Friday, June 02, 2006


The logic of war crimes in a criminal war

An email just arrived from ANSWER, bearing the title of this post, written by ANSWER leaders Mara Verheyden-Hilliard and Brian Becker. It's an excellent piece, which you can read online here. Some of the points it makes will be familiar to readers of Left I on the News -- the fact that the Haditha massacre and other ongoing scandals are not isolated incidents, but completely typical, for example. But let me share a few excerpts. First this, on the subject of Fallujah and the overall attitude of U.S. troops towards Iraqis (bearing directly on what happened in Haditha):
On the eve of the assault on Fallujah, the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition sent out an email to anti-war activists (November 7, 2004) under the headline: “Top U.S. Marine in Iraq Calls for Massacre in Fallujah.” It reported that Sgt. Major Carlton W. Kent gave an emotional pep-talk to 2,500 Marines who were poised to attack the city. The marines had just notified the people of Fallujah that any male between the age of 15-55 who dared go outside would be automatically killed. “You’re all in the process of making history,” the Sgt. Major exhorted his soldiers. “This is another Hue City in the making. I, have no doubt, if we do get the word, that each and every one of you is going to do what you have always done kick some butt.” (AP, November 7, 2004)

Evoking the events in Hue by U.S. officers, as a motivation for today’s troops, shows the macabre criminality inherent in imperialism’s war for conquest.

Hue was a city in South Vietnam that was a scene of horrific war crimes by military personnel when it was captured by U.S.-led forces in March 1968. U.S. Under-Secretary of the Air Force, Townsend Hoopes, admitted that Hue was left a “devastated and prostrate city. Eighty percent of the buildings had been reduced to rubble, and in the smashed ruins lay 2,000 dead civilians …” (Noam Chomsky’s forward to the papers of the 1967 International War Crimes in Vietnam Tribunal.)
A subject I didn't blog about, because I didn't think I had any unique insights, was the recent revelation that the U.S. murder of Korean civilians at No Gun Ri and elsewhere during the Korean War was not an isolated incident or the act of "bad apples," but official U.S. policy. Here's an important point about that made by Verheyden-Hilliard and Becker:
The Geneva Conventions expressly prohibit the targeting of civilians under any circumstances. But the Pentagon had a bigger political concern than adhering to international law. The fundamental fear of the Pentagon and the White House in Korea, as it was in Vietnam and during the first and current war against Iraq, was that public opinion at home would turn against the imperialist adventure and tie the hands of the warmakers. The logic of their political calculus was that U.S. public opinion would turn against the war directly as a result of a large number of U.S. casualties. This thought took them to the next murderous conclusion: if civilians pose even a remote risk to U.S. soldiers it is better to shoot the civilians first and ask questions later. Dead Korean or Vietnamese or Iraqi civilians will not be as politically damaging back home as dead American soldiers.

Why stop here? There's more...

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