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War Crimes in the Name of Freedom: 227 Years....

by John Stanton Tuesday, Jul. 01, 2003 at 10:26 PM

As Americans prepare to celebrate their Independence Day this July 4, 2003, with a grandiose glorification of ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—and wars from days past--it’s worth remembering those millions of civilians and/or non-combatants who have died at the hands of unconstrained and psychopathic American power.

“Great power imposes the obligation of exercising restraint, and we did not live up to this obligation.” That according to Leo Szilard, the Manhattan Project physicist commenting on the United States and its decision in August of 1945 to obliterate non-military targets Hiroshima (70,000 dead instantly with 210,000 total deaths) and Nagasaki (40,000 dead instantly with 200,000 total deaths) in Japan. When the United States of America takes its place in the graveyard of empires, its tombstone will display Szilard’s words alongside the inscription, “Born in violence, practiced violence and came to a violent end.” Americans fancy their society as a peaceful, freedom loving enterprise when the reality is that Americans are brutally competitive and adversarial in every aspect of their lives. And they are warlike to the core. Is it any wonder that in America, the easiest act for the US government to carry out is war?

As Americans prepare to celebrate their Independence Day this July 4, 2003, with a grandiose glorification of ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—and wars from days past--it’s worth remembering those millions of civilians and/or non-combatants who have died at the hands of unconstrained and psychopathic American power. The US government has a long history of reengineering and downsizing populations that get in the way of freedom loving Americans and their business interests. Each and every American has the blood of the world on his/her hands. And freedom is going to get even bloodier as history, it turns out, is an excellent guide.

Kill ‘Em All

Prior to those fateful days in August of 1945, the US Target Committee met in May of 1945 and discussed the need for following up those two days of nuclear infamy with B-29 incendiary raids. “The feasibility of following the raid by an incendiary mission was discussed. This has the great advantage that the enemies' fire fighting ability will probably be paralyzed by the gadget [atomic bomb] so that a very serious conflagration should be capable of being started.” The US Target Committee, anxious to collect data on the “gadget’s” performance recommended a 24 hour waiting period before letting loose the B-29’s to vaporize any humans or structures that might have survived the “gadget’s” output.

In February of 1945 in Dresden, Germany, the United States--and its coalition partner Great Britain--were engaged in the firebombing slaughter of scores of German civilians and refugees fleeing the Soviet Army’s advance. According to “Dresden was a hospital city for wounded soldiers. Not one military unit, not one anti-aircraft battery was deployed in the city. Together with the 600,000 refugees from Breslau, Dresden was filled with nearly 1.2 million people. Churchill had asked for "suggestions on how to blaze 600,000 refugees. He wasn't interested in how to target military installations 60 miles outside of Dresden. More than 700,000 phosphorus bombs were dropped on 1.2 million people. One bomb for every 2 people. The temperature in the center of the city reached 1600 degrees centigrade. More than 260,000 bodies and residues of bodies were counted. But those who perished in the center of the city could not be traced. Approximately 500,000 children, women, the elderly, wounded soldiers and the animals of the zoo were slaughtered in one night…Others hiding below ground died. But they died painlessly--they simply glowed bright orange and blue in the darkness. As the heat intensified, they either disintegrated into cinders or melted into a thick liquid--often three or four feet deep in spots.”

Writing in World War II magazine, Christopher Lew points out that the Americans incinerated Tokyo, Japan in March of 1945 via firebombing raids killing 100,000 civilians. The US government engaged in military campaigns such as Operation Starvation meant to deny food supplies to the population. Every city in Japan was targeted in a ruthless, murderous and calculated manner. Yet, the Emperor of Japan’s residence was considered off limits by US commanders (the rationale being he would be an asset in the post-war era). “For three hours over Tokyo, 334 B-29s unleashed their cargo [including napalm] upon the dense city below. The fires raged out of control in little less than 30 minutes, aided by a 28-mph wind. Even the water in the rivers reached the boiling point. The fire was so intense that it created updrafts that tossed the gigantic B-29s around as if they were feathers. Officially the Japanese listed 83,793 killed and 40,918 injured. A total of 265,171 buildings were destroyed, and 15.8 square miles of the city were burned to ashes. It was the greatest urban disaster, man-made or natural, in all of history.” The slaughter of the Japanese and their cities was unrelenting and so insidiously effective that the US military ran out of targets.

Of course, the US government has never been content just to annihilate those pesky civilians in other lands. There’s always work to be done right here in the United States. Whether rounding up Arabs in 2003 and locking them away or engaging in genocide in the 1800’s, the US government has a long history of reengineering and downsizing populations that get in the way of freedom loving Americans. For example, in 1830 the Congress of the United States passed the Indian Removal Act according to President Andrew Jackson quickly signed the bill into law. In the summer of 1838, US Army General Winfield Scott led his men in the invasion of the Cherokee Nation. In one of many bloody episodes in US history, men, women, and children were taken from their land, herded into makeshift forts with minimal facilities and food, then forced to march a thousand miles--some made part of the trip by boat in equally horrible conditions. Under the indifferent US Army commanders, an estimated 5,000 native Americans would die on the Trail of Tears.

The Tradition Continues: Make War Not Love

Thanks to its penchant for war and belief in its divine invincibility, worldwide polls now show that the United States is a reviled nation. Little surprise there. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld shrugs off the deaths of 10,000 civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is equally without pity for the American troops now dying each day in both failed military campaigns. Attorney General John Ashcroft—who now likes to be addressed as General Ashcroft—presides over an American justice system which has stripped away the rights of all Americans to due process and other rights formerly guaranteed under the Bill of Rights. In the US, accused serial killers and rapists have more access to legal assistance than an individual suspected of terrorism. And for the first time, America has more of its citizens incarcerated and executed than any nation on the planet. “With liberty and justice for all” seems meaningless as the United States flaunts the fact that it runs a death camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and that its foreign and domestic policies include torture, assassination, and eavesdropping on any person it deems a threat to national security.

America has been at war since 1775. Indeed, the US has never been at peace. The following are considered major conflicts: Revolutionary War (1775-1783), War of 1812 (1812-1815), Mexican War (1846-1848), Civil War (1861-1865), Spanish American War (1898), World War I (1917-1918), World War II (1941-1945), Korean War (1950-1953), Vietnam War (1964-1972), and the Gulf War I (1990-1991). And that list excludes the invasion of Panama, Grenada, Serbia, Gulf War II and a whole slew of covert actions that overthrew governments the world over. The future holds Iran, North Korea, Syria, Colombia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and, arguably, the entire planet.

Unfortunately, war is the defining characteristic of the US government and a majority of its people. American freedom depends on war and their economic system demands it. “Under capitalism, corporations that produce weapons make huge profits from these weapons of war and therefore are happy both to prepare for war and to engage in war. You prepare for war, you have all these government contracts, and make all this money, and you engage in war and you use up all these products and you have to replace them,” according to Howard Zinn.

Is there any hope of breaking away from a bloody history celebrated mindlessly each July 4th? Will Americans ever live up to the ideals set forth in the US Constitution? Can they break the habit of war?

“War has always diminished our freedom,” says Zinn.

“When our freedom has expanded, it has not come as a result of war or of anything the government has done but as a result of what citizens have done. The best test of that is the history of black people in the United States, the history of slavery and segregation. It wasn't the government that initiated the movement against slavery but white and black abolitionists. It wasn't the government that initiated the battle against racial segregation in the 1950s and 1960s, but the movement of people in the South. It wasn't the government that gave the people the freedom to work eight hours a day instead of twelve hours a day. It was working people themselves who organized into unions, went out on strike, and faced the police. The government was on the other side; the government was always in support of the employers and the corporations.

The freedom of working people, the freedom of black people has always depended on the struggles of people themselves against the government. So, if we look at it historically, we certainly cannot depend on governments to maintain our liberties. We have to depend on our own organized efforts.”

Only the American people can stop war.


John Stanton is the author (along with Wayne Madsen) of America’s Nightmare: The Presidency of George Bush II, May 2003, available at and Copyright J Stanton 2003.
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