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Tell It Like It Is

Pulling The Plug On The War Machine

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Thomas Segel is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or

September 19, 2011 | 1,405 views | 2 comments

Harlingen, Texas, September 19, 2011: If you wish to find the most serious anti-war people in the United States, you need to look no further than the members of the Warrior Clan who make up the ranks of our armed forces. In the vernacular of the day...they have been there -- done that! Having gone to war three times during my Marine Corps career, I know only too well the high costs these young men and women have paid during ten years of battling Islamic Terrorists.

Just this morning I opened my newspaper to read about another young man from the Rio Grande Valley of Texas who is returning home, his body in a flag draped coffin. This southernmost tip of Texas has had far too many of its sons returned to us in this somber manner.

Lately I have completed re-reading a book written by one of the Marine Corps’ most honored generals. Major General Smedley D. Butler, who courageously fought in World War I and the multiple “Banana Wars” which followed the “War To End All Wars” was the recipient of not one, but two Medals of Honor. He is also known for leading the Veterans Bonus March, which pitted thousands of veterans against their government because by midpoint in the Great Depression, a War Bonus of $1000 to each veteran had been voted into law, but never paid to those who fought in the Great War.

Almost as significant as leading that march or receiving two Medals of Honor was the classic anti-war book penned by Butler and published in 1935 after he had retired from active duty. The title, “War Is A Racket” clearly defines his feelings about armed conflict.

General Butler contended war was a racket “possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable and surely the most vicious. It is the only one international is scope. It is the only one in which profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.” He went on to explain that a racket is something that is not what it appears to be on the surface. Only the insiders know what it is really all about.

Butler claimed that in World War I more than 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were created and that large corporations such as Du Pont, U.S. Steel, Bethlehem Steel, Anaconda, Utah Copper, the large banks and multiple arms dealers increased their profits by 400, 800, as high as 1800 percent. They did this with highly inflated prices and overstocking, such as what happened in the case of Central Leather Company. Butler claimed we had 4 million men under arms but the government bought 25 million pairs of hobnailed combat boots. That was enough for at least a half dozen pairs of boots per man. In his regiment, however, the men had only one pair of boots and no replacements. The general mused that even in 1935 there must have been a government warehouse somewhere piled high with new boots.

While the men in Butler’s command were living in mud trenches, being shelled, being exposed to gas attacks, killed in the rain, the average military salary was $30 a month. Back in the USA government leaders and those in the war industry were drawing salaries ten and twenty times over what was being paid to those in combat.

The general had several interesting ideas of how to control the nation’s periodic movement toward war. His first suggestion was that those involved in the war effort at home and those in political office should receive no salary higher than that paid to those in the armed forces.

He also noted that when a country went to war, old men who never would wear the uniform always decided it. His solution was that if it were thought by the nation that a war should be fought...only those who were subject to being required to serve in uniform should vote to determine if such a declaration needed to be passed. Those unfit to serve for any reason would not have a vote on the issue.

Another of Butler’s ideas on controlling a county’s entry into war was a return to the prize system. He pointed out that up until and including the Spanish-American War soldiers and sailors fought for money. All members of our military shared in prizes captured from the enemy on land or ships. Even in the Civil War huge bonuses were paid for enlistment. $1,200, a small fortune in that day, could be earned by signing one’s name to an enlistment contract.

“The only way to smash this racket”, said Butler, “is to conscript capital and industry and labor before the nation’s manhood can be conscripted. One month before the government can conscript the men of the nation -- it must conscript capital, industry and labor.” He wanted all who filled the positions in banking and industry to draw the same wages as those in the trenches.

General Butler also felt actions such as these would bring an end to American adventurism. He thought our military strength should be only for the defense of our country. He believed if we enacted these measures and took the profit out of war, we would remain a nation at peace. Was the general wrong? I think not.

Semper Fidelis
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Your Opinions and Comments

Publius Valerius Publicola  
Rome, Tx.  
September 21, 2011 12:36pm
In this day and time anyone in the military uttering those thoughts would probably be shot for treason!

Elaine K.  
September 19, 2011 2:28pm
New post.

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