“War is A Racket” by Marine Major General Smedley Butler Two Time Medal of Honor

One of our greatest US Marines, Major General Smedley Butler in his 1935 speech ‘War is a Racket’, described the workings of the military-industrial complex and its hegemonic control of the military…

“War is a Racket – It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious.   It is the only one international in scope.  It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.”

For those who don’t know him, prior to WWII, Smedley was the most decorated US Marine in history and very nearly became Commandant of the Marine Corps.  By the end of his career he had received 16 medals, five for heroism.  He is the only person to be awarded the Brevet Medal and TWO Medals of Honor (April 22, 1914 – Mexican Campaign in Veracruz Mexico; and November 17, 1915 – Haiti Campaign), all for separate actions.

“What Butler fought so hard to do was to take the focus off of moral and ideological arguments for war and concentrate on the geopolitical factors that actually motivated war.   He tried to raise awareness of what the real motivating factors of war were as well as the consequences of war.   He was one of the first Americans to really bring the economic implications of war to the forefront of the public conscience.   In War is a Racket Butler “names names” and lays out in wonderfully blunt detail how the American “military machine” was used to the benefit of wealthy American industrialists.   He noted how proponents of war typically call on God as a supporter of the cause and how they embellish the mission as one of liberation and the spreading of freedom, but that these people tend to shy away from discussing the economic details of military ventures.”  (One modern example, is Lawrence B. Lindsey Bush’s White Economic Adviser who was fired in December 2002 prior to the lead up to the Iraq War which started in March 2003 for saying that the war in Iraq would cost upwards of $200 Billion when the White House was saying it might cost less than $100 Billion.  Cost Estimates of the Iraq War now range from $1.5 TRILLION to $3 TRILLION, and the thousands dead and injured.


Smedley Butler’s Excerpts of his speech below:

War is a Racket
“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 men” 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 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. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.

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, 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 benefits of Wall Street.   The record of racketeering is long.   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.”


2)  See a Video rendition of his Speech below.


Whatever your feelings about any particular war, please always remember the sacrifices of our Veterans and their families and our duty to look after their needs, especially as our Veterans  struggle to recover from their traumatic physical and emotional injuries (i.e. TBI – Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD), and as they also work to reintegrate back into society …For example in Orange County it is estimated that there are about 3-5 thousand single homeless veterans, and about 10-12 thousand homeless veterans with families.

by Francisco J Barragan, Commander of a Veterans Organization in Orange County, CA.

About Francisco Barragan