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Why Smedley Butler Left The Imperialist Front Despising ‘Gangsters Of Capitalism’ by Daniel Larison

New book shows how the American general’s contempt for ‘the racket’ was born during his service in the 20th century ‘small wars.’ Smedley Butler was one of the most decorated Marines in U.S. history, and by the end of his life he was also one of the most outspoken critics of the U.S. imperialism that he had spent most of his life enforcing. That contradiction between Butler the antiwar critic and Butler the builder of empire is at the heart of an important new book by Jonathan Katz, Gangsters of Capitalism: Smedley Butler, the Marines, and the Making and Breaking of America’s Empire. Katz’s book is an essential reminder of what the U.S. did during those decades and of the lasting effects that those interventions had on the countries where Butler went. Butler took part in America’s so-called “small wars” in Asia, the Caribbean, and Central America in the early twentieth century. Like those wars, his military career has mostly been forgotten by the American public. That career was defined by aggressive military interventions on behalf of corporate interests, and by the end he was disgusted by it. As the author of War Is a Racket, Butler has been an inspiration to many antiwar and anti-imperialist Americans over the years, but he was also one of the military officers responsible for implementing destructive American colonialist designs at the expense of other nations. Twice awarded the Medal of Honor, he never believed he had done anything to deserve it, and the massacre that he took part in at Fort Rivière in Haiti haunted him.

From Dr. Vernon Coleman
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