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Apr-15-2009 09:03printcomments

One of History's Toughest Marines, Smedley Butler, was Anti-War (VIDEO)

"War is a Racket" by Smedley Butler, the two-time Medal of Honor winner denounced the military industrial complex.

General Smedley Butler's press conference.
General Smedley Butler

(SALEM, Ore.) - When you are a Marine in basic training or boot camp, you learn about specific individuals who shaped the Corps and formed the basis for what it became and continues to be today.

Names like "Red Mike" Edson, "Chesty" Puller and Major General Smedley Butler, who was awarded the Medals of Honor twice. In fact, those two Medals of Honor are just a portion of the awards and medals and other recognition that was bestowed upon this officer.

When he wasn't busy fighting, his interest was in taking care of the needs of his men. They would all in response, exhibit dedication and faith that only a man like him can draw from tired, battle weary Marines.

Over a 34-year career in the U.S. Marine Corps, he was nicknamed "The Fighting Quaker" and "Old Gimlet Eye".

Major General Butler was a Marine's Marine, in the sense that he cared about the right things.

His perspective was shaped by an adherence to honesty that few know or live by, and at the time of his death, no Marine had been decorated more in U.S. history.

Things were different then, and somehow Smedley Butler managed to join the Marine Corps at the age of 16 and become a Second Lieutenant. Soon his fighter years would begin.

After only three weeks of basic training, he was shipped to the conflict in Cuba, but it was over before he arrived.

War After War

Major General Smedley Butler was in the Spanish-American War, the Boxer Rebellion, the Battles of Tientsin and San Tan Pating, the Banana Wars, Mexican Revolution, the Second Battle of Veracruz and World War One. He was also part of the China Expedition.

As a young Marine officer in 1905, he was assigned garrison duty in the Philippines. Butler distinguished himself by completing a resupply mission across the stormy waters of Subic Bay after his isolated outpost ran out of rations.

He was eventually diagnosed with "nervous breakdown" in 1908 at which time he took a 9-month period to recover. Raised in a Quaker community, Smedley Butler almost certainly suffered from what we know today as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.

His military career was just getting started. In the United States occupation of Haiti, Butler led a patrol of 45 mounted Marines that was ambushed by some 400 Cacos rebels. Records indicate that the Marines held their positions overnight, and charged the much larger enemy force early the next morning from three directions. The startled Haitians are said to have fled.

Less than a month later, in November 1915, Butler's Marines attacked a rebel stronghold with just four companies of 24 men each, plus two machine gun detachments. This resulted in his second Medal of Honor. The first Medal of Honor was awarded over his role in the U.S. occupation of Veracruz, Mexico in 1914.

In WWI, Smedley Butler was promoted to Brigadier General. His commanders kept him from being assigned to a combat unit on the Western Front, so he devised a way to help get Marines and soldiers into better living conditions in mud soaked France by setting up board flooring in their tents.

This is a Marine who cared about his men, and he is remembered in history as a leader who wasn't afraid to demand from the powers to be, on their behalf.

His unwavering determination for the sake of Marines didn't keep him from making rank, and he is thus one of the few military officers who managed to navigate the line and receive praise by those below him and those above him as a brilliant and brave officer of Marines.

The Speech

"War is a Racket" is a famous speech written by Smedley Butler, in which he denounced the military industrial complex.

That's right, the most decorated Marine in history, a veteran of conflict after conflict who exhibited bravery in the toughest conditions and at the worst times, was on the record about how greedy businesses and Wall Street were really at the root of war time after time.

The anti-war speech by the two-time Congressional Medal of Honor recipient exposed war profits that benefit few at the expense of many. It seems a mirror reflection of the perverse waste of American tax dollars that went to Haliburton under Bush and Cheney.

Throughout his distinguished career in the Marines, Smedley Darlington Butler had what it took to avoid blind nationalism and he just said no to ridiculous government policy, unlike the politicians of today.

He put his foot down when he knew that killing was not the answer, and he knew all about killing.

The real job of Marines may be to defend the nation of all enemies foreign and domestic and no finer killers in the world exist, but no man should seek to kill for the sake of it or because we "already moved supplies and troops into place" which represents the most heart-wrenching moments prior to the Iraq invasion.

Another Front

So we know that Smedley Butler was all of that and then some, but the real story is still to come. Although he had risen into the General ranks, Smedler was passed over for Commandant of the Marine Corps position when it suddenly became vacant in 1930 by the unexpected death of Wendell C. Neville.

Smedley Butler had plenty of political enemies and the list included President Hoover. He was towing the line, but then was threatened with a court-martial due to an uncomplimentary comment regarding Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Unable to stand the lack of apparent reason, Butler retired from active duty soon thereafter.

Things were really bad for Americans during the height of the Great Depression, and it didn't give people confidence when two U.S. Army cavalry regiments descended upon the nation's capitol where 20,000 American WWI veterans and their wives and children were camped out in protest over not being paid what Uncle Sam promised.

Under the command of Douglas McArthur, soldiers used rifles, bayonets, and tear gas to scatter the so-called Bonus Army and lit their temporary town on fire. It was Americans attacking Americans.

These veterans had been promised a pension by the government in 1924, that they would not receive for another 13 years.

Tension was in the air, and talk of revolution grew. This is a time when some of the nation's wealthiest men and tycoons began to seriously contemplate taking matters into their own hands. The election of Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his promised New Deal was the icing on the cake for the plotting businessmen.

They especially had a problem with reforms that led to the decoupling of American currency from the gold standard. Along with that, Roosevelt enacted many corporate regulations. His ambitious plans to jump start the nation's depressed economy has controversial points much like Barack Obama's Stimulus Plan.

Underestimating Smedley

In this retired and well regarded Medal of Honor wearing Marine, people who would quietly overthrow the elected government, envisioned an extraordinary representative. What a mistake that was.

Smedley Butler's retirement from the Marine Corps

Smedley Butler was visited by a pair of men in July 1933 who urged him to run for the office of National Commander of the American Legion, an influential organization of veterans.

One of those men was Gerald MacGuire, who would visit Butler numerous times claiming to represent a group called The Committee for a Sound Dollar. This group's purpose was to pressure the president to reinstate the gold standard.

Butler was told the group had plenty of political support in high places, and the financial backing of some of the country's most affluent individuals and successful corporations.

MacGuire reasoned that because Mussolini's fascist government had successfully restored Italy's industrial viability, it served as an ideal model for repairing America's impoverished economy.

According to the plan, Roosevelt and other existing American leaders would only be figureheads. The policies would be the job of none other than an extremely respected American named Smedley Butler, who would occupy a new cabinet position: The Secretary for General Affairs.

Butler was quick enough to keep his cool, nod his head and express interest in the plan. Enough information was leaked to him that he was able to take his case to the government. What a disappointment that would be.

Butler should have had the power to bring these men to justice for plotting against the very heart of the U.S. government. The evidence against MacGuire surged when he produced big cash resources and made what some called "eerily accurate predictions" regarding personnel changes in the White House.

MacGuire talked about the still-secret but soon-to-be-announced American Liberty League, a high-profile group of extremely rich Americans who claimed their purpose was to "defend and uphold the Constitution."

The League was comprised of wealthy Americans including the leaders of DuPont, JP Morgan, US Steel, General Motors, Standard Oil, Colgate, Heinz Foods, Chase National Bank, and Goodyear Tire. There are some who claim that Prescott Bush– father to the 41st US President and grandfather to the 43rd– was also entangled in the scheme.

But the nation that Butler stood tall and fast for so many times, apparently didn't want any commotion, and no criminal charges arose from Butler's disclosure of events to the federal government. The prominent men implicated in the plot were immediately excused from testifying. Does that sound familiar?

Quickly, all mention of their names was scrubbed from the committee's public report.

The official document stated that "the Committee has ordered stricken therefrom certain immaterial and incompetent evidence, or evidence which was not pertinent to the inquiry."

No Marine or soldier should be asked to betray their country, or to perform any job when there are better resolutions at hand than military force.

Major General Smedley Butler demonstrated that true patriotism does not mean blind allegiance to government policies with which one does not agree. To Hell with war.

The video below features Graham Frye performing Smedley Butler's famous speech, "War is a Racket":


U.S.M.C. - A Complete history

Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as's Executive News Editor.
Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 in Afghanistan with Oregon troops. Tim recently returned from Iraq where he covered the war there while embedded with an Oregon Guard aviation unit. Serving the community in very real terms, is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website, affiliated with Google News and several other major search engines and news aggregators.
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Dwight Baker November 11, 2011 5:42 am (Pacific time)

OCCUPY Beware! I think I hear the
Warring hordes crying out for more War.
By Dwight Baker
Fahrenheit 11/11/11
By David Swanson

The propaganda machinery invented by President Woodrow Wilson and his Committee on Public Information had drawn Americans into the war with exaggerated and fictional tales of German atrocities in Belgium, posters depicting Jesus Christ in khaki sighting down a gun barrel, and promises of selfless devotion to making the world safe for democracy. The extent of the casualties was hidden from the public as much as possible during the course of the war, but by the time it was over many had learned something of war's reality. And many had come to resent the manipulation of noble emotions that had pulled an independent nation into overseas barbarity.
Just too many things going wrong at the same time gives me pause. Then while trying to fit the tangents to the core to draw good conclusions has been a hard thing to do. Sounds like confusion well it has been.

Yet today the missing tangent leading to the core fit in place.

Iran has the natural gas to fuel Britain’s needs, plus Iran has a good growing season for grain, vegetables and fruits along with livestock and many in Western Europe needs those things.

We have massive un-employment and with our troops coming back home there are no jobs. Many in the Congress and Senate do not care to help out the public whom they serve. Many of the Old NECON thugs have hit center stage again with books and things to try to bring some civility too the way they ruled while in office. They will convince some but not all. Our housing market crushed the entire world funny money finance systems, but the ones in the USA that caused the riverboat gambling collapse are getting the final laugh.

Vague open-ended finger pointing at the Iranians about nuclear this and that is one of the things we have been through before. Remember WMD’s?

Next the Arab spring supposed to bring Democracy, yet what was done was a change of power. Or could it be said piracy of a sovereign nation. For what? To change the ownership without paying a thin dime for it.

Now as we try to look back at the raw facts held in history Our nation has always been about profiting from war?

War Clouds Form over Iran

Smedley Butler Medal of Honor
Read and Watch the video
Smedley Butler condemns the very ones that are against us today. He above all others knows that war is a racket.

Concerned Citizen October 26, 2010 3:58 pm (Pacific time)

Smedley Butler is one of my heroes, not only because he was a Marine, but he loved his country and lived an honest humble life. I enlisted into the USMC. I plan on going into journalism after the Corps, like yourself. Thank you Mr. King and Semper Fidelis.

Tim King: Roger that, you make my day Marine.  Just remember that when it all comes down, the best motto for Marines is 'Semper Gumby'- for always flexible, and of course Semper fi always needs its airtime.  

G 2/3; November 10, 2009 3:45 am (Pacific time)

Semper Fi Tim and all the rest. What a film clip! This guy was like a prophet in a way. I agree with payment ceiling idea and the combatants being the ones to vote on whether to have a war or not. Visit the graveyards of the fallen and what do the ghosts tell you?

Henry Ruark April 15, 2009 3:51 pm (Pacific time)

Best part of Marine tradition clearly upheld and honored by this true story.
Have used quotes from him for years, but have never had complete story so well told before.
Great job, Tim ! Coming generation needs desperately to know our warriors are also highly honorable men, with due regard for what honor really means.

Tim King: Hank, thanks so much.  The only thing I feel compelled to say is that I would need a lot of space to try to include Smedley Butler's entire list of accomplishments.  It needs to be a documentary if anything ever did!  Thanks again. 

Vic April 15, 2009 11:08 am (Pacific time)

Awesome !!

Frank Boark April 15, 2009 10:52 am (Pacific time)

Helluva story, don't know how I missed this one over the years. Thanks Tim for taking the time on this one.

Daniel Johnson April 15, 2009 9:35 am (Pacific time)

I think it's time to drop references to the Military-Industrial-Complex. That term was coined by Eisenhower in a speech when he left office. In the original speech he said that Americans should beware of the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex. He took out "Congressional" because he felt it was unseemly for a retiring president to be critical of one of the other branches of government. But today it is even more obvious than it was in 1960. Americans should FEAR the MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL-CONGRESSIONAL COMPLEX.

Tim King: Thanks DJ, I think it is also important that the younger generations at least learn these terms. Beyond that I'm all for progress Thanks!

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