Smedley Butler

In keeping with and continuing the theme of yesterday’s blog, I would like to talk just a little bit about an obscure figure of 20th century history, and why it is important to remember this man.

How many of you out there does the name Smedley Darlington Butler ring a bell for? I would guess these days that few have even heard of him, and probably because he took a position very unpopular with the real power base in the country of that (or any other) time. If you don’t know who this man is, please click on his name above to link to the Wikipedia page. The short version is as follows.

Smedley was a USMC major general, the highest ranking Marine of his time; and at the time of his death in 1940, he was the most decorated Marine in U.S. history. But there are two things he will be remembered for. The first is his exposing of a plot by wealthy U.S. Industrialists planning a military coup to overthrow U.S. President FDR in 1933 (no I am not kidding). Second, is his book “War is a Racket” (published in 1935) where he described and criticized the workings of the United States in its foreign actions and wars, such as those he was a part of, including the American corporations and other imperialist motivations behind them.  

Here is a quote by Smedley at the time his book was published.

“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer; a gangster for capitalism. 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. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902–1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might 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.”

His words rang true back then and still do now. In a more recent era contemporary with most who are now reading this, a book called “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” by John Perkins relays a story following pretty much the same theme.

According to John, economic hit men (EHMs) are .. “highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign “aid” organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet’s natural resources. Their tools include fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder. They play a game as old as empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalization. I should know; I was an EHM.”

— John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

And here I thought it was all supposed to be about ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’. Somebody please pass me one of those red pills so I can just go back to sleep in front of my television. 

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2 Responses to Smedley Butler

  1. Lynnie says:

    Just wow. I hadn’t heard of Smedley before. Makes me ill when I remember how people in Honduras struggle to survive, as well as all the other small nations that are controlled by the corporate. Thanks for posting Baby!

  2. Gaétane says:

    I do believe that War is a Racket. There is gain to be made in maintaining such a barbaric behaviour. Ughhhhhh!

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