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One of History's Toughest Marines, Smedley Butler, was Anti-War (VIDEO)Tim King Salem-News.com
"War is a Racket" by Smedley Butler, the two-time Medal of Honor winner denounced the military industrial complex.
(SALEM, Ore.) - When you are a Marine in basic training or boot camp, you learn about specific individuals who shaped the Corps and formed the basis for what it became and continues to be today.
Names like "Red Mike" Edson, "Chesty" Puller and Major General Smedley Butler, who was awarded the Medals of Honor twice. In fact, those two Medals of Honor are just a portion of the awards and medals and other recognition that was bestowed upon this officer.
When he wasn't busy fighting, his interest was in taking care of the needs of his men. They would all in response, exhibit dedication and faith that only a man like him can draw from tired, battle weary Marines.
Over a 34-year career in the U.S. Marine Corps, he was nicknamed "The Fighting Quaker" and "Old Gimlet Eye".
Major General Butler was a Marine's Marine, in the sense that he cared about the right things.
His perspective was shaped by an adherence to honesty that few know or live by, and at the time of his death, no Marine had been decorated more in U.S. history.
Things were different then, and somehow Smedley Butler managed to join the Marine Corps at the age of 16 and become a Second Lieutenant. Soon his fighter years would begin.
After only three weeks of basic training, he was shipped to the conflict in Cuba, but it was over before he arrived.
War After War
Major General Smedley Butler was in the Spanish-American War, the Boxer Rebellion, the Battles of Tientsin and San Tan Pating, the Banana Wars, Mexican Revolution, the Second Battle of Veracruz and World War One. He was also part of the China Expedition.
As a young Marine officer in 1905, he was assigned garrison duty in the Philippines. Butler distinguished himself by completing a resupply mission across the stormy waters of Subic Bay after his isolated outpost ran out of rations.
He was eventually diagnosed with "nervous breakdown" in 1908 at which time he took a 9-month period to recover. Raised in a Quaker community, Smedley Butler almost certainly suffered from what we know today as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.
His military career was just getting started. In the United States occupation of Haiti, Butler led a patrol of 45 mounted Marines that was ambushed by some 400 Cacos rebels. Records indicate that the Marines held their positions overnight, and charged the much larger enemy force early the next morning from three directions. The startled Haitians are said to have fled.
Less than a month later, in November 1915, Butler's Marines attacked a rebel stronghold with just four companies of 24 men each, plus two machine gun detachments. This resulted in his second Medal of Honor. The first Medal of Honor was awarded over his role in the U.S. occupation of Veracruz, Mexico in 1914.
In WWI, Smedley Butler was promoted to Brigadier General. His commanders kept him from being assigned to a combat unit on the Western Front, so he devised a way to help get Marines and soldiers into better living conditions in mud soaked France by setting up board flooring in their tents.
This is a Marine who cared about his men, and he is remembered in history as a leader who wasn't afraid to demand from the powers to be, on their behalf.
His unwavering determination for the sake of Marines didn't keep him from making rank, and he is thus one of the few military officers who managed to navigate the line and receive praise by those below him and those above him as a brilliant and brave officer of Marines.
"War is a Racket" is a famous speech written by Smedley Butler, in which he denounced the military industrial complex.
That's right, the most decorated Marine in history, a veteran of conflict after conflict who exhibited bravery in the toughest conditions and at the worst times, was on the record about how greedy businesses and Wall Street were really at the root of war time after time.
The anti-war speech by the two-time Congressional Medal of Honor recipient exposed war profits that benefit few at the expense of many. It seems a mirror reflection of the perverse waste of American tax dollars that went to Haliburton under Bush and Cheney.
Throughout his distinguished career in the Marines, Smedley Darlington Butler had what it took to avoid blind nationalism and he just said no to ridiculous government policy, unlike the politicians of today.
He put his foot down when he knew that killing was not the answer, and he knew all about killing.
The real job of Marines may be to defend the nation of all enemies foreign and domestic and no finer killers in the world exist, but no man should seek to kill for the sake of it or because we "already moved supplies and troops into place" which represents the most heart-wrenching moments prior to the Iraq invasion.
So we know that Smedley Butler was all of that and then some, but the real story is still to come. Although he had risen into the General ranks, Smedler was passed over for Commandant of the Marine Corps position when it suddenly became vacant in 1930 by the unexpected death of Wendell C. Neville.
Smedley Butler had plenty of political enemies and the list included President Hoover. He was towing the line, but then was threatened with a court-martial due to an uncomplimentary comment regarding Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Unable to stand the lack of apparent reason, Butler retired from active duty soon thereafter.
Things were really bad for Americans during the height of the Great Depression, and it didn't give people confidence when two U.S. Army cavalry regiments descended upon the nation's capitol where 20,000 American WWI veterans and their wives and children were camped out in protest over not being paid what Uncle Sam promised.
Under the command of Douglas McArthur, soldiers used rifles, bayonets, and tear gas to scatter the so-called Bonus Army and lit their temporary town on fire. It was Americans attacking Americans.
These veterans had been promised a pension by the government in 1924, that they would not receive for another 13 years.
Tension was in the air, and talk of revolution grew. This is a time when some of the nation's wealthiest men and tycoons began to seriously contemplate taking matters into their own hands. The election of Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his promised New Deal was the icing on the cake for the plotting businessmen.
They especially had a problem with reforms that led to the decoupling of American currency from the gold standard. Along with that, Roosevelt enacted many corporate regulations. His ambitious plans to jump start the nation's depressed economy has controversial points much like Barack Obama's Stimulus Plan.
In this retired and well regarded Medal of Honor wearing Marine, people who would quietly overthrow the elected government, envisioned an extraordinary representative. What a mistake that was.
Smedley Butler was visited by a pair of men in July 1933 who urged him to run for the office of National Commander of the American Legion, an influential organization of veterans.
One of those men was Gerald MacGuire, who would visit Butler numerous times claiming to represent a group called The Committee for a Sound Dollar. This group's purpose was to pressure the president to reinstate the gold standard.
Butler was told the group had plenty of political support in high places, and the financial backing of some of the country's most affluent individuals and successful corporations.
MacGuire reasoned that because Mussolini's fascist government had successfully restored Italy's industrial viability, it served as an ideal model for repairing America's impoverished economy.
According to the plan, Roosevelt and other existing American leaders would only be figureheads. The policies would be the job of none other than an extremely respected American named Smedley Butler, who would occupy a new cabinet position: The Secretary for General Affairs.
Butler was quick enough to keep his cool, nod his head and express interest in the plan. Enough information was leaked to him that he was able to take his case to the government. What a disappointment that would be.
Butler should have had the power to bring these men to justice for plotting against the very heart of the U.S. government. The evidence against MacGuire surged when he produced big cash resources and made what some called "eerily accurate predictions" regarding personnel changes in the White House.
MacGuire talked about the still-secret but soon-to-be-announced American Liberty League, a high-profile group of extremely rich Americans who claimed their purpose was to "defend and uphold the Constitution."
The League was comprised of wealthy Americans including the leaders of DuPont, JP Morgan, US Steel, General Motors, Standard Oil, Colgate, Heinz Foods, Chase National Bank, and Goodyear Tire. There are some who claim that Prescott Bush– father to the 41st US President and grandfather to the 43rd– was also entangled in the scheme.
But the nation that Butler stood tall and fast for so many times, apparently didn't want any commotion, and no criminal charges arose from Butler's disclosure of events to the federal government. The prominent men implicated in the plot were immediately excused from testifying. Does that sound familiar?
Quickly, all mention of their names was scrubbed from the committee's public report.
The official document stated that "the Committee has ordered stricken therefrom certain immaterial and incompetent evidence, or evidence which was not pertinent to the inquiry."
No Marine or soldier should be asked to betray their country, or to perform any job when there are better resolutions at hand than military force.
Major General Smedley Butler demonstrated that true patriotism does not mean blind allegiance to government policies with which one does not agree. To Hell with war.
The video below features Graham Frye performing Smedley Butler's famous speech, "War is a Racket":
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