I’ve learned a little Jedi mind trick, from people much smarter than I. It can be used to help understand almost any event or situation. Just ask yourself: Who benefits? It comes from the Latin cui bono: “to whose profit.” My Merriam-Webster defines it: “a principle that probable responsibility for an act or event lies with one having something to gain.” Another way to phrase it was the iconic line in the film All the President’s Men: “Follow the money.” In America today, the almighty dollar is God Almighty. The benefits aren’t always financial, sometimes they’re political. I’ll give several examples to illustrate.
Let’s start with an easy one. Who benefits from endless wars and rebellions across the globe? That would be the U.S. weapons industry, which Pope Francis has rightly called “the dung of the devil.” We lead the world in the manufacture and sale of weapons.
Who profited from the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003? Again, the weapons industry, but also Halliburton. Dick Cheney was their CEO before he became George W. Bush’s Vice President. Halliburton was near collapse at the time. Cheney was made head of the Energy Task Force, and held secret meetings at the White House whose participants he refused to discuss. We now know they were oil company people, and they were carving up the Iraqi oil fields as early as 2001. Halliburton did a lot of the construction of bases, roads, and the like. Kellogg Brown Root did the cooking and KP, duties the G.I.s used to do. You may recall the electrocutions of several of our soldiers in KBR’s showers. Another guy who thought he’d benefit was President Bush. In 1999, before he was “elected,” he had told a family biographer, Mickey Herskowitz, that if he became president he wouldn’t make the mistake his father had, pulling back from Iraq. He said he’d gain political capital by being a wartime president. Also, he wanted to prove he had a bigger dick than his daddy.
Americans today, at least the bottom 99%, are working harder and earning less than ever before. They’re being squeezed out by the billionaires and corporations, and they’re under stress like never before. Who benefits, besides the billionaires and corporations? The pharmaceutical industry. America is the most medicated nation on Earth. 70% of us are on one prescription drug or another, and many are taking more than one. Most of these drugs are anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, or opioids pain killers, all of which are intensely addictive, besides having really nasty side effects. But it’s a multi-billion dollar industry.
Who benefits from the failed “War on drugs?” Not the black kids who can spend years in prison for being caught with a joint. No, once again it’s Big Pharma. Who else? The private prison industry. Did you know that their contracts with a state usually include a mandatory 80% occupancy clause? So their lobbyists are always pushing for less leniency and longer sentencing guidelines.
Who benefits from wall-to-wall coverage of terrorist attacks like the one in Paris? The cable networks. You’ve heard the expression “If it leads it bleeds,” haven’t you? But guess who benefits even more: ISIS. The constant tragedy porn offered up by the networks is the best recruiting tool ISIS could ever ask for, and it costs them nothing! And who benefits from the paranoia and Islamophobia whipped up by right-wing factions throughout Europe and the U.S., regarding Syrian and other refugees? Again, ISIS. Nothing suits them more than their fellow Muslims being treated poorly in foreign countries, as it may help to radicalize them. I should check their official magazine, Dabiq, to see if they’ve named Donald Trump their recruiter of the month.
We’ve heard and seen the stories about Foxxcon, the Chinese corporation manufacturing Apple’s iPads and iPhones. The deplorable conditions of the workers caused Foxxcon to install netting around their buildings so people could no longer commit suicide by throwing themselves from the roof. Cui bono? Apple, obviously, and until he died, their founder with the oddly ironic name of Jobs. Who else benefits? You, the consumer!
You may or may not have heard of the TPP, Trans Pacific Partnership. It’s a trade agreement among twelve nations, including the U.S. and was negotiated in absolute secrecy for years. Who wasn’t invited? Labor groups like the AFL-CIO, and environmental groups like 350.org or the Sierra Club. These guys weren’t wanted, because if this agreement goes through, workers’ rights and environmental regulation will be decimated. The only ones who benefit from trade deals like this are the trans-national corporations, the billionaires, and the Wall Street banksters. That’s why they’re called trade agreements and not treaties, which is what they really are. That’s because treaties require a two-thirds Senate vote for passage, a much more difficult task.
The scam of the century can be found eating out the guts of the public education system. It’s the cancer of standardized testing. Students may take a dozen or more in a nine month school year. Teachers don’t have time to teach children how to think, or about what’s going on in the world, because they’re always teaching to the test. Psychologists and educators alike can tell you the vast difference between memorizing facts and learning about the events that led to those facts. And this cancer has convinced school superintendents to evaluate the teachers from the test results. This is a $2 billion industry, and got a “head start” in 2005, when (unelected) President George W. Bush pushed for the No Child Left Behind bill, which would increase standard tests nationwide. You may be interested to know about another big beneficiary — Georgie’s brother Neil, who owned a software company that preps students for standardized tests. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.
I think I’ve got one more in me, and conspiracy freaks will maybe love it. Who benefited from the 9/11 attacks? Of course the defense industry, because this meant we were going to war. Americans freaked out; it was a traumatic event for us all, so Big Pharma must have profited somewhat, I would think. Israel had a lot to gain from 9/11, too, because suddenly they were no longer isolated in the Middle East; we were there nearby, in Iraq and Afghanistan. I’m not saying that Mossad had anything to do with 9/11, I’m just saying Israel would have gained from it.
Who stands to gain from a neo-feudalistic economic system where profits go to an elite few at the top? The billionaires and corporations, of course. And who benefits from a society in which the prosperity of the nation is shared by everyone, especially the very workers who created such prosperity? Everyone.
I hope you’ll use this little exercise in logic when trying to understand some situation or event. I’ve found it to be nearly infallible. In fact, the only time it breaks down is when people or groups perform acts of altruism, without expectation of benefit.