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War is a Racket - Incredible Essay by General Smedley Butler
War is a Racket
That war is a racket has been told us by many, but rarely by one of this stature. Though he died in 1940, the highly decorated General Butler deserves to be heralded for his timeless message. His riveting 1935 booklet War is a Racket merits inclusion as required reading for every high school student, and every member of our armed forces today. After reading the following excerpts from this amazingly revealing essay, please forward it to all your friends. By spreading the word far and wide, we can and will create a brighter future for ourselves and for our children.
To read General Butler's entire booklet (only 20 pages), go to:
First, an excerpt from a speech delivered in 1933 by General Smedley Butler, USMC
War is just a racket. 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.
It may seem odd for me, a military man to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers.
I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.
I helped make Mexico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. 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.
During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could 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- by General Smedley D. Butler
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 in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.
In the World War [I] a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows.
Out of war nations acquire additional territory. If they are victorious, they just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few - the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.
Take our own case. Until 1898, our national debt was a little more than $1 billion. Then we became "internationally minded." We forgot George Washington's warning about "entangling alliances." We went to war. We acquired outside territory. At the end of the World War period, as a direct result of our fiddling in international affairs, our national debt had jumped to over $25 billion. [Please note that these are 1935 US dollars, to adjust for inflation, multiply all figures X 10]
It would have been far cheaper (not to say safer) for the average American who pays the bills to stay out of foreign entanglements. For a very few this racket brings fancy profits, but the cost of operations is always transferred to the people - who do not profit.
WHO MAKES THE PROFITS?
The World War, rather our brief participation in it, has cost the United States some $52 billion. Figure it out. That means $400 [that is in 1935 dollars = over $4,000 in today's dollars] to every American man, woman, and child.
The normal yearly profits of a business concern in the United States are six to twelve percent. But war-time profits - ah! that is another matter - sixty, one hundred, three hundred, and even eighteen hundred per cent - the sky is the limit. All that traffic will bear. Uncle Sam has the money. Let's get it.
Of course, it isn't put that crudely in war time. It is dressed into speeches about patriotism, love of country, and "we must all put our shoulders to the wheel," but the profits jump and leap and skyrocket - and are safely pocketed. Let's just take a few examples:
Take our friends the du Ponts, the powder people - didn't one of them testify before a Senate committee recently that their powder won the war? Well, the average pre-war earnings of the du Ponts for the period 1910 to 1914 were $6 million a year. Now let's look at their average yearly profit during the war years, 1914 to 1918. $58 million a year profit we find! Nearly ten times that of normal times, and the profits of normal times were pretty good. An increase in profits of more than 950 per cent.
Take one of our little steel companies that patriotically shunted aside the making of rails and girders and bridges to manufacture war materials. Well, their 1910-1914 yearly earnings averaged $6 million. Then came the war. And, like loyal citizens, Bethlehem Steel promptly turned to munitions making. Did their profits jump - or did they let Uncle Sam in for a bargain? Well, their 1914-1918 average was $49 million a year!
Or, let's take United States Steel. The normal earnings during the five-year period prior to the war were $105 million a year. Not bad. Then along came the war and up went the profits. The average yearly profit for the period 1914-1918 was $240 million. Not bad.
A little copper, perhaps. Anaconda, for instance. Average yearly earnings during the pre-war years 1910-1914 of $10 million. During the war years 1914-1918 profits leaped to $34 million per year. Or Utah Copper. Average of $5 million per year during the 1910-1914 period. Jumped to an average of $21 million yearly profits for the war period.
Let's group these five, with three smaller companies. The total yearly average profits of the pre-war period 1910-1914 were $137 million. Then along came the war. The average yearly profits for this group skyrocketed to $408 million. A little increase in profits of approximately 200 per cent.
Does war pay? It paid them. But they aren't the only ones. There are still others. Let's take leather.
For the three-year period before the war the total profits of Central Leather Company were approximately $1.2 million a year. Well, in 1916 Central Leather returned a profit of $15 million, a small increase of 1,100 per cent. That's all. The General Chemical Company averaged a profit for the three years before the war of a little over $800,000 a year. Came the war, and the profits jumped to $12 million, a leap of 1,400 per cent.
Listen to Senate Document No. 259. The 65th Congress, reporting on corporate earnings and government revenues. Considering the profits of 122 meat packers, 153 cotton manufacturers, 299 garment makers, 49 steel plants, and 340 coal producers during the war. Profits under 25 per cent were exceptional. For instance the coal companies made between 100 per cent and 7,856 per cent on their capital stock during the war. The Chicago packers doubled and tripled their earnings.
And let us not forget the bankers who financed the great war. If anyone had the cream of the profits it was the bankers. Being partnerships rather than incorporated organizations, they do not have to report to stockholders. And their profits were as secret as they were immense. How the bankers made their millions and their billions I do not know, because those little secrets never become public - even before a Senate investigatory body.
But here's how some of the other patriotic industrialists and speculators chiseled their way into war profits.
Take the shoe people. They sold Uncle Sam 35 million pairs of hobnailed service shoes. There were 4 million soldiers. Eight pairs, and more, to a soldier. My regiment during the war had only one pair to a soldier. When the war was over Uncle Sam had a matter of 25 million pairs left over. Bought - and paid for. Profits recorded and pocketed. There was still lots of leather left. So the leather people sold your Uncle Sam hundreds of thousands of McClellan saddles for the cavalry. But there wasn't any American cavalry overseas!
They sold your Uncle Sam 20 million mosquito nets for the use of the soldiers overseas. Well, not one of these mosquito nets ever got to France! There were pretty good profits in mosquito netting, even if there were no mosquitoes in France.
Airplane and engine manufacturers felt they, too, should get their just profits out of this war. Why not? Everybody else was getting theirs. So $1 billion - count them if you live long enough - was spent by Uncle Sam in building airplane engines that never left the ground! Not one plane, or motor, out of the billion dollars worth ordered, ever got into a battle in France. Just the same the manufacturers made their little profit of 30, 100, or perhaps 300 per cent.
The shipbuilders felt they should come in on some of it, too. They built a lot of ships that made a lot of profit. More than $3 billion worth. Some of the ships were all right. But $635 million worth of them were made of wood and wouldn't float! The seams opened up - and they sank. We paid for them, though. And somebody pocketed the profits.
Undershirts for soldiers cost 14¢ [cents] to make and uncle Sam paid 30¢ to 40¢ each for them - a nice little profit for the undershirt manufacturer. And the stocking manufacturer and the uniform manufacturers and the cap manufacturers and the steel helmet manufacturers - all got theirs.
Why, when the war was over some 4 million sets of equipment - knapsacks and the things that go to fill them - crammed warehouses on this side. Now they are being scrapped because the regulations have changed the contents. But the manufacturers collected their wartime profits on them - and they will do it all over again the next time.
It has been estimated by statisticians and economists and researchers that the war cost your Uncle Sam $52 billion. Of this sum, $39 billion was expended in the actual war itself. This expenditure yielded $16 billion in profits. That is how the 21,000 billionaires and millionaires got that way. This $16 billion profits is not to be sneezed at. It is quite a tidy sum. And it went to a very few.
WHO PAYS THE BILLS?
Who provides the profits - these nice little profits of 20, 100, 300, 1,500 and 1,800 per cent? We all pay them - in taxation. We paid the bankers their profits when we bought Liberty Bonds at $100.00 and sold them back at $84 or $86 to the bankers. These bankers collected $100 plus. It was a simple manipulation. The bankers control the security marts. It was easy for them to depress the price of these bonds. Then all of us - the people - got frightened and sold the bonds at $84 or $86. The bankers bought them. Then these same bankers stimulated a boom and government bonds went to par - and above. Then the bankers again collected their profits.
But the soldier pays the biggest part of the bill.
If you don't believe this, visit the American cemeteries on the battlefields abroad. Or visit any of the veteran's hospitals in the United States. On a tour of the country, in the midst of which I am at the time of this writing, I have visited eighteen government hospitals for veterans. In them are a total of about 50,000 destroyed men - men who were the pick of the nation 18 years ago. The very able chief surgeon at the government hospital; at Milwaukee, where there are 3,800 of the living dead, told me that mortality among veterans is three times as great as among those who stayed at home.
Boys with a normal viewpoint were taken out of the fields and offices and factories and classrooms and put into the ranks. There they were remolded; they were made over; they were made to "about face"; to regard murder as the order of the day. They were put through mass psychology and entirely changed. We used them for a couple of years, and trained them to think nothing at all of killing or of being killed.
Then, suddenly, we discharged them and told them to make another "about face!" This time they had to do their own readjustment. We didn't need them any more. Many, too many, of these fine young boys are eventually destroyed, mentally, because they could not make that final "about face" alone.
In the government hospital in Marion, Indiana, 1,800 of these boys are in pens! Five hundred of them in a barracks with steel bars and wires all around outside the buildings and on the porches. These already have been mentally destroyed. These boys don't even look like human beings. Oh, the looks on their faces! Physically, they are in good shape; mentally, they are gone.
In the World War, we used propaganda to make the boys accept conscription. They were made to feel ashamed if they didn't join the army. So vicious was this war propaganda that even God was brought into it. With few exceptions our clergymen joined in the clamor to kill, kill, kill. To kill the Germans. God is on our side. It is His will that the Germans be killed. And in Germany, the good pastors called upon the Germans to kill the allies...to please the same God.
Beautiful ideals were painted for our boys who were sent out to die. This was the "war to end all wars." This was the "war to make the world safe for democracy." No one mentioned to them, as they marched away, that their going and their dying would mean huge war profits. No one told these American soldiers that they might be shot down by bullets made by their own brothers here. No one told them that the ships on which they were going to cross might be torpedoed by submarines built with United States patents. They were just told it was to be a "glorious adventure."
HOW TO SMASH THIS RACKET!
WELL, it's a racket, all right. A few profit - and the many pay. But there is a way to stop it. You can't end it by disarmament conferences. You can't eliminate it by peace parleys at Geneva. Well-meaning but impractical groups can't wipe it out by resolutions.
To summarize: Three steps must be taken to smash the war racket:
1. We must take the profit out of war.
2. We must permit the youth of the land who would bear arms to decide whether or not there should be war.
3. We must limit our military forces to home defense purposes.
TO HELL WITH WAR!
I am not a fool as to believe that war is a thing of the past. I know the people do not want war, but there is no use in saying we cannot be pushed into another war. Looking back, Woodrow Wilson was re-elected president in 1916 on a platform that he had "kept us out of war." Yet, five months later he asked Congress to declare war on Germany.
In that five-month interval the people had not been asked whether they had changed their minds. The 4 million young men who put on uniforms and marched or sailed away were not asked whether they wanted to go forth to suffer and die. Then what caused our government to change its mind so suddenly?
An allied commission, it may be recalled, came over shortly before the war declaration and called on the President. The President summoned a group of advisers. The head of the commission spoke. Stripped of its diplomatic language, this is what he told the President and his group:
"There is no use kidding ourselves any longer. The cause of the allies is lost. We now owe you (American bankers, American munitions makers, American manufacturers, American speculators, American exporters) five or six billion dollars. If we lose (and without the help of the US we must lose) we, England, France and Italy, cannot pay back this money...and Germany won't. So..."
Had secrecy been outlawed as far as war negotiations were concerned, and had the press been invited to be present at that conference, or had radio been available to broadcast the proceedings, America never would have entered the World War. But this conference, like all war discussions, was shrouded in utmost secrecy. When our boys were sent off to war they were told it was a "war to make the world safe for democracy" and a "war to end all wars." And very little, if anything, has been accomplished to assure us that the World War was really the war to end all wars.
There is only one way to disarm with any semblance of practicability. That is for all nations to get together and scrap every ship, every gun, every rifle, every tank, every war plane.
So...I say, TO HELL WITH WAR!
To read the entire booklet (only 20 pages), go to:
To order the booklet:
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Feb 4, 2013
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