Happy birthday, World War One!

Greg Palast in Sarajevo, near where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot, tracing the trail of rogue financier ‘Goldfinger.’ (Photo: Richard Rowley for BBC-TV. The first ten readers to find Palast in the photo, will get a free copy of the film of this story, Vultures & Vote Rustlers.)

Happy birthday, World War One! Walking the mortar-cratered streets of Sarajevo, Bosnia, I was reminded that World War I started here, and World War II and World War III, World War V and VI and the current World War IX. Here in the city where the ghosts of Muslim, Catholic, Orthodox and Jewish victims outnumber the living, as I hunted another corpse-chewing financier, it became clear to me that the endless parade of war is not about a clash of civilizations, but the CASH of civilizations.

Before the Panzers rolled into Poland, they rolled into Krupp’s profit projections. Before each of the seven invasions of Iraq, the oil reserves of Basra were tagged for the balance sheets of Anglo-Persian Corp (“BP”). And the atrocities and battles that bloated the balance sheets of J.P. Morgan led to the finance vultures I’m hunting from the Congo to Sarajevo; the last in the parade of the war profiteers, the clean-up crew, tasked to pull gold teeth from the wounded bodies of destroyed nations.

While earlier imperial wars promised booty for nations, World War I industrialized and privatized war profiteering. So long as conflict remains a profit center, war will never die. So happy birthday, World War Infinite, you’re a hundred years young today.

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While I am still working without a right diaphragm – thanks to the arrogance of “the best medical care in the world” – I am growing stronger, thinner and more cunning each day, preparing a report for Al Jazeera that will blow the lid off the latest, ugliest vote-theft scheme. And Thursdat, another birthday flew by at high speed. Don’t know how I feel about another year tossed into the dumpster of mortality. But as Hugo Chavez once sang to me (while wearing my fedora):

“Si arrastré por este mundo

la vergüenza de haber sido

y el dolor de ya no ser,

bajo el ala del sombrero

cuantas veces embozada

una lágrima asomada

yo no pude contener.


Si crucé por los caminos

como un paria que el destino

se empeñó en deshacer;

si fui flojo, si fui ciego,

solo quiero que comprendan

el valor que representa

el coraje de querer.”


– GP

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Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Armed Madhouse and the highly acclaimed Vultures’ Picnic.

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