In the Service of Empire
We aren't bombing Sadam,
but the citizens of Iraq
Over a million people have died
due to the American bombing of Iraq
The blood is on our hands...
Our media and government present the situation as if it is our unalienable right to bomb another nation. There is speculation by Republican legislators that the timing of this bombing has to do with deflecting the nation's attention from the looming impeachment vote on Bill Clinton. But nobody in power is questioning our righteousness in bombing Iraq, except for some of our allies. France, China and Russia, on the United Nations Security Council, are voicing their protest, making this action unilateral on the behalf of the U.S. and Great Britain.
What is most disturbing, as this saga has been unfolding over the last eight years, is how justified Americans feel in invading and bombing any nation they wish. In recent months we bombed Afghanistan and Sudan. We invaded Panama in 1989 without a shred of legal standing to justify our invasion. We respect no nation's sovereignty but our own. We carried on a proxy war against Nicaragua for years to overthrow a popular revolution, and our undertaking was condemned by the World Court. We propped up the terror state of El Salvador for many years as they slaughtered their population. We have been carrying on economic warfare against Cuba for almost forty years. It is painfully clear that any nation not populated by white people is fair game. What is nearly incredible to me is that most Americans apparently feel justified in all these invasions and bombings. The only rationale for these behaviors is the philosophy that might makes right. We invade and bomb other nations at will because we are the world's most powerful nation, and nobody will stand up to us.
The rhetoric our politicians and media always serve up is that there is some honorable cause behind our violent actions. I have yet to see one instance of that clearly being the case, going back to the founding of our nation. Arguments can be made for the World Wars, as the white people fought over who would control the world, yet we came out on top. I do not know of one instance in the last fifty years where our mass murders have been justified by any notion of noble intention. We have invaded or overthrown or manipulated about fifty nations since World War II. And every single time it was really being done in the name of empire and greed. There has never been a global gangster like the United States. The United States has always been more of an empire than a nation.
Greedy, murderous people, sometimes called our Founding Fathers, carved out the borders of our nation. George Washington, the richest man in America when he became president, getting rich by stealing land from the natives, presented a plan in 1782 to swindle the natives out of their land by forcing them to sign treaties the United States would never honor. Washington proposed a plan of deception and low-intensity violence as the cheapest way of wresting the land from the natives. The U.S. government swiftly adopted Washington's plan, and the natives of what is now the United States were robbed of nearly all their land.(1) Relocation, extermination and concentration camps (euphemistically called reservations) accompanied the hundreds of fraudulent treaties that were forced on the natives. The other epic Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and a slave owner like Washington, had a philosophy almost identical to Washington's greedy ambition. Jefferson wrote to a future president, William Henry Harrison (who based his political career on fighting the natives), that removing the Indians from their land should be done using business methods. Jefferson wrote that the best way to do it would be to run the Indians into debt at the trading posts and settle the bill by having them cede their lands.(2) Jefferson wrote that any native who resisted the United States' imperial ambitions for their land should be met with "the hatchet", and their choice was to be "extirpate(d) from the earth" or get out of the way. Hitler couldn't have said it any better. The machinations of Jefferson and Washington came after nearly two centuries of genocide of the natives where the thirteen colonies were.
Natives or other European nations having claims to the land would not thwart the imperial ambitions of America. After "buying" the Louisiana Purchase from Napoleon (too bad the natives who lived in those lands were not consulted), Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark on a reconnoitering mission across the continent in 1803, to see what rich lands might be further exploited, and to further sketch the ultimate reach of empire. Following in the wake of Lewis and Clark was the vanguard of invasion, like trappers and traders. When gold was eventually found in the Western lands, waves of Americans looking for free land and gold swarmed westward. The natives west of the Mississippi were annihilated in about fifty years, as the empire grew. American immigrants seized Texas from Mexico in 1836, adding it to the American Empire in 1846. Also in 1846 President James K. Polk sent General Zachary Taylor and his army into Mexico to provoke Mexico into fighting them, and the U.S. quickly started a war in 1846 that stole the American Southwest from Mexico in one prodigious land grab. Those imperial ambitions were given a quaint name, Manifest Destiny, as if God was sanctioning the bloody and greedy expansion of the American Empire. Taylor, whose military career was built by killing natives in battle, was so successful at stealing half of today's Western United States that he became president in 1848.
When the slave-owning states tried breaking away from the empire, they were forcibly brought back into the fold by the Civil War.(3) American imperial ambition knew no bounds, and extended to manufacturing a war with Spain to seize Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines in 1898. The U.S. made grand speeches that their seizure of Cuba had no imperial ambition behind it, a sentiment anybody can judge by looking at our posture toward a truly independent Cuba today: our politicians can barely restrain themselves from calling for an invasion of Cuba, and we have been waging economic warfare against them for almost forty years. And their speeches regarding Cuba were further belied by the fact that the United States stole Hawaii from the Hawaiians in 1893.
There is nothing in U.S. history that suggests that the U.S. was doing anything other than expanding a new kind of empire. With the official boundaries of the empire complete by 1900, the next fifty years saw two World Wars as the powers that came late to the empire game, namely Germany and Japan, wanted their own empire, but the other European powers and the U.S. already "owned" the whole world. After World War II the U.S. found itself in the position of being the only truly global power in the history of the world, unseating its parent and rival, Great Britain. With half of the world's wealth and two-thirds of its industrial capacity, the U.S. was in an unprecedented position of global hegemony.
Declassified internal federal documents of the post-war years have given us a look into the intentions of the men who ran the U.S. government. The post-war U.S. planners were quite frank while discussing secretly among themselves how to guide foreign policy. Documents like National Security Council Memorandum 68, written in 1950 by Paul Nitze (who would later be a member of the Reagan Administration), were quite open about U.S. foreign policy. NSC-68 was a right wing document, written for the Secretary of State, which was candid about turning America into a police state in order to marshal the forces to overthrow the Soviet Union. Those were the same years the United States was hiring the Nazis to act as our spies, funding Nazi-related armies to foment discord in the Soviet Union, and the wonder years of the McCarthy Hearings and the executions of the Rosenbergs for a crime they likely did not commit.(4)
The famous diplomat George Kennan authored Planning Policy Study 23 in 1948 for the State Department, where he admitted that we were the world's richest country by far, and our foreign policy goal should be to maintain that position of disparity with the world. Kennan wrote that the way to do that would be to dispense with the unrealistic goals of "human rights, the raising of living standards and democratization. The day is not far off when we're going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better." I have seen nothing that has happened in the last fifty years to hint that the U.S. foreign policy has ever been guided by any other principles.
Once in awhile even American soldiers figure out what they are really fighting for, and it's virtually never for freedom. One of America's most respected military leaders, Major-General Smedley Butler, after running the U.S. Marines for generation, finally figured it out. In an interview with Money magazine, published in December 1951, Smedley assessed his career.
"There isn't a trick in the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. It has its 'finger men' to point out enemies, its 'muscle men' to destroy enemies, its 'brain guys' to plan war preparations, and a 'Big Boss,' Supra-nationalistic Capitalism.
"It may seem odd for me a military man, to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to do so. I spent thirty-five years and four months in active service as a member of our country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks, from second lieutenant to Major General. During that period I spent most of my life being a high class muscle man for big business, for Wall Street, and for the bankers. In short I was a racketeer - a gangster for Capitalism.
"I suspected I was just part of the racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all members of the military profession I never had an original thought until I left the Service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation, while I obeyed the orders of the higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military.
"Thus I helped to make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped to make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenue. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1909 to 1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China in 1927 I helped Standard Oil.
"During those years I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. I was rewarded with honors, medals, and promotion. Looking back on it, I feel that I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was operate in three city districts. I operated on three continents.
Butler eventually wrote a book titled War is a Racket. Butler was one of the most decorated soldiers in U.S. history. His military career ended in the 1930's, long before we began justifying our international depredations as a reaction to the Soviet Union's ambitions. Since World War II America's military gangsterism has only gotten worse, as we have few rivals. We are truly a global power. Also the United States is far more sophisticated than it used to be. After World War II the United States formed spy agencies like the CIA and National Security Agency to use cloak and dagger strategies to stay number one. Instead of boldly marching in the soldiers and overthrowing governments like Butler regularly did when he ran the Marines, organizations like the CIA have specialized in trying to hide the hand of the United States.
One way to hide our hand is by hiring proxies to do the dirty work, attempting to create the appearance of a legitimate revolution in the nations our government plunders. The Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba was one of numerous instances of American proxy armies acting on our behalf. The Contras in Nicaragua were another band of mercenaries that we hired, and Ronald Reagan had the gall to call them "freedom fighters." The list of democratically supported/elected governments overthrown/destabilized by the United States since 1945 is quite long, beginning as the dust was still settling in Europe after World War II, like what we did in Italy and Greece. The U.S. even used Japanese troops in China in 1945 to try suppressing the Communist revolution just getting underway. The list of legitimate governments we overthrew in order to install bloody dictators since 1945 is long and grim, and a few of the countries we raped that way were: Iran, 1953; Guatemala, 1954, Indonesia, 1965; Vietnam, 1950s and 1960s; Brazil, 1964; Ghana, 1966; Chile, 1973, and the list goes on and on.(5) Once again, sending in the Marines is usually the tactic of last resort, when the more clandestine methods fail to produce the desired result. We boldly invaded Vietnam in the 1960s, Grenada in 1984, Panama in 1989, and we bombed the smithereens out of Iraq in 1991. We conducted a secret war in Cambodia, a very questionable war in Korea, and have even destabilized governments in nations like Australia when their leaders didn't prove servile enough. All in all, the United States has in one way or another bludgeoned about fifty nations since World War II, as it makes sure global capitalism and American supremacy stays unchallenged.
No longer is it outright colonialism, where the Queen of England would officially rule over far-flung realms. Today it is corporate colonialism, where the people still don't get to eat the food they grow, but the food, oil and other resources go to the industrialized world, and the people of the subjugated nations suffer greatly. The last time I looked, of the poorest forty nations in the world, thirty-six exported food to the United States.(6) The mechanisms of oppression differ from the good old colonial days. Today institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund keep the game rigged against the working people of the world, particularly in what we used to call the "Third World." Structural Adjustment Programs and other policies make sure the people can barely eat as they make shoes for Americans in Indonesia, or toys for American children in Southeast Asia. International treaties like NAFTA and GATT (and the failing MAI) are designed to make the world safe for corporate profits at the expense of the workers and environment. Their dire state is the result of centuries of exploitation by Europe and its political descendents like the United States.
What is going on in Iraq as I write this is merely more of the same. It is no accident that the United States had its Persian Gulf "war" soon after the Soviet Empire collapsed. The only power that could stay our hand in the Middle East was gone, and we were able to march a tremendous army into the Middle East and engage in the biggest bombing of all time, using Iraq as a testing ground for new weapons. We specifically targeted the infrastructure of Iraq when we bombed them. We targeted their electric, transportation, water and sewer systems. What we did to Iraq had no rationale related to "expelling" them from Kuwait. Even the British press said that our bombing amounted to "biological warfare." During our turkey shoot in Iraq in 1991, our troops committed many acts that by the standards of Nuremberg and the Geneva Convention qualified as war crimes. By the Nuremberg standards that we imposed on the Nazi hierarchy in 1945, George Bush should have gone to the gallows instead of an all-time public approval rating. Ex-Attorney General Ramsey Clark has been futilely trying to get the United States prosecuted for war crimes for several years now because of what they did to Iraq. Winners never have to face war crimes trials: only losers do.
In the wake of the unprecedented bombing of Iraq in 1991, the United States has engaged in economical warfare against Iraq, this time using the United Nations as its proxy. Without the United States bending arms and exerting great pressure, there would be no economic embargo against Iraq today. But the embargo is standard American foreign policy. We have always done it to any nation that has dared to stand up to us. We have economically embargoed Cuba for almost forty years. After our failed invasion of Vietnam our government embargoed the area for a generation, even going to the extreme of trying to prevent international aid groups like Oxfam and Mennonites from helping those countries. Our diplomats could have taught Machiavelli and the Marquis de Sade a thing or two.
The economic embargo against Iraq, though, has been unprecedented in its severity. Iraq was an industrialized nation before 1991. The life expectancy of an Iraqi citizen was literally higher than that of a United States citizen in 1990 (according to UN data). The destruction of Iraq's infrastructure, and the continuing economical warfare that the United States is practicing against Iraq, is one of the greatest crimes against humanity perpetrated in this half of the century. Over one million Iraqi citizens have died as the result of the situation, and most of them have been children under the age of five. In 1995 the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization issued a report on the state of Iraq's health and food supply. The report is grim reading. Starvation conditions like kwashiorkor and marasmus, once the province of desperate places like Ethiopia and Sudan, are now common in Iraq. The United States has been turning Iraq into one large death camp. Iraq used to purchase 70% of its food from abroad. The sanctions stopped that. In the wake of enough Americans and others making noise about this inhumane behavior on the part of the United States, an oil-for-food program was initiated. It has helped, but not nearly enough. The Iraqi hospitals are full of suffering people, and items we take for granted in the West, like antibiotics, painkiller and other medicines, have been denied the people of Iraq. And of course our national media, performing its brainwashing and propaganda duties, has generally kept this information from the American people.
This situation of Americans having little idea about what is going on is not a new phenomenon. During the 1970s, when one of our favorite dictators, Suharto of Indonesia, invaded East Timor using American arms, the American media was totally silent on what our ally was doing. The invasion of East Timor and subsequent occupation (which had no legal justification whatsoever - it was naked aggression at its finest) killed off between 28% and 44% of its population. It is perhaps the greatest proportional genocide in this century, greater than even what the Jews experienced in World War II. And few Americans have ever even heard of East Timor. That is a horrifying example of your tax dollars at work. And as the dust settled and the screams faded to silence in East Timor, the Western oil companies moved in to find more cheap oil reserves in the Timor Gap, with upstanding nations like Australia fighting over the spoils.
So here we are, bombing Iraq once again, because Saddam Hussein hasn't allowed arms inspectors into every nook and cranny in the country. In one of the many hypocritical ironies of the situation, the United States probably has more weapons of mass destruction than the rest of the world put together. And in another great irony that the American people still are rarely told about, back in April of 1990 when Saddam Hussein was still our ally, he made an offer to the United States.(7) He offered to get rid of his "weapons of mass destruction", mainly purchased from "civilized" nations like West Germany and the United States, if Israel would also get rid of theirs. Our government made an interesting response. We said we would not enter into negotiations on that issue. Our politicians cleverly avoided using Israel's name when rejecting Iraq's offer. The reason they did that was because Israel's nuclear arsenal (about 80 nuclear missiles aimed at all the Arab major cities and targets, and other bombs) is an open secret. Anybody who is informed about the world scene knows about their nuclear arsenal. They developed their arsenal in secret. If our government acknowledged that Israel had secretly built a nuclear arsenal, our own Foreign Aid Acts would make all of our billions of dollars a year in aid to Israel illegal. So like the saints we are, we go out of our way to overlook Israel's nuclear arsenal, while we are today bombing a devastated nation because they will not let us look into every corner for weapons far less devastating than what Israel is aiming at them as I write this.
What our military is doing this evening is not making the world a safer place. The people of Iraq will suffer only more. In recent months their infrastructure has teetered on the verge of collapse. Over a third of the water that comes out of Iraq's faucets is unfit to drink. The death toll of the Iraqi citizens, particularly the children, has been quietly (at least to Americans) mounting since 1991. The consequences of what we have done to Iraq are no surprise to anybody who is informed. The people of the Arab nations accurately view what the United States is doing to the Iraqi people as an act of great cruelty.
Let there be no misunderstanding here, Saddam Hussein is no friend of his people. Dictators never are. But that is not why we are bludgeoning Iraq. We love dictators, as long as they are obedient to us. Nearly all of the bloodiest dictators of the last half of the 20th-century have the United States to thank for coming to power. It is only when they step out of line or get too independent, like Noriega and Hussein, that they have to go. As long as dictators like Suharto are obedient to U.S. interests, they can invade their neighbors and put the entire population to the sword, and we will give them the arms to do it, carefully hiding those facts from the people financing the bloodshed.
What the United States wants to do is remove Hussein from power and install a friendly dictatorship, one that will let us have all the oil we want for a cheap price. Watch how events unfold from here, and see if that is an incorrect assessment. Look at what happened in 1991: we reinstalled a dictatorship in Kuwait. There have been some minor democratic improvements in Kuwait in the past few years, but in the years after we "liberated" Kuwait, a military dictatorship was reinstalled in Kuwait, where dozens of people simply disappeared and the prisons were well stocked with political prisoners. People died in the custody of the Kuwaiti government, tortured to death, with stuff like their ears and noses being cut off. Amnesty International has published a report on what kind of things have happened in Kuwait since we "liberated" them. Our foreign policy has never had anything to do with exporting democracy and freedom. We are merely playing the modern colonial game, and we export death, mayhem and exploitation, just like our European ancestors and cousins did when they conquered the world. The situation is crystal clear to anybody not brainwashed by our indoctrination systems.
With all the blood on our hands, is there any end in sight? Not if our politicians and corporations keep running the show. They have no desire to make this world a better place. Their game is amassing as much wealth and power to themselves as they can. And it is particularly disheartening to watch Americans on TV cheering what is going on.
Violence always leads to more violence. If there is any lesson of history more clear than that one, I don't know what it is. With all the incredibly deadly weaponry that we have been selling around the world, and as other nations have developed their own nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and who knows what else, we may be nearing the brink of World War III. It won't be pretty. It takes no great stretch of the imagination to envision a situation where very irate and fanatical Arabs or other oppressed groups sneak in a nuclear, biological or chemical weapon into the United States, setting it off in Washington D.C. or Manhattan. And the more we bludgeon countries like Iraq, the more likely it is that that day will come.
There are some big lessons ahead that humanity has yet to learn. I pray that we learn them before we destroy ourselves.
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