20 May 2016

Keating, Keating and Butler

Perhaps I wasn't alone when I heard on the radio that Charles Keating was killed in Iraq. It stopped me dead in my tracks.


I did a double-take because the name was all too familiar. Charles Keating was one of the major figures in the Savings and Loan Crisis of the 1980s and early 1990s.

I guess I would include myself among those that believe he was something of a patsy, the symbolic fall guy who bore the brunt of judicial wrath. He was guilty to be sure but so were many others who walked away with impunity, John McCain among them.

Apparently this was his grandson that was killed. Keating the elder died just a couple of years ago. He had been released from prison and spent his remaining years with his head more or less down.

He died before his grandson did and yet would Keating have put two-and-two together? Would he realise that the whole system that he sought to work and support is the very system that supports and feeds from the war machine?

I know many Neoliberal apologists can't understand this point, but the capitalist system of finance capital is wedded to the nation state and the necessity for war. While Keating sought to climb atop the pyramid in American society and circles of power, he was helping (indirectly) to set the stage that led to the battle in which his grandson died.

It's darkly poetic and yet had Keating been alive I'm not sure if he would have put it together. Keating defiantly insisted the S&L crisis was brought on by over-regulation. On the contrary some key aspects of the S&L scandal were never fully revealed to most of the public. It runs much deeper along the lines of Iran-Contra and the host of other Deep State activities dominating the post-Watergate period. It wasn't just about bad banking practices. There's a larger story of ripping off the public, money laundering, secret budgets and criminal deeds. Keating was a part of all this, at the very least facilitating it.

I'm reminded of Smedley Butler's 'War is a Racket':

“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. 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.”

“Beautiful ideals were painted for our boys who were sent out to die. The was the "war to end wars." This was the "war to make the world safe for democracy." No one told them that dollars and cents were the real reason. No one mentioned to them, as they marched away, that their going and their dying would mean huge war profits. No one told these American soldiers that they might be shot down by bullets made by their own brothers here. No one told them that the ships on which they were going to cross might be torpedoed by submarines built with United State patents. They were just told it was to be a "glorious adventure".

Thus, having stuffed patriotism down their throats, it was decided to make them help pay for the war, too. So, we gave them the large salary of $30 a month!

All that they had to do for this munificent sum was to leave their dear ones behind, give up their jobs, lie in swampy trenches, eat canned willy (when they could get it) and kill and kill and kill...and be killed”

Smedley D. Butler, War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America's Most Decorated Soldier

The Keatings sat on both ends of this spectrum and both in the end were burned by the system they supported. One went to jail and ended life in defeat. The other died as an agent of murder and imperialism, seeking to secure the conquests of empire. One cannot help but pity them both.

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