War is a Racket - Smedley Butler

This short anti-war pamphlet was written by a Major General in the Marines who was an American military hero, but became disillusioned with the profiteering, propaganda, and injustice of the military-industrial and intelligence-foreign policy establishments, and came to oppose American involvement in foreign wars designed to benefit financial and industrial interests.

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War Is A Racket

Why don't those damned oil companies fly their own flags on their personal property—maybe a flag with a gas pump on it?
Brigadier General Smedley D. Butler, 1937.

[Dedication] from War is a Racket by Smedley Butler
[Dedication] from War is a Racket by Smedley Butler


General Smedley D. Butler (1881-1940), was a senior Marine Corps officer who fought in both the Mexican Revolution and World War I. At the time of his death, Butler was 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, Central America, the Caribbean, and France. In his later years Butler became an outspoken critic of American wars and their consequences. In 1933, he also exposed an alleged plan to overthrow the United States government.

By the end of his career, Butler had received 16 medals, five for heroism. He is one of 19 men to receive the Medal of Honor twice, one of three to be awarded both the Marine Corps Brevet Medal and the Medal of Honor, and the only Marine to be awarded the Brevet Medal and two Medals of Honor, all for separate actions.

In 1935, Butler wrote "War Is a Racket", where he described and criticized the workings of the United States in its foreign actions and wars, such as those in which he had been involved, including the American corporations and other imperialist motivations behind them. After retiring from service, he became a popular advocate, speaking at meetings organized by veterans, pacifists, and church groups in the 1930s.

Butler died unexpectedly of unknown causes at the age of 59, shortly before the United States became involved in World War II.

A Short essay by Adam Parfrey that discusses the career of Smedley Butler in more detail is included in the Appendix.

[Dedication] from War is a Racket by Smedley Butler