is a Racket
Essay by General Smedley Butler!!!
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
To read General Butler's
entire booklet (only 20 pages), go to:
First, an excerpt from a speech delivered in 1933 by General Smedley
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,
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
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
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.
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
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.
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:
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Important Note: Please forward this to all
your friends, and have a wonderful day. With your help, we can and will
create a better world together. With very best wishes, Fred
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