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Thread: Gen. Smedley Butler on "War Is a Racket" -- Ch. 1

  1. #1

    Gen. Smedley Butler on "War Is a Racket" -- Ch. 1

    Recently there have been several posts in threads attempting to "spread the blame" for our current war problems onto the entire population -- from the rather ridiculous "your SUV is causing the War" to other aspersions that are equally without merit and disingenuous.

    The most eloquent spokesman on who ACTUALLY benefits from wars is none other than Major General Smedley Butler, USMC (Ret.) notable as the most decorated member of the USMC in our entire history. He is one of only 19 people to be twice awarded the Medal of Honor, and one of only three to be awarded a Marine Corps Brevet Medal and a Medal of Honor, and the only person to be awarded a Marine Corps Brevet Medal and a Medal of Honor for two different actions.

    In addition to his military career, General Butler was noted for his outspoken anti-interventionist views, and his book War is a Racket. Since few here have read that book (really a booklet of five small chapters, expanded from a prepared speech the General gave on tours of the United States in the late 1920's and 1930's) -- and since the book is now in the public domain, I have taken the liberty of beginning to post it online here in separate chapters as individual threads, one of which is below:




    Chapter 1: War Is A Racket

    WAR is a racket. It always has been.

    It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

    A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small "inside" group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

    In the World War [WWI] a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows.

    How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dug-out? How many of them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun bullets? How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them were wounded or killed in battle?
    Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few -- the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.

    And what is this bill?

    This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations.

    For a great many years, as a soldier, I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not until I retired to civil life did I fully realize it. Now that I see the international war clouds gathering, as they are today, I must face it and speak out.

    Again they are choosing sides. France and Russia met and agreed to stand side by side. Italy and Austria hurried to make a similar agreement. Poland and Germany cast sheep's eyes at each other, forgetting for the nonce [one unique occasion], their dispute over the Polish Corridor.

    The assassination of King Alexander of Jugoslavia [Yugoslavia] complicated matters. Jugoslavia and Hungary, long bitter enemies, were almost at each other's throats. Italy was ready to jump in. But France was waiting. So was Czechoslovakia. All of them are looking ahead to war. Not the people -- not those who fight and pay and die -- only those who foment wars and remain safely at home to profit.

    There are 40,000,000 men under arms in the world today, and our statesmen and diplomats have the temerity to say that war is not in the making.
    Hell's bells! Are these 40,000,000 men being trained to be dancers?
    Not in Italy, to be sure. Premier Mussolini knows what they are being trained for. He, at least, is frank enough to speak out. Only the other day, Il Duce in "International Conciliation," the publication of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said:
    "And above all, Fascism, the more it considers and observes the future and the development of humanity quite apart from political considerations of the moment, believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace. . . . War alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the people who have the courage to meet it."
    Undoubtedly Mussolini means exactly what he says. His well-trained army, his great fleet of planes, and even his navy are ready for war -- anxious for it, apparently. His recent stand at the side of Hungary in the latter's dispute with Jugoslavia showed that. And the hurried mobilization of his troops on the Austrian border after the assassination of Dollfuss showed it too. There are others in Europe too whose sabre rattling presages war, sooner or later.
    Herr Hitler, with his rearming Germany and his constant demands for more and more arms, is an equal if not greater menace to peace. France only recently increased the term of military service for its youth from a year to eighteen months.

    Yes, all over, nations are camping in their arms. The mad dogs of Europe are on the loose. In the Orient the maneuvering is more adroit. Back in 1904, when Russia and Japan fought, we kicked out our old friends the Russians and backed Japan. Then our very generous international bankers were financing Japan. Now the trend is to poison us against the Japanese. What does the "open door" policy to China mean to us? Our trade with China is about $90,000,000 a year. Or the Philippine Islands? We have spent about $600,000,000 in the Philippines in thirty-five years and we (our bankers and industrialists and speculators) have private investments there of less than $200,000,000.
    Then, to save that China trade of about $90,000,000, or to protect these private investments of less than $200,000,000 in the Philippines, we would be all stirred up to hate Japan and go to war -- a war that might well cost us tens of billions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of lives of Americans, and many more hundreds of thousands of physically maimed and mentally unbalanced men.

    Of course, for this loss, there would be a compensating profit -- fortunes would be made. Millions and billions of dollars would be piled up. By a few. Munitions makers. Bankers. Ship builders. Manufacturers. Meat packers. Speculators. They would fare well.

    Yes, they are getting ready for another war. Why shouldn't they? It pays high dividends.

    But what does it profit the men who are killed? What does it profit their mothers and sisters, their wives and their sweethearts? What does it profit their children?

    What does it profit anyone except the very few to whom war means huge profits?

    Yes, and what does it profit the nation?

    Take our own case. Until 1898 we didn't own a bit of territory outside the mainland of North America. At that time our national debt was a little more than $1,000,000,000. Then we became "internationally minded." We forgot, or shunted aside, the advice of the Father of our country. We forgot George Washington's warning about "entangling alliances." We went to war. We acquired outside territory. At the end of the World War period, as a direct result of our fiddling in international affairs, our national debt had jumped to over $25,000,000,000. Our total favorable trade balance during the twenty-five-year period was about $24,000,000,000. Therefore, on a purely bookkeeping basis, we ran a little behind year for year, and that foreign trade might well have been ours without the wars.

    It would have been far cheaper (not to say safer) for the average American who pays the bills to stay out of foreign entanglements. For a very few this racket, like bootlegging and other underworld rackets, brings fancy profits, but the cost of operations is always transferred to the people -- who do not profit.


    About the Author:
    Major General Smedley Darlington Butler, USMC (Ret.)
    • Born: West Chester, Pa., July 30, 1881
    • Educated: Haverford School
    • Married: Ethel C. Peters, of Philadelphia, June 30, 1905
    • Awarded two congressional medals of honor:
      1. capture of Vera Cruz, Mexico, 1914
      2. capture of Ft. Riviere, Haiti, 1917
    • Distinguished service medal, 1919
    • Major General - United States Marine Corps
    • Retired Oct. 1, 1931
    • On leave of absence to act as director of Dept. of Safety, Philadelphia, 1932
    • Lecturer -- 1930's
    • Republican Candidate for Senate, 1932
    • Died at Naval Hospital, Philadelphia, June 21, 1940
    • For more information about Major General Butler, contact the United States Marine Corps.
    • Wikipedia entry on General Butler
    Last edited by WRellim; 06-17-2008 at 11:04 AM. Reason: Corrected intro information
    COMMON SENSE -- Get it, Use it, Share It: http://www.manofcommonsense.com

    The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.
    — Marcus Aurelius



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  3. #2
    A must read.
    If God himself got off his throne, descended from the heavens, trumpetted at my door, and announced that I was wasting my time trying to get Ron Paul into the Whitehouse, I would thank him for his concern and ask him to leave me to my business. I've wasted lots of time on far less noble causes. ~RockEnds

  4. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by liberteebell View Post
    A must read.
    Yes, but short and powerful as it is, I doubt many will bother to read it... even here, as so many on these forums are more interested in "celebrity" and "rumors" and whathaveyou... not all that different from the MSM.

    Sometimes humanity really disgusts me.



    BTW, the rest of the chapters are up as well... the only thing only takes a few minutes to read (but days to truly digest).

    Gen. Smedley Butler on "War Is a Racket"I've always thought that EVERY young person planning to enlist ought to read this book before they are allowed to "sign on the dotted line." (And of course everyone before they are allowed to VOTE as well). Alas, neither is likely to happen.
    Last edited by WRellim; 06-16-2008 at 09:27 PM.

  5. #4
    Allow me a few moments of "chest puffing":

    A great man, Smedley Darlington Butler.

    He was also my great uncle.

    I can recall my grandfather telling stories of his exploits, including breaking up a coup attempt that included as one of it's ringleaders Prescott Bush. Fortunately I was able to sit down with my grandfather before he died last year at 94, to scour all the information I could from him, along with some letters and other documents.

    My favorite quote:

    I wouldn't go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.

    From a speech given in 1933. I am actively seeking, from surviving family members, any notes or written text for that speech.

    I'll frame it and add that as reason 3.
    “It is not true that all creeds and cultures are equally assimilable in a First World nation born of England, Christianity, and Western civilization. Race, faith, ethnicity and history leave genetic fingerprints no ‘proposition nation’ can erase." -- Pat Buchanan

  6. #5

  7. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by WRellim View Post
    Yes, but short and powerful as it is, I doubt many will bother to read it... even here, as so many on these forums are more interested in "celebrity" and "rumors" and whathaveyou... not all that different from the MSM.

    Sometimes humanity really disgusts me.



    BTW, the rest of the chapters are up as well... the only thing only takes a few minutes to read (but days to truly digest).

    Gen. Smedley Butler on "War Is a Racket"I've always thought that EVERY young person planning to enlist ought to read this book before they are allowed to "sign on the dotted line." (And of course everyone before they are allowed to VOTE as well). Alas, neither is likely to happen.
    Sheesh, I'd be happy if our elected representatives would read and understand it! But alas, that won't happen either. But thank you for putting it out there just in case someone takes the time to read it.

    I have to give public credit for providing my first experience with General Butler's War is a Racket to our local morning radio talk show host, Tony Macrini (AM 790 WNIS Norfolk, VA), who read some of it (and reads it again about every quarter)on the air some years ago. I was so intrigued, I read the whole thing for myself. Incidentally, Macrini, a local expert on the War of Northern Agression, is also the person from whom I first heard of Ron Paul. If everyone could have a history teacher as entertaining and interesting as he, we'd all be better informed.
    If God himself got off his throne, descended from the heavens, trumpetted at my door, and announced that I was wasting my time trying to get Ron Paul into the Whitehouse, I would thank him for his concern and ask him to leave me to my business. I've wasted lots of time on far less noble causes. ~RockEnds

  8. #7

  9. #8
    Too bad he didn't realize that socialism was a racket too.
    He loved him some FDR.
    "Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it." - Henry David Thoreau



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  11. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Mesogen View Post
    Too bad he didn't realize that socialism was a racket too. He loved him some FDR.
    I think he DID realize that -- he didn't "love" FDR --true he exposed the "coup plot" (group that wanted to get rid of FDR -- since he was from a slightly different faction of the "fascisti" than they were) -- but that was more to preserve the Constitutional government than it was to keep FDR personally in office:My understanding is that he pretty strongly OPPOSED nearly ALL of the fascist/socialist programs of the FDR regime -- but he focused his efforts on the military-industrial-complex as THE major problem, and was willing to talk or write about THAT issue to virtually ANY group (regardless of their other political stands). This is not really surprising when you realize that he spoke on WHAT HE MAINLY KNEW about, using his expertise to it's best advantage -- he left most of the opposition to FDR's other policies to others who had more "standing" and experience (i.e. he wasn't a farmer, businessman or economist, he was a military man and stayed on topic).

    And he was pretty darn prophetic in his understanding of what THAT would do to the Republic. (He basically predicted WWII years in advance, very early on he noticed and rang the alarm about the "baiting" of the Japanese by the FDR administration {alas unheard by most}, and in a "general sense" predicted the entire problem with the atomic bomb and the resulting "cold war" that happened after WWII).

    The problem is that everyone ignored his advice in the "propaganda" of the WWII era that FDR hyped up. Only after he was President for 2 terms did Eisenhower "fully realize" how correct Butler had been, and issue his own "warning" about the MI complex -- and which was really just a minor "echo" of Butler's more profound statements, analyzes and predictions.
    Last edited by WRellim; 06-17-2008 at 12:15 PM.

  12. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Anti Federalist View Post
    Allow me a few moments of "chest puffing":

    A great man, Smedley Darlington Butler.

    He was also my great uncle.

    I can recall my grandfather telling stories of his exploits, including breaking up a coup attempt that included as one of it's ringleaders Prescott Bush. Fortunately I was able to sit down with my grandfather before he died last year at 94, to scour all the information I could from him, along with some letters and other documents.

    My favorite quote:

    I wouldn't go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.

    From a speech given in 1933. I am actively seeking, from surviving family members, any notes or written text for that speech.

    I'll frame it and add that as reason 3.

    Have you seen the snippets of newsreel footage of him?
    Small clip starting at about 1:40 of this vid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7PUmMC5P8IE

  13. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by WRellim View Post
    Have you seen the snippets of newsreel footage of him?
    Small clip starting at about 1:40 of this vid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7PUmMC5P8IE
    No, I hadn't seen that one.

    Thank you.
    “It is not true that all creeds and cultures are equally assimilable in a First World nation born of England, Christianity, and Western civilization. Race, faith, ethnicity and history leave genetic fingerprints no ‘proposition nation’ can erase." -- Pat Buchanan

  14. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Anti Federalist View Post
    No, I hadn't seen that one.

    Thank you.
    Also, an interesting Vid I just ran across of a speech by another "military kid" (now grown up & speaker at colleges around the US) -- whose eyes were opened by Gen. Butler's book:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmCCCAgY_5E

  15. #13

  16. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by WRellim View Post
    I think he DID realize that -- he didn't "love" FDR
    Sorry. I read that he was a huge FDR supporter, like campaigning for him and such.



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