True Courage: Smedley Butler – Forgotten Freedom Fighters

What is true courage? Is it rushing to defend your country? Is it defending your family? Is it standing up for your rights? All of these things certainly could be true. There are many traits that define a great and ethical person. Courage, will, knowledge, a strength of character and a desire for truth can all be defining characteristics for a freedom fighter. The truth is that these “powers” are intrinsically connected and Smedley Butler had them all. He was an exceptional man of peace who survived the Racket known as war.

Smedly Butler was born July 30th, 1881. His father was a member of the House of Representatives from the state of Pennsylvania. When he was just shy of 17 years old, Butler enlisted in the Marine Corps. After he lied about his age, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant. His military career began in the Spanish American War. This military career would take him all over the world. In Mexico, Butler received his first of two Medals of Honor. The citation for the first medal reads, “For distinguished conduct in battle, engagement of Vera Cruz, 22 April 1914. Major Butler was eminent and conspicuous in command of his battalion. He exhibited courage and skill in leading his men through the action of the 22d and in the final occupation of the city.”

Again, Butler was deployed to a new post. While in Haiti, which never seems to be at peace, he received his second Medal of Honor. The citation for this reads, “For extraordinary heroism in action as Commanding Officer of detachments from the 5th, 13th, 23rd Companies and the Marine and sailor detachment from the U.S.S. Connecticut, Major Butler led the attack on Fort Rivière, Haiti, 17 November 1915. Following a concentrated drive, several different detachments of marines gradually closed in on the old French bastion fort in an effort to cut off all avenues of retreat for the Caco bandits. Reaching the fort on the southern side where there was a small opening in the wall, Major Butler gave the signal to attack and Marines from the 15th Company poured through the breach, engaged the Cacos in hand-to-hand combat, took the bastion and crushed the Caco resistance. Throughout this perilous action, Major Butler was conspicuous for his bravery and forceful leadership.”

At the onset of World War I, Butler was disappointed to have not been given a combat post. Instead, he was given a promotion to Brigadier General as well as command of Camp Pontanezen in France. This base was a staging ground for US forces. Due to his leadership, he was given even more medals, including The Army Distinguished Service Medal and The Navy Distinguished Service Medal.

After leaving the military, Butler was not done being a hero. During WWI, the soldiers were promised a veterans bonus. The government, as usual, could not be trusted to actually help its people. The men who bled in the trenches of Europe were going hungry at home. The great depression had brought the economy to its knees. The State failed to care about these brave men. Smedley Butler again rose with his fellow men to oppose injustice, this time at the hands of his own Government. In June 1932, around 43,000 people marched on Washington.

This “Bonus Army” made camp and awaited Congressional action. After a long wait, the men became unruly. Two of the marchers were shot, which caused a riot. Men who had fought for this nation in far-off lands were killed by its police force for trying to feed their families. The motion to pay them failed.

Butler and his son arrived at the camp and encouraged the “Bonus Army.” It is here that the beginnings of Butler’s book, “War is a Racket,” would be born. During the encampment, he gave a speech about what President Eisenhower would eventually call, “The Military Industrial Complex.” With this leadership, the government became afraid of what might be brewing in the ranks of these former soldiers camped just down the road. The government sent in the Calvary, literally, with gas. That’s right; they gassed them, dispersed the camp and made an enemy out of the most decorated Marine in history. Smedley Butler began to speak out against war profiteering and military adventurism.

In the book “War is a Racket,” Butler had this to say, “I spent 33 years and 4 months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico,” where he received his first Medal of Honor, ”safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti,” medal number 2, “and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for American fruit companies in 1903. In China, in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was operate his racket in 3 districts. I operated on 3 continents.”

Seeing that Butler was opposed to the government’s policies, a group of men in 1934 sought him out. This group was, according to Butler, trying to overthrow the government and install a Fascist regime on the behalf of business interests. Although he certainly opposed the actions of the State, he saw that these men and their plans were no better. They had wanted to use him as a puppet for public support while centralizing power. Smedley Butler again showed his “powers” and bravely stood up for what was right and appeared before Congress, blowing the whistle on this plot.

We see the issues that Smedley Butler faced all around us. The corruption of government is still on display for all to see. I think that sometimes, the people who have been involved with war and the racket that it is are the right ones to bring the evil of war and the government’s use of violence and murder to light. This man was everything the US government wanted in a soldier. He was a natural leader, willing to make the hard choices. It was in his character to drive forward with courage for a cause he believed in. Smedley Butler had the will of a lion. Yet, it was these same qualities that led him to the knowledge that war was nothing more than a tool for governments and corporations to turn blood into gold. It was wrong, and with his strength of character, Smedley Butler would not let it stand.

We, today, in the Freedom Movement have many issues that we stand for. None are more important than Peace. War is the ultimate affront to everything that freedom is. In war, a government takes control of your very life and throws it across the world for its own interests without as much as a hesitation. The State spends our money on bombs and bullets while they sit in their ivory tower and watch like it is simply a board game. Even more sickening, like it did with the “Bonus Army”, it refuses to take care of the people it harmed on the battlefield. Today we see that in the government’s refusal to effectively treat PTSD and the veteran suicide epidemic with the effective medications, like marijuana. War, as Butler pointed out, is a racket, and it is one that we will end in my lifetime. I hope that as you read this post, you too are ready to stand like Smedley Butler did against the moneyed interests murdering for profit.

In 2020, we as Americans have the opportunity to, once and for all, say no to violence, coercion, theft, and murder. We have taken a stand and say, without hesitation, that these crimes against nature and humanity have breathed their last breath. Adam Kokesh is running for the Libertarian Party Nomination for President of the United States on the platform of the peaceful, responsible dissolution of the entire federal government. Our campaign is growing. With inspiration from people like Smedley Butler, together, we will Finally Free America.

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