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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dangers of War Waged in the Name of Business

The war in Iraq has its first big winner -- the Houston-based Halliburton Co., which has received the first U.S. government contract to put out oil well fires and rebuild the Iraqi oil industry. U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, who served as chairman and chief executive officer of Halliburton from 1995 to 2000, was one of the more ardent supporters of launching the war against Iraq.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana responded by saying that future control of Iraqi oil should be transferred to the United Nations. This brings to mind the old Russian saying: "The first one up in the morning gets the slippers." Why in the world would the Americans want to give the UN their slippers? UN bureaucrats seem to believe seriously that so-called international law is something other than the cowardice of the civilized nations, embodied in the UN. As if international law gave them the right to divide up honestly stolen oil, for example.

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But let's get back to Cheney for a minute. Using a country's armed forces as a mechanism for delivering profit to a private corporation is called corruption. The fact that this corruption is the top story worldwide, rather than a backroom deal, makes no difference.

This means that the war in Iraq is no different than other heroic wars. Julius Caesar conquered the Gauls to raise money for his election campaign. He was so successful that in Rome the price of silver fell by one third, compared to gold. The Byzantine general, Belisarius, valiantly defended Rome from the Goths because he was trading in grain on the black market. The British empire crushed the Zulus because it suited the business interests of Cecil Rhodes, organizer of diamond-mining giant De Beers. And the Russian government went to war in Chechnya so that government-appointed banks could allocate federal funds for the reconstruction of the war-torn republic.

This is probably the saddest thing of all. It won't be a tragedy if the Americans get rid of Saddam Hussein. The Husseins in this world are a dime a dozen. When this one is gone, another will take his place. Nothing else grows in the soil of Baghdad. Bloody dictatorships have been the rule in the cradle of civilization since the time of Nineveh. But it would be a shame if the war threw a wrench into the works of the United States, whose democracy and free market are both just over 200 years old, sending it down the path of empires 4,000 years old.

War is the opposite of democracy and the market. Democracy protects the right to speak the truth; war brings with it the necessity of lying. Democracy is the possibility for differing points of view; war is the unity of thought. The market is when you earn more money than someone else because you work harder and more effectively; war is when you have more money because you stole it from others.

Beethoven, upon learning of Napoleon's coronation as emperor, exclaimed: "So he is no more than a common mortal. Now, too, he will tread under foot all the rights of man and indulge only his ambition. He will think himself superior to all men and become a tyrant." We could say the same thing about the United States. Rather than be the model of democracy for the whole world, the United States is turning into a country that occupies oil fields with tanks for the benefit of its business and political elite.

About the cradle of civilization, by the way. For 45 centuries, the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers has been the dominion of despots. But few recall that Mesopotamia began 47 centuries ago as city-states with elected leaders: Ur, Erech and Lagash. These cities differed little from the later Greek poleis, which are regarded in the Western tradition as the models of democracy.

You may ask how the voters of Erech and Lagash lost their rights and became the subjects of Babylon and Baghdad. The answer is simple: Because their city-states were forced to go to war.

Yulia Latynina is host of "Yest Mneniye" on TVS.