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War is a Racket

Video: How Bush prepares before his TV address about the Iraqi War. Horrifying.

Tirade by Tim Ryan about Republican lies. Here’s an article about harrassment of a student peace group in Florida. It’s a scary read, but really if you look at that group photo, you see how cool the Peace students look. They’ll be our countries’ leaders.

While researching Smedley Butler, I came across an amazing and little known fact: in 1933-4, there was a plot by businessmen to overthrow the US president. The congressional hearings show that there was indeed active planning for a military coup(although it was unclear whether the cabal had enough  resources to pull  it off). Implicated were executives at the Dupont Family, GM, US Steel and Firestone.

More about Smedley Butler. He wrote a famous pamphlet called War is a Racket. Here is a complete chapter from the book about how to smash this racket. Before giving the excerpt, let me acknowledge at least that WW2 did involve important principles and was fought in an appropriate way. Butler’s prescriptions, if adhered to for WW2, probably wouldn’t have helped. But as principles they made a lot of sense. Here is the excerpt:

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. It can be smashed effectively only by taking the profit out of war.

The only way to smash this racket is to conscript capital and industry and labor before the nations manhood can be conscripted. One month before the Government can conscript the young men of the nation – it must conscript capital and industry and labor. Let the officers and the directors and the high-powered executives of our armament factories and our munitions makers and our shipbuilders and our airplane builders and the manufacturers of all the other things that provide profit in war time as well as the bankers and the speculators, be conscripted – to get $30 a month, the same wage as the lads in the trenches get.

Let the workers in these plants get the same wages – all the workers, all presidents, all executives, all directors, all managers, all bankers –

yes, and all generals and all admirals and all officers and all politicians and all government office holders – everyone in the nation be restricted to a total monthly income not to exceed that paid to the soldier in the trenches!

Let all these kings and tycoons and masters of business and all those workers in industry and all our senators and governors and majors pay half of their monthly $30 wage to their families and pay war risk insurance and buy Liberty Bonds.

Why shouldn’t they?

They aren’t running any risk of being killed or of having their bodies mangled or their minds shattered. They aren’t sleeping in muddy trenches. They aren’t hungry. The soldiers are!

Give capital and industry and labor thirty days to think it over and you will find, by that time, there will be no war. That will smash the war racket – that and nothing else.

Maybe I am a little too optimistic. Capital still has some say. So capital won’t permit the taking of the profit out of war until the people – those who do the suffering and still pay the price – make up their minds that those they elect to office shall do their bidding, and not that of the profiteers.

Another step necessary in this fight to smash the war racket is the limited plebiscite to determine whether a war should be declared. A plebiscite not of all the voters but merely of those who would be called upon to do the fighting and dying. There wouldn’t be very much sense in having a 76-year-old president of a munitions factory or the flat-footed head of an international banking firm or the cross-eyed manager of a uniform manufacturing plant – all of whom see visions of tremendous profits in the event of war – voting on whether the nation should go to war or not. They never would be called upon to shoulder arms – to sleep in a trench and to be shot. Only those who would be called upon to risk their lives for their country should have the privilege of voting to determine whether the nation should go to war.

There is ample precedent for restricting the voting to those affected. Many of our states have restrictions on those permitted to vote. In most, it is necessary to be able to read and write before you may vote. In some, you must own property. It would be a simple matter each year for the men coming of military age to register in their communities as they did in the draft during the World War and be examined physically. Those who could pass and who would therefore be called upon to bear arms in the event of war would be eligible to vote in a limited plebiscite. They should be the ones to have the power to decide – and not a Congress few of whose members are within the age limit and fewer still of whom are in physical condition to bear arms. Only those who must suffer should have the right to vote.

A third step in this business of smashing the war racket is to make certain that our military forces are truly forces for defense only.

At each session of Congress the question of further naval appropriations comes up. The swivel-chair admirals of Washington (and there are always a lot of them) are very adroit lobbyists. And they are smart. They don’t shout that “We need a lot of battleships to war on this nation or that nation.” Oh no. First of all, they let it be known that America is menaced by a great naval power. Almost any day, these admirals will tell you, the great fleet of this supposed enemy will strike suddenly and annihilate 125,000,000 people. Just like that. Then they begin to cry for a larger navy. For what? To fight the enemy? Oh my, no. Oh, no. For defense purposes only.

Then, incidentally, they announce maneuvers in the Pacific. For defense. Uh, huh.

The Pacific is a great big ocean. We have a tremendous coastline on the Pacific. Will the maneuvers be off the coast, two or three hundred miles? Oh, no. The maneuvers will be two thousand, yes, perhaps even thirty-five hundred miles, off the coast.

The Japanese, a proud people, of course will be pleased beyond expression to see the united States fleet so close to Nippon’s shores. Even as pleased as would be the residents of California were they to dimly discern through the morning mist, the Japanese fleet playing at war games off Los Angeles.

The ships of our navy, it can be seen, should be specifically limited, by law, to within 200 miles of our coastline. Had that been the law in 1898 the Maine would never have gone to Havana Harbor. She never would have been blown up. There would have been no war with Spain with its attendant loss of life. Two hundred miles is ample, in the opinion of experts, for defense purposes. Our nation cannot start an offensive war if its ships can’t go further than 200 miles from the coastline. Planes might be permitted to go as far as 500 miles from the coast for purposes of reconnaissance. And the army should never leave the territorial limits of our nation.

To summarize: Three steps must be taken to smash the war racket.

We must take the profit out of war.

We must permit the youth of the land who would bear arms to decide whether or not there should be war.

We must limit our military forces to home defense purposes.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Mike Havenar 11/24/2007, 5:00 pm

    Thank you for quoting the great Smedley D. Butler, who also said, “I was a gangster for capitalism.” As a former marine, I can tell you that Butler told it like it was. He fought Sandino in Nicaragua (and lost) but became a great warrior with a penchant for telling the truth, no matter to whom, no worry that he might become a pariah to the masters he had served. He helped and led the military takeover in nearly every country from Nicaragua to Haiti, he smoked big cigars and rode in limos, drank the best champagne and consorted with the biggest muckedy mucks, but he was a man of the people. Mike Havenar

  • Allen 11/26/2007, 7:05 am

    I have read your bog often. In the matter of military policy, I am a Naval Officer and as such have been attached to several combat ops which I can speak of. I believe most sailors feel as I do and have no desire for war. We also believe that such decisions do not belong in the hands of civilians. Our commander in chief should be military. I believe that in order to vote in this country you must have served in the military and have been discharged honorably for no less than 4 years. Civilians have not EARNED the right to vote. While I would not infringe on other rights, this one is a source of much anger among my fellow officers and me. The day will come when this will come to pass and our country will be very different.

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