War is a Racket by Smedley Butler – Still ringing true 80 years on.


Smedley Butler was a United States Marine Corps Major General – the highest rank authorised during his day – who fought in the so-called Banana Wars in the Caribbean, operations in China, the Philippines and Central America, as well as commanding Camp Pontanezen in France during World War I.

After a failed Senate campaign in 1932 and a stint as hardball Director of Public Safety in the extraordinarily corrupt city of Philadelphia in his post-war career, Butler began to seriously question the military endeavours he had offered his life for on many occasions and became a notoriously outspoken critic of the banking interests that controlled the United States and exploited the ‘sucker class’.

After finding so many of the men he had fought beside during his career left intolerably destitute as the Great Depression began to bite, Butler helped organised the ‘Bonus Army’ which rallied for immediate payment of the war bonuses owed to veterans and their starving families. The ‘war bonus’ in this case was somewhat of a misnomer: it was money that was owed to soldiers for wages they would have earned if they weren’t fighting on the front lines, and was given in the form of a bond that could be redeemed in 20 years time. The issuance of bonds rather than a wage effectively allowed President Herbert Hoover to pass on leftover war costs to later administrations without technically having to make unpopular cuts to veteran compensation.

As the spokesman for the American League Against War and Facism from 1935-37 he made many speeches to pacifist groups, which were ultimately collated and published in his exposé War is a Racket. It remains to this day one of the most scathing attacks on war profiteers. Standard Oil, the United Fruit Company and Citibank sent him to all four corners of the world to to their bidding, and Butler, by his own admission, acted as their ‘gangster for capitalism on three continents’.

Even Al Capone in his prime could only operate his racket in three districts.


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Amity Underground | War is a Racket


About Author

Ruairi Wood

English Dirtbag. Read the Bread Book, Google Murray Bookchin. amityunderground@protonmail.com