The US has been targeting civilians for a long time but pretending that all such deaths are accidental, aka “collateral damage”.
By PETER VAN BUREN
for The American Conservative
With pictures, captions, and short notes by Lasha Darkmoon
WHAT AMERICA DID TO VIETNAMESE CHILDREN
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said, “civilian casualties are a fact of life in this sort of situation,” referring to America’s war against the Islamic State. And yet the fighting now in Mosul and Raqqa is destroying civilians and their homes on a medieval scale. How can America in clear conscience continue to kill civilians across the Middle East? It’s easy. Ask Grandpa what he did in the Good War. Civilian deaths in WWII weren’t dressed up as “collateral damage”, they were deliberate policy.
Following the institution of what some claim are looser rules of engagement under the Trump administration, U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria killed 1,484 civilians in March 2017 alone. Altogether some 3,100 civilians have been killed from the air since the U.S. launched its coalition war against Islamic State, according to the NGO Airwars. Drone strikes outside of the ISIS fight killed 3,674 other civilians. In 2015 the U.S. destroyed an entire hospital in Afghanistan, along with doctors and patients inside. Whole neighborhoods in Raqqa are being systematically leveled.
That all adds up to a lot of accidents – accidents created in part by the use of Hellfire missiles designed to destroy tanks employed against individual people, and 500 pound bombs that can clear a football-field sized area dropped inside densely inhabited areas. The policy of swatting flies with sledgehammers, surgical strikes with blunt instruments, does indeed seem to lead to civilian deaths, deaths that mock the definition of “accident.”
Yet despite the numbers killed, the watchword in modern war is that civilians are never targeted on purpose, at least by our side. Americans would never intentionally kill innocents.
Except we have.
The good guys in World War II oversaw the rapid development of new weapons to meet the changing needs of killing entire cities’ worth of innocents. For example, in Europe, brick and stone construction lent itself to the use of conventional explosives to destroy cities. In Japan, however, given the prominence of wood construction, standard explosives tended to simply scatter structures over a limited area. The answer was incendiary devices.
To fine-tune their use, the U.S. Army Air Force built a full-size Japanese village in Utah. They questioned American architects who had worked in Japan, consulted a furniture importer, and installed tatami straw floor mats taken from Japanese-Americans sent off to internment camps. Among the insights gained was the need for incendiary devices to be made much heavier than originally thought. Japanese homes typically had tile roofs. The early devices tended to bounce right off. A heavier device would break through the tile and ignite inside the structure, creating a much more effective fire.
Far from accidental, firebombing Japan had been planned in War Plan Orange, written long before Pearl Harbor. As far back as the 1920s, U.S. General Billy Mitchell had said Japan’s paper and wood cities would be “the greatest aerial targets the world had ever seen.” Following the outline in War Plan Orange, the efforts were lead by Curtis “Bombs Away” LeMay, who expressed his goal as “Japan will eventually be a nation without cities, a nomadic people.
LD notes: A correspondent writes to me:
“If the Japanese people were aware of all the evils inflicted upon them by the US, they would stop sucking up to America and aping its sexual degeneracy and Cultural Marxist mores. After South Korea, Japan happens to have the second highest per capita consumption of pornography in the world. Makes you wonder: why South Korea ad Japan? I’ll tell you why. Both South Korea and Japan are US-occupied territories, like Germany. American bases scattered around everywhere, local women constantly being raped by US troops, brothels galore catering to American tastes. The Japanese would do well, IMHO, to align themselves with China and Russia against the common Judeo-Amercan enemy.”
Sobering words. But will the Japanese read them and take remedial action? [LD]
LeMay also helped run the U.S. bombing campaign against North Korea during that war, claiming that American efforts killed some 20 percent of the civilian population. The man many call the architect of the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara, worked for LeMay during the WWII firebombing campaign. McNamara as Secretary of Defense went on to order the use of napalm in Vietnam, often against undefended civilian targets. The accidents of civilian deaths in war turn inside tight circles.
The skill with which America tuned its WWII firebombing into an exquisite way to destroy civilians reached its peak on March 10, 1945, when three hundred American B-29 bombers flew virtually unopposed over Tokyo’s most densely populated residential area. They dropped enough incendiary bombs to create a firestorm, a conflagration that burned the oxygen out of the air itself.
What was accomplished? One hundred thousand dead, a million people made homeless. The raid remains the single most destructive act of war ever committed, even after Hiroshima.
TOKYO FIRESTORM, 9 MARCH 1945
Te charred body of a woman who was carrying a child on her back
LD: Here is an instructive quote which paints a graphic picture of what firebombing an entire city entails:
“The fire spread so swiftly that windstorms twirled around swirling vortexes that sucked people, homes, debris into the flames. Flames spread so fast that even when there was a way to run where there was no fire, it was often too late. Clothes burst into flames and so did any packages people held. People who jumped into waterways often boiled alive. People on the bridges jumped into the water as the steel grew hot. It’s important to remember that death estimates range from 80,000 to 200,000 dead Japanese citizens, and most of them were innocent bystanders.”
The general public, lulled into apathy by government propaganda using euphemisms like “collateral damage”, would be horrified if they knew the chilling truth about the mass murders committed in their name. [LD]
The problem, however, for the U.S. with such raids was their inefficiency in killing civilians. The logistics of sending off 300 planes were daunting, especially when an hour or two of unexpected wind or rain could negate much of effort. There was no question firestorms were the very thing to systematically commit genocide in Japan. But what was needed was a tool to create those firestorms efficiently, and to make them weather-proof.
It would only take science a few more months after the Tokyo firebombing to provide that tool.
A single atomic bomb meant one plane could do the work of 300. And the bomb would create a fire so powerful and large and hot that weather would have no effect; it was foolproof. There could be no better weapon for destroying whole cities and all of the people in them, and it has only been used by one nation — the United States.
They used the atom bomb twice, because the 85,000 killed in Hiroshima were not enough.
These were tactics of vengeance matched with weapons designed to carry them out as horribly as possible. They worked well: the firebombing campaign over Japan, including the atomic bombings, purposely killed more than one million civilians in just five months in 1945.
BURNED ALIVE AT HIROSHIMA
It was only after WWII ended, when accurate descriptions from Hiroshima began finding their way back to America, that the idea of firebombing as a way to shorten the war, to spare lives in the long game, came into full flower. The myth, that the atomic bomb was in fact a reluctant instrument of mercy, not terror, was first published in Harper’s Magazine in February 1947 under the name of Secretary of War Henry Stimson. The actual writing was done by McGeorge Bundy, who later as National Security Adviser helped promote the American war in Vietnam that took several million civilian lives.
The majority of Americans, recovering their consciences post-war, were thus nudged into seeing what was actually a continuation of long-standing policy of civilian genocide in Japan as an unfortunate but necessary step toward Japan’s surrender, and thus saved innumerable lives that would have been lost had the war dragged on. This thinking lives on today on politically correct ground under the banner of great powers having to reluctantly put aside what is moral in peace for what is expedient in war. A “fact of life,” according to the U.S. Secretary of Defense.
So look deeper into history if you want to understand the morality-free rise in civilian deaths across America’s battlefields in the Middle East. We don’t like to think of ourselves as the kind of people who willfully kill innocents, but we were pleased by it only a skip back in history; your grandfather flew missions over Japan to burn children to death. Accidents of course happen in war, but there is a dark history of policy that demands skepticism each time such claims are made.
HIROSHIMA AND NAGASAKI
“Your grandfather flew missions over Japan
to burn children to death.”
Sourced from The American Conservative
What is July 4th to US Imperialism? What is it to the Oppressed?
What does America’s national celebration mean to those under the heel of “Manifest Destiny,” at home and abroad? “For the victims of US imperialism, the 4th of July is indeed a ‘hollow mockery’ and ‘mere bombast, fraud, and deception’ as Frederick Douglass so eloquently put it in his famous speech.”
first published on July 4, 2014
“The Declaration of Independence implicitly legalized the enslavement of Black people and the genocide of Native people within the context of the developing American capitalist nation-state.”
July 4th is once again approaching and principled left forces need to use the day as a teaching moment. In a speech given on July 4th, 1852, Frederick Douglas spoke before a packed Rochester Hall and did just that, highlighting the hypocrisy that stains the July 4th celebration of the American Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence, as Douglass emphasized, held no worth to the millions of Black people in the United States whose existence was subjected to the racism and exploitation of chattel bondage. Over a century and a half later, the celebration of July 4th remains not only a practice of hypocrisy, but also a blatant co-sign US imperialist plunder all over the planet.
Liberty, independence, and equality are abstract ideas. Their presence in the Declaration of Independence must be placed in proper political-historical context. White capitalists, many of them slave-owners, wrote the Declaration of Independence. Independence from the British Crown for the American, slave-owning colonial bourgeoisie meant the ability to develop a settler colonial-capitalist order free from the British Empire’s restrictive policies. Most notably, the likes of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were concerned about a British mandate to abolish chattel slavery in its colonies, a policy that had the potential to severely weaken the colonial bourgeoisie and prevent further expansion of the capitalist system in North America. The Declaration of Independence implicitly legalized the enslavement of Black people and the genocide of Native people within the context of the developing American capitalist nation-state.
“The likes of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were concerned about a British mandate to abolish chattel slavery in its colonies.”
This is the type of “liberty” that is celebrated annually every 4th of July. Douglass addressed the antagonisms brought forth by the July 4th “holiday” when he asked:
“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; y our national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.”
Douglass’s indictment of the American way of life remains true. Despite the relentless misinformation war waged by the US imperialist corporate media and education system, the conditions of oppressed people are far worse now than they were at the date of Douglass’s speech. Black America and Native peoples reside in the US in a state of neo-slavery. As indigenous nations battle against President Obama’s pipe-line incursions for survival under genocidal exclusion in forced residence on reservations, Black America’s masses live with the daily colonial realities of police-state terror, mass imprisonment, and economic and social death. Undocumented immigrants, many of whom are indigenous Chicanos, are super exploited for their labor and have been deported in record numbers by Obama Administration. The internal landscape of US imperialism is by definition the highest stage of Anglo-American settler colonialism, the founding social system that inspired Douglass’s July 4th analysis.
The US settler state is now an imperialist one that ensures the exploitation and misery of billions of people around the globe. The US has nearly 1000 military bases all over the world and spends trillions per year in overt and covert military operations. Recent corporate media focus has been on the re-invasion of Iraq to “protect” the Iraqi state from terrorist insurgents. This ignores the 1.6 million Iraqi people that died during the decade-long US occupation alone. Imperialist rhetoric of bringing “stability” to Iraq flies in the face of the fact that the US military-intelligence apparatus sponsors ISIS and other terror groups all over the Middle East and North Africa inside the allied nations of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the rest of the GCC and NATO alliances. US imperialism is scorching the earth, either by militarizing neo-colonial allies or conducting “humanitarian intervention” to justify overt invasion, as was the case in Libya and now again in Iraq. For the victims of US imperialism forced to live under imperialist political instability and economic dependence, the 4th of July is indeed a “hallow mockery” and “mere bombast, fraud, and deception” as Douglass eloquently put it in his speech.
“Black America’s masses live with the daily colonial realities of police-state terror, mass imprisonment, and economic and social death.”
In the era of Obama, US imperialism has been very vocal in its disregard for humanity. In 2010, President Obama joked that he would “predator drone” the Jonas Brothers band, making a mockery out the thousands of people his Administration has murdered by drone strike. The Obama Administration’s left-flank imperial politics has branded imperialism and corporate exploitation with anti-Black racism (see Obama’s 2013 Morehouse graduation speech) and fascist nationalism (see Obama’s 2014 West Point Commencement speech). Additionally, Hilary Clinton is making quite a name for herself in mainstream political discourse after stating on CNN that “Just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay.” This answer came after the question of immigration was raised in relation to the thousands of children that have been crossing the border of Mexico from Central America. The architects of imperialism are exposing their own illegitimate system, and by extension, the sham that July 4th represents. The ruling class’s vocal and visible ruthlessness is both a signal of decay in the US imperialist system and of the political crisis among left forces in the US that allow such brutality to be carried out with impunity.
In the spirit of Frederick Douglass, this July 4th should be a moment not of celebration, but of deep reflection for left political forces. What does “American Independence” really mean? Does it mean the freedom for US imperialism to destabilize nations, murder millions, and force the world into its political and economic sphere of influence? Does it mean the independence for US imperialism to imprison the largest number of (mostly Black) people in the world? Is “liberty” defined by the US imperialist system’s centuries-long colonization of Native and Black America, now taking form in the privatization of entire cities like Black Detroit? The answer is yes to all of the above. The masters of deceit can’t and won’t end the imperialist system the July 4th holiday represents. Only we can do that. Instead of going out to celebrate this farcical holiday, let’s organize our communities and people in the direction of liberation from the US imperialist system.
Danny Haiphong is an activist and case manager in the Greater Boston area. You can contact Danny at: firstname.lastname@example.org.