Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Days of Wine and Putsches

A little regarded footnote to American history concerning a fascist plot in the mid 1930s to takeover the American government has caused certain conspiracy historians to regard the affair as another example of the peril which the country faced and faces with respect to the plutocrats who rule this nation. Alas, after careful examination of this case, a more sophisticated explanation is required to understand the episode of Smedley Butler and his recruitment to this plot.

In July 1935, Gerald MacGuire approached Smedley Butler (1882 – 1940), the illustrious and retired Major General of the United States Marine Corp, to present a speech endorsing a return to the gold standard at an upcoming American Legion meeting. Butler, who was no friend of financial types, questioned the relevance of such a pitch to his overriding concern about the Bonus Marchers. MacGuire told him that such a reinstitution was required as a precondition for the bonus payments to World War I veterans arguing that paying them in fiat dollars was unfair.

Butler was quite indignant with the offer but smelling a fishy story, he humored MacGuire and his associate, Bill Doyle of the Massachusetts American Legion, in order to find out more about their intentions and backers. Through a series of subsequent meetings with MacGuire and Robert S. Carter, an heir to the Singer Sewing Machine fortune, Butler found out that the real reason for their interest in his services was to lead a soldier’s movement which would replace Roosevelt.

These men, with millions of dollars at their disposal, would create a grass roots solider movement, modeled on the French Croix de Feu, organizing 500,000 veterans to march on Washington to relieve President Roosevelt of his executive duties due to declining health. In his place Butler would assume the newly created position of Secretary of General Affairs while Roosevelt functioned as ceremonial president.

MacGuire pursued Butler doggedly over the next 5 months with various blandishments appealing to his ego, pocket book, patriotism, or another vulnerability he could exploit. After accumulating as much information as he could – including fulfilled predictions made by MacGuire which validated his bonafides in part, Butler took his story to an old newspaper friend Tom O’Neil at the Philadelphia Record who assigned reporter Paul Comly French to investigate the story independently for corroboration before approaching authorities.

When French completed his task, Butler approached Congress where he met with Representative Thomas McCormack, future Speaker of the House, and Representative Samuel Dickstein who opened an executive session committee to investigate the allegations from Butler.

They first took Butler’s testimony followed by MacGuire’s who in turn categorically denied or forgot every material point which Butler made. The committee then subpoenaed bank records from MacGuire which substantiated those parts of Butler’s testimony involving money. The committee was also able to document MacGuire’s trip to Europe from where he sent reports about European fascist groups to his backers. In short, Butler’s testimony was confirmed in key respects while MacGuire was caught in numerous perjuries.

Since the Congress was winding down its term, the committee hastily concluded its business after calling Mr Carter to testify in early January 1935. It soon issued a report and told the public that it would seek funding to continue further investigation in the new Congress – funding which was not forthcoming.

A circus ensued in the press with Time magazine mercilessly ridiculing Butler – a fate which he had anticipated before going forward with his information. When the New York Times reported the findings of the committee a chorus of denials was issued by all of the accused players which included some powerful men of Wall Street such as the du Pont and Morgan people. The howling of scorn and laughter was deafening.

One contemporary investigator discovered that transcripts of the proceedings had been excised, from which many of the conspiracy and cover-up allegations stem. The story had enough tantalizing murkiness to lead the History Channel to investigate the entire affair in a documentary segment but they pooh-poohed it as a hoax or misunderstanding on Butler’s and (amateur) historians’ parts.

The McCormack-Dickstein committee produced a vague report confirming the broad veracity of Butler’s allegations but essentially swept them under the rug. Why would such explosive allegations with credible support be given such short shrift?

In the first place, no credible threat could be substantiated from the testimony. Yes, Butler had been recruited to lead a plot; but no, there was no palpable manifestation of a plot. Therefore there was little for the committee to act upon. Its findings were sent to the Attorney General who promptly filed them away for historical reference.

So was there a plot to overthrow the government? And did powerful forces squash the investigation over the earnest attempts of Congress to combat the plutocrats? In both cases the answer is no. But that is not the end of the story.

Even during his last days in the Marine Corp, Butler had begun to make outspoken criticisms of war and the powerful industrialists who fomented it for their financial gain. He had seen firsthand the power these men wielded and the costs in life and limbs which the poor soldiers had to make – not for protecting their country but for protecting the financial interests of the plutocrats.

After retiring from the Marines, Butler’s attacks became more vociferous and relentless. He was in great demand as a speaker and used his time before his audiences to expose the true state of affairs.

A powerful bankster is willing to endure only so much criticism before he takes actions to squelch his opponents. The recruitment of Butler to take part in a plot to overthrow Roosevelt was a grand intelligence operation to silence Butler through ridicule. If the plutocrats could bribe Butler to take charge of a putsch, they could dispose of him as a traitor. If he took his story to the authorities, they could deny it and ridicule him for it, thus discrediting him. Either way they would be rid of a nuisance who was exposing their criminal and psychopathic greed.

As it turns out, the Congressional committee handled it in such a way that MacGuire and his backers lost credibility but suffered no meaningful consequences. Butler was given a face saving way out of the quandary. Whether McCormack-Dickstein understood the implications of the banksters’ operation is unclear but the net effect was a preservation of Butler’s integrity even if he was royally roasted in the press to which his constituents paid no heed and he remained in demand as a speaker.

The referenced book - though not a scholarly treatment of the Butler affair, it is very informative, especially the parts disclosing how the Marines were used to accomplish the goals of the banksters in very corrupt interventions in Latin America affairs. It is a very quick and worthwhile read.


The Plot To Seize the White House, Jules Archer

Copyright 2010-12 Tony Bonn. All rights reserved.

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