War Is A Racket
by Smedley D. Butler
Feral House, 2003 (originally
published in 1935)
I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico,
safe for American oil interests in 1914. 1 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."
From 1000 Americans
by George Seldes, 1947
The First Fascist Plot to Seize the U.S.
George 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.
WAR IS A RACKET !
War is a racket 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 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 fortunes.
In the World War 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 income
tax returns no one knows.
How many of these war millionaires shouldered
a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew
what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dugout? How many
of them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and
shrapnel and machine gun bullets? How many of them parried the
bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them were wounded or killed
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 self-same
few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public
shoulders the bill.
And what is this bill?
This bill renders a horrible accounting.
Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken
hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its
attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and
For a great many years, as a soldier,
I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not until I retired to
civil life did I fully realize it. Now that I see the international
war clouds again gathering, as they are today, I must face it
and speak out.
Again they are choosing sides. France
and Russia met and agreed to stand side by side. Italy and Austria
hurried to make a similar agreement. Poland and Germany cast sheep's
eyes at each other, forgetting, for the nonce, their dispute over
the Polish Corridor. The assassination of King Alexander of Yugoslavia
complicated matters. Yugoslavia and Hungary, long bitter enemies,
were almost at each other's throats. Italy was ready to jump in.
But France was waiting. So was Czechoslovakia. All of them are
looking ahead to war. Not the people -not those who fight and
pay and die-only those who foment wars and remain safely at home
There are 40,000,000 men under arms in
the world today, and our statesmen and diplomats have the temerity
to say that war is not in the making.
Hell's bells! Are these 40,000,000 men
being trained to be dancers?
Not in Italy, to be sure. Premier Mussolini
knows what they are being trained for. He, at least, is frank
enough to speak out. Only the other day, 11 Duce in "International
Conciliation," the publication of the Carnegie Endowment
for International Peace, said:
And, above all, Fascism, the more it considers
and observes the future and the development of humanity quite
apart from political considerations of the moment, believes neither
in the possibility or the utility of perpetual peace...
War alone brings up to its highest tension
all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the peoples
who have the courage to meet it.
Undoubtedly Mussolini means exactly what
he says. His well trained army, his great fleet of planes, and
even his navy are ready for war-anxious for it, apparently. His
recent stand at the side of Hungary in the latter's dispute with
Yugoslavia showed that. And the hurried mobilization of his troops
on the Austrian border after the assassination of Dollfuss showed
it too. There are others in Europe too whose sabre-rattling presages
war, sooner or later.
Herr Hitler, with his rearming Germany
and his constant demands for more and more arms, is an equal if
not a greater menace to peace. France only recently increased
the term of military service for its youth from a year to eighteen
Yes, all over, nations are camping on
their arms. The mad dogs of Europe are on the loose.
In the Orient the maneuvering is more
adroit. Back in 1904, when Russian and Japan fought, we kicked
out our old friends the Russians and backed Japan. Then our very
generous international bankers were financing Japan. Now the trend
is to poison us against the Japanese. What does the "open
door" policy in China mean to us? Our trade with China is
about $90,000,000 a year. Or the Philippine Islands? We have spent
about $600,000,000 in the Philippines in 35 years and we (our
bankers and industrialists and speculators) have private investments
there of less than $200,000.
Then, to save that China trade of about
$90,000,000, or to protect these private investments of less than
$200,000,000 in the Philippines, we would be all stirred up to
hate Japan and go to war-a war that might well cost us tens of
billions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of lives of Americans,
and many more hundreds of thousands of physically maimed and mentally
Of course, for this loss, there would
be a compensating profit-fortunes would be made. Millions and
billions of dollars would be piled up. By a few. Munitions makers.
Ship builders. Manufacturers. Meat packers. Speculators. They
would fare well.
Yes, they are getting ready for another
war. Why shouldn't they? It pays high dividends.
But what does it profit the masses?
What does it profit the men who are killed?
What does it profit the men who are maimed? What does it profit
their mothers and sisters, their wives and their sweethearts?
What does it profit their children?
What does it profit anyone except the
very few to whom war means huge profits?
Yes, and what does it profit the nation?
Take our own case. Until 1898 we didn't
own a bit of territory outside the mainland of North America.
At that time our national debt was a little more than $1,000,000,000.
Then we became "internationally minded." We forgot,
or shunted aside, the advice of the Father of our Country. We
forgot 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 $25,000,000,000.
Therefore, on a purely financial bookkeeping basis, we ran a little
behind year for year, and that foreign trade might well have been
ours without the wars.
The normal profits of a business concern in the United States
are six, eight, ten, and sometimes even twelve per cent. But wartime
profits-ah! that is another matter-twenty, sixty, one hundred,
three hundred, and even eighteen hundred per cent-the sky is the
limit. All that the 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 shoulder to the wheel,"
but the profits jump and leap and skyrocket-and are safely pocketed.
TO HELL WITH WAR !
I am not such 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
Looking back, Woodrow Wilson was re-elected
president in 1916 on a platform that he had "kept us out
of war" and on the implied promise that he would "keep
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 4,000,000
young men who put on uniforms and marched or sailed away were
not asked whether they wanted to go forth to suffer and to 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
United States 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 the 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 the 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."
Well, eighteen years after, the world
has less of a democracy than it had then. Besides, what business
is it of ours whether Russia or Germany or England or France or
Italy or Austria live under democracies or monarchies? Whether
they are Fascists or Communists? Our problem is to preserve our
And very little, if anything, has been
accomplished to assure us that the World War was really the war
to end all wars.
Yes, we have had disarmament conferences
and limitations of arms conferences. They don't mean a thing.
One has just failed; the results of another have been nullified.
We send our professional soldiers and our sailors and our politicians
and our diplomats to these conferences. And what happens?
The professional soldiers and sailors
don't want to disarm. No admiral wants to be without a ship. No
general wants to be without a command. Both mean men without jobs.
They are not for disarmament. They cannot be for limitations of
arms. And at all these conferences, lurking in the background
but all-powerful, just the same, are the sinister agents of those
who profit by war. They see to it that these conferences do not
disarm or seriously limit armaments.
The chief aim of any power at any of these
conferences has been not to achieve disarmament in order to prevent
war but rather to endeavor to get more armament for itself and
less for any potential foe.
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. Even this, if it were at all possible, would not be
The next war, according to experts, will
be fought not with battleships, not by artillery, not with rifles
and not with guns. It will be fought with deadly chemicals and
Secretly each nation is studying and perfecting
newer and ghastlier means of annihilating its foes wholesale.
Yes, ships will continue to get built, for the shipbuilders must
make their profits. And guns still will be manufactured and powder
and rifles will be made, for the munitions makers must make their
huge profits. And the soldiers, of course, must wear uniforms,
for the manufacturers must make their war profits too.
But victory or defeat will be determined
by the skill and ingenuity of our scientists.
If we put them to work making poison gas
and more and more fiendish mechanical and explosive instruments
of destruction, they will have no time for the constructive job
of building a greater prosperity for all peoples. By putting them
to this useful job, we can all make more money out of peace than
we can out of war - even the munition makers.
So ... I say, "TO HELL WITH WAR !"
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