Saturday, May 26, 2012

War Is a Racket

What have Americans died for in international wars?  United States Marine Corps Major General Smedley D. Butler put things in perspective.

After his retirement from the Marine Corps, Gen. Butler made a nationwide tour in the early 1930s giving his speech "War is a Racket". The speech was so well received that he wrote a longer version as a small book with the same title that was published in 1935.

Here are key excerpts:
I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and 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 benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.
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 .

The full speech is here. 


  1. It is so much more so now.

  2. There's a topic for new book: update Butler's title to include the rest of 20th and the first years of the 21st centuries.

  3. The sad thing is that so many people won't get past "Smedley"

    Over the years, I've passed this essay along to everyone I know. This is incredibly powerful stuff.

    A great post for Memorial Day! Thanks, Robert.

  4. Hey Robert,

    Those eye tests are getting HARDER!

  5. As a young Marine I was told a lot about Maj. General Smedley D. Butler. Everything he did in his career as a Marine was shot out of senior Marines mouths like a prideful war-cry! Gen. Butler was an iconic 'SUPERMARINE', a hero's champion, a warrior Devildog draped in an American flag cape while vanquishing tyranny. The first time I read this speech I froze. Half way through I realized I hadn't taken a breath. When I finally had taken a breath, it was a pitiful slow weeze. I thought about the trip I took with my father to the Vietnam Memorial wall and how tears fell down his face as he stopped to touch faceless names. I thought about the time I left on a plane heading to bootcamp, looked back and saw my those same tears in my fathers eyes that I had seen at the wall. I finally realized those tears were not of pride, but of sorrow and regret. If anyone sees a guy with tears running down his face at the polling booth voting for Ron Paul, just know that those tears are for my father's pain and for the brothers I have lost.

  6. And then Butler was hired to make Philadelphia good for the local crime syndicate as their Director of Public Safety.