANSACTION IS 100% LEGAL. IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO CO-OPERATE IN THIS TRANSACTION, PLEASE CONTACT OUR INTERMEDIARY REPRESENTATIVES TO FURTHER DISCUSS THE MATTER.
I PRAY THAT YOU UNDERSTAND OUR PLIGHT. MY FAMILY AND OUR COLLEAGUES WILL BE FOREVER GRATEFUL. PLEASE REPLY IN STRICT CONFIDENCE TO THE CONTACT NUMBERS BELOW.
SINCERELY WITH WARM REGARDS,
GEORGE WALKER BUSH
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Ironically, as I write this I am listening to George W. Bush's 2003 State of the Union Address, courtesy of Tivo.