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

War is a Racket by Smedley D. Butler
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really liked it
bookshelves: culture-and-politics, economics, history, memoirs, military, literature
Recommended 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 something that will win this medal and have any realistic expectation of living through it even once.)

However, after retiring, he came to the conclusion that much of the fighting he had done had ultimately served the interests not of the American people or the people of the countries where he fought, but those of big businesses such as the United Fruit Company. He refers to it as a racket in the sense that the corporate world that pulls the strings of the U.S. government uses the American military as muscle essentially the same way as organized crime uses its low-ranking members.

Butler was not a pacifist - he advocated a true department of defense, staffed, organized, stationed, and equipped so as to protect America but not to create or maintain an empire.

He showed his integrity once again in retirement, when a group of industrialists, concerned by the Depression and outraged by FDR's New Deal programs, planned to carry out a coup, overthrow the government, and put a puppet "president" in office. They asked Butler to lead their coup and be that puppet president. Instead, he immediately turned them in, pointing out that he had sworn a lifelong oath to support and defend the Constitution. One of my heroes.

I encourage anyone contemplating military service to read this, to see another side than they've probably been shown - we do need armed forces, so the right thing to do may indeed be to enter or stay in the military. But it should be an informed decision.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
January 1, 2003 – Finished Reading
February 18, 2008 – Shelved
February 18, 2008 – Shelved as: culture-and-politics
February 18, 2008 – Shelved as: economics
February 18, 2008 – Shelved as: history
February 18, 2008 – Shelved as: memoirs
February 18, 2008 – Shelved as: military
April 17, 2009 – Shelved as: literature

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by Robert (new) - added it

Robert Mode They've done a great job of keeping him in obscurity.
Along with the bonus marchers. And countless other examples of what he wrote about.


James Yeah. It's just a good thing that conspiracy didn't go to MacArthur instead, because he'd have jumped at it.


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