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War is a Racket. It's Official.

In his day he was the most decorated Marine in U.S. history, he received the Medal of Honour twice and belonged to the highest authorized rank recognised at the time, U.S. Marine Corps major general. However Smedley Darlington Butler was also famous for making the rather bold claim that, “War is a Racket!” Butler did this in a short pamphlet of the same title which he published in 1935. Using World War I as an example Smedley Butler points to many examples where industrialist made enormous profits supplying the war effort and all at the expense of the ordinary tax payer. The publication was split into five chapters that were titled; ‘War is a racket’, ‘Who makes the profit?’, ‘Who foots the bills?’, ‘How to smash this racket!’ and ‘To hell with war!’

Smedley Butler

Smedley Butler said the following in the pamphlet, "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." (Wikipedia - War is a Racket


Butler claimed that the U.S. involvement in World War I made as many as 21,000 of its citizens millionaires who were operating at profit margins that were sometimes as high as 1800%. Butler was keen to emphasise that not only was the average hard working citizen paying the bill, he was also risking his life in the very same wars the industrialists were making a fortune out of.


Another high ranking individual in the U.S. to speak out on this issue was President Dwight D. Eisenhower who himself was a five star general during World War II. In his Farewell Address to the Nation of 17 January 1961, he said the following:


“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Dwight D. Eisenhower during his Farewell Address to the Nation of 17 January 1961 in which he spoke of the military-industrial complex. 

By military-industrial complex Eisenhower was referring to the complex triangle in which the industrialists manufacturing the arms can lobby politicians who approve the military spending and can also contribute to the campaign funds of the same politicians. At times the whole thing can revolve around a slightly incestuous loop.


Critics have claimed that in addition there is also a military-industrial-media complex. This is where the same industrialists manufacturing the arms also own a number of branches of the media through which they can easily influence public opinion. One cited example of this is General Electric which manufactures components for military aircraft and is a subcontractor on leading missile systems. Until quite recently General Electric was the owner of NBC, National Broadcasting Company and co-owners of Universal Studios.

GE Aviation

GE Aviation, a subsidiary of General Electric, manufactures jet engines for both commercial and miliatry use.

A report by the Public Accountability Initiative found that during the public debate that took place in the media as to whether the U.S. should go to war with Syria, 22 of the experts consulted had direct links with the defence industry (Public Accountability Initiative - Conflicts of interest in the Syria debate). One of these experts taking part in the debate and who was once the national security advisor to George W. Bush, Stephen Hadley, happens to be a director of Raytheon who manufactures the Tomahawk cruise missiles. In addition to his $128,500 a year salary he also owns 11,477 shares in the company. The report by the Public Accountability Initiative also found that seven of the think tanks consulted during the debate had significant ties to the defence industry either through funding or its members were directly employed in the industry. 


Stephen Hadley

Stephen Hadley, a director of Raytheon, the world's largest manufacturer of guided missiles, speaking on CNN LIve on the situation in Syria. 

Another cited example of conflict of interest involved member of the Military Construction Appropriations Subcommittee (MILCON) and ninth wealthiest member of Congress, Dianne Feinstein (Project Censored - Feinstein's Conflict of Interest in Iraq). As a member of MILCON from 2001 to 2005 she supported the awarding of contracts to the URS Corporation and Perini Corporation, two companies that her husband Richard C. Blum happened to be a majority shareholder in. As a result of such contracts, the fortunes of Perini Corporation changed dramatically for the better. 


It has also been revealed that Members of Congress personally invested a combined total of $196 million in companies contracted by the Pentagon. These companies provide goods and services to the tune of 100’s of millions of dollars a day for the U.S. military (USA Today - Lawmakers have as much as $196M invested in defense). Senator John Kerry had invested between $28.9 million and $38.2 million of his finances in companies with Pentagon contracts. It was also revealed that representatives of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees had invested a total of between $3 million and £5.1 million in companies directly involved in weapons manufacture or who provided goods and services for the military. 

An arms fair

A prospective client at an arms fair.

Military spending in the U.S. far exceeds any other country in the entire globe. Indeed U.S. military spending is larger than the combined total of the following countries; China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and India. When the U.S. itself is also included, this list happens to comprise the top 9 military spending nations of the world (Wikipedia - List of countries by military expenditures).


The annual military expenditure of the U.S., which amounts to some $640 billion, should be directly compared to the U.S. national debt which currently stands at a total of $17.7 trillion. This national debt amounts to a debt of $55,505 for every man, woman and child in the country. To put the figures into further perspective a national debt of 17.7 trillion would not quite cover 28 years of military spending at the rate of $640 billion per annum. We have to ask ourselves therefore, can the U.S. really afford such a rate of military spending or, as Smedley Butler himself asked, is war just a racket? 

Javelin Missile

A FGM-148 Javelin missile being fired. Used in Afghanistan they come with quite a price tag.

The cost of expendable military equipment used during times of conflict can be quite alarming. For example every time a FGM-148 Javelin missile is fired in the war in Afghanistan it costs $78,000 and this is all paid for by the average tax payer. The missile is currently used in the conflict to take out sniper posts as its range is far greater than that of small arms. The AGM-114 air-to-surface missile which can be fired from helicopters and fixed wing aircraft and which is also currently being used in Afghanistan, comes with a price tag of $110,000 a shot.


The way things are going at the moment, not only is the world becoming a far less safe place to live with more wars sponsored by the arms industry stoking up further bitterness, hatred and political rebellion, but the gross military overspending will almost inevitably lead to further global economic crises. National debt resulting from this military spending is steadily mounting and the yearly interest on this debt is always paid for by the average tax payer. At the end of the day this debt is a burden to both the individual and the economy in general. The people of the world in principal desire peace and prosperity, and democracy combined with diplomacy usually supply this. However the old, old story of politicians’ greed for money, prestige and power leads the world in the direction of war and ever mounting debt.   

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