Major General Smedley Darlington Butler Quote

“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.”

~ Major General Smedley Darlington Butler

from a speech in 1933

Ratings and Comments

Mike, Norwalk

said well

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RobertSRQ    9/25/07

Nearly all wars are at the behest of greedy swine's and religious nut jobs.

John, TC, MN

Interesting that the Maj. Gen. shared these observations in the context of effectively leaving Hitler alone and staying out of WWII.

Shooterman, Beaumont

All Wars of Empire fill this bill. From Lincoln's War, through The Spanish American War, WWI, 'Nam, and now Iraq.

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Phil    9/25/07

I like Smedley. What does it matter when the quote was made or who it applies to. It's value is how well it applies to the current era. This describes Iraq to a T

Paul, Union, WA

The scam of govt and war is ancient, and we never learn the deception of the powerful. Read the following, forget the religious aspect and just see it as historical proof this scam was exposed 3000 yr ago and we STILL won't listen: 1 Sam 8:6-18 "But when (Israel) said, 'Give us a king [king, Congress, premier, president, call it what you will] to lead us,' (God told Samuel to) 'warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.' ...'This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. [Oh that Congress would be so kind as to take just a tenth!] Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day."

E Archer, NYC

Major General Smedley Darling Butler is a true American hero for speaking out against imperialistic wars. I believe we will hear from a few more of his contemporaries as further light is shed upon the current wars in the Middle East waged, quite frankly, for profit and power, pure and simple., Maine

The quote by Smedley Butler was a good one... for its day. Now I believe Major General Butler would have a different take on the situation at hand. You see in the 1930's the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans were viewed as a sort of barrier. This was a time when warring countries wore uniforms and the battling armies generally conducted themselves along a relatively firm set of rules. Today, when terrorists are slipping unseen across both our southern and northern borders, without uniforms, without ethics and without rules, things are much, much different. Today, the world is a whole lot smaller than it used to be. If you pay attention to the news just today, there was a Muslim extremist that began an Al-Qaeda-like terrorist camp in the State of Oregon. Yes, Major General Butler would see the massive changes in warfare and he would have changed some of his beliefs if he was aware of modern enemy tactics. There are literally thousands upon thousands of terrorists within U.S. borders as I type this message. They are training and waiting. I'm not being an ignorant fear-monger. I have friends in national intelligence who pass things to me once in a while. The core of these messages, I will not reveal to anyone. All I'm saying is that Iran, Syria and North Korea and cooking something in the kitchen and it stinks. Marc

warren, olathe ks

Idiotic. If someone wants to fight with you you are in a fight. Like it or not, if you put your head in the sand you are still in a fight. If you run you are still in a fight. We could not have escaped WW2 any more than we could escape a war with radical Islam. Quote sounds good if you don't think about it, but does not apply to the victim of the aggressor.

barry, tallahassee

General Butler also said, "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." Racket is the correct term because the elite profits from all wars, while the middle class does most of the fighting, dieing, and living on with a disabled body.

warren, olathe

So then The good General Butler would approve of our involvment in ww2 and war on terror.

warren, olathe

Good quote Paul but God meant King when he said King. You can't substitute other terms in its place. In other words don’t put words in god’s mouth. That quote from the bible pertained to the inevitable creation of a tyrant when one person is given ultimate power. It in no way can be twisted to mean any thing else. In our time this would be applicable to Saddam Hussein, Hitler, Stalin, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Absolute power always leads to absolute corruption.

Ernie, Madison

Very good piece. I think the racket part applies to WWII and the alleged War on Terror. The US was (and still is in those areas) very involved in both situations from an imperial perspective to include military actions long before the official conflict start dates. We are not the innocent bystander who was assulted. We are a dishonest participant. To the comment about warfare having changed, the changes listed I disagree. War has always included non uniformed border crossings to cause death and destruction of the opposition and the oceans have never been a barrier except to the naive. Both the war for secesssion from Britain and the war of 1812 clearly demonstrate that. The only change is the same change for all of society, things happen faster so both you and your opponent have less reaction time.

Jeff, Mountlake Terrace, WA

When I went to Nam it only took me a couple days to figure out that the whole thing was a racket and a business paid for by the blood of the GI's who fought that war. Look at Iraq today and see how many government sycophants are making money from Halburton and Blackwater. War is a scam pure and simple.

baad, Atlanta, GA

It took me a quite a few more days than Jeff to figure out the same thing about Nam. Iraq was clear before it ever started, but of course I'm long past 18 years old now.

john lilbourne, new york

Smedley Butler seems to have been proud of his recantation after spending 30 years in the service of big business. He shouldn't be. Without him, and his kind, the big bosses wouldn't be able to enforce their will on anyone. How many innocent people did he kill during those 30 years? He doesn't seem to have been bothered by this aspect of his career at all. There is no denying that the man had courage; but then, most career murderers have courage. It's in the nature of their job choice.

phil, old berlin

If someone wants to fight you, don't be surprised if big business is behind it all,..big money to be made in wars. Let's not be naive to the profit of evil.

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    Anonymous    6/3/09


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      Anonymous    9/8/09

      Bush and his whole administration made a ton of money off their "made" war.

      Wiley Coyote, Jackson California

      Your friends in Intelligence would not be passing on anything pertinent...or true for that matter. Let me guess, do they work for ACME? Are they furniture movers or perhaps furniture salesmen. The CIA and all of it's associates are so many that each tiny cell has no idea what is actually going on, those terrorists they told you about are themselves. Have you read the latest intelligence? Only one hundred terrorists in Afganistan, we are there for opium and a pipeline and to hold off the world from another oil currency.

      Cory, NY
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        Cory, NY    10/9/09

        All the major wars of the 20th century have been contrived rackets. The details of Smedley's public disdain for War was pushed to the boiling point when he was sequestered by a group of elite US businessmen to implement a military coup against FDR. He apparently testified to this in a senate hearing. Look it up on wikipedia. It's 2009, it's about time everyone with a working brain understand that all major conflicts are planned. It is called the theatre of war for a reason.

        updoc, Des Plaines

        It seems no one of importance understands this quote.

        Bill, San Diego

        General Butler was a patriot who was described as a soldier's soldier. He was on to the criminal profiteering traitors who engineer conflict for geopolitical and financial gain. We could use leaders of his character today more than ever.

        Bobby, AZ
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          Bobby, AZ    8/21/10

          Not only is war a total racket, scam, and con, all government is a racket. As Tom Jefferson wrote, "The two enemies of the people are criminals and government,so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the Legalized Version of the first." Notice his word , " enemies " , everyone. All government is the enemy of the people , a scam , a con , and a racket.

          Samuel, Long Beach, CA

          About when Franklin D, Roosevelt was beginning his presidency, some of America's financially rich bastards tried to overthrow the government and bring on a dictatorship. This shows us all for all time what these well-clothed, well-housed, well fed thugs are made of. Fortunately the man they chose to be the dictator was an extraordinary human being who operated at a level of integrity most people never come close to, especially when offered great power. Alarmed by President Roosevelt's ideas on redistributing some wealth from the super rich, a gang of millionaire shmucks, led by the Du Pont and J.P. Morgan empires, plotted to overthrow President Roosevelt with a military coup and install a fascist government modelled after Mussolini's regime in Italy. The financially rich mob tried to recruit General Smedley Butler, promising him an army of 500,000, unlimited financial backing and generous media spin control. General Butler pretended to go along with these absolute traitors to our nation and instead simply reported it to Congress. That same giant of a man, former Marine Corps General Smedley Butler, also wrote the book, not nearly as famous as it deserves to be, entitled "War Is A Racket".

          Byron, Fort Collins

          Maj. Gen. Butler was a brave man of integrity. Look him up on Wikipedia--it's worth your time!!!

          J Carlton, Calgary

          Butler said it well. And Paul from Tallahassee above makes and excellent observation.

          jim k, Austin, Tx

          John,Tc, Mn , the major would have had a hard time fighting Hitler since he died in 1940 before we got into the war. Remember, December 7th, 1940 ?

          Heathen Steven, Miami

          In 1935 he wrote the expose "War Is a Racket", a trenchant condemnation of the profit motive behind warfare. His views on the subject are summarized in the following passage from 1935 (copied from Wikipedia):

          "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." In regard to warren, olathe comment to Paul, Union, WA: I must agree with Paul, Union, WA. When one considers that 59% of the federal discretionary budget goes into the great maw of the military/industrial complex that is never satisfied it is easy to see the relevance of the biblical passage. And lets not forget President Eisenhowers warning of the ever growing political influence of the military/industrial complex (actually this expression should be modified to The Global corporate military / financial / industrial complex, but thats quite a mouthful). Many on this blog rant their warnings of communism, but while they are guarding the front door against a mythological threat of communism they are missing the fascist marching through the backdoor. War is a racket by Gen. Smedley Butler:

          dick, Fort Worth

          Thank you, Heathen Steven. That quotation from Gen. Butler was key to understanding the man and the truth of war and fascistic corporations. And thanks to Samuel for more light. To Bobby, there is contradiction in your statement. The government Messrs. Jefferson, Adams, Madison and others was certainly not a bad one. Succeeding politicians have made it so, but it was not only the most democratic ever but the very first one to be founded without the handicap of religious ties, the first secular government in history. A pity it has been vitiated by the true believers.

          Mary - MI
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          Mary - MI    12/22/11

          Today - the "Military Industrial Complex" that President Eisenhower warned about is in full bore!

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          rater    12/28/11
          Timothy, Dunedin

          Unlike a few of the commenters here I imagine Butler understood that HItler was born at Versailles, which birth would never have occurred had the U.S. not intervened in WWI and upset the balance of power in Europe. Read John V. Denson or look him up on You Tube for more reality on this.

          Wayne, Canton

          President Reagan the Republican GOD that the Tea Party worships at the feet of Reagan's legend. President Reagan was a member of the Bohemian Club. The Bohemian Club is a secret society that meets each year at the Bohemian Grove in California. One of the activities held during the two week encampment is the Cremation of Care ceremony which takes place in front of the OWL SHRINE, a 40 foot idol. The ceremony symbolizing HUMAN sacrifice culminates the two-week encampment of some of the most powerful men in the world. Both Presidents George Herbert Walker Bush and his son George Walker Bush, members of a secret society SKULL and BONES share a Day of Infamy. Addressing a joint session of Congress, President George Herbert Walker Bush delivered a speech on a movement Toward a New World Order. The date of President Bushs speech was September 11, 1990. What are the odds of that the 9/11 dates happening with both Bushs? Its all about the Money to these Plutocrats.

          Paul, Richmond , VA

          General Smedley Butler is a hero to me. The General had a lot of courage to come foward and speak the truth. The United States and the world need more General Smedley Butler.


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