General Smedley Butler: “War Is A Racket”


August 25, 2009 by Gsmith

Smedley Darlington Butler was born on 30 July 1881 in rural Pennsylvania to Thomas Butler, U.S. Member of Congress and Maud Darlington. Both Thomas and Maud are described in print as staunch pacifists from generational Quaker backgrounds. At the age of 16, young Smedley dropped out of Haverford — an upscale high school for Quaker boys — and ran away to join the United States Marine Corps. It was later learned that he lied on his application, both about his age and his educational qualifications. His father is said to have disowned him after he disappeared.

He first saw action in the Spanish-American war, the declaration of which was part of the motivation behind his rapid departure, and his first duty as a newly commissioned 2nd Lieutenant was to secure the beach at Guantánamo Bay, the present site of the huge and controversial American concentration camp. He saw action thereafter in Haiti, China, West Africa, Central America and Mexico before going to Europe in the First World War. By the time he retired, he was the most highly decorated serviceperson in the history of the United States, with the possible exception of George Washington. Among his other decorations were two Congressional Medals of Honor.

In 1934 General Butler announced that he had been approached by wealthy capitalists who attempted to gain his support in a coup against American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Roosevelt, a right-wing socialist who was at that time instituting the redistribution of excess wealth, was both the most beloved and most despised individual in the history of North America. By his refusal and his admissions Butler made powerful enemies among businessmen and industrialists who later derailed his campaign for the United States Senate.

In 1935 General Butler toured North America giving lectures for the American League Against War & Fascism, an offshoot of the Communist Party of the United States of America. As he lectured he made free copies of a short book he had authored available to everyone who attended.

In June of 1940, General Butler died at the Naval Hospital near his hometown of Philadelphia. That same week the socialist monthly Common Sense eulogized Comrade General Butler in his own words:

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.

Butler’s comments are as relevant today as when they were written. Warfare remains a horrible scam in which the very best human beings are slaughtered to enrich a select few layabouts whose greatest accomplishments are generally limited to inheriting their grandfathers’ fortunes. Fortunately, there’s no need for me to lecture on the subject. The General spilled the beans on the entire shell game much more cogently than I ever could. Read his work in its entirety below.

War Is A Racket!

8 thoughts on “General Smedley Butler: “War Is A Racket”

  1. J. Madson says:

    thanks for the share. I read the linked work and enjoyed it.

  2. Joseph says:

    If I’m not confusing my stories, the wealthy capitalists planning to depose Roosevelt were led by Pierre DuPont of General Motors (from Trading with the Enemy – the Nazi-American money plot by Charles Higham). Just trivia, I know, but thought I’d share. I was aware that Butler was approached because of his dissatisfaction with the Roosevelt administration, and that he was shocked by the proposal and refused, immediately making it known what had happened. I was not aware of much else about Butler, though, and now I really respect him. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Joseph says:

    Oh, and I was intrigued by the comment that Roosevelt “was a right-wing socialist.” Is there more explanation for that? Never been a big Roosevelt fan, so I was just curious. I mean, I recognize the competence he had, and things could have been much worse if others had become president at that time, but there are things I just don’t like about him. I wish it was his wife that was president!

  4. Forest Simmons says:

    Smedley Butler’s pamphlet could be called “Confessions
    of a Military Hit Man,” a fitting companion to John Perkin’s confessional from the economic hit man point of view.

    But our shooting wars are increasing in number and intensity. Here’s somebody trying to do something about it now:

  5. Grégoire says:

    Hey Joseph:

    That was an introduction I wrote back in May for a printing of the full text for some of my friends to hand out at street rallies or whatever. I found it yesterday as I was doing a bit of blog-keeping and thought I’d simply copy it over here. I’m glad y’all liked it.

    Your next question is a fair one, and my use of the term had to do with the fact that this was meant for an audience of Marxist-Leninist-Trotskyist types. I’ll try and explain as best I can.

    I was intrigued by the comment that Roosevelt “was a right-wing socialist.” Is there more explanation for that?

    A right-wing socialist, in our parlance, is someone like Roosevelt. Roosevelt’s party is now the center-right party in the United States. Interesting to note that the old right-wing socialist party in the U.K. (Labour) is now also a center-right party.

    I suppose a right-wing socialist party in the U.S. might be a member of the Green Party or CPUSA.

    Most nations around the world are not like the U.S. and U.K., in that they generally have a right-wing socialist political party that has seats in parliament and broad appeal. Parti Communiste Français (France) and the New Democrats (Canada) are good examples. These are not revolutionary socialist parties. They’re committed to working within the establishment while (at least in theory) protecting the well-being of society’s most vulnerable.

    I hope that makes sense.

  6. Joseph says:

    It does make sense. Thanks!

  7. Mike W. says:

    Great read. Thanks for the link. Interesting how he essentially predicts WWII from his knowledge of the way war works and the context of the re-arming of Europe and the way the U.S. was thumbing its nose at Japan, right off the Japanese coast.

  8. cephalopod65 says:

    it’s the Medal of Honor not the “congressional” Medal of Honor. Those schmucks don’t have anything to do it.

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