Smedley Darlington Butler
Born: West Chester, Pa., July 30,
Educated: Haverford School
Married: Ethel C. Peters, of Philadelphia,
June 30, 1905
Awarded two congressional medals
- capture of Vera Cruz, Mexico, 1914
- capture of Ft. Riviere, Haiti, 1917
Distinguished service medal, 1919
Major General - United States Marine
Retired Oct. 1, 1931
On leave of absence to act as
director of Dept. of Safety, Philadelphia, 1932
Lecturer -- 1930's
Republican Candidate for Senate,
Died at Naval Hospital, Philadelphia,
June 21, 1940
For more information about Major
contact the United States Marine Corps.
War Is A Racket
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
In the World War [I] a mere handful garnered the profits
of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were
made in the United States during the World War. That many admitted their
huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires
falsified their tax returns no one knows.
How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle?
How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to
go hungry in a rat-infested dug-out? How many of them spent sleepless,
frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun bullets?
How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them
were wounded or killed in battle?
Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they
are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly
is exploited by the few -- the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of
blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.
And what is this bill?
This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed
gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes.
Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking
taxation for generations and generations.
For a great many years, as a soldier, I had a suspicion
that war was a racket; not until I retired to civil life did I fully
realize it. Now that I see the international war clouds gathering, as
they are today, I must face it and speak out.
Again they are choosing sides. France and Russia met
and agreed to stand side by side. Italy and Austria hurried to make
a similar agreement. Poland and Germany cast sheep's eyes at each other,
forgetting for the nonce [one unique occasion], their dispute over the
The assassination of King Alexander of Jugoslavia [Yugoslavia]
complicated matters. Jugoslavia and Hungary, long bitter enemies, were
almost at each other's throats. Italy was ready to jump in. But France
was waiting. So was Czechoslovakia. All of them are looking ahead to
war. Not the people -- not those who fight and pay and die -- only those
who foment wars and remain safely at home to profit.
There are 40,000,000 men under arms in the world today,
and our statesmen and diplomats have the temerity to say that war is
not in the making.
Hell's bells! Are these 40,000,000 men being trained
to be dancers?
Not in Italy, to be sure. Premier Mussolini knows what
they are being trained for. He, at least, is frank enough to speak out.
Only the other day, Il Duce in "International Conciliation,"
the publication of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said:
all, Fascism, the more it considers and observes the future and the
development of humanity quite apart from political considerations
of the moment, believes neither in the possibility nor the utility
of perpetual peace. . . . War alone brings up to its highest tension
all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the people who
have the courage to meet it."
Undoubtedly Mussolini means exactly what he says. His
well-trained army, his great fleet of planes, and even his navy are
ready for war -- anxious for it, apparently. His recent stand at the
side of Hungary in the latter's dispute with Jugoslavia showed that.
And the hurried mobilization of his troops on the Austrian border after
the assassination of Dollfuss showed it too. There are others in Europe
too whose sabre rattling presages war, sooner or later.
Herr Hitler, with his rearming Germany and his constant
demands for more and more arms, is an equal if not greater menace to
peace. France only recently increased the term of military service for
its youth from a year to eighteen months.
Yes, all over, nations are camping in their arms. The
mad dogs of Europe are on the loose. In the Orient the maneuvering is
more adroit. Back in 1904, when Russia and Japan fought, we kicked out
our old friends the Russians and backed Japan. Then our very generous
international bankers were financing Japan. Now the trend is to poison
us against the Japanese. What does the "open door" policy
to China mean to us? Our trade with China is about $90,000,000 a year.
Or the Philippine Islands? We have spent about $600,000,000 in the Philippines
in thirty-five years and we (our bankers and industrialists and speculators)
have private investments there of less than $200,000,000.
Then, to save that China trade of about $90,000,000,
or to protect these private investments of less than $200,000,000 in
the Philippines, we would be all stirred up to hate Japan and go to
war -- a war that might well cost us tens of billions of dollars, hundreds
of thousands of lives of Americans, and many more hundreds of thousands
of physically maimed and mentally unbalanced men.
Of course, for this loss, there would be a compensating
profit -- fortunes would be made. Millions and billions of dollars would
be piled up. By a few. Munitions makers. Bankers. Ship builders. Manufacturers.
Meat packers. Speculators. They would fare well.
Yes, they are getting ready for another war. Why shouldn't
they? It pays high dividends.
But what does it profit the men who are killed? What
does it profit their mothers and sisters, their wives and their sweethearts?
What does it profit their children?
What does it profit anyone except the very few to whom
war means huge profits?
Yes, and what does it profit the nation?
Take our own case. Until 1898 we didn't own a bit of
territory outside the mainland of North America. At that time our national
debt was a little more than $1,000,000,000. Then we became "internationally
minded." We forgot, or shunted aside, the advice of the Father
of our country. We forgot George Washington's warning about "entangling
alliances." We went to war. We acquired outside territory. At the
end of the World War period, as a direct result of our fiddling in international
affairs, our national debt had jumped to over $25,000,000,000. Our total
favorable trade balance during the twenty-five-year period was about
$24,000,000,000. Therefore, on a purely bookkeeping basis, we ran a
little behind year for year, and that foreign trade might well have
been ours without the wars.
It would have been far cheaper (not to say safer) for the average
American who pays the bills to stay out of foreign entanglements. For a very
few this racket, like bootlegging and other underworld rackets, brings fancy
profits, but the cost of operations is always transferred to the people --
who do not profit.
Butler (second from right) in Veracruz, Mexico -
The World War, rather our brief participation in it,
has cost the United States some $52,000,000,000. Figure it out. That
means $400 to every American man, woman, and child. And we haven't paid
the debt yet. We are paying it, our children will pay it, and our children's
children probably still will be paying the cost of that war.
The normal profits of a business concern in the United
States are six, eight, ten, and sometimes twelve percent. But war-time
profits -- ah! that is another matter -- twenty, sixty, one hundred,
three hundred, and even eighteen hundred per cent -- the sky is the
limit. All that traffic will bear. Uncle Sam has the money. Let's get
Of course, it isn't put that crudely in war time. It
is dressed into speeches about patriotism, love of country, and "we
must all put our shoulders to the wheel," but the profits jump
and leap and skyrocket -- and are safely pocketed. Let's just take a
Take our friends the du Ponts, the powder people -- didn't
one of them testify before a Senate committee recently that their powder
won the war? Or saved the world for democracy? Or something? How did
they do in the war? They were a patriotic corporation. Well, the average
earnings of the du Ponts for the period 1910 to 1914 were $6,000,000
a year. It wasn't much, but the du Ponts managed to get along on it.
Now let's look at their average yearly profit during the war years,
1914 to 1918. Fifty-eight million dollars a year profit we find! Nearly
ten times that of normal times, and the profits of normal times were
pretty good. An increase in profits of more than 950 per cent.
Take one of our little steel companies that patriotically
shunted aside the making of rails and girders and bridges to manufacture
war materials. Well, their 1910-1914 yearly earnings averaged $6,000,000.
Then came the war. And, like loyal citizens, Bethlehem Steel promptly
turned to munitions making. Did their profits jump -- or did they let
Uncle Sam in for a bargain? Well, their 1914-1918 average was $49,000,000
Or, let's take United States Steel. The normal earnings
during the five-year period prior to the war were $105,000,000 a year.
Not bad. Then along came the war and up went the profits. The average
yearly profit for the period 1914-1918 was $240,000,000. Not bad.
There you have some of the steel and powder earnings.
Let's look at something else. A little copper, perhaps. That always
does well in war times.
Anaconda, for instance. Average yearly earnings during
the pre-war years 1910-1914 of $10,000,000. During the war years 1914-1918
profits leaped to $34,000,000 per year.
Or Utah Copper. Average of $5,000,000 per year during
the 1910-1914 period. Jumped to an average of $21,000,000 yearly profits
for the war period.
Let's group these five, with three smaller companies.
The total yearly average profits of the pre-war period 1910-1914 were
$137,480,000. Then along came the war. The average yearly profits for
this group skyrocketed to $408,300,000.
A little increase in profits of approximately 200 per
Does war pay? It paid them. But they aren't the only
ones. There are still others. Let's take leather.
For the three-year period before the war the total profits
of Central Leather Company were $3,500,000. That was approximately $1,167,000
a year. Well, in 1916 Central Leather returned a profit of $15,000,000,
a small increase of 1,100 per cent. That's all. The General Chemical
Company averaged a profit for the three years before the war of a little
over $800,000 a year. Came the war, and the profits jumped to $12,000,000.
a leap of 1,400 per cent.
International Nickel Company -- and you can't have a
war without nickel -- showed an increase in profits from a mere average
of $4,000,000 a year to $73,000,000 yearly. Not bad? An increase of
more than 1,700 per cent.
American Sugar Refining Company averaged $2,000,000 a
year for the three years before the war. In 1916 a profit of $6,000,000
Listen to Senate Document No. 259. The Sixty-Fifth Congress,
reporting on corporate earnings and government revenues. Considering
the profits of 122 meat packers, 153 cotton manufacturers, 299 garment
makers, 49 steel plants, and 340 coal producers during the war. Profits
under 25 per cent were exceptional. For instance the coal companies
made between 100 per cent and 7,856 per cent on their capital stock
during the war. The Chicago packers doubled and tripled their earnings.
And let us not forget the bankers who financed the great
war. If anyone had the cream of the profits it was the bankers. Being
partnerships rather than incorporated organizations, they do not have
to report to stockholders. And their profits were as secret as they
were immense. How the bankers made their millions and their billions
I do not know, because those little secrets never become public -- even
before a Senate investigatory body.
But here's how some of the other patriotic industrialists
and speculators chiseled their way into war profits.
Take the shoe people. They like war. It brings business
with abnormal profits. They made huge profits on sales abroad to our
allies. Perhaps, like the munitions manufacturers and armament makers,
they also sold to the enemy. For a dollar is a dollar whether it comes
from Germany or from France. But they did well by Uncle Sam too. For
instance, they sold Uncle Sam 35,000,000 pairs of hobnailed service
shoes. There were 4,000,000 soldiers. Eight pairs, and more, to a soldier.
My regiment during the war had only one pair to a soldier. Some of these
shoes probably are still in existence. They were good shoes. But when
the war was over Uncle Sam has a matter of 25,000,000 pairs left over.
Bought -- and paid for. Profits recorded and pocketed.
There was still lots of leather left. So the leather
people sold your Uncle Sam hundreds of thousands of McClellan saddles
for the cavalry. But there wasn't any American cavalry overseas! Somebody
had to get rid of this leather, however. Somebody had to make a profit
in it -- so we had a lot of McClellan saddles. And we probably have
Also somebody had a lot of mosquito netting. They sold
your Uncle Sam 20,000,000 mosquito nets for the use of the soldiers
overseas. I suppose the boys were expected to put it over them as they
tried to sleep in muddy trenches -- one hand scratching cooties on their
backs and the other making passes at scurrying rats. Well, not one of
these mosquito nets ever got to France!
Anyhow, these thoughtful manufacturers wanted to make
sure that no soldier would be without his mosquito net, so 40,000,000
additional yards of mosquito netting were sold to Uncle Sam.
There were pretty good profits in mosquito netting in
those days, even if there were no mosquitoes in France. I suppose, if
the war had lasted just a little longer, the enterprising mosquito netting
manufacturers would have sold your Uncle Sam a couple of consignments
of mosquitoes to plant in France so that more mosquito netting would
be in order.
Airplane and engine manufacturers felt they, too, should
get their just profits out of this war. Why not? Everybody else was
getting theirs. So $1,000,000,000 -- count them if you live long enough
-- was spent by Uncle Sam in building airplane engines that never left
the ground! Not one plane, or motor, out of the billion dollars worth
ordered, ever got into a battle in France. Just the same the manufacturers
made their little profit of 30, 100, or perhaps 300 per cent.
Undershirts for soldiers cost 14¢ [cents] to make and
uncle Sam paid 30¢ to 40¢ each for them -- a nice little profit for
the undershirt manufacturer. And the stocking manufacturer and the uniform
manufacturers and the cap manufacturers and the steel helmet manufacturers
-- all got theirs.
Why, when the war was over some 4,000,000 sets of equipment
-- knapsacks and the things that go to fill them -- crammed warehouses
on this side. Now they are being scrapped because the regulations have
changed the contents. But the manufacturers collected their wartime
profits on them -- and they will do it all over again the next time.
There were lots of brilliant ideas for profit making
during the war.
One very versatile patriot sold Uncle Sam twelve dozen
48-inch wrenches. Oh, they were very nice wrenches. The only trouble
was that there was only one nut ever made that was large enough for
these wrenches. That is the one that holds the turbines at Niagara Falls.
Well, after Uncle Sam had bought them and the manufacturer had pocketed
the profit, the wrenches were put on freight cars and shunted all around
the United States in an effort to find a use for them. When the Armistice
was signed it was indeed a sad blow to the wrench manufacturer. He was
just about to make some nuts to fit the wrenches. Then he planned to
sell these, too, to your Uncle Sam.
Still another had the brilliant idea that colonels shouldn't
ride in automobiles, nor should they even ride on horseback. One has
probably seen a picture of Andy Jackson riding in a buckboard. Well,
some 6,000 buckboards were sold to Uncle Sam for the use of colonels!
Not one of them was used. But the buckboard manufacturer got his war
The shipbuilders felt they should come in on some of
it, too. They built a lot of ships that made a lot of profit. More than
$3,000,000,000 worth. Some of the ships were all right. But $635,000,000
worth of them were made of wood and wouldn't float! The seams opened
up -- and they sank. We paid for them, though. And somebody pocketed
It has been estimated by statisticians and economists
and researchers that the war cost your Uncle Sam $52,000,000,000. Of
this sum, $39,000,000,000 was expended in the actual war itself. This
expenditure yielded $16,000,000,000 in profits. That is how the 21,000
billionaires and millionaires got that way. This $16,000,000,000 profits
is not to be sneezed at. It is quite a tidy sum. And it went to a very
The Senate (Nye) committee probe of the munitions industry
and its wartime profits, despite its sensational disclosures, hardly
has scratched the surface.
Even so, it has had some effect. The State Department
has been studying "for some time" methods of keeping out of
war. The War Department suddenly decides it has a wonderful plan to
spring. The Administration names a committee -- with the War and Navy
Departments ably represented under the chairmanship of a Wall Street
speculator -- to limit profits in war time. To what extent isn't suggested.
Hmmm. Possibly the profits of 300 and 600 and 1,600 per cent of those
who turned blood into gold in the World War would be limited to some
Apparently, however, the plan does not call for any limitation
of losses -- that is, the losses of those who fight the war. As far
as I have been able to ascertain there is nothing in the scheme to limit
a soldier to the loss of but one eye, or one arm, or to limit his wounds
to one or two or three. Or to limit the loss of life.
There is nothing in this scheme, apparently, that says
not more than 12 per cent of a regiment shall be wounded in battle,
or that not more than 7 per cent in a division shall be killed.
Of course, the committee cannot be bothered with such trifling
Smedley Butler at his 1931 retirement ceremony
Who Pays The
Who provides the profits -- these nice little profits
of 20, 100, 300, 1,500 and 1,800 per cent? We all pay them -- in taxation.
We paid the bankers their profits when we bought Liberty Bonds at $100.00
and sold them back at $84 or $86 to the bankers. These bankers collected
$100 plus. It was a simple manipulation. The bankers control the security
marts. It was easy for them to depress the price of these bonds. Then
all of us -- the people -- got frightened and sold the bonds at $84
or $86. The bankers bought them. Then these same bankers stimulated
a boom and government bonds went to par -- and above. Then the bankers
collected their profits.
But the soldier pays the biggest part of the bill.
If you don't believe this, visit the American cemeteries
on the battlefields abroad. Or visit any of the veteran's hospitals
in the United States. On a tour of the country, in the midst of which
I am at the time of this writing, I have visited eighteen government
hospitals for veterans. In them are a total of about 50,000 destroyed
men -- men who were the pick of the nation eighteen years ago. The very
able chief surgeon at the government hospital; at Milwaukee, where there
are 3,800 of the living dead, told me that mortality among veterans
is three times as great as among those who stayed at home.
Boys with a normal viewpoint were taken out of the fields
and offices and factories and classrooms and put into the ranks. There
they were remolded; they were made over; they were made to "about
face"; to regard murder as the order of the day. They were put
shoulder to shoulder and, through mass psychology, they were entirely
changed. We used them for a couple of years and trained them to think
nothing at all of killing or of being killed.
Then, suddenly, we discharged them and told them to make
another "about face" ! This time they had to do their own
readjustment, sans [without] mass psychology, sans officers' aid and
advice and sans nation-wide propaganda. We didn't need them any more.
So we scattered them about without any "three-minute" or "Liberty
Loan" speeches or parades. Many, too many, of these fine young
boys are eventually destroyed, mentally, because they could not make
that final "about face" alone.
In the government hospital in Marion, Indiana, 1,800
of these boys are in pens! Five hundred of them in a barracks with steel
bars and wires all around outside the buildings and on the porches.
These already have been mentally destroyed. These boys don't even look
like human beings. Oh, the looks on their faces! Physically, they are
in good shape; mentally, they are gone.
There are thousands and thousands of these cases, and
more and more are coming in all the time. The tremendous excitement
of the war, the sudden cutting off of that excitement -- the young boys
couldn't stand it.
That's a part of the bill. So much for the dead -- they
have paid their part of the war profits. So much for the mentally and
physically wounded -- they are paying now their share of the war profits.
But the others paid, too -- they paid with heartbreaks when they tore
themselves away from their firesides and their families to don the uniform
of Uncle Sam -- on which a profit had been made. They paid another part
in the training camps where they were regimented and drilled while others
took their jobs and their places in the lives of their communities.
The paid for it in the trenches where they shot and were shot; where
they were hungry for days at a time; where they slept in the mud and
the cold and in the rain -- with the moans and shrieks of the dying
for a horrible lullaby.
But don't forget -- the soldier paid part of the dollars
and cents bill too.
Up to and including the Spanish-American War, we had
a prize system, and soldiers and sailors fought for money. During the
Civil War they were paid bonuses, in many instances, before they went
into service. The government, or states, paid as high as $1,200 for
an enlistment. In the Spanish-American War they gave prize money. When
we captured any vessels, the soldiers all got their share -- at least,
they were supposed to. Then it was found that we could reduce the cost
of wars by taking all the prize money and keeping it, but conscripting
[drafting] the soldier anyway. Then soldiers couldn't bargain for their
labor, Everyone else could bargain, but the soldier couldn't.
Napoleon once said,
are enamored of decorations . . . they positively hunger for them."
So by developing the Napoleonic system -- the medal business
-- the government learned it could get soldiers for less money, because
the boys liked to be decorated. Until the Civil War there were no medals.
Then the Congressional Medal of Honor was handed out. It made enlistments
easier. After the Civil War no new medals were issued until the Spanish-American
In the World War, we used propaganda to make the boys
accept conscription. They were made to feel ashamed if they didn't join
So vicious was this war propaganda that even God was
brought into it. With few exceptions our clergymen joined in the clamor
to kill, kill, kill. To kill the Germans. God is on our side . . . it
is His will that the Germans be killed.
And in Germany, the good pastors called upon the Germans
to kill the allies . . . to please the same God. That was a part of
the general propaganda, built up to make people war conscious and murder
Beautiful ideals were painted for our boys who were sent
out to die. This was the "war to end all wars." This was the
"war to make the world safe for democracy." No one mentioned
to them, as they marched away, that their going and their dying would
mean huge war profits. No one told these American soldiers that they
might be shot down by bullets made by their own brothers here. No one
told them that the ships on which they were going to cross might be
torpedoed by submarines built with United States patents. They were
just told it was to be a "glorious adventure."
Thus, having stuffed patriotism down their throats, it
was decided to make them help pay for the war, too. So, we gave them
the large salary of $30 a month.
All they had to do for this munificent sum was to leave
their dear ones behind, give up their jobs, lie in swampy trenches,
eat canned willy (when they could get it) and kill and kill and kill
. . . and be killed.
Half of that wage (just a little more than a riveter
in a shipyard or a laborer in a munitions factory safe at home made
in a day) was promptly taken from him to support his dependents, so
that they would not become a charge upon his community. Then we made
him pay what amounted to accident insurance -- something the employer
pays for in an enlightened state -- and that cost him $6 a month. He
had less than $9 a month left.
Then, the most crowning insolence of all -- he was virtually
blackjacked into paying for his own ammunition, clothing, and food by
being made to buy Liberty Bonds. Most soldiers got no money at all on
We made them buy Liberty Bonds at $100 and then we bought
them back -- when they came back from the war and couldn't find work
-- at $84 and $86. And the soldiers bought about $2,000,000,000 worth
of these bonds!
Yes, the soldier pays the greater part of the bill. His
family pays too. They pay it in the same heart-break that he does. As
he suffers, they suffer. At nights, as he lay in the trenches and watched
shrapnel burst about him, they lay home in their beds and tossed sleeplessly
-- his father, his mother, his wife, his sisters, his brothers, his
sons, and his daughters.
When he returned home minus an eye, or minus a leg or
with his mind broken, they suffered too -- as much as and even sometimes
more than he. Yes, and they, too, contributed their dollars to the profits
of the munitions makers and bankers and shipbuilders and the manufacturers
and the speculators made. They, too, bought Liberty Bonds and contributed
to the profit of the bankers after the Armistice in the hocus-pocus
of manipulated Liberty Bond prices.
And even now the families of the wounded men and of the mentally
broken and those who never were able to readjust themselves are still suffering
and still paying.
Smedley Butler preparing to speak at one of his
stops in the 1930s
How To Smash
WELL, it's a racket, all right.
A few profit -- and the many pay. But there is a way
to stop it. You can't end it by disarmament conferences. You can't eliminate
it by peace parleys at Geneva. Well-meaning but impractical groups can't
wipe it out by resolutions. It can be smashed effectively only by taking
the profit out of war.
The only way to smash this racket is to conscript capital
and industry and labor before the nations manhood can be conscripted.
One month before the Government can conscript the young men of the nation
-- it must conscript capital and industry and labor. Let the officers
and the directors and the high-powered executives of our armament factories
and our munitions makers and our shipbuilders and our airplane builders
and the manufacturers of all the other things that provide profit in
war time as well as the bankers and the speculators, be conscripted
-- to get $30 a month, the same wage as the lads in the trenches get.
Let the workers in these plants get the same wages --
all the workers, all presidents, all executives, all directors, all
managers, all bankers -- yes, and all generals and all admirals and
all officers and all politicians and all government office holders --
everyone in the nation be restricted to a total monthly income not to
exceed that paid to the soldier in the trenches!
Let all these kings and tycoons and masters of business
and all those workers in industry and all our senators and governors
and majors pay half of their monthly $30 wage to their families and
pay war risk insurance and buy Liberty Bonds.
Why shouldn't they?
They aren't running any risk of being killed or of having
their bodies mangled or their minds shattered. They aren't sleeping
in muddy trenches. They aren't hungry. The soldiers are!
Give capital and industry and labor thirty days to think
it over and you will find, by that time, there will be no war. That
will smash the war racket -- that and nothing else.
Maybe I am a little too optimistic. Capital still has
some say. So capital won't permit the taking of the profit out of war
until the people -- those who do the suffering and still pay the price
-- make up their minds that those they elect to office shall do their
bidding, and not that of the profiteers.
Another step necessary in this fight to smash the war
racket is the limited plebiscite to determine whether a war should be
declared. A plebiscite not of all the voters but merely of those who
would be called upon to do the fighting and dying. There wouldn't be
very much sense in having a 76-year-old president of a munitions factory
or the flat-footed head of an international banking firm or the cross-eyed
manager of a uniform manufacturing plant -- all of whom see visions
of tremendous profits in the event of war -- voting on whether the nation
should go to war or not. They never would be called upon to shoulder
arms -- to sleep in a trench and to be shot. Only those who would be
called upon to risk their lives for their country should have the privilege
of voting to determine whether the nation should go to war.
There is ample precedent for restricting the voting to
those affected. Many of our states have restrictions on those permitted
to vote. In most, it is necessary to be able to read and write before
you may vote. In some, you must own property. It would be a simple matter
each year for the men coming of military age to register in their communities
as they did in the draft during the World War and be examined physically.
Those who could pass and who would therefore be called upon to bear
arms in the event of war would be eligible to vote in a limited plebiscite.
They should be the ones to have the power to decide -- and not a Congress
few of whose members are within the age limit and fewer still of whom
are in physical condition to bear arms. Only those who must suffer should
have the right to vote.
A third step in this business of smashing the war racket
is to make certain that our military forces are truly forces for defense
At each session of Congress the question of further naval
appropriations comes up. The swivel-chair admirals of Washington (and
there are always a lot of them) are very adroit lobbyists. And they
are smart. They don't shout that "We need a lot of battleships
to war on this nation or that nation." Oh no. First of all, they
let it be known that America is menaced by a great naval power. Almost
any day, these admirals will tell you, the great fleet of this supposed
enemy will strike suddenly and annihilate 125,000,000 people. Just like
that. Then they begin to cry for a larger navy. For what? To fight the
enemy? Oh my, no. Oh, no. For defense purposes only.
Then, incidentally, they announce maneuvers in the Pacific.
For defense. Uh, huh.
The Pacific is a great big ocean. We have a tremendous
coastline on the Pacific. Will the maneuvers be off the coast, two or
three hundred miles? Oh, no. The maneuvers will be two thousand, yes,
perhaps even thirty-five hundred miles, off the coast.
The Japanese, a proud people, of course will be pleased
beyond expression to see the united States fleet so close to Nippon's
shores. Even as pleased as would be the residents of California were
they to dimly discern through the morning mist, the Japanese fleet playing
at war games off Los Angeles.
The ships of our navy, it can be seen, should be specifically
limited, by law, to within 200 miles of our coastline. Had that been
the law in 1898 the Maine would never have gone to Havana Harbor. She
never would have been blown up. There would have been no war with Spain
with its attendant loss of life. Two hundred miles is ample, in the
opinion of experts, for defense purposes. Our nation cannot start an
offensive war if its ships can't go further than 200 miles from the
coastline. Planes might be permitted to go as far as 500 miles from
the coast for purposes of reconnaissance. And the army should never
leave the territorial limits of our nation.
To summarize: Three steps must be taken to smash the
- We must take the profit out of war.
- We must permit the youth of the land who would bear arms to decide
whether or not there should be war.
- We must limit our military forces to home defense purposes.
To Hell With
I am not a fool as to believe that war is a thing of
the past. I know the people do not want war, but there is no use in
saying we cannot be pushed into another war.
Looking back, Woodrow Wilson was re-elected president
in 1916 on a platform that he had "kept us out of war" and
on the implied promise that he would "keep us out of war."
Yet, five months later he asked Congress to declare war on Germany.
In that five-month interval the people had not been asked
whether they had changed their minds. The 4,000,000 young men who put
on uniforms and marched or sailed away were not asked whether they wanted
to go forth to suffer and die.
Then what caused our government to change its mind so
An allied commission, it may be recalled, came over shortly
before the war declaration and called on the President. The President
summoned a group of advisers. The head of the commission spoke. Stripped
of its diplomatic language, this is what he told the President and his
is no use kidding ourselves any longer. The cause of the allies is
lost. We now owe you (American bankers, American munitions makers,
American manufacturers, American speculators, American exporters)
five or six billion dollars.
If we lose (and
without the help of the United States we must lose) we, England, France
and Italy, cannot pay back this money . . . and Germany won't.
So . . . "
Had secrecy been outlawed as far as war negotiations
were concerned, and had the press been invited to be present at that
conference, or had radio been available to broadcast the proceedings,
America never would have entered the World War. But this conference,
like all war discussions, was shrouded in utmost secrecy. When our boys
were sent off to war they were told it was a "war to make the world
safe for democracy" and a "war to end all wars."
Well, eighteen years after, the world has less of democracy
than it had then. Besides, what business is it of ours whether Russia
or Germany or England or France or Italy or Austria live under democracies
or monarchies? Whether they are Fascists or Communists? Our problem
is to preserve our own democracy.
And very little, if anything, has been accomplished to
assure us that the World War was really the war to end all wars.
Yes, we have had disarmament conferences and limitations
of arms conferences. They don't mean a thing. One has just failed; the
results of another have been nullified. We send our professional soldiers
and our sailors and our politicians and our diplomats to these conferences.
And what happens?
The professional soldiers and sailors don't want to disarm.
No admiral wants to be without a ship. No general wants to be without
a command. Both mean men without jobs. They are not for disarmament.
They cannot be for limitations of arms. And at all these conferences,
lurking in the background but all-powerful, just the same, are the sinister
agents of those who profit by war. They see to it that these conferences
do not disarm or seriously limit armaments.
The chief aim of any power at any of these conferences
has not been to achieve disarmament to prevent war but rather to get
more armament for itself and less for any potential foe.
There is only one way to disarm with any semblance of
practicability. That is for all nations to get together and scrap every
ship, every gun, every rifle, every tank, every war plane. Even this,
if it were possible, would not be enough.
The next war, according to experts, will be fought not
with battleships, not by artillery, not with rifles and not with machine
guns. It will be fought with deadly chemicals and gases.
Secretly each nation is studying and perfecting newer
and ghastlier means of annihilating its foes wholesale. Yes, ships will
continue to be built, for the shipbuilders must make their profits.
And guns still will be manufactured and powder and rifles will be made,
for the munitions makers must make their huge profits. And the soldiers,
of course, must wear uniforms, for the manufacturer must make their
war profits too.
But victory or defeat will be determined by the skill
and ingenuity of our scientists.
If we put them to work making poison gas and more and
more fiendish mechanical and explosive instruments of destruction, they
will have no time for the constructive job of building greater prosperity
for all peoples. By putting them to this useful job, we can all make
more money out of peace than we can out of war -- even the munitions
TO HELL WITH WAR!