T Nation

Question For Military Personal On the Board


I recently picked up a book by the title of "War Is A Racket", which was written in the 1930's by Brigadier General Smedley D. Butler. The book says that General Butler was the most decorated Marine of his era.

An excerpt from the book reads as follows:

"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 (where have I heard that name before?). 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."

I am curious to hear the reactions of what any current, or ex military personal on this board have to General Butler's statements. Do you think there is some truth to them? Or not? I know this can be an emotional topic - which is the primary reason I'm asking on this board.




I got back from Op Telic (the british gulf war effort)in June. And i would definitely say it has changed me. What was the whole point of the war?

Well I'll admit i wasn't too happy with the reasons as i thought that our government had sent us to war. Oil. But who would have benefitted if we hadn't? Yes the British and the US will undoubtedly benefit from the contracts that will be signed as a result. But at the same time if we hadn't then the french and the russians would have completed they billion dollar contracts they had in the 'pipeline'.

The Iraqi people meanwhile would have still been living under the Saddam regime. So I ask you which would have been better leave the contracts to the french/russians and the Iraqi people to suffer or liberate the country and as a nice bonus secure the oil contracts for our governments?

Seeing the good that we achieved in the time that i was there really opened my eyes. I have never in my life experienced a whole country cheering and waving at me as we drove in convoy through the poverty stricken suburbs of Basra. I can tell you it almost brought a tear to my eye.

Do you think the Iraqi people care who gets the oil at the end of the day?

Has it all turned out well? That's a different story. Everyone knows we need to get the country on its feet and get out of their fast to restore pride and purpose to the people of Iraq. That's the hard part.


General Butler served in an era of blatant colonialism. The military, of his era, was also not very enlightened.

General Butler also most likely served in WWI. During that war our country was manipulated by the "Old Powers" of France and England to fight their war. Both were in bankrupt and tired of fighting. The Germans nearly defeated them in the offensive of 1918. I am sure this surely turned him bitter on the military although I am not familiar with his work or service.


Don't really think you can compare his time, generation, or his opinions of military personnel to todays standards. The military has always been used for and will always be used to secure, expand, and protect our countries financial resources, thats just the way it is. Five years as a Navy Corpsmen was enough for me. I have great respect for the sacrifices our military makes, also most officers are "yes" men and could not find their ass by using both hands, but that is just my experience. If you really want to know about the military you need to read about, speak to the enlisted.


Just some random thoughts...
I wrote a paper on this once..."Legal and Historical Precedents for Military Intervention in Central and South America by the United States of America".

I seem to recall MGen Butler saying, upon his return to Central America, "Once, again, I have come to save the United Fruit Company". He was well aware during his military career that economic interests often drove military action.

This isn't a unique occurrence.

If you read William Manchester's book, "Goodbye, Darkness", you'll find that Guadalcanal was actually a rubber plantation owned by Lever Bros, Inc.

Also, Michelin owned a rubber plantation in much of the U Minh Forest outside of Saigon during the Vietnam War.

As another brother in this forum stated about Operation Iraqi Freedom - France, Russia and Germany were set to capitalize on oil leases in Iraq ONLY if the UN lifted the Desert Storm sanctions and we didn't go to war. That's primarily why they opposed OIF so vehemently. OIF seemed to put those leases on the back burner...but that may change.

On a separate note. I don't believe OIF is just about Iraqi oil. I believe it involves oil throughout the old world, specifically with respect to control of oil transportation and pipeline routes. If you can't possess the land that produces the oil, possessing some type of control over the transportation is the next best thing.

I'll even go so far as to say that I believe previous engagements, Restore Hope in Somalia and our efforts in the Balkans served the purpose of prepositioning allied forces to further anti-terrorist fighting and controlling oil resources in the future, respectively.

However, I'm not specifically not saying that OIF is only about oil. Saddam is smart and devious enough to be a really bad, wild card in a volatile world. His exit will only serve the world well. This may take some time. Remember, it took seven years to bring an independent government to Bosnia. It will take a long time in Iraq, too.
I must mention that corporations represent more than the aristocracy of any nation. Their welfare and continued profitability affects unemployment and incomes for workers of all levels. Their employees and their employees' families are affected. Statistically, these "wallet" issues often represent a huge motivation for citizens to exercise their right to vote. This, in turn, affects selection of political representatives. No doubt, these representatives realize the mandate the people selected.

I take issue with MGen Butler's statement that he was an "automaton" while on active service. I promise you that is a minority opinion. American kids today know when they're given a line of bull. Also, they know they took an oath to serve and almost unfailingly fulfill that oath.

I also take issue with MGen Butler's proposed ignorance for a separate reason. His father was a powerful congressman. He fought relentlessly for his son's career. He provided his son with opportunities and awards unavailable to most officers. Having reaped the rewards of federal level political infighting, I find it difficult to believe his claim to a lack of sophistication in the ways of the political world.

Well, just a few thoughts from peanut gallery. I've got to go feed the bulldog :slight_smile:


Smedly Butler is one of only two Marines to earn the Medal of Honor twice (Dan Daly is the other, serving at the same time, Gunnery Sargent). Served slightly before WWI. While I will not talk bad of Marines, I feel he has oversimplified his position. There are almost no wars that are fought that do not have other motives or benefits. We swear to defend and uphold the Constitution, to follow the orders of the President of the United States and those appointed above us. Non-thinking automatons, I would hardly think so.


Nice thread,

I know a Ranger who was in Afghanistan and lately has been in Iraq who said that from what he's seen, the main reason "we" are there is to secure/further US economic & geo-political interests.

Ridding Iraq of Saddam was the excuse (and a good one at that), not the reason.

It should be fairly obvious to those who read that what has happened since the "end" of the war signals how much the Bush Corp really cares about establishing a government by and for Iraqis.