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 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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