Gen. Smedley Butler (1881-1940) was a U.S. Marine who fought in China, the Philippines, Mexico, several Central America and Caribbean countries, and World War I. He received five medals for valor, including two Medals of Honor.

After his 33-year career was over, however, he wrote War is a Racket. He defined "racket" as "something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people."

Butler confessed, "I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street, and for the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism."

I first encountered Butler's statement 20 years ago on an antiwar website. This was around the time U.S. President George W. Bush invaded Iraq.

The war, which began on March 19, 2003, made no sense to me. From a purely amoral, geo-strategic perspective, creating a power vacuum in Iraq seemed dangerous. From a legal perspective, the big no-no in international law is for a sovereign nation to invade another.

But my biggest concern was moral: war is mass murder. And it was particularly perplexing and disappointing to see so many American church leaders either support the war or quietly give President Bush the benefit of the doubt.

Barack Obama opposed the invasion. In 2008 he was elected President, having won the Democratic Party nomination over Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. But then he chose Biden as his Vice Presidential running mate. He appointed Clinton as Secretary of State. In Obama's second term, Clinton was replaced by John Kerry. As U.S. Senators Clinton, Biden, and Kerry all voted for the authorization to use military force against Iraq.

Obama overthrew Libya's Qaddafi without even seeking Congressional authorization. He then tried to remove Syria's Assad. Donald Trump came in promising an "America First" foreign policy but attempted regime change in Venezuela and continued the Bush-Obama policy of ceaseless missile strikes in Asia and Africa.

Then the nation turned to Biden in 2020. Biden had said his Iraq War vote was a "mistake." But, he had been a Senator for 30 years when he cast that vote and was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

I'm sorry, but supporting mass murder isn't a "mistake." The invasion was a crime, and Biden was a co-conspirator. For that reason, he never had the moral credibility to lead the world against Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

And it's no surprise that instead of seeking peace in Eastern Europe, Biden chose to spend tens of billions on military equipment. After all, the Russia-Ukraine War is good for business. That is, for the contractors within the Military-Industrial Complex.

Watching U.S. foreign policy this century, I conclude that Gen. Butler was right. The War on Terror is a racket. The War on Iraq was a racket. Yes, the Cold War was a racket. Those who profited from wars were not the ones dying in them.

Biden's a centrist. Trump's a nationalist. Obama was a progressive. G.W. Bush was a neoconservative. And all made sure the war machine kept operating smoothly. And I don't see a savior on the horizon with the desire and ability to steer America and the world to a more peaceful footing. Even those who begin with good intentions become compromised. Power corrupts.

If the last twenty years have taught me anything, it's that I should never make an idol of another person. Certainly not politicians, particularly not American politicians. I view them as I do the leaders of criminal organizations. I don't expect them to work on my behalf.

That seems pessimistic, but it's also liberating.

It is no more realistic to expect some glorious leader to bring peace than it is to depend on a physician to make me healthy or the perfect lover to make me happy. It's as silly as expecting someone else to make me wealthy.

Everything I want in life must begin with me. In me. Including peace.

I must practice the arts of peace, such as tolerance, kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. And I must see through the fearmongering and lies. I must refuse to support mass murder.

The only thing I can do to bring about world peace is to make my world more peaceful. And that means being a more peaceful person.