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

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  2,465 Ratings  ·  261 Reviews
Major General Smedley D. Butler was a military hero of the first rank, the winner of two Medals of Honour, a true 'fighting marine' whose courage and patriotism could not be doubted. Yet he came to believe that the wars in which he and his men had fought and bled and died were all pre-planned conflicts, designed not so much to defend America as to bloat the balance sheets ...more
Paperback, 79 pages
Published August 1st 2003 by Feral House (first published 1935)
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Feb 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Chris Dietzel
Dec 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This falls under the category of "Must Read." Butler's argument is that the wealthy elite benefit financially from war while everyone else suffers, either through fighting in the wars or else from paying for the war that the rich get richer from. Part of what makes the book so powerful is Butler's history: he fought in WWI and was the most decorated soldier of his lifetime when he wrote this. For me, that gives him credibility that can never be matched by a politician (who probably never fought ...more
Vannessa Anderson
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
Aug 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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
Dec 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Edward Rathke
Mar 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Such a simple and powerful and obvious statement.

What's interesting about Smedley is that he's not against war in a general sense. He's against the kind of war that had become common in the early 20th century (which is the model for all wars now). To put it a different way: he was not against war, but he was against imperialism.

Smedley dissects WWI in quick and simple ways that are sort of a cost benefit analysis.
Who benefits from war? Who pays the burdens of war?

Smedley answers these two ques
Sep 09, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Fredrick Danysh
May 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: political, us-marines
Smedley Butler was only one of two Marines and nineteen Americans to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor twice. After his retirement from the Corps he wrote an article condemning war as a means for some people to get rich(er) without their families serving in the Armed Forces. He was also a champion of veteran's rights. This work is a thoughtful collection of his speeches and papers on the subjects. A good read for thought.
Steve Comstock
Nov 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
What Butler saw in his day certainly lives on in ours; young men and women being sent off to fight for a cause that isn't what they think it is, profit masquerading as patriotism, men stuffing their wallets off a war that costs them nothing while shattered minds and bodies pay everything for nothing in return.

Butler's manner is very approachable, like an old man at a fireside, but this old man has the edperience to back up his words. We would do well to heed his counsel.
Joshua 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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
John Rachel
Dec 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This powerful, easily read book is as relevant today as the day it was originally published. It takes about an hour to read. Treat yourself to the insights of a man who has seen from the inside the fraud perpetrated on the American public for most of the nation's history, then get angry and do something about it. War is a horror we can do without, especially since it's driven by greed and promoted almost exclusively with lies.
Glen Krisch
Sep 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Incredible. It reminded me of some of Orwell's essays.
Feb 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was a suggestion from a friend. I picked it up on Amazon and I am better for it after reading. Brigadier General Smedly D. Butler is the most decorated american soldier of all time and after he did 33 years in the Marine Corps, and survived WW1 he had a different stance on many things. War Is A Racket is his concrete summation of how we make war, why we make war, and who profits and pays the price. Included in this book is his Amendment For Peace, which details three things we should a ...more
Dec 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, history
A short condemnation of war by a man who spent his life fighting wars. Smedley demonstrates the high public cost and resultant high business profits of war, giving many examples of US companies which greatly increased their profits during WW1. He also describes the waste and corruption inherent in military spending.

Smedley makes the amusing (from a detached perspective) observation that in WW1 the US cleverly replaced recruitment bonuses with medals. Giving soldiers medals for service was much
Dan Gorman
Jan 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 war is abhorrent, save for the people making money off it. ...more
Alex Burrett
Apr 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 m
Jul 08, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Nov 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Today, we are knee deep in total and utter putrid shit.

This here little book seems tame now, but I guess it packed a punch back in the day; hence my very generous 4 stars.

I admire Smedley's big brass balls for writing such a 'piece' - back when few knew how corrupt and disgusting governments and bankers are.

Today, we all know - they are all lying Twunts.

Sep 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Smedley D. Butler, (Maj.Gen. USMC – Retired – Deceased) was twice awarded the CMOH. His actions taken during the First World War were unquestionably brave, and this makes for a mild understatement to the truth. I’ve seen this sort of thing however over the course of my own life and military experience. In reflection of the horrors of war the person of notoriety takes a different stance and has a change of heart, is this something that came with age or his Quaker background I cannot say for certa ...more
Nov 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
While some of the ideas are a bit overly simplistic/optimistic or short-sighted, the crux of the whole thing still rings depressingly true today, and probably always will.
Jonathan Rolfe
Jan 06, 2016 rated it it was ok
Unfortunate that a man who fought so hard for his country misunderstood the American enterprise so thoroughly. In fact he seems to be pretty shocked to discover this thing called "profit." Then he's doubly-shocked to discover that American companies make profits during wartime. I bet if he ever learned where babies come from, he would have been all "Hell's bells!"

He sees WWII coming: "Undoubtedly Mussolini means exactly what he says. His well-trained army, his great fleet of planes, and even his
Jill Hutchinson
I'm just not sure how to rate this book, so I put it in the middle category of three stars. It is an odd little read and while you agree with some of the author's assumptions, others are contradictory. Written by a Major General in the Marines who won two Medals of Honor in WWI, there is no doubt that he knows of what he speaks as far as war is concerned. However, the fact that large companies and individuals reaped fortunes from the war, although somewhat disturbing, is a part of free trade and ...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
Feb 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: liberty, history
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
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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-
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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.” 138 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…