Anatomy of US imperialism: ‘War Is a Racket’


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

Released September 11, 2001
The Wisdom Fund, P. O. Box 2723, Arlington, VA 22202
Website: -- Press Contact: Enver Masud

'War Is a Racket'

Excerpt from a speech delivered in 1933 by General Smedley Darlington 
Butler, USMC. General Butler was the recipient of two Congressional 
Medals of Honor - one of only two Marines so honored.

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. . . .

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 (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. . . .


[At about the same time the Du Ponts were serving the Nazi cause in 
Germany, they were involved in a Fascist plot to overthrow the United 
States government.

"Along with friends of the Morgan Bank and General Motors," in early 
1934, writes Higham, "certain Du Pont backers financed a coup d'etat 
that would overthrow the President with the aid of a $3 
million-funded army of terrorists . . ." The object was to force 
Roosevelt "to take orders from businessmen as part of a fascist 
government or face the alternative of imprisonment and execution . . 

Higham reports that "Du Pont men allegedly held an urgent series of 
meetings with the Morgans," to choose who would lead this "bizarre 
conspiracy." "They finally settled on one of the most popular 
soldiers in America, General Smedly Butler of Pennsylvania." Butler 
was approached by "fascist attorney" Gerald MacGuire (an official of 
the American Legion), who attempted to recruit Butler into the role 
of an American Hitler.--R. William Davis, "The Elkhorn Manifesto," 
July 4, 1996]

[The de facto role of the US armed forces will be to keep the world 
safe for our economy and open to our cultural assault. To those ends, 
we will do a fair amount of killing.--Ralph Peters, "Constant 
Conflict" Parameters, US Army War College Quarterly, Summer 1997, pp. 

[If one were to look closely at the past 58 years, one would be hard 
pressed to find a single U.S. military or C.I.A. intervention that 
has brought us one iota of safety, or, for that matter, that has 
actually been done for national defense purposes. As Butler 
illustrated in 1933, and it is even truer now than then, the U.S. 
engages in interventions meant to protect the interests of the 
powerful and wealthy of our nation and our allies, and rarely, if 
ever, in order to actually protect its citizens.--Chris White, "Is 
War Still a Racket?" CounterPunch, January 9, 2003]

Charlie Liteky, "An Open Letter to the U.S. Military: Congressional 
Medal of Honor recipient addresses U.S. forces in Iraq," Veterans 
Against the Iraq War, May 7, 2003

[Between 1850 and 1870, British exports tripled, from just over 
eighty million pounds to more than 240 million pounds a year. The 
process was fairly straightforward. The British imported raw 
materials from every comer of the globe. They then used those raw 
materials, transformed them into finished products in factories, and 
exported those goods throughout the world. Trade and industry were 
inextricably linked. The United Kingdom needed raw materials to 
produce finished goods, and it needed markets to absorb those goods 
abroad. In order to profit from exports, it had to control the trade, 
and to do that, it had to control the seas. In that sense, the 
British navy was simply an adjunct to the British merchant 
marine.--Zachary Karabell, "Parting the Desert," Knopf (May 20, 2003)]

John S.D. Eisenhower, "War Turned Eisenhower Into a Pacifist," 
International Herald Tribune, June 6, 2004

VIDEO: An unflinching look at the anatomy of the American war 
machine, weaving unforgettable personal stories with commentary by a 
"who's who" of military and beltway insiders. The film surveys the 
scorched landscape of a half-century's military adventures, asking 
how and telling why a nation of, by, and for the people has become 
the savings-and-loan of a system whose survival depends on a state of 
constant war.--Eugene Jarecki, "Why We Fight," Sony Pictures Classics 

[A more honest estimate of ourselves as a nation would prepare us all 
for the next barrage of lies that will accompany the next proposal to 
inflict our power on some other part of the world.--Howard Zinn, 
"Lessons of Iraq War start with U.S. history," The Progressive, March 
14, 2006]

[". . . no nation had ever become great without control of foreign 
markets and access to the natural resources of foreign 
countries."--Stephen Kinzer, "Overthrow: America's Century of Regime 
Change from Hawaii to Iraq," Times Books, April 4, 2006, p. 33]

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