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War Is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America's Most Decorated Soldier

4.28 of 5 stars 4.28  ·  rating details  ·  1,363 ratings  ·  159 reviews
General Smedley Butler's frank book shows how American war efforts were animated by big-business interests. This extraordinary argument against war by an unexpected proponent is relevant now more than ever.

Originally printed in 1935, War Is a Racket is General Smedley Butler's frank speech describing his role as a soldier as nothing more than serving as a puppet for big-bu
ebook, 120 pages
Published August 1st 2003 by Feral House (first published 1935)
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Dec 18, 2012 James rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone, especially if they're considering going into the military
A scathing condemnation of the corporate-military complex by a quirky retired general who was one of the biggest legends and role models in the U.S. Marine Corps; Smedley Butler, nicknamed "Old Gimlet Eye," had a tattoo of the USMC emblem that covered his chest and was the only Marine officer to win the Medal of Honor twice, America's highest decoration for both effectiveness and outrageous courage in combat (a high percentage of Medals of Honor must be awarded posthumously; you can't do somethi ...more

If I wrote a book saying that I think all people, in their hearts, are basically good.... (yawn)... who would care? When Anne Frank wrote the very same thing while she was living in a secret compartment of her neighbor's home, hiding from jackboots who would work her to death in a concentration camp... well, Goddamn, that's quite a statement! that leaves readers quite appropriately blown away.

This book isn't quite on Anne Frank's level, but it has a lot of added importance because of who
Sep 21, 2014 Karla rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Karla by: John Fugelsang

The recitation of figures, combined with the Mad As Hell tone sometimes makes him sound like a drunk accountant railing at his bosses in the bar on Friday night, but it doesn't negate his points in the slightest. I can imagine that after having his epiphany about the profit-driven motive for WW1, the gathering storm clouds of war in the mid-30s had him going out of his mind at insane history repeating itself.

A shortened version (sans the famous quote cited
Mark Mortensen
With such an eye catching title and knowledge of the author I had to check out his controversial views. He had a following, while others considered him to be a loaded firecracker.

Smedley Darlington Butler the son of a U.S. Congressman grew up in Pennsylvania with Quaker roots. He voluntarily chose a career in the Marine Corps quickly rising through the ranks making his mark in history. Major General Butler USMC the recipient of two Medals of Honor did not retire quietly. One should separate his
Written in the 1930's by a highly decorated Marine Corps General this short book is an essay exposing the utter scam that every war that America has been involved in for at least the past 100 years has been. Although it exposes the horrors and damage that war causes both in Butlers essay and with the inclusion of some gruesome photos War is a Racket is not some limp wristed pacifist liberal tripe. What it is is an essay by a man who connected the dots and realized after many years that he in his ...more
I have to admit, all of the hype I'd encountered before finally getting to this book led me to believe that this would be an articulate and impassioned voice of "right" over "might" from the pen of one the USMC's mightiest warriors. However, Smedley seems to reduce the "cost" of war primarily to its economic terms and goes into the $$$ figures of how much companies make during war-time and preparation for war-time. Smedley died before WWII and all of the statistics and numbers he gives in this " ...more
Vannessagrace Vannessagrace
War Is A Racket is an in your face exposé about the lies politicians tell American taxpayers to justify their bloodthirsty and psychopathic lust for war.

Impressive quotes:

I spent 33 years in the Marines, most of my time being a high-class muscle man for big business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for Capitalism. Front cover.

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
Jeremy Smith
Sep 20, 2012 Jeremy Smith rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jeremy by: Several People
Is War a Racket?

'For a great many years, as a soldier, I had a suspicion that war was a racket'. I have been told 'This was the "war to make (America) safe (from Terrorism)." No mentioned to (us), as we marched away, that (our) going and (our) dying would mean huge war profits'.

As a soldier I have to agree with almost everything that Gen. Smedley Butler, a two time Medal of Honor winner has to say in this book. He wrote this book over 70 years ago, frustrated at how the US goes to war. I have to
Dan Gorman
General Butler's tract from 1935 is dated in many ways - his isolationist views are of an earlier time; he expected a military alliance between France and Russia in the 1930s; and he underestimated the danger (and evil) posed by the Japanese Empire's fascist regime. Nonetheless, General Butler's detailed, quantitative critique of war profiteering and the corruption he witnessed as a Marine is damning. He makes a convincing argument that truly war is abhorrent, save for the people making money of ...more
JT Phillips
Major General Butler's main point is spot on; war is (predominately) a racket arranged by politicians to achieve their own ends while attempting to disguise their war efforts as defending "freedom."

However, the General only demonstrates that certain companies turned a profit while supplying the US government during WWI. He never proves his thesis. The fact that someone turns a profit (whether small or large) is not a problem at all. In a free market, the suppliers who better engineer, market, a
Yasiru (reviews will soon be removed and linked to blog)
Only a thinking soldier is ever truly a hero, and real heroes are what governments ruled by mislaid incentives despise the most.
What's surprising as one reads this is how World War II and even the paradigm shift of the Cold War and subsequent intervention policy seem only to have exacerbated the scale of the problem described in Butler's thesis rather than changing any fundamental feature of it.

Perhaps the broader tragedy is that such a short, cogent argument by one of the most decorated soldier
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The pieces that make up this book were first published about 70 years ago. Butler was a highly decorated Marine Brigadier General who was involved in many military expeditions in the early 20th century to countries like Haiti, China and Cuba. After retiring, he exposed a corporate/fascist plot to seize the White House right after Franklin Roosevelt became President. After that, he began to speak out about the real motives behind America's military actions--profit.

Just before World War I, the pro
Alex Burrett
Smedley Butler's insight is extraordinary –extraordinary in terms of his highly informed experiences, and extraordinary in terms of its modernity.

'War is a Racket', as many observers note, could have been written as a critique of our time. But that's not surprising. Butler's observations would be equally valid during the Roman Empire, the expansion of the British Empire, the conquest of South America by Spain and Portugal... pretty much any organised society that has commercial, political and mi
This is an odd little book. The modern introduction is almost unreadable, though I appreciated the mention of another book I want to look at, 1000 Americans by George Seldes. Part of the book is an isolationist tract, whose arguments are weakened by the advent of the missile age, rendering the oceans no longer our protector, and by the Holocaust, I think. But the Amendment for Peace has merit, and Butler is dead on when he says that war is a racket--follow the money. Some people are getting rich ...more
This is a very short book. It is not as dated as you might expect -- it was published in the late 1930's, apparently not long after Hitler's invasion of Poland (1939). In it, he goes through the horrors of war, lists the costs and benefits, and very clearly identifies who bears the costs, and who reaps the benefits. Many of his arguments have a very modern feel to them. I really liked his proposed 'Peace' amendment to the Constitution -- if adopted, and actually followed (who pays any attention ...more

Pretty good anti-war propaganda, especially for those emotionally wedded to the military system as it reveals the burden that unjust wars impose on soldiers. Also gives some astonishing figures for how much various corporations profited at taxpayer expense by exploiting the crisis situation of WW1. I love that this was written just prior to WW2 "the good war", but really just another profit bonanza for corporate/banking interests. This dude is still a major statist, but that sho
Butler's main point is correct: war is a racket which benefits imperialists (as it was designed by imperialists), and burdens masses of people who are actually doing the producing in place of the financing. And of course, the fighting. But this brings me to something he said in chapter three. Discussing "who pays the bills?", he says that the soldier pays the most. This is also true, but he actually obscures the international military situation by focusing only on the American soldier. These sol ...more
Really, more of a treatise than a book. Still, an important writing that everyone in the US should read.
30 years before LBJ warned of the military-industrial complex, General Butler shows that it's been an issue all along. The rich get richer when there is war, the poor get poorer or, more likely, killed since they make up the bulk of the military. There was a saying that "war is good for the economy", but really, it's good for the 1%. It's good for the CEOs of GE or Boeing or other contractors
Joe Combs
This book was written in the 30's and its message is still very relevant today. It is very much an anti-war book but not because war is hell but because the author talks about the real winners of wars are the companies that make the war materials but most of all the bankers. He talks about how the U.S. Army bought thousands of saddles for the war effort in World War I. And how thousands of mosquito nets were purchased for the war in Europe. And how also they bought enough boots so that every sol ...more
Nelson Cardozo
"AL INFIERNO LA GUERRA" es el grito que el Coronel más condecorado del Ejército norteamericano hace a la población estadounidense, un grito que lastimosamente no se escuchó. Smedley era uno de esos muchachos que se enlistó a servir a su país pero nunca se imaginó que las guerras que él peleaba eran para un selecto grupo, no sus conciudadanos. Con un análisis frío, estadístico y con muchas cifras, atrás y adelante, Smedley hizo el mejor de los manifiestos anti-guerra no porque ande con vueltas pa ...more
War is a racket: always has been, always will be.

Written before WW2 by a lifelong member of military, this short book lays it out: war isn't fought for the benefit of the people that pay the price, and war is used as an excuse to profiteer. All else is a distraction.

Some of the solutions written here may be a little unworkable, and some of the examples show their significant age (not so far off of a century!) but that's not the main point anyway. The basic argument is good to hear.

Beyond the wri
I've read lots of anti-war books and essays, and there wasn't anything new or particularly surprising in here, but I really liked it for two reasons. First, it was written by a highly decorated Marine Corps General who served in WWI. I think arguments against war can have more impact when they come from someone who can speak about it with first-hand experience. The second thing that struck me about this book is the fact that it was written in the 1930's, but is still highly relevant today.
"It was only one life. What is one life in the affairs of the state." Mussolini- how he ran over a child with his car. 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 people. Only a small "inside" group ...more
War is a Racket is an excellent book written in 1935 by World War I veteran, Brigadier General Smedley D. Butler. He wrote War is a Racket at a time when the world was mobilizing for what would become WW2. He was experiencing the U.S. and the world as repeating the same mistakes that led to WW1.
War is a racket because it is primarily the result of greed. War is profitable for those wealthy who seek it as an opportunity to make more money and gain more power. Wealthy individuals and corporations
One of the five books i feel is necessary for understanding the current American political landscape....detailing the advent of the Military Industrial complex.
A very short read at under 66 pages, you can read it in less than a day …. but it is direct and to the point. I particularly like the method that General Smedley suggests for future involvement in wars; the eligible young being the only ones allowed to vote on the issue. Also, he makes a logical argument for the US staying out of what would become World War II. Highly recommended, because despite how long ago it was written it is still quite relevant … since our foreign policy hasn’t moved an in ...more
General Smedley Butler was a decorated veteran. He understood the concept of war and did a remarkable job capturing it's horrors and atrocities. This is a very short and concise book about how horrible war is, who profits and gains from it, and what should be done to prevent unnecessary wars in the future. I realIy appreciate how honest and genuine General Butler is in explaining how much suffering war causes not just to the soldiers who have to do the bidding of the war profiteers, but also how ...more
War is a Racket is the classic anti-war statement by the most decorated and highest honored veteran of WWI. US Marine Corps Major General (the highest rank authorized at the time) Smedley D. Butler was, at the time of his death, the most decorated Marine in US history. He is the only Marine to be given the Brevet Medal and two Medals of Honor, all for separate occasions.

Following his illustrious career, the book opens with an introduction depicting how the General was offered a top rank in a pl
Seth Kramer
Good points with regard to military profiteering, and the lack of skin in the game from the "decider" class, but considering these sentiments in light of what we learned in the aftermath of WWII it's hard for me to take an isolationist approach seriously. Pacifism is fine in principle until you're confronted with the ugly reality of what comes from inaction. My conclusion: War is a racket, but a necessary one we should make every effort to avoid, remembering that some things are worth fighting f ...more
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Smedley Darlington Butler was a Major General in the U.S. Marine Corps, an outspoken critic of U.S. military adventurism, and, at the time of his death, the most decorated Marine in U.S. history. During his 34-year career he participated in military actions in the Philippines, China, Central America, the Caribbean during the Banana Wars, and France in World War I.

After he retired he became a well-
More about Smedley D. Butler...
War Is a Racket (the Profit That Fuels Warfare) -- The Anti-War Classic by America's Most Decorated Soldier General Smedley Darlington Butler: The Letters of a Leatherneck, 1898-1931 Three Generals on War

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“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and 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 benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might 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.” 103 likes
“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.”
More quotes…