Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Thought du jour - 7 September 2011

"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." - Major General Smedley Butler, USMC

During his 34-year career as a U.S. Marine, Smedley Butler participated in military actions in the Philippines, China, in Central America and the Caribbean during the Banana Wars, and France in the First World War. By the end of his career he had received 16 medals, five of which were for heroism. He is one of 19 people to twice receive the Medal of Honor  (for actions at Vera Cruz and then in Haiti), one of three to be awarded both the Marine Corps Brevet Medal and the Medal of Honor, and the only person to be awarded the Brevet Medal and two Medals of Honor, all for separate actions.

Butler served his country with honour, moreso than any other time when he spoke out against war, and how the military had simply become the enforcers for an aggressive industrial capitalism, to the detriment of the average American, and in particular the average soldier or sailor. In his 1935 book War is a Racket, which contains the quote noted above, Butler described the workings of the military-industrial complex over twenty years before another great American soldier, Dwight D. Eisenhower, warned his country to beware of it in his Farewell Address as President.

Words of wisdom, sadly more relevant today than ever.

Paul Kimball

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