Wednesday, September 01, 2010

War is a Racket by Major General Smedley Butler

A cousin today e-mailed me some commentary on Major General Smedley Butler, who in 1935 wrote the book War Is a Racket.  I had heard about this book years ago, but was glad to be reminded of it again.  Below is the correspondence between my cousin and me -- I am grateful to him for bringing up this subject.  He and I more often disagree with each other than agree, so this is a rare kind of exchange between us. My reply to his e-mail is first -- his e-mail is in green print at the end.

Smedley Butler is a man to be admired and honored.  If only people had listened to him and Eisenhower when they warned us about what was taking place with the corporate/military takeover of our country!  We now have present-day men of Butler's caliber shouting new warnings, but STILL no one is listening.  It's good to know you are familiar with his book...what did you think of it?

Christopher Hedges, a war correspondent for the NY Times wrote a very good book a few years ago, called
War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.  Have you read it? In the book, Hedges draws on classical literature and his experiences to argue that war seduces entire societies, creating fictions that the public believes and relies on to continue to support conflicts. The elite who are in power understand how to use fear tactics to manipulate the people into believing the wars are necessary (i.e., Bush and Cheney and the Iraq war -- and Johnson with the invention of the Tonkin Gulf story).  Fear, combined with ignorance, is a powerful persuader of the masses to go along with the leaders, who are more interested in lining their own pockets and maintaining power.  He also describes how those who experience war may find it exhilarating and addicting.  The Hurt Locker, (best picture Academy Awards), opens with a quotation from the book: "The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug."

We have got to start raising children in this world to realize the hopelessness of fighting each other. 
There is an excellent children's book on the futility of war, titled WHY?  There are no words in it, only pictures--but it tells the story perfectly without any words.  I got this book for my grandkids years ago, but unfortunately, it is now out of print.   The following review tells its story pretty well:

Why? is an effective commentary on the futility of war. The story is a wordless picture book that communicates its message with beautifully rendered pastel images of the countryside populated with gentle looking frogs and mice.

But the frogs and mice tend to do bad things to each other and things accelerate rapidly until there is a destructive war.

The story works effectively because, though there are no depictions of frogs or mice being harmed, children are challenged and prompted to reflect on the futility of war - particularly on the last few panels.

The story begins with a frog sitting peaceably upon a rock holding a flower, a serene expression on his face. Suddenly, a mouse pops out of a hole it has dug, next to the mouse, holding an umbrella. The mouse looks at the frog and the frog looks back at the mouse, expectant. The frog's expression seems to suggest, 'perhaps the mouse is a new friend!'

No, he is not! The mouse wants the frog's flower and leaps upon the frog and steals it. Two large burly frogs come to the little frog's rescue and chase the mouse off. But the mouse returns, with his own friends, in an armored car (old boot) contraption, complete with machine gun and rickety wheels.

The frogs flee, but set a clever trap for the mice. The trap involves the umbrella used as bait on the far side of a fragile looking bridge. The trap is sprung and the armored car plummets into the river. Things go quickly out of control thereafter and a war soon begins. Things progress to the point that the once pristine landscape is a charred and barren wasteland, dotted with wreckage.

On the final panel, the same mouse and frog from the beginning of the story look back at one another - both appeared confused. The mouse holds a dead flower, the frog holds the ruined umbrella.

Earth is such a small planet, with so many different kinds of people speaking so many different languages and adopting primitive religious beliefs, which is probably why we have taken so long to reach even the bottom rungs of civilization.  There is a much better existence waiting for us if we can only raise our vision and consciousness.  I believe there are many other civilizations in this universe who have done that and experienced soul growth in astronomical ways (pun intended) that Earth inhabitants, at this point, can only dream of. 

Unfortunately the military/industrial complex now has a death grip on our planet, which we all have allowed with our complacency, our ignorance, and our votes.  The wealthy corporate and military/government elite are not about to give up all the riches they've acquired from wars.  Never content with what they have, they are already angling for more wars, to continue increasing their largesse at the expense of the rest of us, who are the pieces on their chess board.  Not knowing what else to do with teenage boys and all their rising testosterone (and ignorance of life), they enlist them in the military, train them to use terrible weapons, and send these poor kids off to war -- where they find out, by excruciating, devastating experience what war is really like. 

Now, because of improved medical and surgical techniques, more of these kids are returning from the battlefields minus their arms, legs, and mental abilities--for their parents and wives to care for.  Many of them are so damaged, they cannot ever become productive members of society or live normal lives. Exposure to depleted uranium weapons robs them of their physical health, to the point of even infecting their own families with the toxins within their bodies, poisoning their wives and bringing disabled children into the world.  PTSD robs them of their mental balance, and they often commit suicide -- or kill others close to them -- or both.  These poor damaged kids are delivered back to their families.  Are they then cared for by the government/military who used them up like mop rags on the floor?  Does the military accept that many of them are poisoned--often to death--by depleted uranium?  Hell, no. Are their mental problems of any concern to the elite who sent them off to war in the first place?  Of course not. If they say their terrible physical symptoms are caused by exposure to toxic agents from our own government, they are immediately dismissed with strong denials.   If they say they have post-traumatic stress disorder, they are most often sent away by the military doctors who aren't allowed to admit there even is such a thing.  As a Marine who saw combat in Vietnam, you have had your own experience with Agent Orange and know the difficulties of getting the military to acknowledge the symptoms and impairment that was caused by it.

Literature is filled with books and poems about the futility of war.   We may buy the books and read them--but we never seem to learn.  And now, it is too late to change things in our culture for the good of the people. We will have to live through the horrors brought to us by the elite hierarchy whom we have allowed to take us over.  I remember my Dad reading to me a poem by Robert Southey when I was just a little girl sitting on his lap.  Dad would then tell me about the Civil War battle at Gettysburg, which occurred very near the Pennsylvania farm where he lived as a boy--and that our great-grandparents, in those long-ago days on the farm could hear the boom of the big cannons reverberating through the air from Gettysburg.  The poem he read me made a deep impression on me and I in turn shared it with my kids -- and they, I hope, will share it with theirs. Even as a very young child, I understood the point the poem was making.  It's called The Battle of Blenheim and goes like this:

It was a summer evening;
Old Kaspar's work was done,
And he before his cottage door
Was sitting in the sun;
And by him sported on the green
His little grandchild Wilhelmine.

She saw her brother Peterkin
Roll something large and round,
Which he beside the rivulet
In playing there had found.
He came to ask what he had found,
That was so large, and smooth, and round.

Old Kaspar took it from the boy,
Who stood expectant by;
And then the old man shook his head,
And with a natural sigh,
"'Tis some poor fellow's skull," said he,
"Who fell in the great victory.

"I find them in the garden,
For there's many here about;
And often, when I go to plow,
The plowshare turns them out;
For many thousand men," said he,
"Were slain in that great victory."

"Now tell us what 'twas all about,"
Young Peterkin, he cries;
And little Wilhelmine looks up
With wonder-waiting eyes;
"Now tell us all about the war,
And what they fought each other for."

"It was the English," Kaspar cried,
"Who put the French to rout;
But what they fought each other for,
I could not well make out;
But everybody said," quoth he,
"That 'twas a famous victory.

"My father lived at Blenheim then,
Yon little stream hard by;
They burnt his dwelling to the ground,
And he was forced to fly;
So with his wife and child he fled,
Nor had he where to rest his head.

"With fire and sword the country round
Was wasted far and wide,
And many a childing mother then,
And new-born baby, died;
But things like that, you know, must be
At every famous victory.

"They say it was a shocking sight
After the field was won;
For many thousand bodies here
Lay rotting in the sun;
But things like that, you know, must be
After a famous victory.

"Great praise the Duke of Marlboro' won,
And our good Prince Eugene."
"Why, 'twas a very wicked thing!"
Said little Wilhelmine.
"Nay, nay, my little girl," quoth he;
"It was a famous victory.

"And everybody praised the Duke
Who this great fight did win."
"But what good came of it at last?"
Quoth little Peterkin.
"Why, that I cannot tell," said he;
"But 'twas a famous victory."

What more can anyone say after the observations of the children in the poem, who are seeing with clear vision?  Our leaders will try to convince us about the "famous victories," when even a child can see through the lie of it all.  Maybe we need to adopt the eyes of children who are not yet influenced by the twisted "logic" of the leaders--in order to recognize what is really going on.  I believe I already have that vision, thanks to my Dad -- and, thankfully, my kids and grandkids are following in that view.  Education from wise elders is needed on this planet.  I hope in time, Earth's civilization will grow in intelligence and wisdom, so that peace can come to this beleaguered planet.  That is my prayer.

FROM MY COUSIN (who served in the Marine Corps):

On 9/1/2010 6:13 AM, he wrote:
Marines are familiar with Smedley D. Butler, but some may not have heard about him or read his book War is a Racket. Here is a bit of interesting history on the man.

War is a Racket

by Major General Smedley Butler,

United States Marine Corps
Medal of Honor recipient

If you know your history, you know that in 1934 there was an attempted coup in the United States that was thwarted largely due to the efforts of U.S. Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler (ret.)

Among other things, Butler was only one of 19 people ever awarded the Medal of Honor twice and the only person to be awarded a Marine Corps Brevet Medal and a Medal of Honor for two different actions.

After it dawned on him how his heroism and the heroism of the troops under his command had been misused, he wrote a book called "War is a Racket" which I can virtually guarantee you never heard about in school.

Butler concluded there are only two reasons to ever take up arms:

1. To defend the country against real – not manufactured – attacks
2. To defend the Bill of Rights

Smedley 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. history. During his 34-year career as a Marine, he participated in military actions in the Philippines, China, in Central America during the Banana Wars, the Caribbean and during World War I, he served in France. 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, 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.

In addition to his military achievements, he served as the Director of Public Safety in Philadelphia for two years and was an outspoken critic of U.S. military adventurism. In his 1935 book War is a Racket, he described the workings of the military-industrial complex and, after retiring from service, became a popular speaker at meetings organized by veterans, pacifists and church groups in the 1930s.

In 1934 he was involved in a controversy known as the Business Plot when he told a congressional committee that a group of wealthy industrialists had approached him to lead a military coup to overthrow Franklin D. Roosevelt. The individuals that were involved denied the existence of a plot, and the media ridiculed the allegations. The final report of the committee claimed that there was evidence that such a plot existed, but no charges were ever filed. The opinion of most historians is that a coup was not imminent, but that some wild schemes were discussed.

Butler continued his speaking engagements in an extended tour but in June 1940 checked himself into a naval hospital, dying a few weeks later from what was believed to be cancer. He was buried at Oaklands Cemetery in West Chester, Pennsylvania; his home has been maintained as a memorial and contains memorabilia collected during his various careers.