Sandy Hook

Sandy Hook

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

War Is a Racket

Smedley Darlington Butler, 1881-1940, was an incongruous choice for an outspoken anti-interventionist. When he retired in 1931 as a Major General he had spent 34 years in the U.S. Marine Corps., and was the most decorated Marine in U.S. history. He spent the remainder of his life writing and traveling around the country, and speaking before veterans, pacifists and church groups.

Butler was known for his outspoken views against war profiteering and what he viewed as nascent fascism in the United States. His views on the subject are well summarized in the following passage from a 1935 issue of "the non-Marxist, socialist" magazine, Common Sense.

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.

War Is a Racket, c. 1935, was one of the first works describing the workings of the military-industrial complex. Perhaps a forerunner to the book is this speech he delivered in 1933. Some exerpts:

War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of 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 masses.

I believe in adequate defense at the coastline and nothing else. If a nation comes over here to fight, then we'll fight. The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.

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.


  1. wow, how profound, how interesting! I'll be back to read this again and again!

  2. Thank you for posting this at this time in history.Gen. Smedley D. Butler is one of my favorites. " 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."

  3. If you ever get the chance check out the book [ The Plot To Seize The White House]. you can get it from

    It is about how the shadows [BANKSTERS] wanted to use him.

  4. RZ: By all means. Between you and Infidel my library card is getting full. But I'm glad - have been reading some mindless crap lately.

    Thank you, Sue. There is quite a bit about him on the Internet. Have to admit that I hadn't even heard of Butler until an old school chum sent me some info during the campaign. Will be forever grateful to him as I'm hooked on this fascinating man.

  5. While I have a lot of respect for pacifists and certainly agree with General Butler's characterization of the vast majority of history's wars, it's worth noting that he chose the wrong time to be a pacifist.

    The intervention he was advocating against in the 1930s was intervention in the Japanese invasion of China. The war he was advocating against was a war against Japan's efforts to militarily dominate their less (technically and economically)sophisticated Asian neighbors in the guise of 'liberating' Asia from Europe.

    While everyone knows about the Holocaust and about specific Japanese war crimes against American soldiers during the war, the list of Japanese atrocities against the Chinese, Korean, and Indochinese people is every bit as long and very nearly as gory as Hitler's atrocities against Jews, homosexuals, communists, and gypsies.

  6. I guess I fail to see what the Chinese- Japanese war, which began in 1937 - has to do with Butler who died in 1940, probably of cancer. Doubt that he was active for the last few years of his life.

    And I don't see what his anti-interventionism had to do with any of these other events you mention, since he wasn't even alive.

  7. LP; LOL. Good answer. I had no idea what ER was talking about.

  8. There is an aside to this Marine which resonates with the Hobbit. During the American Inquisition (@2001-2008), a number of retired generals started to appear on Frodo's black-and-white raising concern about the civilian defense leadership of the period. These guys disliked Rumsfeld even more than did Frodo. Frodo had never before wanted to kiss a general, but these guys were finding a way to get a message to the American people that was consistent with their obligations and committments. What a difference, thought Frodo, from William Westmoreland and his lifetime of self-aggrandizement? It is refreshing to learn that there were others, earlier, who did not appreciate the smell of napalm in the morning.
    Frodo will return.

  9. Butler really was an interesting man. It's even worth going to the unreliable Wiki to read about him. Here is this highly decorated Marine who not only is an anti-intervenionist but who has the courage to write and speak against war.

  10. It is also worth noting that he was a Quaker. But then again so was Nixon. LOL

  11. Yea, but did Nixon ever serve in the military? Or did he just play war games? Seriously, it is odd that a Quaker would not only serve but serve so well.

  12. I believe he was a man of his convictions. He had a calling from his faith, and his country. ----he answered.---and answered well. I just wish he was amongst us now. His mind set will be needed in the forthcoming surges.

  13. LP; No it was not a typo. I hope i am wrong. But i suspect they will be asking for more troops. If not for Afghanistan then for Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, or where ever they may deem appropriate. It will almost be impossible for Obama to deny them for anything they want. Now they know what they can get. The American people surrendered to [A war with no borders.]

  14. I just really, really hope you're wrong. I haven't written anything about his speech because I'm still grappling with it.

  15. Please listen to his speech again. IT is not so much of what he says, rather it is what he does not say.

    my little piece of tao te ching of the day. lol

  16. 'I guess I fail to see what the Chinese- Japanese war, which began in 1937 - has to do with Butler who died in 1940, probably of cancer. Doubt that he was active for the last few years of his life.'

    The Second Sino-Japanese War was /declared/ in 1937. The Japanese and Chinese had been /fighting/ since 1931. During the first Chinese revolution, the Japanese military (which occupied the former German 'treaty ports' in China) backed local warlords against the Kuomintang army and this culminated in the Battle of Jinan in 1928. The Japanese had issued the list of 21 demands that finally led to the 1937 war in /1915/.

    The Japanese controlled the major railroads in northern China, which had been controlled by the Russians before the Russo-Japanese war. In some form or another they had a military presence in China and were involved in 'warfare' of some kind against the Chinese since the very early 20th century.

    The US, in the late 20s and early 1930s, was engaged in prolonged diplomatic engagements with Japan regarding Japan's military presence in China and Korea and the conduct of the troops there and on trade issues revolving around Japanese dependence on American imports to support its manufacturing industry. All of this (and the military conflict brewing between Japan and China) was the primary American foreign policy concern during General Butler's period of pacifist advocacy. Americans had been talking about the possibility of war with Japan over these issues since the mid-20s.

    Sorry for the length of time before replying.

  17. Hi Leslie:

    The comments got around to Obama’s decision, and I think I’ve said enough on that subject, LOL.

    When you pointed me to this post, I thought I recognized the name “Smedley Butler.” If you get a little time on your hands, read what the U.S. military did to the people of Honduras in behalf of the United Fruit Company of New Orleans.

    It’s a shame Butler didn’t have an epiphany WHILE he was doing all the prostituting.

    I understood what “Electic Radical” was saying about the anti-interventionism before WWII. It’s very possible that Butler’s writings and speeches influence some of that attitude. Just because he was near death, his words lived on – just as we are reading them today.

    Anti-interventionism in the United States was very strong in the late 30s. People like carmaker Henry Ford and the great American Hero Charles Lindbergh actually supprted Nazism and Hitler. (Anti-interventionism was also strong across the pond. Romantics love to think Wallis Warfield Simpson was the reason Edwar abdicated the throne, but it was his adoration of Hitler that forced his abdication.) All of his is to say that I am certain Butler’s writings were influential during this time.

    Isn’t history fascinating and a learning experience?

    Thanks, BJ

  18. I'm not sure I agree with the "prostituting." Had he actively engaged in anti-interventionism while he was in the Marines, no doubt he would have been court marshaled. No one knows what he was quietly saying.

    I find it hard to equate isolationism with supporting Hitler and the Nazis

    Anyway, I was simply writing about Butler. I wasn't interested in doing an historical analysis.

    I think at this point, I'm going to do what Ron Chusid does on
    He requests that people who comment site their sources.This is nothing more than is expected on our posts and is simply a courtesy to the readers. I'm not trying to be rude or bitchy but most bloggers don't have time to research everything that someone else says.

  19. This has been a good read - very informative too. It's amazing to see the parallels between Butler's description of what his political overseers required of him, and how the Bush-Cheney Neo-Con cabal made-out like bandits with Halliburton and Blackwater - indeed, the only thing which Butler never saw was the attempt to outsource the military lock, stock and barrel as Bush did in Iraq.