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Profile: Smedley Butler
Positions that Smedley Butler has held:
- US administrator of Haitian genderarmerie (1915-1917)
Smedley Butler was a participant or observer in the following events:
US President Woodrow Wilson sends US forces to Haiti in an attempt to prevent Germany or France from taking it over. Haiti controls the Windward Passage to the Panama Canal and is seen as strategically critical. The Haitian government is near insolvency at this time and is significantly in debt to foreign corporations. German companies control almost 80 percent of Haitian trade. US forces will occupy the country until 1934. [Rogozinski, 1992, pp. 238-239] A few weeks later, the US State Department installs Senator Philippe Sudre Dartiguenave as the head of state. “When the National Assembly met, the Marines stood in the aisles with their bayonets until the man selected by the American Minister was made President,” Smedley Butler, a Marine who will administer Haiti’s local police force, later writes. [Rogozinski, 1992, pp. 239; Common Dreams, 3/10/2004]
The US drafts a constitution for Haiti, which notably excludes a provision from the country’s previous constitution which had prohibited foreign ownership of land. Under the US-drafted constitution, foreign investors would be able to purchase fertile areas and establish sugar cane, cacao, banana, cotton, tobacco, and sisal plantations. But the Haitian legislature finds the US-proposed constitution unacceptable and continues working on a new document which would reverse the terms of the 1915 treaty (see November 11, 1915), giving control of Haiti back to its own government, and which would leave the previous constitution’s land restrictions intact. When a copy of the document is sent to Washington, it is quickly rejected by the US State Department which complains that it is “unfriendly” and instructs that its passage be prevented. But the Haitian lawmakers continue their work with plans to quickly ratify the new constitution and then impeach Haitian President Dartiguenave on the basis of the new document’s provisions. To prevent its passage, Dartiguenave orders US Marine Smedley Butler to dissolve the Haitian legislature, which he does as they are preparing to vote on the new constitution. Smedley claims that the measure is necessary in order “to end the spirit of anarchy which animates it [the Hatian legislature].” [Rogozinski, 1992, pp. 240; Common Dreams, 3/10/2004]
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