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October 03, 2011

War is a Racket, and Young Americans Bear the Cost : Revisiting Smedley Butler, USMC

In the news this week, the juxtaposition of two stories: OccupyWallStreet on the one hand, and on the other the story of a CIA contractor, previously ransomed out of Pakistan, arrested for getting into a fight over a parking space.

I would remind you of General Smedley Butler, USMC, the most decorated Marine of his era and a two-time recipient of the Medal of Honor, who retired in 1930 and then undertook a nationwide tour in the early 1930s giving his speech, "War is a Racket". This is a re-enactment of that speech:

The speech was so popular it was published as a short book under the same title, composed of five chapters:
  • War is a racket
  • Who makes the profits?
  • Who pays the bills?
  • How to smash this racket!
  • To hell with war!

In Chapter Three, Who Pays the Bills?, Smedley Butler discusses the costs of war - not just the budgetary costs, but the off-balance-sheet costs as well:
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.

There is really very little new under the sun. In the news this week, we see the story of Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor who was ransomed after the death of two Pakistanis, and who was arrested after getting into a fight over a parking spot at a bagel store.

How did Raymond Davis end up in these straits? We made him this way.

When we figure the cost of our wars in: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, ... over the last decade, and extend them to the probable next decade (and into Mexico, if Gov. Parry has his way) we must not forget the cost borne by the young Americans who fought, a cost also carried by their families, and perpetuated by the injuries to their mind, body, and spirit.

General Smedley had that figured out after World War One, long before General Eisenhower described the Congressional-Military-Industrial complex (which has morphed since 2001 into the Homeland Security-Industrial Complex).

War is a racket. (full text online free)
An awful lot of young Americans will bear the cost.


Anonymous said...

A Marines Marine, we could use his live leadership today. God bless you Sir, and thank you, from a Gunny==Semper Fi

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