War is a Racket, by Major General Smedley Butler

"Science," the Greek word for knowledge, when appended to the word "political," creates what seems like an oxymoron. For who could claim to know politics? More complicated than any game, most people who play it become addicts and die without understanding what they were addicted to. The rest of us suffer under their malpractice as our "leaders." A truer case of the blind leading the blind could not be found. Plumb the depths of confusion here.

Re: War is a Racket, by Major General Smedley Butler

Postby admin » Thu Oct 31, 2013 1:57 am

General Butler says goodbye to his boys at the Quantico Marine Base.
AP news wire, September 23, 1931. (Courtesy of Jeff Roth)

by Major General Smedley D. Butler

From the 1939 J.J. Little and Ives Company (New York) book compilation of non- interventionist essays and speeches by Dr. Harry Elmer Barnes, Dr. Charles A. Beard, Dr. Philip D. Bookstaber, Han. William E. Borah, Rev. A. Herbert Haslam, Herbert Hoover, Jay C. Hormel, Col. Charles A. Lindbergh, Eleanor Roosevelt, Hon. Sumner Welles, and others.


Let's look over this European brawl and see where we stand on it or why we should stand anywhere on it for that matter.

First, let's see if we have contributed one single thing to cause it. Also let's see if even a part of the responsibility for it can be pinned on us. Finally, let's see if we have anything at all to do with it.

If we think it over calmly, we all know perfectly well that we did not have one solitary blessed thing to do with the making of the mess over there. And that there is no possible sane and logical reason why we should feel any impulse to take a hand in it.

Did we have anything to do with the promises Britain and France made to Poland? No, we didn't. Did we have anything to do with Hitler's land-grabbing? No, we didn't. Did we have anything to do with Britain and France declaring war on Germany? We certainly did not and were not even consulted.

These are some of the SMELLY things in this pit of European back-alley politics into which we will be sucked if we don't watch our step -- if we are fools enough to allow ourselves to get all excited about this brawl that is going on over there, as such brawls have, almost since the dawn of history.

Before they started this row over land and natural resources, did they ask our advice or tell us their plans? Ask for our good wishes or even our opinion? No, they did not, and we neither advised nor encouraged them, so why should we get all stewed up about it and furnish the ammunition to keep it going? Just because people on the other side of the world insist on continuing their age-old practice of committing mass suicide, do we as a nation have to follow their example and blow out our brains, too?

Are we to adopt a policy of sitting around this European cockpit and going to the rescue of our favorite cocks whenever they get themselves into a fight they might not be able to win without us? Are we to become so entangled in European high-pressure politics that the main issue at our elections will be whether or not to allow political changes abroad? If we are to make it our practice to take part in these cockfights over there we should certainly vote on it -- have it in all our national political platforms every time we have an election.

Twenty-five years ago we sold them munitions and then had to go abroad to bail out Britain and France, helped drench the gore-sodden fields of Europe with the blood of a quarter of a million of our finest boys -- the pride of our manhood -- helped sow the seeds of the present orgy -- spent fifty billion dollars on that venture. Are we to keep on doing it?

Are WE to blame because Hitler built himself a great hair-trigger war machine that crushes everything in front of it? Are WE responsible that England and France did not build a machine to stop him? Are WE culpable in any way because Hitler started before the other side was ready? Provided Britain and France really want to stop Hitler, are WE to make up for their failure to prepare to do so by sticking out OUR necks?

Suppose you were walking down a strange street in a strange town in a strange country thousands of miles from your own home. You come across a brawl. You have no real interest in it. All of a sudden you hear one of the brawlers cry out, in your native tongue, as he swats his opponent: "I believe in Democracy." You don't know in the least what the fight is about but your sympathies are at once with this fellow who speaks your own language. The believer in Democracy sees you hesitate and shouts: "Come on and get in -- we believe in the same things. Also don't forget, if this other fellow wins, you'll be next. You'd better come in now."

You reply, "No, I don't want to. I'm a stranger and don't want to get mixed up in this. I like you but not enough to get into a fight. I want to be neutral."

"All right," he says, "be neutral, but you can gather up all the stones, clubs and brickbats you can get hold of and sell them to me. I'll use them on the other fellow."

That's a swell way to be neutral, isn't it?

Do you really think that if you start handing your Democratic friend ammunition, you won't get into it, too? You can't help it, if he's losing, and if he wins, he will only call you a scab, say he could have won by himself anyhow, and declare that he owes you nothing. He will also hate you because you made money out of his necessity. So both sides will hate you. On the other hand, if you stay out of this fight, with which you have nothing to do with in the first place, the argument that if the other fellow wins, he will give you a good beating too, won't apply. You will have gone on with your own business, instead of butting into a fight where you did not belong, and better still, the winner won't find you right there on hand and ready to be chewed up next. You will be thousands of miles away and he will have to come after you.

They say -- well, if the French and the British don't lick Hitler, he will come over here and jump on our necks. He'll be bombing our women and children and shelling our cities. Don't let anyone feed you that rot. It doesn't take military education to figure out what I am going to tell you:

It will take NOT LESS THAN ONE MILLION soldiers to invade the United States with any hope of success. These million men must come all at once. They must bring not less than SEVEN TONS OF BAGGAGE PER MAN. One million men, seven million tons of food, ammunition, whatnot. For instance, just ONE item: They must bring four hundred thousand vehicles alone; tractors, fifty gallons of gasoline per day for each vehicle for 270 days -- that's nine months' supply. Why, there are not enough ships in the whole world, including our own -- and we certainly wouldn't lend them ours -- to carry that kind of expedition. And remember, these ships have to bring with them enough fuel to get back with -- to make the round trips. We certainly aren't going to give them fuel over here to go home with. Any dumb cluck can see that.

But here's some more:

They've got to have harbors to lie in; docks on which to unload their stores. You know that you can't stop twenty-five miles out at sea, drop a fifty-ton armored tank overboard and tell it to swim ashore and meet you on Broadway. Remember, that with all the harbors, docks and ships of England and France at our disposal in the World War it took us nineteen months to get 1,900,000 men to France. And that though this expedition was headed for a friendly country and that all possible help on the other side was ours, it took months of preparation after the United States had actually declared war before it was safe to send the troops over. You know very well that we are not going to open our harbors to them, prepare docks for them and invite them in. New York is the only big one we have on this coast and to block New York harbor all you have to do is to dump two days' garbage in the channel, instead of hauling it out to sea.

Don't you see, it's all a question of supply -- this invading business. Men and munitions always run out before the supply of men is exhausted?

Just figure it out for yourselves:

For every man at the front, you must ship every day of the year from your home depot a thousand pounds of supplies; food, ammunition, gasoline, clothing, medical supplies, engineering supplies, spare parts, etc., to say nothing of replacements of the above. If you have 200,000 men at the front, you will have 800,000 supplying them from the rear -- and you will have to send them 100,000 tons of supplies every day.

Remember also, that for every thousand miles you go across water on an invading expedition into a hostile land, you must take with you ninety days' stores of all kinds. It is over 3,000 miles across the Atlantic -- three times ninety is two hundred and seventy days -- nine months. No, the supply of a European Army in America is out of the question, that is, an Army big enough to land here.

There is another thing to remember:

No fleet can operate more than 1500 miles from its base and Germany proper would be the base of a Hitler invading fleet. No, he couldn't get his fleet over here, or get it home again, if he did. But -- they say -- he might build a base somewhere in South America. Well, my friends, those who got up that little idea overlooked the fact that it is farther by a good deal from Berlin to South America than from Berlin to New York, so why invade America via South America? It doesn't make sense, for when Hitler got to South America, he would be a good deal farther away from us, than if he had come straight over from Berlin. So don't let that frighten you. It is all pure propaganda and insane to talk of Hitler invading us. And don't forget, too, that we have a Navy of our own and it's the best in the world, too.

Now, what about an aerial invasion? Well, Colonel Lindbergh and Eddie Rickenbacher, the two foremost fliers we have, already have told us it's ridiculous to talk of an invasion by air or to talk or think of bombing New York from Berlin. But suppose they do invent a plane that might be able to do it. That airplane has got to make the round trip, too. And without landing. With the fuel with which it started. And even if they build a plane that will do that, we have enough brains in this country to make some sort of machine that will destroy it before it hurts our women and children. And don't forget that we have an air force of our own, and a fine one too. So let's take one thing at a time.

This war's in Europe, it isn't over here. And it won't come over here unless we invite it. And the best way to invite it was to raise this embargo and sell bombs and ammunitions. They'll have the stamp of American makers on them and they have the R.S.V.P. that will bring about that invitation. An invitation to go over there and join in the mess.

Oh, but the bogey is that someone will come over here. Don't be alarmed. No one in Europe can afford to leave home. Why, if Hitler were to leave Germany with a million men to go anywhere, if he ever got back he'd find everybody speaking French or Russian. Those babies would move in on him while he was gone. No, there isn't a single crazy war dog that can come over here. We can build a defense of our own country that not even a rat, much less a mad dog, could creep through.

Let's be consistent. We cry to high heaven that we are a God-fearing and peace-loving nation and therefore we don't believe in shooting people, bombing their homes, knocking down their cities with cannon. And we really ARE a God-fearing and peace-loving people, but certainly it's un-Godly, hypocritical and unmanly of us to say to the British and the French:

Sure, we're against this fellow Hitler, but being God-fearing, WE can't shoot him, WE can't bomb him, but we'll be delighted to see YOU do it, and we'll furnish the guns and the bombs. That is, provided you pay us double what they're worth. And in order that there may be no mistake about it this time, you'll pay us in advance. You see we're against going to war ourselves, but we're not against your wars. You go ahead. WE'LL sell you the stuff.

The majority of the people of this country are against Hitler but don't want to get into this war in Europe. Our people think the best way to stay out of it is to be neutral. How is it proposed to stay neutral? Why, by regulating the sale of our products. It was satisfactorily proved that the sale of munitions to the Allies in 1914-15-16 got us into the World War. Now by selling again we run the same risks. If the sale of products has a tendency to involve us, certainly the more we sell, the greater the risk of getting in. The more we sell, the greater the business and the profits, and the greater the profits the greater our interest in the success of the customer. Our business slogan is: "The customer is always right." Isn't it?

The embargo on the sale of munitions certainly limited the volume of our sales. It most certainly cut out blood money. So why did we raise it -- why did we open the gate and run greater risk? Why? To make sure that Hitler is licked. But then we would not be neutral and we have pinned our hopes of staying out on our being neutral. It certainly does not make sense: to raise the embargo and try to stay neutral at the same time.

Also the time has come when we have to answer the big question before us: How often are we going over there to bailout Europe? Will we have to do it every twenty-five years? In addition to going ourselves last time, are we going to send our children today, are we going to be ready to send our grandchildren twenty-five years from now? Isn't it time to make a stand about this thing here and now? Are we so vitally interested right now that we want to contribute five million of the finest and strongest boys that the great Mothers of America have produced? Are you mothers and fathers so deeply concerned that you want to furnish your sons?

Also, let's look at this question from a personal viewpoint, which is the only one that counts in the long run:

It's all very well and high sounding to say:

The Government declares war. To say helplessly: As individuals we have nothing to do with it, can't prevent it. But WHO ARE WE? Well, "WE" right now are the mothers and fathers of every able-bodied boy of military age in the United States. "WE" are also you young men of voting age and over, that they'll use for cannon fodder. And "WE" can prevent it.

Now -- you MOTHERS, particularly:

The only way you can resist all this war hysteria and beating tomtoms is by hanging onto the love you bear your boys. When you listen to some well-worded, well-delivered war speech, just remember that it's nothing but Sound. It's your boy that matters. And no amount of sound can make up to you for the loss of your boy. After you've heard one of these speeches and your blood is all hot and you want to go and hit someone like Hitler -- go upstairs where your boy is asleep. Go into his bedroom. You'll find him lying there, pillows all messed up, covers all tangled, sleeping away so hard. Look at him. Put your hand on that spot at the back of his beck, the place you used to love to kiss when he was a baby. Just stroke it a little. You won't wake him up, he knows it's you. Just look at his strong, fine, young body -- because only the BEST boys are chosen for war. Look at this splendid young creature who's part of yourself. You brought him into the world. You cared for him. That boy relies on you. You taught him to do that, didn't you? Now I ask you: Are you going to run out on him? Are you going to let someone beat a drum or blow a bugle and make him chase after it and be killed or crippled on a foreign land? Are the Mothers of America ashamed to make this fight to stay out of this European War on the ground of their love for their sons -- for what better ground could there be?

Have you ever been in one of those huge Veterans Hospitals it has been necessary to build to take care of the thousands of helpless and maimed cripples still with us from the LAST war? If you have, you will not need a reminder of what war can do to your boy, how it can render his life useless and broken at twenty, and yet keep him cruelly alive for the whole span of it. If you have not, I advise you to go and see one of them, for nothing could bring home to you more clearly or tragically the fact that in the last analysis it is your boy who is going to pay the piper. Few there are who come back entirely unscathed, and some come back in such a way that you would find yourself praying for their release from pain. Those withered, elderly, spiritless men who lie and sit so patiently in their wards day after day in those hospitals, waiting for the end, as they have waited since they got there twenty years ago, were the flower of our boys in their time. It is not age that has brought them to this pass, for their average age is a little over forty, it is WAR. Like the Unknown Soldier who was one of them, they too had mothers and fathers who felt toward them as you do about your boy. Thank God, this is a democracy, and by your voice and by your vote you can save your boy. You are the bosses of this country -- you mothers, you fathers.

And that brings up another point:

If you let this country go into a European war, you will lose this democracy, don't forget that. As you stand by your boy in bed, he is safe, but here is another picture. It may help you to build up resistance against all this propaganda which will almost drown you.

Somewhere in a muddy trench, thousands of miles away from you and your home, your boy, the same one that is sleeping so sweetly and safely in his bed with you on his side, is waiting to "go over the top." Just before dawn. Drizzling rain. Dark and dismal. Face caked with mud and tears. So homesick and longing for you and home. Thinks of you on your knees praying for him. He is frightened to death, but still more scared the boy next to him will discover his terror. That's your boy. Stomach as big as an egg. I know, I've had that sensation many times.

Do you want him to be the next Unknown Soldier?

The Unknown Soldier had a mother, you know, and a father. He didn't just appear out of the air.

Do you want your boy, tangled in the barbed wire, or struggling for a last gasp of breath in a stinking trench somewhere abroad, do you want him to cry out: "Mother, Father, why did you let them do it?"

Think it over, my dear fellow Americans. Can't we be satisfied with defending our own homes, our own women, our own children? Right here in America? There are only two reasons why you should ever be asked to give your youngsters. One is defense of our homes. The other is the defense of our Bill of Rights and particularly the right to worship God as we see fit. Every other reason advanced for the murder of young men is a racket, pure and simple.
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Re: War is a Racket, by Major General Smedley Butler

Postby admin » Thu Oct 31, 2013 1:59 am

A Butler family photo of Smedley cradling his favorite cat.
(Courtesy of Molly Swanton)

by Major General Smedley D. Butler

(Originally printed in Woman's Home Companion, September, 1936.)


I PROPOSE an Amendment for Peace, to the Constitution of the United States:

1. The removal of members of the land armed forces from within the continental limits of the United States and the Panama Canal Zone for any cause whatsoever is prohibited.

2. The vessels of the United States Navy, or of the other branches of the armed service, are hereby prohibited from steaming, for any reason whatsoever except on an errand of mercy, more than five hundred miles from our coast.

3. Aircraft of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps is hereby prohibited from flying, for any reason whatsoever, more than seven hundred and fifty miles beyond the coast of the United States. Such an amendment would be absolute guarantee to the women of America that their loved ones never would be sent overseas to be needlessly shot down in European or Asiatic or African wars that are no concern of our people.


SUCH an amendment, linked with adequate naval and military defenses at home, would guarantee everlasting peace to our nation.

How would such an amendment insure peace?

In the first place, the United States is in no danger whatever of military invasion. Even the Navy and Army Departments, which are always preparing for war, and the State Department, which is always talking about peace but thinking about war, agree on that. By reason of our geographical position, it is all but impossible for any foreign power to muster, transport and land sufficient troops on our shores for a successful invasion.

There is another bar to any invasion of the United States by the political dimensions abroad, which prohibit any one nation from leaving its own borders unguarded in order to make war on a foe three thousand or six thousand miles distant. Yet if, by some incomprehensible diplomatic hocuspocus, an agreement could be reached among certain foreign powers whereby they would forget their own differences for the time being and pool their resources in a joint effort against the United States, there still would be very little fear of successful invasion.

Our fleet, bound by this Peace Amendment to stay close to home shores, would be on hand to repel such invasion at sea: if, through some serried of unforeseen circumstances and disasters, an enemy army did succeed in landing on our shores -- the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico or the Pacific -- the entire manpower of this nation would spring to arms. Every American, every man and boy, would be ready, without conscription, without pleading -- every American would be ready to grasp a rifle and rush forth to defend his home and his country.

Yes, everybody would be in that rush. Even the "peace at any price" people. They would forget their scruples. The pacifists would be among the first in line. The Quakers, the Mennonites and the members of other religious faiths which are opposed to the bearing of arms would be in that rush to protect our children and womenfolk.

History shows it. I know it from the experience of my own forefathers, who were FRIENDS.

Militarists and pacifists, Republicans and Democrats -- all Americans, regardless of race, creed or color -- regardless of political or economic beliefs -- regardless of everything -- all Americans would rush forth to defend their homeland.

Therefore, with the invasion of our shores an impossible military undertaking, the only war in which we can possibly become involved is one in which our people would have no interest and no concern -- and no right to join.

It would be one into which we should be thrown by some economic, political or diplomatic intrigue, and not a war which we should wage in defense of our homes.

And it is from just such a war, a war such as the late World War, that we must protect ourselves. And from all the evidence, such a war is now imminent elsewhere.

Money -- that's where we fit into the picture. Make no mistake about it. You can't fight wars without money. Everybody knows that. You can have all the airplanes and all the guns and all the warships and as many soldiers as you want, or as many as you can get, but you can't go to war without money. And remember. Uncle Sam has the money.

When the European powers get through their present task of "choosing up sides," and get down to the actual fighting, both sides will endeavor to maneuver the United States into the war -- on their side.


ANOTHER question naturally presents itself: What of our territories and our dependencies? The answer is subject to great study and debate but let us note here a few points.

The Philippine Islands are now on their way to independence. They are not a defense necessity; commercially they are a liability; it is virtually impossible to defend them adequately. We should let them go. A bill to give Puerto Rico its independence has been introduced in Congress; we should let it go. The Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, Wake and the Midway Islands are not indispensable to our national life. While American capital is invested in each instance, it would have to take its chances, just as in all external investments. The balance of trade is against the United States in all these dependencies -- we buy more from each of them than we sell to them. They are not assets.

Hawaii and Alaska are our own territories: we cannot set them loose. It is virtually impossible, from a military or a naval standpoint, to defend them properly except at prohibitive cost, so I believe our defense of these territories would have to be by economic pressure. We would move the naval station and the huge military detachment from the Hawaiian Islands and such forces as we have in Alaska but we would announce to the world that these are ours and that they are not to be touched: that while we will not go abroad to fight for them, we will exact every possible economic pressure against any power which might be tempted to take these possessions. And the United States is so situated that it can successfully exert economic sanctions.

That leaves the Panama Canal Zone. The Canal is essential to our defense. We must defend it. Any notion which would attempt to block, damage or destroy the canal would do so only as a prelude to a war upon our people. We would defend it as we would any part of our coast.

We must always bear in mind that there is no royal road to peace. In recent years and as the result of disclosures of World War intrigues men and women have been endeavoring to chart new paths and byways toward the goal of peace. But no one of these paths, alone, leads permanently away from the danger of war.

These paths are neutrality, take-the-profit-out-of-war, referendum on war, total disarmament, mass protests, education of the masses, students' strikes and Oxford oaths. Let us suppose that all the antiwar measures that have been proposed were passed by Congress and placed on our stature books. Let us suppose that all America's youth of fighting age were to subscribe to the Oxford oath against participation in war.


THIS would not insure the peace of our nation. Laws passed by Congress in one week can be wiped off the statute books the next week. And laws can be evaded.

Take our neutrality measures, prohibiting the export of rifles, ammunition and other products to nations at war. There are ways and means of evading such embargoes. Machine guns can be -- as they have been in the past -- shipped as sewing machines. Cannons can be camouflaged as locomotive parts and, with the necessary bribes, placed aboard ship.

The proposed take-the-profit-out-of-war bill also could be evaded by intricate financial jugglery such as was common during the World War.

And last, even the war referendum -- the plebiscite to decide whether our people are to go to war or not -- is not foolproof. Don't you suppose that the American people could be roused, by skillful propaganda, to vote for a war in which we have no interest, even if a hysterical Congress did not previously wipe the law from the books?

Once the cannons begin booming and the drums begin rolling, red-blooded youth, despite its Oxford oaths, despite its massed protests, despite its satiric "veterans of future wars" will succumb to the war clamor. Radio orators screaming their pet and smug phrases of "war to end war" and "war to make democracy safe" and the newspapers shrieking in black headlines of war atrocities -- these and similar propaganda arts of warmakers would be invoked to break down the earlier opposition of America's youth to war. You think it impossible?

Just look back to 1916 and 1917. In November 1916, Woodrow Wilson was re-elected president of the United States on a platform of "he kept us out of war." Five months later, on April 6, America declared war on Germany. Antiwar sentiment can be changed to a war clamor in a very brief time. But it takes at least nine months -- that is the record for the prohibition amendment -- for an amendment to be taken from the constitution, and one such as the proposed Amendment for Peace would take considerably longer. And in that period, surely we should return to our better sense.

At any rate, in the bitter fight that would develop in an effort to remove such an amendment from the constitution we would forget about the war overseas and keep the fight, with voice and ballot, right at home.


THERE is nothing un-American in the Peace Amendment. When our forefathers planned this government, they foresaw no necessity for preparing for wars in Europe: for wars that didn't concern us. As a matter of fact, after the Revolutionary War had been won and after the new United States Government was established, our army and navy were eliminated. There was no provision for an army or a navy. True, we had a militia. That is, each state had its own militia. We still have them. We call them National Guards now. But the militia, the only armed force in the United States at that time, was not to be used beyond the territorial limits of the United States.

If you look back into history, you will find that during the War of 1812 a certain regiment of militia marched northward toward Canada. When they reached the Canadian border they refused to cross, and went home. The militia then was for home defense -- and home defense only.

That's what our army and our navy should be. Home defenders, ready and able to defend our homes, to defend us against attack -- that's all.

The efficiency of our navy can be maintained by maneuvers a few hundred miles off our own coast just as well as it can be manipulated by maneuvers thousands of miles away, and almost in Japan's back yard, where our navy conducted its main maneuvers last year.

Let's pass all our suggested antiwar legislation, let's attend all the peace and disarmament conferences; let's have all the war protest meetings we can arrange; let our young men form their "veterans of future wars" groups -- let's do all this and more; but if we really want to make it impossible to have our young men sent abroad to fight the wars of others, then let us by all means insist upon adding the Peace Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

And the mother, the wives and the sisters of the future cannon fodder must lead the way!
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Re: War is a Racket, by Major General Smedley Butler

Postby admin » Thu Oct 31, 2013 2:09 am


(Originally published by Brewer, Warren & Putnam, 1932)



America's leaders had trouble explaining why an obtuse European conflict, later known as World War I, demanded citizens' bodies and money. Then flags started to unroll, drums started to beat, and posters began to reveal The Enemy, wearing Kaiser helmets, and spiriting away little girls still dressed in their nightclothes.

The propaganda was devastatingly effective. Few American males resisted the patriotic call of defending women and children, and did so in part by destroying The Enemy's women and children.

Years later, waking from the consequences of the Great War during the Great Depression, with friends and family shot or mustard gassed to destruction, Americans began to realize that the war's victory was Pyrrhic, at best. Even so-called patriots began to wonder why it was deemed necessary to fight conflicts having little to do with a threat to American soil. Brigadier General Smedley Butler lectured to millions on why war was a racket. And a book called The Horror of It was published at the same time; its photographic record revealed the unacknowledged results of war propaganda's drumbeats.

It is no longer taboo to say that President Roosevelt required Pearl Harbor to drag a war-weary American public into supporting another World War. Discussion of FDR's foreknowledge of the Japanese attack is not only the subject of books by respected historians, but of documentaries on cable television.

War is more than a racket, it's an economic imperative which must be stimulated, however deviously. Smedley Butler speaks from experience of its primary beneficiaries; The Horror of It uncovers the results of propaganda's most vicious lies.

-- Adam Parfrey
















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Re: War is a Racket, by Major General Smedley Butler

Postby admin » Thu Oct 31, 2013 2:20 am



Smedley Darlington Butler took his Constitutional vows seriously, repelling threats to America both without and within. Shortly after retiring from a lauded career, the popular Marine brought down a Fascist corporate plot to seize the White House. Concerned for the future of democracy, Butler began to speak out against the venal motives behind many of this country's military actions.

Smedley Butler prepares to sweep corruption during his 1932 run for governor of Pennsylvania. (AP wire photo courtesy of Jeff Roth.)

Written during the Great Depression, War is a Racket pulls no punches against a corrupt military-industrial complex, eager to murder both foreign and native-born children for the sake of profit. The Feral House edition includes two other anti-intervention screeds written by Butler, in addition to photographs taken from the astonishing 1932 antiwar book, The Horror Of It.

"The Moving Finger," from THE HORROR OF IT

Adam Parfrey's introduction reveals names suppressed from a Congressional investigation that verified the right-wing coup plotted against President Franklin D. Roosevelt by corporate bigwigs.

War is a Racket, the piss-and-vinegar classic, may be even more relevant today than when it was first published 70 years ago.
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Re: War is a Racket, by Major General Smedley Butler

Postby admin » Thu Oct 31, 2013 2:25 am

Why don't those damned oil companies fly their own flags on their personal property -- maybe a flag with a gas pump on it -- Brigadier General Smedley D. Butler, 1937

Brigadier General Smedley Darlington Butler and Three Footsoldiers
This photograph hangs on the Butler family's wall today. (Photo courtesy Molly Swanton)

The antiwar classic by America's most decorated general, two other anti-interventionist tracts, and photographs from The Horror of It
Smedley D. Butler

Introduction by Adam Parfrey

Brigadier General Smedley Darlington Butler and Three Footsoldiers
This photograph hangs on the Butler family's wall today. (Photo courtesy Molly Swanton)

The antiwar classic by America's most decorated general, two other anti-interventionist tracts, and photographs from The Horror of It
Smedley D. Butler
Introduction by Adam Parfrey

Smedley Butler addresses Bonus Marchers in Washington, D.C., urging them to remain in camp until they receive their "adjusted compensation certificates."
AP photo wire, July 24, 1932. (Courtesy of Jeff Roth)


In early to mid-20th century Latin America, the citizens of country after country heard the rhetoric of [President Woodrow] Wilson but came up hard against the practices of American mining, agriculture and construction giants; and children though they may have been in the eyes of both the paternalistic Wilson and the far more sinister corporate magnates, those people understood the game that was being played out within their borders.

-- Caleb Carr, The New York Observer, in an (4/14/03) article spanking the interventionism of President Bush's neo- Conservative cabinet.

The U.S. government thanked the efforts of World War I soldiers with a "war bonus" of approximately $1,000 to be paid late as 1945. But as Great Depression and the Dust Bowl misery touched the continental states, unemployed veterans desired to have their bonus paid sooner. In May 1932 out-of-work vets arrived in Washington D.C. to impress their bonus pleas to Congress. A pro-bonus bill sponsored by Wright Patman was threatened veto by President Hoover and overturned House passage by a Republican Senate. As tens of thousands of Hooverville-occupying vets demonstrated their discontent in a "death march," Generals George Patton and Douglas MacArthur moved in on the veterans with a fresher contingent of the U.S. Army. Two died, including an infant, and hundreds of veterans were injured, in MacArthur's successful attempt to "gain control" of D.C.

The Bonus Marchers' primary upper-ranked supporter? Smedley D. Butler, the Brigadier General who was twice awarded the Medal of Honor and once the so-called "Brevet medal," when the Medal of Honor was not given officers. Known for his fair play to soldiers regardless of rank, Butler's support of the "Bonus Marchers" helped boost the desperate foot-soldiers' movement. The Brigadier General's disparaging of the mass media and "big business" was particularly popular in the Depression. But those same big business interests, buoyed by the ability of Italian Fascist "Corporatism" to turn back labor demands in the restructuring of its economy, took special note of Butler's support from a half-million veterans, which would have made an intimidating force against FDR and his hated New Deal, and his elimination of the gold standard. But as far as Smedley Butler was concerned, "I believe in making Wall Street pay for it [the bonuses] -- taking Wall Street by the throat and shaking it up."

As a Marine officer, Butler oversaw American forays into China, Nicaragua, Cuba and Haiti, and this is where he picked up his frequently expressed opinion that he was no more than a bully boy for American corporations. Butler's skepticism about the U.S. government may have been partly the result of his Quaker background. During the Prohibition, Butler was made Police Chief of the mob-plagued city of Philadelphia in 1924 and 1925 where in a non-war interlude he effectively moved against open saloons, bars and speakeasies. Mass magazines, like the early diet and fitness periodical, Strength (March 1924 issue), featured Butler's military-type run against the Philly "gangsters."

General Butler's Iron Grip

Courage is Strength, Ditto Unswerving Purpose -- That is Why Philadelphia's Crooks and Bootleggers Flee From the Mailed Fist of "Old Hell's Devil Butler." You've read much, perhaps, of the great heroes of fiction. Perhaps they were not all great heroes. Some of them may have been just ordinary leading characters, knights errant, adventurers, soldiers of fortune. Probably you've admired them, thrilled to their deeds, longed to emulate them, and possibly got just a wee bit tired of them all with their calm, piercing and various other kinds of eyes, their tremendous energy and all that sort of thing.

How would you like to meet one of them? A lot of Philadelphians have just had that opportunity, and a great many of them didn't care for it one bit. Of course, you know we are referring to Brigadier General Smedley D. Butler of the United States Marine Corps, who has just recently been appointed Director of the Department of Public Safety in the Quaker City.

- T. Von Ziekursch, Strength magazine, March 1924

In a 1931 speech, Butler recounted a story about Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini, how he had run over a child with his car, and said, as he moved on, "It was only one life. What is one life in the affairs of the State." This remark caused a great commotion among U.S. authorities after Mussolini strongly denied the episode, and Butler was quickly placed under arrest and ordered court-martialed by President Hoover. Pre-World War II worship of Italian Fascism in America can be seen in the July 1934 issue of Fortune magazine, which celebrated the Italian corporatist state. Due to hostile public reaction, the court-martial against Butler was dropped entirely. The Brigadier General soon after announced his retirement in the Liberty magazine article, "To Hell with the Admirals! Why I Retired at Fifty."

When he no longer wished to be known as a "racketeer for capitalism," Butler became a widely-quoted spokesman for constitutional American principles over imperialist American practice. Lowell Thomas, the famous journalist widely known for making a British Liaison to the Arab revolt of World War I "Lawrence of Arabia," took on "The Adventures of Smedley D. Butler" in the 1933 book, Old Gimlet Eye, complete with endpaper illustrations of Smedley putting down revolting, barefoot sword-wielding Haitians with pistol and rifle.

The subtitle of this edition is not entirely accurate, as Smedley Butler was not an "antiwar" activist so much as an isolationist. And he died on June 21, 1940, months prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Within the pages of War Is a Racket, Butler said that the U.S. "should build an ironclad defense a rat couldn't crawl through."

On the other hand, Butler also invoked against capitalist greed: "I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested." Strangely enough, Reader's Digest saw fit to condense War Is A Racket as a book supplement.

Lowell Thomas says in his introduction to the Reader's Digest version of War Is A Racket:

Even his opponents concede that in his stand on public questions, General Butler has been motivated by the same fiery integrity and loyal patriotism which has distinguished his service in countless Marine campaigns.

But the view that opponents forever saw integrity in Butler's "public questions" overlooked the New York Times and Time Magazine's public lancing when Butler revealed a "Wall Street Plot to Seize the Government" -- investigated, confirmed (and partially suppressed) by the McCormack-Dickstein Congressional Committee -- that American Legion leaders and well- known men of Wall Street, one a major attorney for J.P. Morgan & Co., had planned the first American fascist dictatorship.

Time Magazine (at the time controlled by J.P. Morgan & Co.), said, under a first-page headline on December 3, 1934, "PLOT WITHOUT PLOTTERS":

Such as the nightmarish page of future United States history pictured last week in Manhattan by General Butler himself to the special House Committee investigating Un-American Activities. No military officer of the United States since the late tempestuous George Custer has succeeded in publicly floundering in so much hot water as Smedley Darlington Butler...

General Butler's sensational tongue had not been heard in the nation's press for more than a week when he cornered a reporter for the Philadelphia Record and the New York Post, poured into his ears the lurid tale that he had been offered leadership of a Fascist Putsch scheduled for next year....

Thanking their stars for having such sure-fire publicity dropped in their laps, Representatives McCormack and Dickstein began calling witnesses to expose the "plot." But there did not seem to be any plotters...

Mr. Morgan, just off a boat from Europe, had nothing to say but partner Lamont did: "Perfect moonshine! Too utterably ridiculous to comment upon!!... "

As George Seldes put it in his 1947 book, 1000 Americans, "Any reader comparing the testimony and the Committee report on this event ... must conclude that the Time report consists of distortion and propaganda."

In his long out-of-print 1973 tome, The Plot to Seize the White House, Jules Archer shows how the New York Times denigrated Butler's whistle-blowing, and vastly underplayed the reality of the Congressional inquiry. Its November 21, 1934 headline said, hostile quote marks retained:

Gen. Butler Bares 'Fascist Plot'
To Seize Government by Force

Says Bond Salesman, as Representative of Wall St. Group, Asked Him to Lead Army of 500,000 in March on Capital -- Those Named Make Angry Denials -- Dickstein Gets Charge

The complex saga behind the coup attempt, and the devious manner in which Butler was solicited to join the attempt to intimidate President Roosevelt into functional inactivity, was strikingly described by Archer in The Plot to Seize the White House (Hawthorn Books, 1973) and a bit less provocatively by a History Channel documentary titled The Plot to Overthrow FDR (available on videotape from International Historic Films, http://www.ihffilm.com/ihf/r547.html ).

The most revealing details of the McCormack-Dickstein Committee report were suppressed in its original release. Though the report confirmed Smedley Butler's revelation of outrageous corporate plots, it failed to detail the names of prominent corporate entities, whose mention would have embarrassed the politicians they supported and the "patriotic" groups they helped form. Only after George Seldes released his obscure book, 1000 Americans, did their suppressed names come to light in two revealing appendices, reproduced below.


From 1000 Americans, © 1947 by George Seldes. Appendix 20:


[Seldes' Editorial Note: General Smedley Butler testified before a Congressional Committee that several Wall Street bankers, one of them connected with J.P. Morgan and Co., several founders of the American Liberty League, and several heads of the American Legion plotted to seize the government of the United States shortly after President Roosevelt established the New Deal. The press, with a few exceptions, suppressed the news. Worse yet, the McCormack-Dickstein Committee suppressed the facts involving the big business interests, although it confirmed the plot which newspapers and magazines had either refused to mention or had tried to kill by ridicule. In the following quotations the suppressed parts are in italics.]

General Butler's Testimony regarding his interview with Gerald G. MacGuire, of the brokerage firm of Grayson M.P. Murphy:

Then MacGuire said that he was the chairman of the distinguished-guest committee of the American Legion, on Louis Johnson's staff; that Louis Johnson had, at MacGuire's suggestion, put my name down to be incited as a distinguished guest of the Chicago convention; that Johnson had then taken this list, presented by MacGuire of distinguished guests, to the White House for approval; that Louis Howe, one of the secretaries to the President, had crossed my name off and said that I was not to be invited -- that the President would not have it.

I thought I smelled a rat, right away -- that they were trying to get me mad -- to get my goat. I said nothing.

"He (Murphy) is on our side, though. He wants to see the soldiers cared for.

"Is he responsible, too, for making the Legion a strikebreaking outfit?"

"No, no. He does not control anything in the Legion now."

I said: "You know very well that it is nothing but a strikebreaking outfit used by capital for that purpose and that is the reason we have all those big clubhouses and that is the reason I pulled out from it. They have been using these dumb soldiers to break strikes."

He said: "Murphy hasn't anything to do with that. He is a very fine fellow."

I said, "I do not doubt that, but there is some reason for his putting $125,000 into this."

Well, that was the end of that conversation.

I said, "Is there anything stirring about it yet?"

"Yes," he says: "you watch; in two or three weeks you will see it come out in the papers. There will be big fellows in it"... and in about two weeks the American Liberty League appeared, which just about what he described it to be. We might have an assistant President, somebody to take the blame; and if things do not work out, he can drop him.

He said, ''That is what he was building up Hugh Johnson for. Hugh Johnson talked too damn much and got him into a hole, and he is going to fire him in the next three or four weeks."

I said, "How do you know all this?"

"Oh," he said, "we are in with him all the time. We know what is going to happen."

General Butler's testimony of his interview with Robert Sterling Clark:

He (Clark) laughed and said, "That speech cost a lot of money." Clark told me that it had cost him a lot of money. Now either from what he said then or from what MacGuire had said, I got the impression that the speech had been written by John W. Davis -- one or the other of them told me that -- but he thought it was a big joke that these fellows were claiming the authority of that speech...

He said, "When I was in Paris, my headquarters were Morgan & Hodges (Harjes). We had a meeting over there. I might as well tell you that our group is for you, for the head of this organization. Morgan & Hodges (Harjes) are against you. The Morgan interests say that you cannot be trusted, that you are too radical, you cannot be trusted. They are for Douglas MacArthur as the head of it. Douglas MacArthur's term expires in November, and if he is not reappointed it is to be presumed that he will be disappointed and sore and they are for getting him to head it."

I said, "I do not think that you will get the soldiers to follow him, Jerry ... He is in bad odor, because he put on a uniform with medals to march down the street in Washington, I know the soldiers."

"Well, then, we will get Hanford MacNider. They want either MacArthur or MacNider ... They do not want you. But our group tell us you are the only fellow in America who can get the soldiers together. They say, 'Yes, but he will get them together and go the wrong way.' That is what they say if you take charge of them."

I said, "MacNider won't do either. He will not get the soldiers to follow him, because he has been opposed to the bonus."

"Yes, but we will have him change."

And it is interesting to note that three weeks later after this conversation MacNider changed and turned around for the bonus. It is interesting to note that.

He said, "There is going to be a big quarrel over the reappointment of MacArthur" and he said, "You watch the President reappoint him. He is going to go right and if he does not reappoint him, he is going to go left."

I have been watching with a great deal of interest this quarrel over his reappointment to see how it comes out. He said, "You know as well as I do that MacArthur is Stotesbury's son-in-law in Philadelphia -- Morgan's representative in Philadelphia. You just see how it goes and if I am not telling you the truth."

I noticed that MacNider turned around for the bonus, and that there is a row over the reappointment of MacArthur. So he left me saying, "I am going down to Miami. ..."

Testimony of Paul Comly French of Philadelphia Record, in the Smedley Butler-Legion hearing:

At first he (MacGuire) suggested that the General (Butler) organize this outfit himself and ask a dollar a year dues from everybody. We discussed that, and then he came around to the point of getting outside financial funds, and he said it would not be any trouble to raise a million dollars. He said he could go to John W. Davis (attorney for J.P. Morgan and Co.) or Perkins of the National City Bank, and any number of persons to get it.

Of course, that may or may not mean anything. That is, his reference to John W. Davis and Perkins of the National City Bank. During my conversation with him I did not of course commit to the General to anything. I was just feeling him along. Later, we discussed the question of arms and equipment, and he suggested that they could be obtained from the Remington Arms Co., on credit through the DuPonts.

I do not think at that time he mentioned the connection of DuPonts with the American Liberty League, but he skirted all around it. That is, I do not think he mentioned the Liberty League, but he skirted all around the idea that that was the back door; one of the DuPonts is on the board of directors of the American Liberty League and they own a controlling interest in the Remington Arms Co. He said the General would not have any trouble enlisting 500,000 men.


From 1000 Americans, © 1947 by George Seldes. Appendix 21:


74th Congress, 1st Session
House of Representatives Report No. 153
Investigation of Nazi and Other Propaganda
February 15, 1935-Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union and ordered to be printed
Mr. McCormack, from the committee appointed to investigate Nazi and other propaganda, submitted the following REPORT
(Pursuant to House Resolution No. 198, 73rd Congress)


There have been isolated cases of activity by organizations which seemed to be guided by fascist principle, which the committee investigated and found that they had made no progress...

In the last few weeks of the committee's official life it received evidence showing that certain persons had made an attempt to establish a fascist organization in this country. No evidence was presented and this committee had none to show a connection between this effort and any fascist activity of any European country.

There is no question that these attempts were discussed, were planned, and might have been placed in execution when and if the financial backers deemed it expedient.

This committee received evidence from Maj. Gen. Smedley D. Butler (retired), twice decorated by the Congress of the United States. He testified before the committee as to conversations with one Gerald C. MacGuire in which the latter is alleged to have suggested the formation of a fascist army under the leadership of General Butler (p. 8- 114 D.C. 6 II).

MacGuire denied these allegations under oath, but your committee was able to verify all the pertinent statements made by General Butler, with the exception of the direct statement suggesting the creation of the organization. This, however, was corroborated in the correspondence of MacGuire with his principal, Robert Sterling Clark, of New York City, while MacGuire was abroad studying the various forms of veterans' organizations of Fascist character (p. III D.C. 6 II).

The following is an excerpt from one of MacGuire's letters:

I had a very interesting talk last evening with a man who is quite well up on affairs here and he seems to be of the opinion that the Croix de Feu will be very patriotic during this crisis and will take the cuts or be the moving spirit in the veterans to accept the cuts. Therefore they will, in all probability, be in opposition to the Socialists and functionaries. The general spirit among the functionaries seems to be that the correct way to regain recovery is to spend more money and increase wages, rather than to put more people out of work and cut salaries.

The Croix de Feu is getting a great number of new recruits, and I recently attended a meeting of this organization and was quite impressed with the type of men belonging. These fellows are interested only in the salvation of France, and I feel sure that the country could not be in better hands because they are not politicians, they are a cross-section of the best people of the country from all walks of life, people who gave their "all" between 1914 and 1918 that France might be saved, and I feel sure that if a crucial test ever comes to the Republic that these men will be the bulwark upon which France will be served.

There may be more uprisings, there may be more difficulties, but as is evidenced right now when the emergency arises and part difficulties are forgotten as far as France is concerned, and all become united in the one desire and purpose to keep this country as it is, the most democratic, and the country of the greatest freedom on the European Continent (p. III D.C. 6 II).

This committee asserts that any efforts based on lines as suggested in the foregoing and leading off to the extreme right, are just as bad as efforts which would lead to the extreme left.

Armed forces for the purpose of establishing a dictatorship by means of Fascism or a dictatorship through the instrumentality of the proletariat, or a dictatorship predicated in part on racial and religious hatreds, have no place in this country.


Smedley Butler helped destroy a corporate Fascist Putsch in the mid-1930s, but how long did that last? In the 1960s, all four primary liberal leaders were assassinated. In the mid-'90s, a so- called Democrat President turned back the Bill of Rights and Constitution with a multitude of crime bills. And in the year 2000, Jim Crow laws were revived, and a Presidential election was swayed by disallowing over 50,000 eligible African-Americans to vote in the state of Florida. Corporations will not be denied their sway and profit. Regardless of one's political affiliation, War Is A Racket remains an astonishing reminder that America once stood for constitutional principles and not power-enhanced greed mongering.

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