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Major General Smedley Butler was the most decorated marine in US history. As he fought his way through the First World War, this man from a Quaker family gradually came to see that his troops were dying, not for democracy and patriotism, but for the profits of the arms industries and millionaires.
For example, chemical manufacturers DuPont earned $6 million a year before the conflict started, but made profits of $58 million per annum during the war. Vast profits made out of the blood of young men slaughtered or maimed on the field of battle.
The same with the steel manufacturers, whose profits rose from $6 million per year to $49 million p.a.
Similar extortionate profits were made by other industries such as copper, nickel, coal, cotton, leather, chemicals and food. In Butler’s words, WWI cost Uncle Sam $53 trillion (nine noughts), of which $39 trillion was spent on the war itself, and $16 trillion ended up as profits for the few. “This is how 21,000 billionaires and millionaires got that way.”
He accused the banks of taking the cream of the profits. One nice little earner they came up with was the Liberty Bond. These were sold to the US public at $100 each, and bought back after the war at $84 by deliberately depressing the market.
It was the same in Britain and France (and Germany). And it still is today.
My own father benefitted from this profitable largesse in one way. The Tyneside arms manufacturer Armstrong (yes that really was his name) was a philanthropist on the side. He not only built the landmark Tyne bridge in Newcastle, he funded the building of a college named after himself, which was the Newcastle campus of the University of Durham down the road. My Dad, Richard Turner of Whitley Bay, was the President of the Students’ Union of Armstrong College in (I think) 1928.
Related Zingcreed Posts:
Conscientious objectors in the UK today
Jesus and non-violence
Now that’s what I call practical Christianity #1: Shannon
Crimes of the bourgeoisie #3: American imperialism
The spiral of violence
Butler, Smedley “War is a racket” (1935) available as an ebook
Maunders, Richard “The fighting Quaker’s change of heart” Morning Star 9-10 November 2013
Gilby, Nicholas “The no nonsense guide to the arms trade” New Internationalist (2009)
Campaign against the arms trade (CAAT) Unit 4, 5-7 Wells Terrace, London N4 3JU