I Was a Gangster for Capitalism
[From Common Sense, 1935]
Darlington Butler (July 30, 1881 June 21, 1940),
nicknamed "The Fighting Quaker" and "Old Gimlet
Eye", was a Major General in the U.S. Marine Corps and, at
the time of his death, the most decorated Marine in U.S.
During his 34 years of Marine Corps service, Butler was awarded
numerous medals for heroism including the Marine Corps Brevet
Medal (the highest Marine medal at its time for officers), and
subsequently the Medal of Honor twice. Notably,
he is one of only 19
people to be twice awarded the Medal of Honor, and one of only
three to be awarded a Marine Corps Brevet Medal and a Medal of
Honor, and the only person to be awarded a Marine Corps Brevet
Medal and a Medal of Honor for two different actions.
In addition to his military career, Smedley Butler was noted
for his outspoken anti-interventionist views, and his book War
is a Racket. His book was one of the first works describing
the workings of the military-industrial complex and after
retiring from service, he became a popular speaker at meetings
organized by veterans, pacifists and church groups in the 1930s.
In 1934, he informed the United States Congress that a group of
wealthy industrialists had plotted a military coup known as the
Business Plot to overthrow the government of President Franklin
[This biographical sketch is taken from Wikipedia]
I spent thirty-three years and four months in active service in the
country's most agile military force, the Marines. I served in all
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 the bankers. In short, I was a
racketeer, a gangster 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 military 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 with 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 revenue 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 and
Co. in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the
sugar interests in 1916. 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, and promotion.
Looking back on it, I feel that I might have given Al Capone a few
hints. The best he could do was to operate a racket in three city
districts. The Marines operated on three continents.