Butler was a Major General in the U.S. Marines, a recipient of two Medals of Honor, and the author of War is a Racket.
Major General Smedley Darlington Butler, one of the most colorful officers in the Marine Corps’ long history, was one of the two Marines who received two Medals of Honor for separate acts of outstanding heroism. General Butler was still in his teens when, on 20 May 1898, he was appointed a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps during the Spanish-American War. In the early part of the last century General Butler led assault troops in Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Haiti. He was a regimental commander in France during World War I and later served in China. On 1 October 1931, he was retired upon his own application after completion of 33 years’ service in the Marine Corps. Major General Butler died at the Naval Hospital, Philadelphia, on 21 June 1940, following a four-week illness.
After his retirement General Butler wrote a book WAR IS A RACKET, which begins as follows:
WAR is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.
And in a speech delivered in 1933, General Butler said:
I helped make Mexico, 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 revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912 (where have I heard that name before?). I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to 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. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.
General Butler has had a naval destroyer, a military base and a chapter of Veterans for Peace (the ‘Smed Butts’) named for him. He is loved and quoted not only in the United States, but around the world.