Normally our Speech of the Week is current, and usually we run it in its entirety. But it’s not often that we come across a speech like the 1933 speech, “War Is a Racket,” in which U.S. Martin Corps (Ret.) Major General Smedley Butler made a powerful case that corporations are the only ones who profit in a war.
Along the way he said things like this:
• “There are 40,000,000 men under arms in the world today, and our statesmen and diplomats have the temerity to say that war is not in the making. Hell’s bells! Are these 40,000,000 men being trained to be dancers?”
• “Who provides the profits—these nice little profits of 20, 100, 300, 1,500 and 1,800 per cent? We all pay them—in taxation. … But the soldier pays the biggest part of the bill. If you don’t believe this, visit the American cemeteries on the battlefields abroad. Or visit any of the veteran’s hospitals in the United States. On a tour of the country, in the midst of which I am at the time of this writing, I have visited eighteen government hospitals for veterans. In them are a total of about 50,000 destroyed men—men who were the pick of the nation eighteen years ago. … 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.”
• “Secretly each nation is studying and perfecting newer and ghastlier means of annihilating its foes wholesale. Yes, ships will continue to be built, for the shipbuilders must make their profits. And guns still will be manufactured and powder and rifles will be made, for the munitions makers must make their huge profits. And the soldiers, of course, must wear uniforms, for the manufacturer must make their war profits too.
But victory or defeat will be determined by the skill and ingenuity of our scientists.
If we put them to work making poison gas and more and more fiendish mechanical and explosive instruments of destruction, they will have no time for the constructive job of building greater prosperity for all peoples. By putting them to this useful job, we can all make more money out of peace than we can out of war—even the munitions makers.
So…I say, TO HELL WITH WAR.”
We don’t have rights to this speech, but you can read it in its entirety here. —ed.