July 4, 2007

Smedley, Take Me Away

In honor of the 4th o' July, here's a tribute to a great american hero, Smedley Butler.

Even though his real name was more retro than hula hoops, his nicknames go even further to prove the man as great: "old duckboard", "old gimlet eye", and "the fighting quaker". And what a fighting quaker he was. He fought in Mexico, Cuba, China (the Boxer Rebellion), Honduras, and Haiti. He got the medal of honor twice and actually tried to give it back once because he didn't believe that he earned it. Now, that's a mensch.

Old Duckboard became director of public safety in Philadelphia during prohibition and did such a good job of cracking down on corruption that he was fired. Although I haven't found any mention of angry yelling, the rest of the story sounds like vintage Phili.

He also exposed an attempted coup by business interests which plotted to overthrow FDR. There's a bit of exciting history I don't remember seeing in any school books. Basically, in 1933, a bunch of wealthy industrialists unhappy with FDR's populist New Deal policies like social security and the WPA tried to enlist Old Gimlet Eye to become a military dictator and rule with their interests in mind. They chose Butler due to his immense popularity among veterans and service men at the time. The Fighting Quaker would have none of it. He turned them in and to no one's surprise no the whole affair was investigated enough to show that Butler was probably right and then dropped.

A lot that aforementioned popularity came from his support of the marches of the Bonus Army which in and of itself is a fascinating chapter in American history.

And of course, Smedley spent his post military years advocating for peace, exposing the collusion between foreign policy and American industrial interests, and speaking out against the military-industrial complex.

Here's a famous quote from his book, War is a Racket:
I spent 33 years and four 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 safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti 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 the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927, I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested.

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