Major General Smedley Darlington Butler

The Racketeer for Capitalism

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.

There isn't a trick In the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. It has its "finger men" (to point out enemies), its "muscle men" (to destroy enemies), its "brain guys," (to plan war preparations) and a "Big Boss," (super-nationalistic capitalism).

It may seem odd for me, a military man, to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent 33 years and 4 months In active service as a member of our country's most agile military force — the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from a 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. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism.

I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all members of the profession I never had an original thought until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of the higher-ups. This is typical of everyone in the military service.

Thus 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. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers 1909-12. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 191G. I helped make Honduras "right" for American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped 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. I was rewarded with honors, medals, promotion. Looking back on it, I feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three city districts. We Marines operated on three continents.

The war racket operates at full swing in our own country today. Make no mistake. We no longer fulfill by our example as a nation the role of Leader in Disarmament and Peace-Maker to Mankind. Our present war preparations and military expenditures forever nullify the Kellogg Peace Pact to which we subscribed, and all our previous efforts to ease the burden of war throughout the world.

It is commonly supposed that our armed forces are entirely defensive in nature, that they have nothing to do with the making of war or the creating of situations that lead to war. The General Staff states publicly that the military organization "is founded on the principle that we oust be unready for aggressive war, yet fully capable of defending ourselves. To be defensive in motive, as we intend to be, a nation must surrender all thought of initiative."

If this statement was a fact and effectively translated into reality, there would be little cause for concern. But close examination reveals that it is just another publicity release from that military sap factory known as the War Department.

The Business Plot
No smoking-gun evidence or revelations came from Smedley Butler's Congressional testimony. Then again, in Butler's own words, the Congressional Committee investigating his allegations stopped "dead in its tracks" once the investigation led to big names and powerful interests.

It is difficult to draw any certain conclusions from this story. You can read the archives of the "talk" section on the Wikipedia article to see many disputes over the meaning and veracity of the plot.

Notwithstanding the controversy, I still recommend all the reading below.

This is Smedley Butler's own message to the public regarding the plot.

Excerpts from the 1973 book The Plot to Seize the White House, by Jules Archer:

Article from 1995 by Clayton Cramer, An American Coup d'État?

The "De-Fact-O" website community does a fair job reporting:

Excerpts from the 1998 biography by Hans Schmidt, Maverick Marine: General Smedley D. Butler and the Contradictions of American Military History:

For those who prefer summary video, see:

The History Channel's report, In Search of History: The Plot To Overthrow FDR:

BBC Radio report, The White House Coup:

War is a Racket

Smedley Butler's 5-chapter booklet:
my copy

Subpages (1): War Is A Racket