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The Fighting Quaker's change of heart

RICHARD MAUNDERS recalls the Damascene conversion of Marine Corp Major General Smedley Darlington Butler's

"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 for capitalism. I suspected I was just part of the racket all the time. Now I am sure of it."

So said Major General Smedley Darlington Butler of the US Marine Corps who was the most decorated marine in US history.

Known as "the Fighting Quaker" because he came from a Quaker family, Butler quickly rose through the ranks of the US army and was promoted to the rank of major general at the age of 48.

Normally such a military personality is lauded and held up as a role model, but I doubt if Butler's portrait is displayed anywhere in the White House or military academies.

After witnessing the horrors of the first world war, Butler came to realise that the war itself was a vicious scam and the young men fighting and dying in the trenches were not doing so - as they had been persuaded - for democracy and patriotism but for the profits of the arms industries and millionaires.

After leaving the army he became a fierce opponent of war and campaigned against military interventions and the arms industry.

His speeches were condensed into a pamphlet called War is a Racket in 1935, which remains a strong denunciation of war and the profits the few make from bloody conflict.

Butler wrote that the first world war "cost Uncle Sam $52,000,000,000" of which "$39,000,000,000 was spent on the actual war itself" and $16,000,000,000 ended up as profits for the few.

"This is how 21,000 billionaires and millionaires got that way."

"Turning blood into gold" was the term he used for this industry.

"How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dugout? How many of them were killed or wounded in battle?"

In this powerful condemnation against the war industry Butler wrote that out of war,victorious nations acquire additional territory "which is promptly exploited by the few."

But "the general public shoulders the bill." That bill, he reminds the reader, includes "newly placed gravestones, mangled bodies, shattered minds, broken hearts and homes."

Butler listed the big companies that made vast profits out of the blood of young men slaughtered or maimed on the field of battle.

For example, in the four years before the first world war from 1910-14, the Du Pont family of chemical manufacturers earned $6 million a year. Their average yearly profit during 1914-18 increased to a staggering $58m - an increase of 950 per cent.

The same with the steel manufacturers whose average yearly profit before the war of $6m was turned into an average of $49m a year.

Similar extortionate profits were made by other industries such as copper, nickel, coal, cotton, leather, chemical and food industries.

Butler saved special venom for those who financed the war, the bankers who took the "cream of the profits" that were "as secret as they were immense," running into "millions and billions."

One example of how the banks made a nice tidy earner was by selling liberty bonds to the US public at $100 each and buying them back after the war at $84 by deliberately depressing the market.

The war, it seems, was extremely lucrative to the speculators and chisellers who became very rich under the false flag of patriotism.

There were few manufacturers who did not make hay out of the war.

One example was the mosquito net makers who sold the US government 20 million nets.

The problem was there were no mosquitos in France. Despite this, an extra 40 million yards were made and not one net ever reached France.

Butler wryly comments that if the war lasted a little longer the manufacturers could have "sold Uncle Sam a couple of consignments of mosquitos to plant in France."

However the true cost of the war can be seen at the "American cemeteries on the battlefields abroad or the veterans' hospitals which hosted 50,000 destroyed men - men who were the pick of the nation 18 years ago."

 

Butler tells of shattered minds of the returning soldiers who have been "destroyed mentally ... they do not even look like human beings."

There are parallels today, with the use of patriotic propaganda to get people to accept war and to fight.

"They were made to feel ashamed if they didn't join the army. It was so vicious that even God was brought into it." Butler took a swipe at the clergymen who with few exceptions "joined in the clamour to kill, kill, kill. To kill the Germans. God is on our side."

The people were told that "this was a war to make the world safe for democracy."

Sound familiar? But, as Butler spelt it out, "No-one mentioned to the soldiers as they marched away that their going and dying would mean huge war profits" for the capitalist class.

The same propaganda and false flags of Queen and country are still used to promote and wars today.

And where there are no enemies, they are invented to justify the building of more weapons of mass destruction.

War pays well for the few at the cost of the blood of others.

 

Smedley Butler War is a Racket is available as an ebook

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