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War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America's Most Decorated Soldier

War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America's Most Decorated Soldier - Smedley D. Butler, Adam Parfrey If I wrote a book saying that I think all people, in their hearts, are basically good.... (yawn)... who would care? When Anne Frank wrote the very same thing while she was living in a secret compartment of her neighbor's home, hiding from jackboots who would work her to death in a concentration camp... well, Goddamn, that's quite a statement! ...one that leaves everybody is quite appropriately blown away. This book isn't quite on Anne Frank's level, but it has a lot of added importance because of who wrote it.At the time of publication, Smedley Butler, despite having the decidedly non-badass name of "Smedley", was a real-life tough guy, and America's most highly decorated Marine Corps General. It would have been the easiest thing in the world for him to scribble off some banal, testosterone-laden memoir about about what a rockstar warfighter he was. (he was!*) Posers love shit like that, to maintain their faux roughneck image, but General Butler was the real deal, so he had no need for embarrassing self-promotion.FAKE BADASS REAL-LIFE BADASS Instead, he wrote something far more interesting and valuable: an insider's synthesis of how military force was actually used over his career. Far from the popular conception of being a force for common defense, Butler identifies a long litany of examples where the military merely acted as muscle to enable American industry in exploitive enterprises abroad. In the book's most cited passage, he states eloquantly:"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." That's more potent than any angry peacenick shaking his ineffectual fist at "the Man". Turning to the business of war itself, Butler took note of the corrupt military-industrial establishment, and how it propegates unneccessary conflict. After a career spent planning and fighting military engagements, Butler came to recognize the enormous dividends these conflicts pay out to a very few, powerful Heads of Industry. Through commissions on the sale of privately-issued war bonds, and grossly overcharging the Department of Defense for privately-manufactured munitions, men like J.P. Morgan literally made tens of millions of dollars by sending their fellow countrymen to die of sepsis, dyssentary and chemical burns in the trenches of Europe. Sending? (... did he say "sending"??)Yes, with appalling frequency, Robber barons wield political influence to create conflict and avoid peaceful resolution to disagreement. The propaganda ramp-up to World War I was a coordinated PR blitz linking war with patriotism, and turning severely on dissenters. Does anybody know of a specific vital American interest the Great War was fought to protect? Did any thinking person in 1917 believe the Germans would really pose a threat to American sovereignty if they won the war in Europe?The consistent result of such tactics has been expanding wealth for our essentially stateless, agnostic businessmen; and bloodshed and morbidity for everybody else (i.e. the naive commoners manipulated into believing they were fighting for God and Country). This is a tell-all book on a level way beyond "Mommy Dearest". Butler isn't biting the hand that fed him, he's cutting it off! In most circumstances, this would be interpreted as ingratitude, but it is clear that Butler is acting out of principle, calling the nation's attention to a malignant force within the gates. Far from being ungrateful, he is driven by fidelity to his Officer's Oath to defend and protect the United States Constitution from all enemies, foreign OR DOMESTIC. If ever there were domestic enemies in our midst, it is the monied men who emperil the nation in needless wars, robbing its public coffers, and destroying its citizens' inalienable rights to life and liberty. (I'm thinking PATRIOT ACT here)From the calm, dissecting tone of the narration, I kind of get the idea that the contents of this book weighed heavily on the good General for a long time before he wrote them down. There is nothing naive in these pages. Nobody reading this is likely to break out spontaneously, singing ♫ Come on people now, ♥ ♥♥ Smile on your Brother, ♫ Everybody get together, ♫ ♫ Try to love one another right now. ♥ ♫ Clearly the good General belived that just wars exist, and that good men are obligated to fight them. The thrust of this book is that the modern American (now global) configuration of highly-centralized private capital, easily-purchased political influence, and an insufficiently informed/politically inactive populace predisposes the nation to unjust wars. The events of the past eighty years, and especially the past ten years, seem to unfailingly confirm all of Gen.Butler's worst suspicions. In truth, War is a Racket may not tell you anything you hadn't guessed already, but the way it is told, and the voice that is telling it make it a worthwhile experience to read.Did you find this interesting? You might also be interested in how things changed in our defense establishment during the Cold War, in Alex Abella's Soldiers of Reason!Good Luck!--------------------------------------------* SIXTEEN medals for combat heroism, including not one but TWO Congressional Medals of Honor (a distinction only nineteen people have ever achieved!)