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Monday, October 7, 2002

Bush's War – So What’s New?

Part 2, Atrocities & Annihilation

By Cliff Hawkins


Although all decent people abhor Bush's war mania, I believe that much of this concern is exaggerated in an important sense: Even if the United States attacks Iraq and starts a war that indirectly and ultimately kills millions of people (Bush will squash Iraq in the short term), the total number of people tortured to death by American action will rise hardly at all compared to the numbers that are now dying deaths of slow agony as a direct result of American policy. Literally tens of millions are dying excruciating deaths right now, or have recently died, as a conscious and direct result of U.S. actions. These people can be roughly categorized in the following manner:

1. Those tortured to death by economic privation imposed by U.S. economic and trade policy, including policies imposed by the World Bank and the IMF. Such people number in the tens of millions in Brazil, and untold millions in the former Soviet Union, alone. But people in this category are suffering all around the world; information on them is often reported in the U.S. press, although generally in the kind of euphemism and doublespeak used by the Nazis when reporting on Auschwitz and similar institutions. That is, the language is easily decoded; in fact, unlike the Nazi reports, U.S. news organizations provide the means necessary for "decoding" in the articles themselves.

2. Those dying, and previously killed, by outright U.S. violence, invasion, imposition of governments, arming of fascist dictators, and other methods. Past and presently continuing American actions all over the world have directly killed untold millions of people, and these deaths continue both as residue from past actions and as consequences of present American policy. As just a few examples, the killings in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Vietnam, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, and dozens of other countries have not ceased just because the "shooting war" is over; the economic devastation (including destruction of economic infrastructures and the death of huge number of breadwinners) reaps a mounting toll.

The United States, as we all know, violently imposed a fascist dictatorship on Nicaragua - a regime that killed a huge proportion of the population by deprivation of food, clothing, shelter, medical care, jobs, and education. When the people of Nicaragua overthrew that fascist regime, the United States invaded Nicaragua (using mercenary and regional mass-murdering troops, armed and trained by the U.S.) and destroyed a government that was providing the essential means of life to an increasing proportion of its citizens. Now the U.S. has achieved its desired "stability" and "pacification" - i.e., routinized death by slow torture by the semi-ordinary operation of the system. U.S.-caused mass murder and torture by deprivation of the necessities of life continues not only in Nicaragua, but almost everywhere else in Central America. Meanwhile, the U.S. is unleashing yet another holocaust in Colombia.

3. Untold tens of millions who have died, and are dying, deaths of slow torture as a result of international and civil war, famine, and other catastrophes in which American policy is directly complicit.

Some Americans are aware of the spectacular U.S. atrocities of the twentieth century - invasions, depositions of governments, imposition of killing economic policies. But what increasingly strikes me is the extent to which the U.S. has been behind dozens of genocidal wars and famines in which the U.S. role is not public or spectacular, but nonetheless very real. Many times, while looking for information on some subject, I stumble upon data indicating that covert U.S. actions have greatly contributed to major bloodbaths that many people have heard about, but where U.S. actions have been successfully concealed. For example, the U.S. has contributed greatly, over a period of decades, in the horrendous wars now raging in the Sudan and in the Congo. In fact, given the scope of U.S. policy and the total unscrupulousness of the American government, there are few major atrocities now occurring in the world in which the United States has been uninvolved.

Unlike the tens of millions of victims of policies #1 and #2 above, those in this category are not killed exclusively by the United States alone. American participation in the assassination of the Congo's Lumumba in 1963, for example, is only one of many factors contributing to the decades of violence, rapine, and pillaging there. The contemporary policies of other European nations (especially Belgium), and continuing and present American policy, have also instigated these horrors. Reprehensible African leaders and mass movements (many themselves the residues of European imperialism) greatly share responsibility.

Nevertheless, the United States is a very important participant in and instigator of these genocides. The least exculpatory view would equate American responsibility with that of the non-German nationals who actively participated in the Holocaust. Without Nazi Germany, Jews killed by or with the cooperation of France, Romania, Poland, and other nations would not have died; yet the Nazi collaborators and native anti-Semites of these countries were also responsible.

Most often, however, the United States bears a responsibility for holocausts in which it has merely participated (not those it has directly instigated by methods #1 and #2 above) greater than that of the non-German nationals for the extermination of the Jews. The United States has often (although obviously not always) been one of the necessary factors in these horrors. Some killing - in many cases lots of killing - would have occurred even in the absence of American action; but America not only in historical fact participated in the killings, but was often instrumental in them. Saddam Hussein is a brutal and Hitler-like (or Jefferson or Madison or Eisenhower or Bush-like) thug, and as far as I know he came to power without direct American aid. But as is well known, the United States aided him in his war with Iran and in his use of poison gas against Iran and against the Kurds in Iraq itself. And the United States, of course, bears much of the responsibility for the horrors endured by Iranians during the last and present centuries. U.S. complicity in Iraq's war was only one atrocity America inflicted on Iran.

Rwanda is an unusually ambiguous example of U.S. complicity in genocide. It is universally acknowledged that Belgian colonial policy largely defined, and perhaps for all practical purposes created, the "ethnic groups" that have been killing each other for decades. Belgium and the leaders of both groups bear responsibility for these repeated acts of attempted genocide, many of which would have occurred on some scale even if the United States had never existed. It would take some detailed research to ascertain how many more people died because the United States actively opposed humanitarian intervention by anyone, despite (even because of) knowledge of what was happening. Clinton, by the way, opposed action out of general principles, not out of any specific U.S. interest; he did not want the United States to intervene, and was opposed to anyone else accumulating influence in the area by preventing a holocaust. But the fact is that Clinton did not "not intervene"; his calculated policy deliberately encouraged and facilitated the killings.

4. American citizens and residents deliberately tortured, mutilated, and killed as a direct result of U.S. domestic policy. Throughout the twentieth century, the U.S. government was at war with most of its own citizens. This war was waged for profits and other forms of dominion, resulted in the mass murder and torture of untold millions of persons, and was justified by high-sounding principles, similar to those which justified America's foreign depredations.

Whites burned African-American men alive in public festivals of degradation and torture for the ostensible purpose of "protecting pure white womanhood" from "bestial black rapists"; in reality, lynching fostered the rape of black women by white men, in the manner customary under slavery. (The fear of black men also subordinated white women under their white male "protectors," who owned and exploited them.) African Americans were also worked/tortured to death as tenant farmers and in convict labor camps, the chain gang, and peonage farms – forms of compulsory labor now widely recognized as "worse than slavery." Whites claimed that Americans of African descent benefited by the "protection and tutelage" of the master race, and that the indignities of Jim Crow helped blacks more than any "illusory equality" ever would. Were not Afro-Americans the most prosperous and most highly educated blacks in the world?

Women of all races were legally beaten and raped by their husbands, and killed in death-camp factories, in the name of "protecting womanhood," fostering "feminine refinement and delicacy," and "upholding the family." Opponents of martial rape and of starvation wages, like advocates of suffrage, were often beaten, jailed, or even killed.

Under the rubric of "freedom of contract," capitalists and their governments exterminated millions of workers in every conceivable way—including overwork, malnutrition, industrial accidents, preventable disease, death-trap tenements, and exposure. Statistics published by the government's own Commission on Industrial Relations (CIR) in 1916 indicate that millions of babies under the age of one year died horrible and preventable deaths in the early twentieth century alone.

When workers unionized or struck, they were jailed or killed, often in the name of "freedom of contract" or "the right to work." In 1914 the John D. Rockefeller-controlled Colorado National Guard murdered striking men and their families by dousing their tents with coal oil, setting them afire, and machine-gunning the terrified people who tried to escape. Women and children were burned alive and machine-gunned; captured strike leader Louis Tikias was shot in back. When the chair of the CIR asked Rockefeller whether he was "willing to go on and let these killings take place," Rockefeller replied that "our interest in labor is so profound" that he would continue fighting for a non-union shop, in the interests of the benighted workers themselves. Asked whether he would resist unionization even "if it costs all your property and kills all your employees," Rockefeller replied that the non-union shop "is a great principle.... It was upon a similar principle that the War of the Revolution was carried on."

The American government continues to forcibly deprive millions of its own citizens of the necessities of life, thereby consigning millions of citizens and residents to death by slow torture. These policies have not, and do not, consist of failing to provide jobs, housing, medical care, and other necessities, but rather in the deliberate creation of institutions that provide these necessities only when there is profit to be made, and which therefore prevent millions from living.

Justifying the most horrible atrocities on the basis of their alleged benefits to the victims is as much an American (and European) domestic tradition as are genocide, slavery, industrial mass murder, and rape themselves. Imperialism and domestic mass murder go hand in hand not only in their motivations and techniques, but also in their rationales.


I fully agree with Bush that any country is fully justified in pre-emptively attacking a terrorist state armed with the weapons of mass destruction that has a long history of imperialist war against other peoples. However reluctantly (as one who would greatly suffer from the destruction of the American empire), I must admit that there is no nation so fully deserving of annihilation as the United States - the world's foremost terrorist state, which not only invented the atomic bomb (because its horrible Nazi enemy might develop it first, and would not hesitate to nuke helpless civilian populations!), but is the only power to have actually dropped a nuclear weapon on anyone. (If Bush seizes Arab oil fields, other nuclear weapons may soon be dropped in anger amidst the horrible uproars that will occur in that region).

This evaluation of the United States may sound severe, but it is true. The United States tortured and killed many more people during the twentieth century than Hitler, Stalin, and all other despots combined. It is gearing up for an even greater succession of holocausts in the present century. Important members of the American elite are openly calling for war not out of any illusory humanitarian or self-defense motives, but to "take back the Dow" by seizing Middle Eastern oil. Others use different rhetoric, but their purpose is the same; and according to the polls, the majority of the American people back them.

As Thomas Jefferson famously said: "I tremble for my country [he meant Virginia] when I reflect that God is just.... The Almighty has no attribute which can take sides with us [whites] in such a contest [against rebelling slaves]." Quite a statement from an apostle and practitioner of genocide, slavery, and rape. A master who demanded that America be ethnically cleansed of blacks - a race he demanded removed "beyond the reach of mixture," while he himself fathered a series of children by a slave concubine!


Nothing in my essay should be construed as:

- claiming that the governments attacked or overthrown by the United States are, in general or in any particular case, better than the American government. Sometimes, as in the obvious cases of Germany, the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Afghanistan, these governments are every bit as reprehensible as the American, though in no single case (or all cases combined) as destructive, efficient, and successful at mass murder as the United States.

- asserting that Bush's frightening and megalomaniacal pronouncements have no significance. As I said, Bush might well start World War III, thus destroying the American empire and inflicting unprecedented suffering upon the peoples of the world.

Cliff Hawkins (cchawkins@ earthlink.net) received his Ph.D. in history (United States) from the University of California at Davis in June 2000. His dissertation was "Race First versus Class First: An Intellectual History of Afro-American Radicalism, 1911-1928."