Monthly Archives: February 2022

Jonathan Katz GANGSTERS OF CAPITALISM: Smedley Butler, The Marines, and the Making and Breaking of the American Empire

This interview was first broadcast as the sovereign nation of Ukraine was being invaded by the Russian Army. Terrible as this was, it was also an appropriate time to examine our own history, which Jonathan Katz has done in his most recent book, GANGSTERS OF CAPITALISM: Smedley Butler, The Marines, and the Making and Breaking of the American Empire, published in January 2022 by St. Martin’s Press.

He is an award winning journalist, whose earlier book, The Big Truck That Went By, chronicles his time in Haiti, where he was the only full-time American correspondent in Haiti, when the devastating earthquake struck on January 12, 2010 and the ensuing disasters brought on by the multiple failures of international aid projects. More than 230,000 people were killed.

As he describes in our interview, Smedley Butler was there from the very beginning of the United States’ imperialism, first as a 16 year old lieutenant in the Spanish-American War, when we secured Guantanamo Bay, then on to Puerto Rico, The Philippines, China, Honduras, Panama, Nicaragua, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

After a long career in the Marines, in which he pioneered counter-insurgency methods and the militarization of police forces to enforce the prerogatives of capitalist oligarchs, who he eventually came to understand were calling the shots, he retired with the rank of General, the most decorated Marine in history, as well as the first of only 19 Marines to have been awarded the Medal of Honor twice.

He became the Head of Public Safety for the City of Philadelphia, where he militarized that city’s police force. He eventually synthesized his experiences and understanding from his years subduing nationalist forces in those many countries – as well as battling gangsters in Prohibition era Philadelphia – to write his book, War Is a Racket, published in 1935.

He wrote, ”War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small ‘inside’ group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.”

He spent his final years promoting democracy here in the United States and fighting fascism here and abroad, as well as trying to prevent what became World War II. Smedley Butler died of cancer at the age of 59 on June 21, 1940.

This edition of Forthright Radio ends with a tribute to Dr. Paul Farmer, who died on on February 21, 2022 at the age of 62. It is followed by Paul Farmer’s own voice speaking of his work.

 

Links to articles pertinent to this interview:

Gorsuch Calls for Overruling ‘Shameful’ Cases on U.S. Territories https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/02/us/politics/gorsuch-supreme-court-insular-cases.html?searchResultPosition=1

Civil Rights Groups To Biden DOJ: Stop Using 100-Year-Old Racist Precedents In Court https://www.huffpost.com/entry/biden-doj-insular-cases-racism_n_620bc80ae4b032302470eae8

As Honduras’s New President Seeks End to Narco-State, Will US Stand in Her Way? https://truthout.org/articles/as-hondurass-new-president-seeks-end-to-narco-state-will-us-stand-in-her-way/?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=75f265c3-570c-48ec-a36c-8c3be3ffa4c4

Former Honduras President Detained After a U.S. Extradition Request https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/15/world/americas/honduras-president-juan-orlando-hernandez-detained.html?searchResultPosition=3

Dominican Republic begins building border wall with Haiti https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/2/21/dominican-republic-begins-building-border-wall-with-haiti

Paul Farmer, Pioneer of Global Health, Dies at 62 https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/21/obituaries/paul-farmer-dead.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage&section=Obituaries

A Moment in the Sun a novel by John Sayles

John Leshy OUR COMMON GROUND: A History of America’s Public Lands

John D. Leshy is Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. He was Solicitor (General Counsel) of the Interior Department throughout the Clinton Administration. Earlier, he was counsel to the Chair of the Natural Resources Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, Associate Solicitor of Interior for Energy and Resources in the Carter Administration, an attorney-advocate with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and a litigator in the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. He led the Interior Department transition team for Clinton-Gore in 1992 and co-led it for Obama-Biden in 2008.

The U.S. government owns and manages more than six hundred million acres, which is about 30% of the nation’s land. These lands and the agencies that manage them—the National Forest Service, the National Park Service, the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management—are a presence in our western communities.

John Leshy’s forthcoming book, OUR COMMON GROUND: A HISTORY OF AMERICA’S PUBLIC LANDS, soon to be published by Yale University Press. In 600+ pages, it chronicles this history of our public lands and suggests how Congress, the executive and the federal courts have responded to the numerous challenges facing these lands.

Articles pertinent to this interview:

Judge halts oil and gas leases in Gulf of Mexico; the largest offshore auction in U.S. history https://www.salon.com/2022/02/05/halts-oil-and-gas-leases-in-gulf-of-mexico-the-largest-offshore-auction-in-us-history_partner/

Guest column: The U.S. Forest Service’s access contradictions https://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/opinions/guest_columnists/guest-column-the-u-s-forest-services-access-contradictions/article_3564cf1a-adda-5beb-9593-1c1a51026bc7.html

Guest column: Making progress on access in the Crazy Mountains https://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/opinions/guest_columnists/guest-column-making-progress-on-access-in-the-crazy-mountains/article_5c773a1e-9456-53e9-9d7e-8f5206f0f3ac.html

Plan to Reduce Feral Cattle in New Mexico Draws Objections https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/08/us/feral-cattle-gila-national-forest.html

Activist Renew Push for Moratorium in Jackson State Forest – Six Arrested https://www.counterpunch.org/2022/01/11/activists-renew-push-for-moratorium-in-jackson-state-forest-six-arrested/

Native Americans are at the heart of Yellowstone. After 150 years, they are finally being heard https://www.theguardian.com/environment/commentisfree/2022/feb/28/native-americans-are-at-the-heart-of-yellowstone-after-150-years-they-are-finally-being-heard-aoe