by Jonathan Myerson Katz
St. Martin's Griffin
A groundbreaking journey tracing America's forgotten path to global power--and how its legacies shape our world today--told through the extraordinary life of a complicated Marine.
Smedley Butler was the most celebrated warfighter of his time. Bestselling books were written about him. Hollywood adored him. Wherever the flag went, "The Fighting Quaker" went--serving in nearly every major overseas conflict from the Spanish War of 1898 until the eve of World War II. From his first days as a 16-year-old recruit at the newly seized Guantánamo Bay, he blazed a path for empire: helping annex the Philippines and the land for the Panama Canal, leading troops in China (twice), and helping invade and occupy Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Mexico, and more. Yet in retirement, Butler turned into a warrior against war, imperialism, and big business, declaring: "I was a racketeer for capitalism.
Award-winning author Jonathan Myerson Katz traveled across the world--from China to Guantánamo, the mountains of Haiti to the Panama Canal--and pored over the personal letters of Butler, his fellow Marines, and his Quaker family on Philadelphia's Main Line. Along the way, Katz shows how the consequences of the Marines' actions are still very much alive: talking politics with a Sandinista commander in Nicaragua, getting a martial arts lesson from a devotee of the Boxer Rebellion in China, and getting cast as a P.O.W. extra in a Filipino movie about their American War. Tracing a path from the first wave of U.S. overseas expansionism to the rise of fascism in the 1930s to the crises of democracy in our own time, Gangsters of Capitalism tells an urgent story about a formative era most Americans have never learned about, but that the rest of the world cannot forget.
"Like Butler himself, Katz's book is singular and hard to pin down... an exhilarating hybrid of studious history and adventuresome travelogue." -- Jacobin
"A taut, unnerving account...By following Butler's bloody trail around the world, Katz thoughtfully reckons with empire's true cost" -- Daniel Immerwahr, professor of history at Northwestern University and author of How to Hide An Empire
"The book is far more extraordinary than even the life of Smedley Butler... a compelling and insightful meditation on the trauma people still feel as a result of Butler's career and the American ambitions it represented." -- The Washington Post
"In an unsettling era in which Americans have been forced to contemplate the possible demise of their global empire, the remarkable life story of Smedley Butler is a primer on how that empire was wrought out of a string of long-obscured 'small wars, ' coups and interventions a mere century ago... A clear-eyed, excitingly-told look at that history, and a bracing, necessary read for our times." --Jon Lee Anderson, author of Che Guevara: a Revolutionary Life
"An excellent, excellent book. Katz writes really beautifully about very ugly things. I couldn't recommend this book more highly." -- Spencer Ackerman, author of Reign of Terror
"A relevant, readable effort to link past American colonialism to the present impulse to install homegrown leaders for life." -- Kirkus
About the Author:
Jonathan Myerson Katz received the James Foley/Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism for reporting from Haiti. His first book, The Big Truck That Went By, was shortlisted for the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction and won the Overseas Press Club's Cornelius Ryan Award, the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award, and the WOLA/Duke Book Award for Human Rights in Latin America. His work appears in the New York Times, Foreign Policy, and elsewhere. Katz was a New America national fellow in the Future of War program, and received a fellowship from the Logan Nonfiction Program. He lives with his wife and daughter in Charlottesville, Virginia.