What is war really good for? The Authors Collection.
September 1, 2014
Compared to war, all other forms of human endeavor pale in significance. — Patton
“War! Good god, y’all. What is it good for?” – Edwin Starr
Brigadier General Smedley D. Butler, aka, “Old Duckboard” and also a “Devil Dog” had an answer to that question, and it wasn’t “Absolutely nothing.” Butler’s answer was simple: “Out of war a few people make huge fortunes (profits).” After Butler retired to civilian life, he became an outspoken and relentless opponent of war. More than “anti-war”, he was clearly an isolationist. Some of his predictions proved prophetic. In 1933 he predicted an event on the order of what eventually happened at Pearl Harbor and advised that America “should build an ironclad defense a rat couldn’t crawl through.” In 1935, he commented that due to the rearming of Germany, there was “not a greater menace to peace” than Hitler. Butler died in 1940 and did not live to see the attack on Pearl Harbor.
War Is A Racket was originally published in 1935 by Round Table Press, Inc, in New York. The edition we reviewed comes from www.feralhours.com and credits Butler with two different ranks: Brigadier General and Major General of the United States Marines. Butler laments his efforts as a soldier to further the interests of capitalist greed in Mexico, Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and China. After leaving the military, he saw the light, and states his case eloquently in only twenty-three pages.
Butler uses the first chapter to explain why he thinks “War Is A Racket” and asks questions in the next two chapters: “Who Makes the Profits?” and “Who Pays the Bills?” Readers won’t be surprised. In Chapter Four, he offers an optimistic (though impracticable) plan on “How to Smash this Racket”. In the concluding chapter, Butler summarizes his reasons for having evolved from being our country’s most decorated soldier to anti-war advocate and, finally, an isolationist.
Included in this volume readers will find a Butler essay, “Common Sense Neutrality” (published along with others by the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt and Charles A. Lindbergh), proposed “Amendment for Peace” drafted by Butler for the United States Constitution, and excerpts from another book on the atrocities of war. The Horror of It is a collection of gruesome photos from The Great War arranged by Frederick A. Barber and difficult to find. The images can be seen online here.
War Is A Racket is a timeless classic that has withstood the test of time and stands today as an eye-opening plea for, if not peace, isolationism. Change the names of the principal characters, the locations and the corporations, and Butler’s writings are just as relevant today as they were when written in 1935.
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