War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America’s Most Decorated Soldier

“War is a Racket” is marine general, Smedley Butler’s classic treatise on why wars are conducted, who profits from them, and who pays the price. Few people are as qualified as General Butler to advance the argument encapsulated in his book’s sensational title. When “War is a Racket” was first published in 1935, Butler was the most decorated American soldier of his time. He had lead several successful military operations in the Caribbean and in Central America, as well as in Europe during the First World War. Despite his success and his heroic status, however, Butler came away from these experiences with a deeply troubled view of both the purpose and the results of warfare.

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Smedley Darlington Butler was a major general in the US Marine Corps and at the time of his death was the most decorated marine in US history. He was the only person ever to be awarded the Brevet Medal and two Medals of Honor.

Jesse Ventura is a former Independent governor of Minnesota, US Navy SEAL, professional wrestler, movie actor, New York Times bestselling author, and visiting fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

David Talbot is the founder of Salon.com and author of history books Devil Dog (on Smedley Butler), Brothers, Season of the Witch, and The Devil’s Chessboard. He lives in San Francisco, California.

  • File Size: 260 KB
  • Print Length: 60 pages
  • Publication Date: November 4, 2014

Amazon Reviews

If you are not selling guns, ammo, or gasoline, war screws you.

I knew it all along. Guys like me die fighting for the right of some fat slob to run a cash cow business in another country. The only people who benefit are the pigs who sell guns, ammo, and gas to the military. They buy it cheap and sell it dear. Smedley Butler is a hero for serving his country honorably and telling the truth about war. One more thing, if he’d written this book in 2015, he’d have written that the guys over there won’t have their jobs or their families if they ever get back here.

Should be required reading at USNA

Every military Officer should read this book, especially Marine Corps Officers. Understand your real purpose in the United States of America. Understand the manipulation of foreign policy by corporate interests. You will not be disappointed in this short read.It is absolutely amazing to me that this speech was not mentioned or referenced at the US Naval Academy. More than likely this would have enlightened a few too many minds.

After so many years of being written, still relevant

This Book resonate with the war in Iraq. It is exactly the same situation as it was in WW1. When the citizens of the United States are going to learn.? Maybe this book should be given to every highschooler in America. We will avoid so many unnecessary death based on fake patriotism. And Yes…. I’m an Iraq War Veteran… I know what I’m talking about.

War is a Racket… it always was and always will be…

‘War is a Racket’ is a must for everyone who analyses foreign policy in relation to its history. Our generation has inherited a poisonous chalice from the European military thought, or rather, from the West… something it seems we can’t free ourselves from. Smedley Butler’s ‘notes’ give us a valuable insight into one aspect of warfare and we can’t shy away from it. it is hard to accept what we find behind ‘the curtain’, covering up the reasons for war, which we try to hide behind our offended self-righteousness. Mrs. Clinton dreamed of the commodities America could call its own, once Russia and its people were wiped from the map; Oil, Gas, forests… we have to re-discover the inception of these dreams. I hope that many people will have the courage to look behind the curtain of our perception of the world… and nothing is as it seems. Alexandra Silvester.

Must read!!!

This is a wonderful pamphlet stile book for anyone that is aware what really goes on in our world today. Breaks down the Military Industrial Complex with ease, demonstrates how favorable war can be to those in control who stand to either profit, or shut down a threat to themselves. The elitist global cabal that runs the world hates this type of information being spread, and to be honest this is just scratching the surface of whats going on.

This is a must read, and a book that once your done with needs to be shared with family and friends. Basically give this book away when your finished to make sure knowledge gets spread!!! With more and more Internet censorship on the horizon, hard paper written on my a famous general is proof positive over fake news and MSM agenda about “lets go to war, its will be fun” propaganda.

War stinks, Big wars stink really big!

I chanced upon this short book – perhaps it should be called a longish essay – after I recently watched a brilliant anti-war film from BBC Films. It felt like an ideal follow-up for the film. The author is Smedley Butler, a retired United States Marine Corps Major General and two time Medal of Honor recipient. He wrote the book in 1935 and as a military insider, exposes in typically blunt military fashion, what war is all about. Even though it is a good 80 years since the book was written, every word in it rings as true as it must have been then as we think of the wars in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and now in Syria.

The book starts with the proposition that ‘War is a racket’ and asserts that big business mops up profits of the order 1000% more during Wars than in normal times. There are many examples in the text to illustrate it. Of course, this is accepted wisdom today. Still, the author makes an interesting additional argument that, while the Government has talked about setting limits on many things during a war, there has never been a call for any limitation of losses of those who actually fight the war. There is no scheme to limit a soldier to the loss of but one eye or one arm, or to limit the loss of life such as ‘not more than 12% of a regiment shall be wounded in battle or not more than 7% in a Division shall be killed’.

The second point made in the book is that it is not only the ordinary citizens who pay the bills for war, but the soldiers and their families as well, in addition to risking their lives. Apparently, there was a prize system up to and including the Spanish-American war and soldiers and sailors actually fought for money. Even in the Civil war, they were paid bonuses prior to going to battle. In the Spanish-American war, when a vessel was captured, the sailors were supposed to share in the loot. It was only later that the ‘System’ realized that costs of war could be reduced and all prize money kept by simply drafting the soldier, taking away the bargaining power of his labor. They were compensated meagerly by substituting money for the medals of honor , thereby appealing to the psychological need of the boys ‘to be decorated’. Enlistment also was accentuated through propaganda to make men feel ashamed if they didn’t enlist in the army.

The author does not take the easy route of just criticizing Wars. He gives a three-point prescription as to how to prevent wars as well.

First, we take the profit out of war. For this, he suggests that all the officers, executives, directors, bankers, speculators and the labor of all the industries which make profits through war – like the armaments, ammunition, shipbuilding, airplane building factories, banks – to be conscripted and put on a wage of $30 a month, which was the prevailing rate at the time the book was written.

Second, he suggests conducting a limited plebiscite on whether war should be declared, but only among those who will be doing the actual fighting and dying and not the general public.
Third – and this is an interesting one – he suggests that the military forces must be made sure that they are truly forces for our defence only, as they always proclaim. We must mandate that our navy operate within only 200 miles of our coastline, planes not farther than 500 miles from the coast for purposes of reconnaissance and the army never leave the territorial limits of our nation. This will make sure that they are truly only for our defence.

I suppose most people would consider the author a tree-hugging, bleeding hearts liberal but, whatever one thinks of the practicality of implementing Butler’s ideas of preventing war, one cannot argue against his idealism and the deep concern he has for the ordinary folks who lay down their lives and bear the brunt of the economic consequences of wars. I do think that he hits the bull’s eye when he says that wars will not be fought only when the ‘fat cats’ experience the same physical and mental pain that the ‘average Joe’, whom he despatches to war, experiences. Maj-Gen Butler sarcastically remarks that WWI was fought ‘to make ‘the world safe for democracy’ but a decade after the end of the war, a look at Germany, Italy, Spain, Russia and Austria showed us how well democracy flourished in Europe. One is reminded of the same argument of promoting democracy in the 21 st century in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya through wars!

The book is a very easy and racy read and it must be read at least for its idealism and passion.

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