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ley D. Butler, "America's Armed Forces. 1. …</A>

America's Armed Forces:

2. "In Time of Peace": The Army

By Major General Smedley D. Butler

Originally published in Common Sense, Vol. 4, No. 11 (November, 1935), pp.

(NOTE: The Gainesville Florida chapter of Veterans for Peace re-published
Gen. Smedley Butler's pamphlet War is a Racket  in June, 1995. Copies are
available by sending $5 + $1.50 for mailing to:

Veterans for Peace
PO Box 142562
Gainesville, Fl. 32614
I have bought this edition. It appears to be a shortened form of the five
articles from Common Sense, of which I have reproduced most of the second one
here. )
I have omitted one section of this article, concerning military debates in
the '30s, which is of little contemporary interest. I have also omitted
Butler's very isolationist and naive conclusion. If you want the whole
article, or the whole series of five articles, please request them from the
Inter-Library Loan department of any good library. The International
Bibliography of Periodical Literature will give the exact references -- late
1935 to early 1936, in Common Sense.
I have also put some paragraphs in bold face. These are the parts most
frequently quoted, in that they document Butler's contention that U.S. policy
was imperialist and exploitative, never "defensive," from at least the
beginning of the 20th century.
General Smedley D. Butler was the most decorated soldier in American uniform;
Commander of the Marine Corps school; and passed over for Marine Corps
commandant only because of his increasingly anti-imperialist views.
He was very popular with rank-and-file soldiers and veterans. He strongly
defended the "Bonus Marchers", attacked by U.S. troops under General Douglas
MacArthur and Colonel Dwight D. Eisenhower in Washington DC in 1932.
In an incident whose history is suppressed today, Gen. Butler was approached
by representatives of the Morgan Bank who wished him to lead a fascist
military coup d'état against the Roosevelt government in 1932. He refused and
went to the press. A Congressional investigation was eventually suppressed.
See Jules Archer, The Plot to Seize the White House for a recent, documented
version of this cover-up, well-publicized at the time but virtually "blacked
out" today!
-- Grover Furr)
THE New Deal has dealt us a military and naval hand that makes us big time
contenders in the war racket.
Events in Ethiopia indicate that all too soon it will be our turn to play the
cards. We ought to make a good showing. We're getting plenty of practice.
Our army and navy have only recently completed their largest and most
ambitious peace-time maneuvers. Our National Guardsmen have done even better.
In the past two years large National Guard forces have seen active service in
20 strikes in as many different states, from the Pacific Coast to New
England, from Minnesota to Georgia. They have used gas, bullets, and tanks --
the most lethal weapons of modern war -- against striking workers. Casualty
lists have been impressive. In one instance they erected barbed wire
concentration camps in Georgia to "co-ordinate" striking workers with all the
efficiency of the fascist repressive technique.
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 guys," (to plan war preparations) and a "Big
Boss," (super-nationalistic capitalism).
I Was a "Racketeer"
It may seem odd for me, a military man to adopt such a comparison.
Truthfulness compels me to. I spent 33 years and 4 months In active service
as a member of our country's most agile military force -- the Marine Corps. I
served in all commissioned ranks from a 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 a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it.
Like all members of the profession I never had an original thought until I
left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I
obeyed the orders of the higher-ups. This is typical of everyone in the
military service.
Thus 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. The
record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the
international banking house of Brown Brothers 1909-12. I brought light to the
Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 191G. I helped make
Honduras "right" for American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I
helped 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. I was rewarded with honors, medals, promotion. Looking back on it, I
feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to
operate his racket in three city districts. We Marines operated on three conti
The war: racket operates at full swing in our own country today.- Make no
mistake. We no longer fulfill by our example as a nation the role of Leader
in Disarmament and Peace-Maker to Mankind. Our present war preparations and
military expenditures forever nullify the Kellogg Peace Pact to which we
subscribed, and all our previous efforts to ease the burden of war throughout
the world.
Defense or Offense?
It is commonly supposed that our armed forces are entirely defensive in
nature, that they have nothing to do with the making of war or the creating
of situations that lead to war. The General Staff states publicly, that the
military organization "is founded on the principle that we oust be unready
for aggressive war, yet fully capable of defending ourselves... To be
defensive in motive, as we intend to be, a nation must surrender all thought
of initiative."
If this statement was a fact and effectively translated into reality, there
would be little cause for concern. But close examination reveals that it is
just another publicity release from that military sap factory known as the
War Department.
Training Regulations No. 10-5 of the War Department contain the official
"Doctrine of War," for the United States. Section II, paragraph 2, says
"Decision to go to war having been made, operations will be carried into
hostile territory... the primary objective will be the destruction d (the enem
y's) armed forces, and this demands that the strategical and tactical
offensive be taken and maintained until a decision is reached." Section V,
paragraph 6, says "the object to be attained by (military) training is to
enable the Army to wage offensive warfare, While training must cover certain
phases of defensive doctrine and police doctrine the Army must definitely
understand hat these are only means to the definite end -- offensive warfare
-- and every individual in the military service must be imbued with the
spirit of the offensive."
Our Ideal Never Defensive
Lest this seem to be the bellicose pipedream of some dyspeptic desk soldier,
let us remember that the military deal of our country has never been
defensive warfare. Since the Revolution, only the United Kingdom has beaten
our record for square miles of territory acquired by military conquest. Our
exploits against the American Indian, against the Filipinos, the Mexicans,
and against Spain are on a par with the campaigns of Genghis Khan, the
Japanese in Manchuria and the African attack of Mussolini. No country has
ever declared war on us before we first obliged them with that gesture. Our
whole history shows we have never fought a defensive war. And at the rate our
armed forces are being implemented at present, the odds are against our
fighting one in the near future.
The War Plans Section spends all its time creating blue-prints for the
"defense" of this country. This means, f course, vast schemes for foreign
invasion and offensive war. The personnel of this division are those whose
hides will never be scratched should hostilities occur. Consequently they can
devise plans of whatever magnitude they fancy, and against any momentary
"enemy." Nothing troubles them; and, as we shall soon see, such a detail as
how their next war is going to be paid for is not even considered.
Lloyd's odds on the United States being invaded by a foreign power are 500 to
1 against it. Only the most powerful of coalitions could dream of it -- and
unless Great Britain were the spearhead of that coalition even the dream
would be a waste of time. Without England's navy, merchant marine and her
resources of rubber, nickel, coal and oil, a world coalition would make a
hell of a showing! Of course they might capture Guam, Wake Island and even
perhaps Hawaii and the Panama Canal. But what serious threat from any quarter
can be foreseen on even the most distant horizon?
No. Devising plans for the "defense" of our country, maintaining an army to
fulfill those plans and preaching a "defensive doctrine" resolves itself into
military hogwash. Actually our armed forces have up to date plans for
offensive warfare against almost every country on the globe -- all in the
sacred name of "national defense." Should some affront be given to our
national honor by Japan, say, there is a plan ready to be put in operation
against the Japanese. Should the French run all the Americans out of Paris
and say "Lafayette, we are here," a different plan would be pulled from its
pigeon hole and we could proceed against the French. And the same for almost
any nation you might care to name,
Bigger and Better War Plans
The musical comedy angle of such planning is obvious. It entails, for one
thing, the sending of large numbers of our boys abroad as in 1918. It means
creating an offensive fighting machine once more. Sound military doctrine, no
doubt, and quite in keeping with the European stra!egy. But viewed coldly, it
seems to be little more than the adoption of the military jitters exhibited
by foreign nations so situated that their borders are forever threatened with
invasion. The opinion of Mr. John A. Public would be that we are acting like
damn fools.
None the less our military finger men keep busy pointing out enemies and
making bigger and better war plans. The gold braid boys are reliable puppets,
obeying the string-pulling of their bosses and bowing to imperialist
expediency whenever commanded.
Naturally, the military become anxious to try out these war plans. Obviously
they cannot invade other countries. They can't even, like the Navy, hold
exercises thousands of miles from our shores and as close to Japan as
possible. Rut the Army can and does share in doubtful gestures toward our
Eastern neighbor. Alaskan sites are being surveyed for possible air bases.
The Matanushka Valley settlement has a significant military value especially
now that it has been placed under the care of Lt. Col. L. P. Hunt, active
Marine Corps officer. The Aleutian Islands are being plotted for their
military potentialities
Within recent years, our military "finger men" have added a new slant to
their work by screaming about the danger of attacks against the United
States. Before an executive meeting of the House Military Affairs Committee,
the Army pointed out how vulnerable we were to an air attack from Canada
which would sweep down upon the vast industrial districts from Pittsburgh to
Chicago. still more harrowing to them was the thought of an air and water
attack by way of the \Vest Indies or of Alaska. All these little
horror-dreams did not, however, get into the press.
What did get into the press was the fact that in the Wilcox bill providing
for new air bases, a location just south of the Canadian border was one of
the points selected. When we recall that in all our history the Canadian
border was never fortified with anything stronger than a line of cement
markers, we can understand the type of "grand strategy" the "finger men" are
grinding out in Washington.
Function off the Air Force
Of course, these and similar activities have their effect in influencing
national policy. For instance, the Wilcox Bill was passed on July 20, 1936,
and duly signed by the President. The action of the Treasury Department in
providing gold vaults at points far from both the eastern and western coast
lines is another symptom of the military hysteria engendered by these plans.
Once we get all our gold buried near army posts in the interior, our air
bases built and all the other plans of the planners perfected, an arrogant
spirit of nationalism will be the logical outgrowth. Quite properly we will
be able to adopt the chip-on-the-shoulder attitude and be ready to release
all the destructive forces we have so diligently created.
First to release these destructive forces will be the "strong arm boys" --
the aviators. This branch of the armed forces, however, is hardly ready to go
out on short notice to do its stuff. It has spent so much time fighting for
self-preservation against the vested interest of the foot-soldiers and their
civilian well-wishers that it is almost too exhausted to fight at all. In
addition the aviators fight among themselves over policy, procurement and
Their Domestic Role
The import of these military inteIligence reports can best be judged by the
homework of military intelligence. The domestic brand of M. I. is mainly
unadulterated Red hunting. Hence intelligence officers cooperate more or less
openly with such bulwarks of home defense as !William Randolph Hearst, Ralph
Easley, Harry Jung of Chicago, and such organizations as the National
Security League, the American Vigilantes and the Order of '76.
The intelligence men further justify their jobs by spy work on radical
gatherings, by attending pubIic forums in an attempt to detect political or
economic heresy, by keeping tabs on various suspects, and by smelling out
what they consider to be subversive activities everywhere. In these
extra-curricular activities whole-hearted cooperation from professional
patrioteers and the Reserve Officers is received. In the New York area, for
instance, the military intelligence officers are especially busy. With the
2nd Corps Area headquarters at Governor's Island off the Battery, and the
Headquarters of the Communist party near Union Square, the intelligence men
work like little beavers. Radical meetings are attended, notes taken,
speakers listed, and as many of the audience identified as possible. It is
well known in liberal and radical circles that the military intelligence
units have been planting men within suspected organizations. Often the
"plant" appears in uniform carrying a radical publication and pretends to be
a backslider for the benefit of the Reds. Other times, he operates as the
following from the columns of the New York Herald-Tribune of July 12th, 1933,

"Madison, Wis. (C:P). The United States Secret Service was supplied with
information regarding the activity of communists at the University of
Wisconsin. William H. Haight, Jr., nineteen years old, a student and Reserve
Officer's Training Corps member told a legislators' investigation committee
"Haight said he had been assigned to supply... information regarding
communistic activity at Chicago and later continued his work here."
Every so often some regular, National Guardsman or retired officer gets so
fed up with the absurdities of the military intelligence, that he cannot
longer view this degradation of his profession without protesting. But in
order to save his skin he must take the cloak of anonymity. For instance, on
August Ist, 1932, one nameless Reservist was unable to stomach the War
Department's ousting of the Bonus Army and subsequent comment by M.I.N.I.,
the columnist for the "Army and Navy Journal" upon the event. M.I.N.I. lumped
the veterans of the Bonus Army with communists "and others of like ilk" and
lauded General MacArthur for saving the country from the Red Menace. The
nameless Reserve officer wrote the N. Y. Times, in part as follows:

"Who 'M.I.N.I.' may be I do not know, but if by any chance those letters
should stand for 'military intelligence, naval intelligence,' would anybody
be greatly surprised? The kind of intelligence that could produce such
inconceivable rot is unhappily too much like the kind of intelligence that
before now has been observed to distinguish our military and naval thinkers."
Supplies for the Next War
Now should the "finger" and "muscle" and "brain" men get the country all set
for another war where mould we Get the supplies? Here is a question, the
answer to which is very reassuring. Since the National Defense Act of 1920
the Procurement Planning division of the War Department has been busy
surveying the industry of the country and its potential manufacturing
capacity for war purposes. Thousands of factories have been visited and the
manufacture of 2,500 articles in gigantic quantities for an army of several
million men has been fully plotted.
The diversity of the articles touches virtually every industry; from
breakfast food to boiler plates. The amounts run, in estimated first costs,
to several billions of dollars --sufficient to boom industry to new levels,
to give impetus to a new marItime inflation and to create a new batch of
millionaires equal to those of the past war.
But there is just one little flaw in this vast procurement plan of the
army's. They haven't bothered to figure out any way to pay for all the
thousands of tons of articles and raw materials needed. In their procurement
work they have devised a dummy contract with all the various manufacturers
... but this contract does not specify price, payment or credit arrangements.
These contracts are of inestimable value to the War Department. Every
manufacturer who has one, who has had his factory surveyed, his production
capacity noted and his "M"-Day orders delivered, is a great big booster for
the military. The fortunate industrialist! He knows that as soon as
hostilities break out there will be nice fat orders to keep his factories
running for some time. Indeed, he senses that a demand for more active war
preparations would cause a good share of these contracts to be executed at
once. The aircraft manufacturers and the shipbuilding industry, thanks to New
Deal public works money have already learned this lesson. They wax fat --
fatter than ever before in peace time.
Profiteering, Past and Future
Not only have the procurement plans of the army convinced the minds of
industry that war means more and bigger business, but the War Department in
the years since the war has looked slightingly at any attempt to in introduce
legislation that would limit profits and impose higher taxes on war earnings.
In 1931 the War Department before the War Policies Commission declared
publicly that a 6% return upon invested capital in wartime was a fair return.
Everything above that might be taxed in varying degrees. The army favored the
Baruch plan to freeze prizes and put a "ceiling" on the price structure upon
the outbreak of war in an effort to prevent profiteering.
As the Senate Munitions Committee pointed out, the freezing of prices -- with
upward adjustments allowable to increase production -- would not accomplish
its purpose. The Senate Committee showed that fixed prices slowed down
production and that the threat of high taxes made it possible for industry to
secure the necessary working capital. The alternative of attempting to
commandeer industry and forcing it to produce at fixed prices in a proper
manner is often more expensive to the government than paying high prices for
the material in the first place. Says the report of the Senate Committee on
price control, page 4: "During the War the copper industry simply refused to
produce at even the liberal prices first proposed by the government. The
steel industry similarly refused to fill government orders until prices had
been stabilized at levels satisfactory to the industry. The du Pont Company
refused to build a great powder plant which it alone was qualified to build
until it was assured of what is considered sufficient profits. Mr. Pierre du
Pont wrote that "we cannot assent to allowing our patriotism to interfere
with our duties as trustees."
At the Mercy of Capitalism
The Senate report continues: "The government is more at the mercy of a strike
by capital than at the mercy of a strike by labor. The War Department bills
which have been prepared for adoption upon the outbreak of war, provide in
effect that labor can be drafted and that men must either work or fight. With
these powers and with a whole labor pool to draw on in the form of the
conscript army, there is no question that the Army can break any labor
strike. (The Army) is in no similar situation in regard to a strike by
capital or management... .A strike (of capital) is neither open nor advised.
It was not until the hearings of this committee, some 17 or 18 years after
the event, that the strikes of certain of our industrial companies in
connection with war-time price fixing became known."
In other words this means that the War Department and the government, under
the present law, is at the mercy of the rulers of industry and finance. The
contracts of the War Department for future war supplies exist -- industry
will have its own way about profits.
General MacArthur's final report as Chief of Staff comments on the 45,000 men
just added to the regular forces and the amount of new equipment needed in
the next five years to make this new force effective. Of course, little was
said about needing new equipment when the man-power increment was requested.
But now new apparatus for motorization, mechanization, armament artillery,
ammunition and chemical warfare must be had. In a short while we will see the
War Department revise itself -- it will need still more men to man the
equipment purchased. Either the army is undermanned -- or under-equipped.
Indeed, there is not a general in active service today who would dare state
that we are properly armed. The appetites of the military for new material,
for more men is insatiable.
Add up these phases of the war racket we harbor and encourage, and the result
is a pretty picture. We support armed forces that have all the evils of the
old-time European prussianized military systems. They point out "enemies" for
us. The speediest and most deadly branch, the Air Corps, is engaged in
activities liable to drag us into a world crisis. The intelligence branch of
the army is engaged in collecting useless and incendiary information abroad
and in reprehensible activities at home. And industry has been invited into
partnership with our armed forces so that the advent of war cannot be less
than welcome to it,
What is the Answer?
The correction of these evils is our immediate duty. We must deny to our
armed forces the functions of diplomats, politicians and agents provocateur.
To do this means reorienting the military both in location and in policy as
well. Our entire doctrine of war must be restated as a defensive doctrine in
theory and adhered to in practice.
(The conclusion of Butler's article -- isolationist -- is omitted here).
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