The Last Attempted Coup in America

Major General Smedley Darlington Butler, U.S. Marine Corps

Since we seem to be sidling up to an attempted coup d’état by the current occupant of the White House, it might behoove us to remember the last time one was attempted in the history of the United States.

In 1934, a group of fascist American industrialists who hated FDR, progressives, liberals and Democrats attempted to recruit former Marine Corps Brigadier General Smedley Butler — a soldier’s soldier if ever there was — to lead an army of 500,000 veterans of WWI in a march on Washington where they would depose the elected government and declare martial law. It was, in essence, an attempt to ape the march on Rome by Italian Blackshirts under the command of Benito Mussolini in 1922.

Two years earlier, in 1932, Butler had addressed the Bonus Army in Washington DC, which was a collection of nearly 50,000 former military men asking Hoover for their military bonus so that they could feed their families as the Great Depression ground down upon the land. The coup plotters — a group who called themselves the Liberty League — presumed that a fire-and-fury Marine like Butler would be easy pickings. They’d promise him a leadership role, maybe even make him the head honcho in a post-coup America.

Only Smedley was having none of it. He went to the meetings. He got all their names. He learned all their plans. Then he dimed them all out to the United State Congress and personally put the kibosh on the greatest threat to American democracy since the Civil War.

As we once again stare down the barrel of an extra-legal takeover of our nation — as the President hollows out the civilian command positions at the Pentagon and Secretary of State Pompeo claims there will be “a smooth transition to a second Trump Administration,” we sure as hell could use some military men like Brigadier General Smedley Darlington Butler in positions of power and authority today.

Will we find them ready to stand tall when the moment comes?

Time will tell. But if not, we’ve got to be ready ourselves. Do not trust the son-of-a-bitch in the White House to do what’s right. We may need to chase him down Pennsylvania Avenue, yet.

This ain’t over.

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Oh, and Happy Birthday United States Marine Corps! 245 Years Young!

Once a history teacher in Brooklyn, Mike took a sabbatical in 2004 to travel through Latin America. He never returned. He lives and works in Guatemala.

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