David Swanson is a longtime peace and justice activist and author of 'War Is a Lie'
If Bradley Manning turns out to be the hero he appears to be, he will not be the first "detained" at Quantico.
In fact, Quantico once locked up the most decorated Marine in history, a Marine who would have been running the Marine Corps rather than getting locked up by it if he had known how to brown-nose the swivel-chair commanders as he called them, a Marine who had helped create Quantico years before, the first senior officer in the U.S. military to be arrested in the 65 years following the Civil War, and a serious fearless principled democratic hero whose heroism had nothing to do with the nasty tasks he took on as a U.S. Marine.
And do you know what they locked him up for? For revealing that Benito Mussolini had run a little girl over in his car and not even stopped.
And do you know what this Marine's most heroic deed was, one still to come after his Quantico "detention"? He foiled a plot to overthrow President Franklin Roosevelt and install himself as a puppet dictator for Wall Street. He turned down power, just as Bradley Manning turned down riches and risked his future life.
Have you guessed that I'm talking about Smedley Darlington Butler? If not, please sue the U.S. Department of Education. It has let you down, ripped you off, and swindled every one of us.
Prior to his detention at Quantico Marine Base in Virginia, Smedley Butler had conquered the Boxers and taken over Beijing, single-handedly destroyed democratic hopes in Nicaragua and Haiti, ruled Haiti as an all-powerful Marine-Corps-Imperial-Consul, turned a disease-ridden swamp where US troops were dying in France before even making it to the front in World War I into a clean and healthy city from which troops could courageously depart to kill and die and be mentally ruined, and served as Director of Public Safety in Philadelphia in which job he enforced the prohibition of alcohol on the high and mighty thus earning their eternal hatred.
Then Butler, much beloved by World War I veterans, let slip that remark about Mussolini's murdering of a little girl with his sports car. President Hoover and his Secretary of State Henry Stimson, who was already scheming to get a second world war going, were outraged, as was the corporate and pro-fascist US media. Butler was immediately confined to a house (better than Manning's six-foot cell) at Quantico. But the public was outraged at Hoover and Stimson, and evidence came out to support Butler's story. He also told a story about Hoover himself. During a siege in China at the time of the Boxer Rebellion, Butler said, he and his troops had been disgusted to find an American engineer hiding and cowering in a basement with women and children. They had dragged him out, roughed him up, and forced him to take up duty on the city wall; and that man had been Herbert Hoover.
Butler was released from Quantico, just as Manning should be, and was restored to full rank but shortly chose to retire. Butler became a writer and a public speaker and produced the powerful denunciation of U.S. foreign policy that is "War Is A Racket," explaining in "Common Sense" magazine:
"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 … safe for American oil interests. 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 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 … Looking back on it, I feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate in three city districts. We Marines operated on three continents."
Butler rallied the spirits of World War I vets as they camped in Washington D.C. demanding to be compensated. Douglas MacArthur then Mubaraked the veterans with bullets and teargas and chased them out of town, earning the scorn of all survivors, forever shaming the U.S. government, preventing a second term for Hoover, and making the GI Bill following the next global spree of mass-murder almost inevitable. (And you thought starting a war in Korea and trying to get a THIRD world war going was the ugliest thing MacAurthur had done.)
When the war profiteers and Wall Street plutocrats who had opposed compensating the veterans later hatched a plot to create a fascist dictatorship and remove FDR from office, MacArthur promised them the support of the US Army, but even the banksters understood that the half-million angry veterans they sought to use wouldn't follow MacArthur as far as they could throw him. There was only one man they would follow unquestioningly, and that was Smedley Butler.
The society "to maintain the Constitution" (the Tea Party couldn't have named it better) tried to recruit Butler. He led them on and then ratted them out to a congressional committee. Too big to jail, then as now, the plotters, including George W. Bush's grandpa, were not prosecuted for treason but did agree to stop fighting against the New Deal. The New York Times, Washington Post, and Time Magazine attacked Butler, and the history books obediently excised this little incident from our children's education during the past 75 years, but Congressman John W. McCormack, chair of the House Un-American Activities Committee credited Butler with saving the republic.
If we do what needs to be done, Bradley Manning may someday receive similar praise.
Pick up a book called "Devil Dog." It even has cartoon pictures.
David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie" http://warisalie.org
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