Skip to main content

I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle- man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers.

-Major General Smedly D. Butler

In 1775, in a Philadelphia bar named Tun Tavern, Commandant Samuel Nicholas held a recruiting drive to enlist the first Marines in the history of the United States.

10 November 1775 was the day when the Second Continental Congress established the Continental Marines with the following decree:

“ That two battalions of Marines be raised consisting of one Colonel, two lieutenant-colonels, two majors and other officers, as usual in other regiments; that they consist of an equal number of privates as with other battalions, that particular care be taken that no persons be appointed to offices, or enlisted into said battalions, but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve for and during the present war with Great Britain and the Colonies; unless dismissed by Congress; that they be distinguished by the names of the First and Second Battalions of Marines."

Those of us who were stupid enough and strong enough to become Marines, know that date better than our own birthdays. Every year in November, fellow Marines take to the phone, to email, and to social media to wish their fellow devil dogs "Happy Birthday."

While the traditions and comradery will have an everlasting bond on these brothers in arms, many of those Marines who've been honorably discharged have opened their eyes to the harsh reality of the warfare state.

Upon getting out of the Corps, myself and many of my fellow jarheads realized that we had simply been pawns for a controlling class who uses the military to strategically benefit their special interest groups.

Fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters serve as little more than cannon fodder for elite oligarchs who'd never dare send their own child into these godforsaken deserts to wage war for oil. After all, the ruling class is much too busy running the economy into the dirt domestically to break away for such petty things as being blown apart by an IED while destabilizing Middle Eastern countries.

Coming to the realization that you were nothing more than a pawn for the white shoe boys on Wall Street is a tough path to go down - especially after being indoctrinated into the world's deadliest branch of the military. Yet still, many Marines and other former service members have been able to break free from this mindset and see war for what it is -- large-scale murder.

Those of us who have woken up to this reality are far from alone. In fact, one of the most famous Marines to ever wake up to the warfare state, did so in the 1930's.

After his retirement from the Marine Corps, Major General Smedley D. Butler made a nationwide tour in the early 1930s giving his speech "War is a Racket." What separates Butler from other historical military figures is that he is one of only 19 people in history to win the Medal of Honor, twice. So, when a highly decorated, two-star general takes to the stage to assert that war is a racket, people listen -- most people, anyway.

In one of his speeches, Butler decried war and pointed out how so many people died just to benefit a very small 'inside' group. The speech read in part,

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 [I] 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?

Like the antiwar veterans of today, Butler also pointed out the incredible monetary costs associated with war, noting that it was the taxpayers who funded this expansion of empire.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended for You

The World War, rather our brief participation in it, has cost the United States some $52,000,000,000. Figure it out. That means $400 to every American man, woman, and child. And we haven't paid the debt yet. We are paying it, our children will pay it, and our children's children probably still will be paying the cost of that war.

$52 billion in 1930 was a lot of money, and all of it stolen from American citizens and used by the oligarchs as investment money to turn them into billionaires. Butler was completely correct as well. Our children's children and their children are still being buried under a mountain of debt for war.

In his speech, Butler went on to name the actual companies who benefitted from the war and went so far as to specifically expose the increase in their bottom lines.

For the three-year period before the war the total profits of Central Leather Company were $3,500,000. That was approximately $1,167,000 a year. Well, in 1916 Central Leather returned a profit of $15,000,000, a small increase of 1,100 per cent. That's all. The General Chemical Company averaged a profit for the three years before the war of a little over $800,000 a year. Came the war, and the profits jumped to $12,000,000. a leap of 1,400 per cent.

But where did these profits come from? This was not some industry created by the free market. No, this was the beginning stages of the Global Industrial War Complex.

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.

Unfortunately, the ones who paid the dearest cost to enrich the elite were the soldiers themselves. Treated like prisoners, some of them against their will, were thrown into foreign countries and told who to shoot. The American soldier was and is an expendable commodity, traded on the international market, and sold to the highest bidder by Uncle Sam.

When they proved no longer useful, the soldier was then cast out.

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. The very able chief surgeon at the government hospital; at Milwaukee, where there are 3,800 of the living dead, told me that mortality among veterans is three times as great as among those who stayed at home.

Sadly, very little has changed today. Veterans are still treated like trash, thrown to the curb after serving their brief purpose of state-sponsored violence. Hundreds of thousands of veterans die before they even get to see a doctor. In the meantime, however, fat cats in D.C. receive golden parachutes and access to elite and entirely free health care for the rest of their lives -- for sending these soldiers into harm's way.

Smedley Butler walked the walk. He had the street cred to say what he said and people listened. Unfortunately, he was only one man. However, when Smedley Butler was alive, printing his antiwar rhetoric in the newspapers was taboo. Luckily, for Butler and the rest of the world, we have the internet and no army can stop an idea whose time has come.

Butler's peaceful words live on, but it is up to us to keep spreading them.

Happy Birthday, Marines. May your next one and all the ones after, be spent with your loved ones - at home and in peace.

Matt Agorist is an honorably discharged veteran of the USMC and former intelligence operator directly tasked by the NSA. This prior experience gives him unique insight into the world of government corruption and the American police state. Agorist has been an independent journalist for over a decade and has been featured on mainstream networks around the world.

Follow @MattAgorist