Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 48 Share on Twitter Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 9/13/19

Smedley Butler's Speech Against War in Charlottesville in 1937

By       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   1 comment
Follow Me on Twitter     Message David Swanson
Become a Fan
  (140 fans)

I didn't know until recently that Smedley Butler had ever been to my town. Then I heard that he'd spoken at the University of Virginia here in Charlottesville in 1937. The University of Virginia had the speech tucked away in its stacks and was kind enough to dig it out. It's pasted below.

If you haven't heard of Smedley Butler and don't know why he's a major hero to Veterans for Peace and peace advocates in general (as well as having been a Major General), I can try to summarize his incredible life in a few sentences. The man ought to be a hero to opponents of fascist marches, which, by the way, have also come to Charlottesville.

Smedley Butler was a true believer in all patriotic and militaristic hogwash. He lied about his age to join the Marines early. He distinguished himself with insane courage and leadership skills in wars in China and Latin America. He ruled over Haiti. He was a World War I hero. He was put in charge of prohibition in Philadelphia until he enforced the law against the wealthy. He was the most decorated Marine there had been and remains one of the most decorated members of the U.S. military ever. He ran the base at Quantico and was himself imprisoned in it as a penalty for having made public that close-U.S.-ally Benito Mussolini had casually run over a little girl with his car.

Butler was a beloved hero of veterans and leader of their struggles to be paid their bonuses among other demands. A group of some of the wealthiest individuals in the nation made a study of fascist movements in Europe and attempted to hire Butler to lead a coup against President Franklin Roosevelt. Butler exposed the plot, and Congressional hearings confirmed his revelations. Historians believe that without Butler's refusal, the plot might very well have been carried through.

Butler denounced war in countless public speeches and rejected his past career as a racket dealing death in the service of Wall Street. He was as passionate and dedicated and fearless in his opposition to organized mass murder as he had previously been in his support of it. As evidence of that claim, I offer the following speech, on Butler's letterhead with his typed and hand-written edits:

At this time, the U.S. military was rapidly preparing for war with Japan, and peace groups were holding demonstrations against war with Japan a war that didn't come until 1941.

Read that last question again. In 1937, that was a rhetorical question. The answer was obvious. In the post-World War II world of permanent war, the answer is far less obvious and far more perverse. Politicians have been made as wary of "appeasement" as of aggression, if not much more so.

Propaganda has of course long since established that attending to one's own business is sinful "isolationism," even though Butler, like most "isolationists" makes very clear in the next breath that he's not talking about isolating anyone.

Next Page  1  |  2

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).

Must Read 3   Supported 2   Valuable 2  
Rate It | View Ratings

David Swanson Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War," "War Is A Lie" and "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union." He blogs at and and works for the online (more...)
Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Follow Me on Twitter     Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Obama's Open Forum Opens Possibilities

Public Forum Planned on Vermont Proposal to Arrest Bush and Cheney

Feith Dares Obama to Enforce the Law

Did Bush Sr. Kill Kennedy and Frame Nixon?

Can You Hold These 12 Guns? Don't Shoot Any Palestinians. Wink. Wink.

Eleven Excellent Reasons Not to Join the Military

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend