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From Draft NOtices, April—June 2010


"War Is a Racket"

—Miriam Clark


This was the title of a book written by Major General Smedley D. Butler after spending 34 years in the U.S. Marine Corps.  At the time he wrote it in 1935 he was the most decorated military person in the history of the United States.

In his book he presented an exposé and condemnation of the profit motive behind warfare.  His views on war were summarized in the following passage from a 1935 issue of “the non-Marxist, socialist” magazine, Common Sense – one of Butler’s most widely  quoted statements:

“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.”

After retirement in 1933, he spoke on the lecture circuit, wrote his book and was then wiped from the history books. That is a powerful kind of information control.

What he wrote in 1935 is true today. Our military makes the world safe for capitalism, and no sacrifice of our people is too great for capitalism to make.

Lots of reasons are given for our current wars. It is instructive to measure them against Butler’s words.

This article is from Draft NOtices, the newsletter of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (


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