Politics 11 November 2011Posted by marisacat in 2012 Re Election, Inconvenient Voice of the Voter, Italy, WAR!.
A ferocious great white shark looks like it is having a laugh as it smiles for the camera. Dyer Island, Cape Province, South Africa. [Mike Parry/Minden/solent]
A post at Counterpunch yesterday had a little story on Smedley Butler I had never heard before (the article is on Cain and Il Duce, snicker!)…
and it goes well with the open-mouthed great white:
[B]utler was a very colorful and entertaining public speaker who used obscenities and didn’t mince words; if he felt someone needed to be raked over the coals, he was unafraid to do it. When he was the commander at Quantico Marine base, he introduced Secretary of the Navy Charles Francis Adams, a man he did not like, to some of his officers by saying, “Gentlemen, I want you to meet the Secretary of the goddamn Navy.”
It was in such a frame of mind that Butler took on Benito Mussolini. It was 1931, and Butler was giving a breakfast speech on “how to prevent war” to a gathering at the Philadelphia Contemporary Club. In the speech, he told about an unnamed journalist who had interviewed Mussolini while riding with him in a speeding Fiat touring car. When a peasant child dashed into the street, the car plowed right over him.
“My friend screamed,” Butler told his audience. “Mussolini put a hand on my friend’s knee. ‘It was only one life,’ he told my friend. ‘What is one life in the affairs of a State?’”
Smelling gossipy blood, the US press ran the story heavily, and Il Duce was furious; he denied the story categorically. Herbert Hoover’s Secretary of the State Henry Stimson sympathized with Mussolini and defended him. General Butler was ordered to publicly apologize to Mussolini. When he refused, he was court-martialed. In the end, the raw and eloquent Butler went public and won the day, humiliating Stimson and Hoover and keeping his rank and position in the Marine Corps. [See Maverick Marine: General Smedley Butler and the Contradictions of American Military History by Hans Schmidt for a wonderful account of Butler’s life.]
The anonymous journalist Butler cited riding with Mussolini turned out to be Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr., the magnate’s son who traveled the world as a journalist during a time when the US business class was keen on people like Mussolini.
The New York Times and Time magazine both supported Mussolini’s side of the story and editorialized that Butler and the US government owed him an apology. The New York Tribune wrote this: “The Fascisti movement is – in essentials – a reaction against degeneration through Socialistic internationalism. It is rough in its methods, but the aims which it professes are tonic.”
Colliers magazine published stories that emphasized the post-WWI chaos in Italy and Il Duce’s strong-man charms that “represented the triumph of law and order over anarchy and radicalism. …‘Normalcy’ was the catchword of the times, for Italy as well as for America.” [John Higgins, Mussolini and Fascism: The View From America.]
Vanderbilt insisted on remaining anonymous during the Butler episode in 1931, but in a 1943 book – after Mussolini became an official “bad guy” in the US capitalist pantheon – Vanderbilt ‘fessed-up and recounted the tale, supporting Butler’s story. What Mussolini actually said was apparently a bit different from the words Butler had put in his mouth. Here’s Vanderbilt’s version:
I heard a shriek and saw a group of children waving flags. I turned my head quickly. There was a shapeless little form lying in the road back of us.
“Look, Your Excellency,” I shouted.
“Never look back, my friend. Always forward,” he answered without turning his head, and we roared on into the night.
Have a laugh, I just read this about the departure of Berlusconi…
Former European Commissioner Mario Monti, who is expected to replace the billionaire media magnate, was welcomed with applause when he took his place in the upper house after being appointed a Senator for life by President Giorgio Napolitano. …