"What's black and white and read all over?"

Monday, November 12, 2007
Posted 7:50 PM by

In honor of Veterans Day, meet Major General Smedley Darlington Butler

Why isn't Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler in history books? After all, he only saved America from falling to a coup.I never read about him in any of my history books growing up, but I now count two-time Congressional Medal of Honor winner Smedley D. Butler among my heroes.

It has nothing to do with the marine's many accomplishments under fire during the Boxer Rebellion, the Banana Wars, the occupation of Veracruz, the occupation of Haiti and World War I.

And everything to do with "Old Gimlet Eye"'s change of heart later in life.

As the director of public safety in Philadelphia in 1925, Butler ordered raids on more than 900 illegal speakeasies - including the joints favored by the city's elite, the Ritz-Carlton and the Union League.

He was fired a week later and admitted, "cleaning up Philadelphia was worse than any battle I was ever in."

Not much has change since then here (good luck Mayor-elect Michael Nutter) or in the country, for that matter.

In 1934, Butler told Congress that a group of wealthy pro-Fascist industrialists wanted him to rally angry veterans and overthrow the government of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a military coup.

Even though the congressional investigating committee corroborated most of the specifics of his testimony, no further action was taken.

But that didn't stop "The Fighting Quaker".

A year later, Butler published "War Is A Racket," his expose on war profiteering and the first public outting of the nation's military industrial complex.

In it, he decried the fact that at least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War I, that America was $52 billion in debt from the war (now $9 trillion), called Hitler a "menace to peace," and named the companies he said were behind most of the conflicts he found himself fighting in.

Later, he told the magazine Common Sense, "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."

Think about that the next time the Bush Administration hands out another multi-billion dollar, no-bid contract to DynCorp, Halliburton, KBR or Blackwater.

In fact, Bush may be the first president to outsource warfare and actually wind up spending more money than if he had simply ordered a draft on Sept. 12, 2001.

As Southwestern University School of Law professor Butler Shaffer asked in a 2003 essay, "Where is Smedley when we need him?"

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