Perhaps the Most Important Words Ever Written About War…

This isn’t satire:

“WAR is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

In the World War a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows.

How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dug-out? How many of them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun bullets? How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them were wounded or killed in battle?

Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few — the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.

And what is this bill?

This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations.”

Who, you might ask, would say such a thing? A bitter old Mennonite pastor? Some crazy pacifist hippie? Some millennial in his parent’s basement solving all the world’s problems with a few simple hashtags?

Actually, these are the words of someone who knows a thing or two about war from personal experience: Major General Smedley Butler, the most decorated Marine in U.S. history.

In 1935 he wrote a searingly accurate essay War is a Racket, in which he admitted, “For a great many years, as a soldier, I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not until I retired to civil life did I fully realize it.” 

When the rest of us will realize it, I have no idea.

Perhaps reading Butler’s essay will help.

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