Category Archives: War Crimes

Eternal Impunity of Capitalism’s Crimes

The very idea of War Being a Racket penetrates so deeply into capitalism’s flair for murder by a thousand cuts, a thousand miles in a Corvair, a thousand sips from diet Coke, a thousand sucks from Nestle baby formula, a thousand hours on the video screen, a thousand seconds inside the nuclear core, a thousand nanoparticles chewed, a thousand days living under high tension power lines, a thousand slices of mercury-cured tuna, a thousand puffs of the e-cigarette, a thousand days in law school, a thousand clicks hiked in clear cut, a thousand bombs bursting in air, a thousand doses of any one of millions of drugs or chemicals, a thousand seconds of a presidential debate, a thousand launches from NASA, a thousand bullets into Black bodies, a thousand spent uranium laced shells, a thousand drips of PCBs in our water supply, and, on and on, the drumbeat plays, a thousand cuts.

I just finished watching the documentary, The People versus Agent Orange. Carol Van Strum (here and here) is the American contingent and Nga To Tran the Vietnamese contingent. Like so many other documentaries, this one cuts to the chase – the liberation of humankind and ecologies from the death ray of capitalism is the ONLY way forward.

Veterans, Survivors Unaware of Agent Orange Benefits

The origins of Agent Orange lie in an obscure laboratory at the University of Chicago where, during World War II, the chairman of the school’s biology department, E. J. Kraus, discovered that direct doses of 2,4-D can kill certain broadleaf vegetation by causing the plants to experience sudden, uncontrolled growth not unlike that of cancer cells in the human body. Kraus, thinking his findings might be of use to the Army, informed the War Department, which initiated testing of its own but found no use for the stew of hormones prior to the end of the war. But experiments with 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T continued through the 1950s. — Orion Magazine

Ad nauseum the bantering back and forth with deplorable MAGA and shallow democrats on mainline TV/Cable, is much ado about nothing when we put into perspective every single action the corporation makes to not only rip-off each and every customer, but to delimit free speech, to eviscerate participatory democracy, to use their hit squads of lawyers to obfuscate and obliterate the righteous people up against these Titans of Tyranny – chemical, pharmaceutical, agriculture, fossil fuel, mining, data, prison, space, industrial, food, medical, media, education, criminal justice, banking, insurance, investing thieves and manslaughter experts.

The entire farm has been sold down the river a million times, so when we look at Agent Orange, the USA government, the US Air Force, the Dow corporation, the endless legal deaths by a thousand motions against some sort of reparation for the millions of Vietnamese, Americans and dozens of others in Vietnam during the tyranny of corporations and the French and the USA in fighting in another person’s land. Vietnam!

Carol Van Strum’s story is linked to my neck of the woods – the Central Oregon coast range. She is just a few dozen miles up the road, in Five Rivers. For more than 45 years, she has been both victim of, and battler against, the chemical spraying operators here where timber companies clear cut vast thousands of square miles of forest, and then deploy the markers of Agent Orange and other brews to include Glyphosate and atrazine, among others.

The film is understatement, but thorough and clear – some of us knew early on that the herbicide Agent Orange was more than a Ho Chi Minh Trail defoliant. It was part of a plan by the despotic South Vietnamese president Diệm ’s worldview – supported and supplied by the USA – that the Viet Cong should not have jungle cover and that the rice crops in the North should not only be destroyed but contaminated from the soil up.

Opinion | The Forgotten Victims of Agent Orange - The New York Times

Tran is an amazing voice for Vietnam and the millions of victims of Agent Orange – many dead, by the millions, and many by several million surviving in varying levels of debilitation, and for her and millions of other women, giving birth to deformed, sick and dying babies.

Back in Oregon, the mothers and then the doctors came together to compare notes, and alas, the number of miscarriages/spontaneous abortions experienced by local women always coincided a month after helicopters working for the timber companies unloaded thousands upon thousands of gallons of the toxic brew, a mix of hormone disruptors and growth inhibitors that scour animals, plants and humans to the point of genetic mutations and untold physical ailments as adults.

We see the coughing “chemical guy” in Oregon, who is cell phone filming himself loading up the helicopters with the brew. He hacks up blood at night. He is another victim of better living through chemistry. His story is vital to the telling of the Agent Orange story back home, in Oregon.

Tran’s case seeks accountability for “the deadliest use of chemicals in the history of warfare.” The case is still held up in court.

Why the United States Won't Admit Guilt Over Agent Orange

Tran was told by her heroic mother, captured by the South Vietnamese, in 1953, “If I don’t come back, you will replace me.” Tran ended up writing news for the National Liberation Front. She met her husband in the forest, who was part of the Foreign Relations Commission. “We spent our youth engaged in war.”

In June 1968 their daughter was born, and three days later the infant’s skin  began falling off. She had difficulty breathing, and she had major heart issues. “I always blamed myself thinking I was the reason for her illness and the cause of her death. Even though I have my other two children, it is the face of my first that remains anchored in my soul,” Tran states.

Tran says she carried that guilt for 40 years. “Until I found out what killed my daughter, the poison Agent Orange.”

Her second daughter was born with alpha thalassemia, a major defect of her pancreas. Same with Tran’s third daughter, and a granddaughter. Thanks, Agent Orange and the Boys at Dow!

Back and forth the documentary travels from Carol’s and Oregon’s battle against the chemical companies and the university forestry guy who was in the back pocket of Dow, and with Tran, who has several lawyers working to “put an end to the eternal impunity,” as French barrister William Bourdon calls it.

That was Operation Ranch hand, from 1962 to 71, approved by JFK and his henchmen in the DoD and military. The idea was to take away the forest cover but also to be part of a food-denial program, which under any auspices of international conventions, is an act of genocide, and a war crime.

Dr. James Clary was with the Air Force in Vietnam, which ran the program. He was ordered to dump the computer and erase all memory. Instead, he printed out a stack of documents two feet high – missions, sorties, coordinates, dates, gallons dropped throughout all of Southeast Asia and Laos.

“We had the information coming from Dow that there were real problems for people associated with this chemical. It was all locked up for 35 years.”

Playing down all the negative effects of this chemical was part of the Dow plan. Dioxin was the byproduct in the brew. Dow told the US government they were having difficulty producing the volume of the chemical the US wanted. The government told them to not worry about safety standards and quality control, and that a fast production process which produced more of the dioxin would not matter, since the crops and forest were being sprayed, and if people got in contact with it, the idea coming from both industrialists at Dow and those in government and the military was, “Hey, so what, this is a war . . . these are the effing Vietnamese.”

However, a former military man like Clary never saw it that way. He reiterated that 20 million gallons of it was dumped on Southeast Asia. The Ranch Hand program stopped in 1971, but then the chemicals were enlisted by the US on forest land – clear cuts that were sprayed to denude the razed land of any opportunities weeds and shrubs. The money has to be made, and the stockpiled product has to go! Sell it to the state forestry department and timber outfits.

Dr. Clary tears up on the film, showing a deep regard for the Vietnamese. He cried at the sight of the deformed children. The filmmakers state: “He is not a typical war monger, and never said that. He became a whistle-blower to expose such attitudes. They are the opposite of how he feels.

“They went back and said, ‘Don’t worry about it, we need the quantities. Besides it’s going to be sprayed on the jungle over there. Not gonna be any people there and if they happen to get into it, so what? We’re at war.'”

Oregon Community Rights Organizer Featured in New Documentary 'THE PEOPLE vs. AGENT ORANGE' | CELDF

Carol Van Strum reiterates that the half-life of a dioxin molecule is 2 billion years. Dioxin, the forever chemical and the gift of cancer and birth defects and mutagenic ailments that keep on giving. Tran is now fighting for the fourth generation of people affected by the millions of gallons of this poison sprayed on her homeland. She has breast cancer.

Dr, Clary breaks down emotionally, saying he never thought his government would betray all the veterans who directly were affected and whose offspring were/are still affected. The judge in the Agent Orange case is a pure case of misanthropy that infects all chambers of the judicial and legal class.

Andre Burny, author of Agent Orange: Apocalypse Vietnam, makes it clear that this is a “crime against humanity, an attack on the human genome.”

It’s telling that one of several scientists featured in a clip, Dow’s Dr. Cleve Goring, says, “The attack on the chemical is entirely emotional. 2,4 5-T is about as toxic as Aspirin. We have not done a good job with our PR campaign.”

As benign as Aspirin! You haven’t heard this before, right? Farmed chemical-laced salmon, safe as mother’s milk. Oh, antibiotic-laced meat and poultry are safe for all consumers. You know, it would take a bathtub of the stuff a day for twenty years to cause cancer. Or, lab rats are not humans . . . no comparison. 5-G is like an apple a day. Violent video games are A-Okay. Genetically Engineered crops are better than those old fashioned heritage crap. What’s a little used motor oil dumped into the pond.

Oh, dear reader, you have as many of these “it’s safer than the alarmists yammer about” stories, I am sure. Imagine, the bottom line of Dow is to cover up, drag court cases on and on until the plaintiffs are six feet under. What a little rebranding won’t fix. Or some heavyweight like Brad Pitt or Betty White endorsing the product bringing people all together now.

The documentary, The People versus Agent Orange,” delves into many of the treatment centers for victims of Agent Orange in Vietnam. There are dozens. I have been to two of them, years ago, and they were not even tied to Agent Orange. Like Tran, most of the mothers blamed themselves for children coming out twisted, stunted, without limbs, craniums asymmetrical or ballooned out.

This is how capitalism works – lies, deceit, murder, cover, cover-up, blame the victim, pass on the diseases and poisons and clean up costs to the people. This is the price of capitalism, many Americans will say. This is the price of convenience. This is the price of Low Prices and instant soup, instant turkey, instant husband/wife.

Blame the child for the crimes of consumerism. Blame the fetus for the mother taking the advice of western medicine. Blame the communities for the sprayed hog blood-urine-shit in their backyards.

Capitalism is more than some giant smoke and mirrors game, bigger than some house of cards, bigger than snake oil salesmen/women grifting, bigger than shoveling up billions into the debt (poor) house. It is a system of rackets, and while Gen. Butler may have written War is a Racket about the MIC, we have to transpose that military industrial complex to Banks/Hospitals/Insurance Companies/Courthouses/Police Stations/Law Firms/Colleges/Mining Companies/Drug Manufacturers/Big Ag Outfits/Media Conglomerates/So-Called Liberal Press and the like are the very definition of Rackets, certainly perfect actors for Dante’s Circles of Hell.

We are the fodder for that inferno, and if anyone of any political stripe doesn’t end up being pissed off after watching The People versus Agent Orange, then they are misanthropes, cult followers, colonized zombies. And I can say that about any number of hundreds of righteous documentaries — bear witness and then what? Retreat to stupidity, retreat to the capitalist’s see-speak-hear no evil while the evil eats your soul from the inside-out!

Please note that I was in Vietnam in 1994 and in 1996. I worked first with several biological teams doing a huge transect of the forest near the Laotian border. I met amazing Vietnamese scientists. I revisited places my military father was at as a CW4 cryptographic guy. His stories were my stories.

I was in Vietnam in 1994 the same age my father was there, shot twice. That was age 36.

I made a point of getting into many villages after the science report was done. I drove a motorcycle down Highway One. I met amazing people there, and had two Vietnamese who helped me navigate the language.

I was embraced by men the same age as my father. Men who fought as Viet Cong, and those men, of course, did not do an eight-month and then a 12-month set of tours like my Army father. They spent more than a decade or more fighting the French, fighting the Americans.

I met a woman in Hanoi who was bombed as a child in an orphanage. I met people studying the breast milk of lactating women, in 1996, with 16 times the level of PCB’s (US standards) in their systems.

Vietnam came to me again, as I worked with many veterans, and some Vietnamese back in Texas putting on the 20th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon (April 1975). I had Le Ly Hayslip at the event, and she blessed my daughter who was still in her mother’s womb. Den Yen was the vice mayor of Saigon, and he too showed up. John  McAfee, A Slow Walk in a Sad Rain, was just one of many writers, historians, artists who were in this historical event in 1995.

I worked with then Thomas Daniel, now taking on his mother’s name, Vu, who was both my student and friend and we worked together on art projects. My play, Tiger Cages, was partly written after I ended up in London after watching the bad play, Miss Saigon. My short story collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam, tells the story of people somehow connected to the Vietnam war.  I have taught college courses for US military, even at the Sergeants Major Academy at Biggs Field. Vietnam, “Never another Vietnam,” the “tragedy of Vietnam War,” and more is in my DNA. I even worked as a social worker helping homeless veterans and their families secure housing and benefits.

This film is powerful in that it tells a simple story of ecocide and American hubris. Several million Vietnamese were killed directly by US bombs. Many more died later from injuries and chemical death. The trauma on a country is also part and parcel of this illegal and unethical war.

Ecocide as a military practice was first coined for the war against the Vietnamese the US conducted. This documentary and Dr. Clary discuss this heinous war crime, of destroying the crops, the food sources, the soil as part of military stratagem.

As a note, my piece here was in my blog, and at first I thought I covered all bases. One of the filmmakers, Alan Adelson, made it clear to me some of my juxtapositions of quotes were wrongly attributed. I was writing this “review” as I watched the documentary, The PEOPLE versus Agent Orange. I let my passions and zeal overtake my editor’s calm and thorough copy-editing.

I appreciate Alan’s email, and I know this sort of review is not mainstream, and probably not usable for the director. I am able to take off one revolutionary cap and put on a more traditional journalist’s cap. I hope the film shows in Portland and if so, that I can have a crack at talking with the filmmaker. I have other gigs, including Street Roots, in Portland. While my column, Finding Fringe, is not textbook newspaper “objective” reporting, it still provides a look into people like Carol and her son, Jordan Merrell — A letter a day for 15 years and 9 months

War is a Racket – Major General Butler, 1935 | Creative by Nature

War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes. — Smedley Butler, War is a Racket (1935)

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I don’t think so. I think that the – the hook for many of our supporters was the idea that this was an unusual messenger for an important environmental message. You know, people who support environmental issues are constantly trying to find a way to preach beyond the choir, to reach beyond their base of people who are already on board, and I think one of the things that’s very appealing about the film, but primarily Jerry as a messenger, is that you don’t expect this message to come from a career military person.

And through Jerry, you’re – we’ve been able to reach this audience of military folks who maybe wouldn’t be attuned to the environmental message about the effects of toxins on health and things like that. So I think there was a real appeal to many of those organizations from that perspective. — Rachel Libert, co-producer of film, Semper Fi

 

 

The post Eternal Impunity of Capitalism's Crimes first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“Manifest Destiny” and the Mexican-American War

Each year tens of thousands of Irish-Americans proudly celebrate their heritage on St Patrick Day, yet few are aware of the fate of the Irish in the St Patrick’s Battalion (el Batallón de San Patricio) who chose to fight under their green flag for Mexico against the aggression of the United States in the Mexican-American War of 1846-48 .

How many Americans are fully aware of their country’s land-grab and the illegal annexation of what was Mexican territory. Hollywood glorifies the Texas rebellion but fails to shine a light on the later American invasion of Mexico, a war opposed by many Northerners such as Abraham Lincoln even though some Northern merchants did believe it would open up the Pacific Coast ports as gateways to China. As with Texas, the plantation-owning Southern elite coveted the vast stretches of northern Mexico where they could expand their slave economy. The conquest of what is now south-west United States became their objective. It was sparsely settled and still remained mostly populated by Native Americans. The ideological justification for this expansionism was the doctrine of “Manifest Destiny”.

As early as 1825, President John Quincy Adams attempted to purchase the Texas province from Mexico. When Mexico refused, other means were employed. The southern plantation owners encouraged the settling of Texas by Anglo-Americans with the hope that they would outnumber the small Mexican population and create enough difficulties for Mexico so that it would relinquish control to the United States. The main issue of the presidential campaign of 1844 was the annexation of Texas, with the Democratic Party running James Polk in favor. The victory of the Democrats, who represented the southern planters, guaranteed annexation. The Anglo-American Texans, who were legally Mexican citizens, refused to submit to the authority of the Mexican government and maintained slavery. They set up the Independent Republic of Texas in 1836. This led to the Alamo and the subsequent defeat of Santa Anna by the army of Sam Houston. The slavocracy of the South looked forward to immediately annexing Texas to the United States but divisions within the U.S. ruling class delayed annexation until 1845, as the northern capitalists opposed adding Texas as another slave state, fearing the enhanced political weight of a strengthened South.

But plans and desires went far beyond Texas. President Polk was intent on provoking Mexico into a war which would end in the conquest of all of Mexico.  The immediate cause of the war was a dispute over the border between Texas and Mexico. The area involved about 150 square miles of territory. Before the dispute could be resolved through negotiations, the president ordered U.S. troops under Zachary Taylor to cross the River Nueces and hold the disputed area. When the Mexican army sought to eject the U.S. army from its territory, the United States used this as its pretext to declare war on Mexico.

The annexation nature of the war was obvious. Ulysses S. Grant, who fought as an officer in the war, would write:

We were sent to provoke a fight, but it was essential that Mexico should commence it…The occupation, separation, and annexation were, from the inception of the movement to its final consummation, a conspiracy to acquire territory out of which slave states might be formed for the American union. Even if annexation itself could be justified, the manner in which the subsequent war was forced on Mexico cannot.

The outcome of the war was almost a foregone conclusion. The Mexican army was badly led and poorly equipped. The U.S. military advanced into Mexican territory and began conducting a campaign of brutality and engaging in numerous acts of wanton violence and destruction against civilians. Commanding General Winfield Scott admitted his U.S. troops had “committed atrocities to make Heaven weep and every American of Christian morals blush for his country. Murder, robbery and rape of mothers and daughters in the presence of tied up males of the families have been common all along the Rio Grande.”

So barbaric were the actions of the American army that some 250 Irish deserted and went over to the side of the Mexicans.

American armies attacked the Mexicans in northern and southern California as well as throughout New Mexico and Arizona. The United States defeated Mexican armies and went on to occupy Mexico City. The United States captured almost 50% of Mexico’s territory.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

On February 2, 1848, Mexico agreed to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Mexico accepted the Rio Grande as the Texas border and ceded the Southwest (which incorporates the present day states of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado), an area larger than France and Germany combined, to the U.S. for $15 million. The Democratic administration favored taking all of Mexico, but was opposed in Congress.

This treaty was also important because the Mexican negotiators were more deeply concerned to ensure the protection of the democratic rights of Mexicans remaining in the Southwest and it should not be forgotten that, with the exception of the Native Americans, Mexicans are the only minority whose rights were specifically legally safeguarded by a formal treaty. It contained provisions concerning the treatment of the Mexicans remaining in the Southwest. The U.S. agreed to safeguard the property rights of the Mexicans and guaranteed their civil and religious rights. Their culture as well as their land grants were to be respected. The Mexicans were to receive full U.S. citizenship within one year. Article VIII stated:

Mexicans now established in territories previously belonging to Mexico, and which remain for the future within the limits of the United States, as defined by the present treaty, shall be free to continue where they now reside, or to remove at any time to the Mexican Republic, retaining the property which they possess in the said territories…In the said territories, property of every kind, now belonging to Mexicans not established there, shall be inviolably respected. The present owners, the heirs of these, and all Mexicans who may hereafter acquire said property by contract, shall enjoy with respect to it guarantees equally ample as if the same belonged to citizens of the United States.

Article IX guaranteed to those who became citizens (automatic one year from the date of the treaty, unless an individual specifically chose to remain a Mexican citizen)

…enjoyment of all the rights of citizens of the United States, according to the principles of the Constitution… [and also] …the free enjoyment of their liberty and property, and secure in the free exercise of their religion without restriction.

The U.S., however, never lived up to its promises and almost systematically violated the guarantees given to the Mexican people in the Southwest.

Nor were any of the Mexican signers of the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty aware of the fact that nine days before its signing, gold had been discovered in California. Not only had half of the national territory of Mexico been outright stolen at the point of a cannon, but now lands unbelievably rich in gold and silver, had been ceded away.

Juan Crow

Following annexation, the United States set out to impose its rule over the newly conquered territory and begin to economically exploit it. The tremendous wealth derived from the mines and lands stolen from Mexico began to play an important part in the financing of capitalist industrial expansion.

Very soon the subjugation of the Mexican people began. It was not possible to accomplish this all at once throughout the entire Southwest region so the consolidation of the region happened in stages.   California quickly became a state in 1851, while New Mexico and Arizona remained colonies and were not admitted into the Union until 1912, a full 64 years after they were stolen from Mexico. The ensuing Civil War then hampered efforts to promote development in the Southwest.

The new Anglo rulers unleashed a campaign of terror and thousands of Mexican farmers and laborers were shot or lynched. Between 1850 and 1930, more Mexicans were lynched in this area than Blacks in the South during the same period. In Los Angeles, in the one year of 1854 alone, an estimated 360 Mexicans were murdered .

Big ranchers set up groups like the Texas and Arizona Rangers to “legally” terrorize and subdue the conquered population, expropriating the Tejano (Mexican-Texan) landowners. The Texas Rangers and other vigilante groups simply shot hundreds of Mexicans and took over their property. Not a single white American, however, was ever convicted of killing a Mexican in Texas in the 50 years immediately following annexation.

The ranchers and merchants hoped that this terrorism, which now is described as ethnic cleansing, would drive those of Mexican origin across the border to Mexico. Anglo-American migration into the Southwest quickly changed the character of the area and the overall population of Texas and California became predominantly white, (although the southern parts of both states along the border remained mainly Mexican inhabited.) The new settlers reneged on the treaty obligations and began deprived the Mexicans of political rights and power. By 1880 in California no Mexican served in public office where previously they held legislative, judicial and executive positions throughout the state. Originally designated to be a bilingual state (Spanish and English), by as early as 1855. the California state government required all schools to teach exclusively in English and then the 1878 State constitution completely eliminated Spanish as an official language. Special taxes and restrictions were levied on the Mexicans in California as well, such as the “Foreign Miners’ Tax,” to drive non-white miners out of the gold fields. The Mexicans from Sonora were expert miners who introduced such innovative mining techniques as panning and the dry-wash separation of gold. There were also laws prohibiting or restricting traditional fiestas. Similar curtailments spread throughout the Southwest. From 1850 to 1900, the Anglo settlers, expropriated almost the entire propertied class of Californios. Those who did not lose their lands were reduced to small holdings.

Mexican-Americans were transformed into foreign “aliens”. The persecution of the Mexican people went hand-in-hand with the theft of their lands. In many cases, the objective of the murder and violence against them was to take over their property, regardless of the promises of Guadalupe Hidalgo. This great land grab was second only to the massive theft of Native American land. All in all, it is estimated they lost 20 million acres of land in Texas alone. In California and New Mexico the original inhabitants lost much of their land through legal manoeuvres, squatting, claim-jumping and exorbitant taxes. In 1851 California passed a “Land Act” which required that Mexicans go through a complex process to prove title to their land. This was very difficult in many cases since the lands often were owned in common or accurate records were never kept. In New Mexico, 80% of them lost their property, most of these small farmers and herders. An infamous conspiracy of merchants, lawyers, bankers and politicians known as the Santa Fe Ring controlled the territory’s courts and government and awarded themselves millions of acres through swindles. The Surveyor of General Claims Office of the New Mexico Territory could take up to fifty years to process a claim, meanwhile, the lands were being squatted upon by the Anglo newcomers who often sold the land to land speculators for huge profits.

The federal government in 1891 eventually established a Court of Private Land Claims to settle land “disputes” in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado.  In its 13 years of existence the court heard cases involving 35.5 million acres. The court upheld the original claims of less than two million acres. All the rest were denied and the claimants lost their land. The court, in actuality, legalized the land grab. And the federal authorities itself were not above getting involved in this property theft, especially in New Mexico. Between 1850 and 1900 the federal government accumulated 14.5 million acres of land, the majority of this from individual or communal Mexicans’ lands. The courts, being an instrument of class rule, were used to legitimize the theft of the Mexican people of their land. For sure, it was often the ownership of changing from Mexican feudal grandee to an American capitalist. The huge haciendas of landlord class of Mexico gave way to the vast ranches of Bonanza fame. The economy of the Southwest, geared to small-scale trade and production to satisfy local needs, where much of the land was held in common by communities represented an obstacle to the greedy commerce of the encroaching capitalists who sought to maximize the productive forces. Peasant plots and sheep pastures were converted into grazing land for the new capitalist cattle barons, with Mexicans forced to sell their labor power to their new patróns. The pauperizing the peoples of the Southwest enabled the new owners to freely exploit the land and labor of the region.

Organised resistance on the part of the Mexican people developed to try to halt Anglo incursions. The most famous were seen as Robin Hood figures. Courageous banditos waged a guerilla struggle against the American whites; men such as Tiburcio Vasquez and Joaquin Murietta. In Texas, there was Juan Cortina, who became a folk-hero; and in New Mexico was the “Las Gorras Blancas” (“The White Caps”), direct-actionists who cut the fences and burned the barns of ranchers enclosing the Las Vegas Land Grant commons.  They destroyed railroad tracks and burned bridges seen as the foundation of commercial development. “Las Gorras Blancas” sought to develop a class-based consciousness among local people through the everyday tactics of resistance to the economic and social order confronting common property land grant communities.

In a manifesto, Las Gorras Blancas explained their actions as efforts “to protect the rights of the people in general; and especially those of the helpless classes…We want the Las Vegas Grant settled to the benefit of all concerned and this we hold is the entire community within the grant… will fight any scheme that tends to monopolize the supply of water courses to the detriment of residents Las Gorras Blancas received popular support from small grazers who had watched the common lands slowly disappear behind barbed-wire fences defending the dubious property claims of wealthy newcomers. Las Gorras Blancas became El Partido del Pueblo, the Peoples Party, and entered the State legislature but found reformism to be a dead-end.

As for the fate of the St Patrick Battalion volunteers, at their court-martial none of the men were legally represented nor were transcripts made of the proceedings. Contrary to the Articles of War, which stipulated that the penalty for desertion or defecting to the enemy in a time of war was death by firing squad, only members of the Saint Patrick’s Battalion were executed by hanging as common criminals.

The executions took place at three separate locations on three separate dates; 16 were executed on 10 September 1847 at San Ángel, four were executed the following day at the village of Mixcoac on 11 September, and 30 were hanged at Chapultepec on 13 September. One soldier was hanged even though he had had both legs amputated the previous day. When the army surgeon informed the colonel that the absent soldier had lost both his legs in battle, Colonel Harney retorted: “Bring the damned son of a bitch out! My order was to hang 30 and by God I’ll do it!” The prisoners spared the gallows were flogged and branded on their cheeks with the letter D to signify deserter.

The San Patricios continue to be honored as heroes in Mexico. Their role in the Mexican-American war has long been acknowledged. They have been remembered as a symbol of international solidarity by the Zapatistas. But as to be expected, in the USA, the memory of the battalion was very different and the American army long denied even the existence of the Saint Patrick’s Battalion until 1915 when it finally conceded it existed.

“Manifest Destiny” and the Spanish-American War

The Spanish-American war is often explained by the hysteria drummed by the popular press of William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, fanning the fire and inflaming the passion of public opinion until every lie was believed as the truth that the American government were acting from no selfish motives, other than altruism

While in the Mexican-American war, it was the Southern Democrats who spoke of the historic necessity of the United States to dominate whatever lands or peoples it so desired as an integral part of the country’s foreign policy.  At its convention of 1896, it was the Republican Party which announced itself to be the party of “Manifest Destiny” to bring civilization to the inferior peoples. The victory in the election was interpreted as carte blanche to go implement an aggressive foreign policy. American business interests had been casting its greedy gaze for many years at the islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific with a dream of a global American empire.

Like all the European powers Spanish rule was ruthless and cruel; based upon the exploitation of its resources and  people. Revolutionary stirrings in its colonies had long been in existence,

Cuba broke out into open revolt in 1895. The Spanish authorities responded brutally setting up de facto concentration camps, herding the families of the rebels and all those suspected of disloyalty into them.

American businesses owned a wide range of investments in Cuba. Those vested interests were in favor of taking control of Cuba’s chaotic conditions and ejecting Spain from Cuba was seen as the first step. The Republican Party platform of 1897 had already declared that Spain was unable “to protect the property and lives of resident American citizens.” The “Manifest Destiny” Republicans launched their interventionist campaign with the newspapers of Hearst and Pulitzer reporting lurid tales of atrocities, clamoring for war to fight on behalf of a defenseless people – the same “humanitarian” war lie we hear so often today. Astute industrialists recognized that war with Spain would increase the business and earnings of American commerce.  It would increase the output of every American factory, it would stimulate a stagnant economy.

In January, 1898, the battleship Maine went to Havana on a “good-will” visit. But on February 15, 1898, the battleship mysteriously exploded at anchor. An investigation could not determine the actual cause of the explosion which took the lives of 258 crew and it may have happened in a number of different ways. Today there is still no real definitive explanation of its cause.

Regardless, the navy concluded that the Maine had been blown up by a mine. The pro-war faction embarked upon a great war-mongering campaign led by Teddy Roosevelt as President McKinley and the Spanish Government tried to resolve the issues peacefully.

In their zeal to avoid a conflict with America the Spanish  accepted all the American proposals but America’s plutocrat and oligarchs were not to be cheated out of their war. On April 19, the United States declared war.

The ostensible purpose for entering the war was to free Cuba. Yet, when it came to the peace terms, America demanded it included the acquisition of Puerto Rico, the islands now known as the Marianas, Guam and the Philippines. The Peace of Paris, December 10, 1898, liquidated the colonial empire of Spain for $20,000,000 compensation. Cuba was not even represented at the conference table. And upon its evacuation by Spain it was to be occupied by the United States. The Cuban people thought the war was for Cuba’s independence but those who had fought and suffered to win their freedom were betrayed.

Many Americans today are well aware of the US military base at Guantánamo Bay and it was from this period of history America acquired the 28,000 acres with its buildings, airfields, docks and a notorious prison camp purposefully placed outside the reach of any legal system. The US pays Cuba $3,386 dollars and 25 cents annually for this occupied territory The presence of American troops in Guantánamo are against the wishes of the Cuban people and it remains Cuba’s occupied territory.

Under the influence of war-fever, the annexation of Hawaii was also quickly accomplished. McKinley declared that “We need Hawaii just as much and a good deal more than we did California. It is manifest destiny” and the compliant press raised exaggerated stories of the threat to the islands from the Japanese and the Germans.

Secretly, Theodore Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy, had already deployed Admiral Dewey’s Pacific fleet to the Far East to attack the Spanish in the Philippines, two months before the outbreak of the war. The Spanish navy was routed and American troops later arrived and occupied the Philippines with the aid of Filipino rebels.

The people of the Philippines sincerely believed that the Americans were there to deliver them from the tyrannical yoke of Spain so that they may be a free and independent nation. The Filipino politicians were already setting up a Republic. But the Americans falsely described the situation as being one of “disorder” and required the American military to take command. When the Filipinos finally realized what had happened to them, they turned their guns on the American occupying force who proceeded to teach them all about America’s style of establishing democracy. In the three year war against the Filipinos 60,000 US troops infected with racism committed numerous atrocities and strict censorship silenced the tales of massacres and torture. Estimates of the death-toll vary but it was in the hundreds of thousands. A puppet Philippine government was established in 1907 by a restricted election in which only property holders — about 100,000 — could vote. An American Governor-General ruled with veto power.

The US was not in business of freeing people.  Its objective was merely to exchange Spanish domination with Washington’s. America had commenced the Spanish war to emancipate “little” Cuba and concluded it with the bloody subjugation of the Philippines.

Conclusion

When one risks life and limb, a rational person needs a good reason for the possible sacrifice. To make somebody even more wealthier is not a very good motivation.

The Irish Catholics of the St Patrick Battalion understood first-hand foreign oppression and religious repression. They witnessed the deceit of the the United States in launching its invasion of Mexico. They believed they possessed a worthy cause greater than themselves as individuals to fight and die for.

But others require something much more to go to war and face death. Countries will try to instill a national identity, loyalty and patriotism. When that may not be enough, an appeal to God may be called for, with government declaring they hold a divine mission to conduct a “Holy Crusade” and this is what Americans meant by their doctrine of “manifest destiny”, or what is more commonly called American “exceptionalism” these days. It offers a cloak of respectability for what can only be described as inhuman, brutal behavior. It is imperialism by another name and the aim remains the same — economic, military and political domination of the world.

There are two Americas. One is the America of the capitalist clique who threaten the world’s security. This is the America the people of the world has learned to detest and fear.

Then there is the other America — the America of  working people with a revered record of sympathy for people of other lands in their struggles against kings and despots.

This is the America that has held out the hand of comradely friendship to the oppressed people in the world and at one time offered security and sanctuary to the persecuted. This is the America that must take the power from the exploiters and parasites. The American working class can open up the way to a new world. They have the power in America. All that is necessary is for them to understand it — and to use it. We believe they will do so. We believe the real America — the America of the working people — will help save the world by saving itself. This is America’s true “manifest destiny”.

Postscript

In Europe, the Fraternal Democrats, a radical wing of the Chartist movement, issued a condemnation of the American war against Mexico, endorsing the view that the war was unjust to Mexico, disgraceful to the United States and a war for the extension of slavery.”

Following their policy of supporting the development of nascent capitalism, Marx and Engels took the opposite opinion and condoned the American aggression of the Mexican invasion. Engels writes:

We have witnessed the conquest of Mexico and have rejoiced in it…[and]… that splendid California has been taken away from the lazy Mexican…[and]…for the first time really open the Pacific Ocean to civilization.

The post “Manifest Destiny” and the Mexican-American War first appeared on Dissident Voice.

How USA and Turkey Plunder and Loot Syria with Impunity

While President Trump lashes out at rioting and looting in Portland and Kenosha, half way around the world, the USA and Turkey are plundering and looting Syria on a vastly greater scale with impunity and little publicity.

Turkey Loots Syria, then Disrupts Safe Water Supply  

Turkey has been plundering the Syrian infrastructure for years.  Beginning in late 2012 and continuing through 2013 some 300 industrial factories were dismantled and taken to Turkey from Aleppo, the industrial capital of Syria. “Machinery and goods were loaded on trucks and carried off to Turkey through the Cilvegozu and Ceylanpinar crossings. Unfortunately, ‘plundering’ and ‘terror’ have become permanent parts of the Syrian lexicon when explaining their saga.”

In October 2019 Turkish forces invaded Syria and now occupy a strip of land in north east Syria. The area is controlled by the Turkish military and pro Turkish militia forces misnamed the “Syrian National Army”. Turkish President Erdogan dubbed the invasion “Peace Spring” and said the goal was to create a “safe zone”. The reality was that 200 thousand Syrians fled the invasion and over 100 thousand have been permanently displaced from their homes, farms, workplaces and livelihoods.

The industrial scale looting continues. As reported recently in the story headlined Turkish-backed factions take apart power pylons in rural Ras Al-Ain: “Reliable sources have informed SOHR that Turkish-backed factions steal electricity power towers and pylons in ‘Peace Spring’ areas in Ras Al-Ain countryside.”

Turkey now controls the border city of Ras al-Ain and the nearby Allouk water treatment and pumping station.  This is the water station supplying safe water to the city Hasaka and entire region. The Turkish forces are using water as a weapon of war, shutting down the station to pressure the population to be compliant.  For over two weeks in August, with daily temperatures of 100 F,  there was no running water for nearly one million people.

With no tap water, civilians were forced to queue up for hours to receive small amounts from water trucks. Unable to buy the water, other civilians took their chances by drinking water from unsafe wells. According to Judy Jacoub, a Syrian journalist originally from Hasaka, “The residents of Hasaka and its countryside have been pushed to rely on unsafe water sources ….Many residents have been suffering from the spread of fungi, germs and dirt in their hair and bodies as a result of using well water that is not suitable for drinking and personal hygiene. The people of Hasaka remain vulnerable to diseases and epidemics because of the high temperatures and spread of infectious diseases. If the situation is not controlled as soon as possible, the spread of Corona virus will undoubtedly be devastating.”  A hospital medical director says many people are getting sick from the contaminated water.

Judy Jacoub explains what has happened most recently: “After Syrian and international efforts exerted pressure on the Turkish regime, 17 wells and three pumps were started . The main reservoirs were filled and pumping was started toward the city neighborhoods.  However, despite the Turkish militia’s resumption of pumping water again, there is great fear among the citizens.”

USA Loots Syrian Oil and Plunders the Economy

The USA also has occupying troops and proxy/puppet military force in north east Syria. The proxy army is misnamed the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF). How they got that name is revealing. They took on this name as they came under the funding and control of the US military. As documented here, US Army General Ray Thomas told their leadership, “You have got to change your brand. What do you want to call yourselves besides the YPG?’  Then, he explained what happened: “With about a day’s notice they declared that they are the Syrian Democratic Forces. I thought it was a stroke of brilliance to put democracy in there somewhere.”

There are numerous parties and trends within the Syrian Kurdish community. The US has been funding and promoting the secessionist element, pushing them to ally with Turkish backed  jihadists against the Damascus government.  The violation of Syrian sovereignty is extreme and grotesque.

Prior to the war, Syria was self-sufficient in oil and had enough to export and earn some foreign revenues. The primary oil sources are in eastern Syria, where the US troops and proxy forces have established bases. It is desert terrain with little population.

To finance their proxy army, the US has seized control of the major Syrian oil pumping wells. It is likely that President Trump thinks this is brilliant bold move – financing the invasion of Syria with Syrian oil.

In November 2019 President Trump said, “We’re keeping the oil… The oil is secure. We left troops behind only for the oil.”  Recently, it was revealed that a “Little known US firm secures deal for Syrian oil“. Delta Crescent Energy will manage and escalate the theft of Syrian oil.

What would Americans think if another country invaded the US via Mexico, set up bases in Texas, sponsored a secessionist militia, then seized Texas oil wells to finance it?  That is comparable to what the US is doing in Syria.

In addition to stealing Syria’s oil, the US is trying to prevent Syria from developing alternate sources. The “Caesar sanctions” on Syria threatens to punish any individual, company or country that invests or assists Syria to rebuild their war damaged country and especially in the oil and gas sector.

The US establishment seems to be doing everything it can to undermine the Syrian economy and damage the Syrian currency. Due to pressure on Lebanese banks, plus the Caesar sanctions, the Syrian pound has plummeted in value from 650 to 2150 to the US dollar in the past 10 months.

North east Syria is the breadbasket of the country with the richest wheat and grain fields. There are reports of US pressuring farmers to not sell their wheat crops to the Syrian government. One year ago, Nicholas Heras of the influential Center for New American Security argued “Assad needs access to cereal crops in northeast Syria to prevent a bread crisis in the areas of western Syria that he controls….Wheat is a weapon of great power in this next phase of the Syrian conflict.”   Now, it appears the US is following this strategy. Four months ago, in May 2020,  Syrian journalist Stephen Sahiounie reported, “Apache helicopters of the US occupation forces flew low Sunday morning, according to residents of the Adla village, in the Shaddadi countryside, south of Hasaka, as they dropped ‘thermal balloons, an incendiary weapon, causing the wheat fields to explode into flames while the hot dry winds fanned the raging fire.

After delivering their fiery pay-load, the helicopters flew close to homes in an aggressive manner, which caused residents and especially small children to fear for their lives.  The military maneuver was delivering a clear message: don’t sell your wheat to the Syrian government.”

To better loot the oil and plunder the Syria economy, in the past weeks the US is sending more heavy equipment and military hardware through the Kurdish region of Iraq.

In the south of Syria, the US has another base and occupation zone at the strategic Al Tanf border crossing. This is at the intersection of the borders of Syria, Iraq and Jordan. This is also the border crossing for the highway from Baghdad to Damascus. The US controls this border area to prevent Syrian reconstruction projects from Iraq or Iran. When Syrian troops have tried to get near there, they have been attacked on their own soil.

Meanwhile, international funds donated for “Syrian relief” are disproportionally sent to support and assist the last strong-hold of Al Qaeda terrorists in Idlib on the north west border with Turkey.  The US and its partners evidently want to sustain the armed opposition and prevent the Syrian government from reclaiming their territory.

Flouting International Law and the UN Charter

The USA and Turkey have shown how easy it is to violate international law. The occupation of Syrian land and attacks on its sovereignty are being done in broad daylight. But this is not just a legal issue. Stopping the supply of safe drinking water and burning wheat fields to create more hunger violate the most basic tenets of decency and morality.

With supreme hypocrisy, the US foreign policy establishment often complains about the decline in the “rule of law”. In actuality, there is no greater violator than the US itself.

In his speech to the UN Security Council,  Syrian Ambassador Ja’afari decried this situation saying “international law has become like the gentle lamb whose care is entrusted to a herd of wolves.”

• Author’s note: To see good political and military maps of Syria,  go to southfront.org

The post How USA and Turkey Plunder and Loot Syria with Impunity first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Reject Militarism on the Anniversary of 9/11

Nineteen years after more than 3,000 people were killed on 9/11, there remains a bipartisan commitment to fight an endless “war on terrorism,” instigate regime change coups, increase military spending, enhance US nuclear weapons, deport undocumented residents, curtail civil liberties, and militarize the police.

The September 11, 2001 attacks on the US have obscured “The Other 9/11,” the US attack on Chilean democracy in the US-backed coup on September 11, 1973. The two 9/11s are connected by what the CIA calls “blowback.” The CIA first used the term in describing the unintended negative consequences of the US and UK sponsored coup against the democratically-elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran in 1953. The September 11, 2001 attacks were blowback from decades of US intervention in the Middle East. That doesn’t justify the terrorism, but it does explain it. If we want peace and security for our nation, we should respect the peace and security of other nations.

Contrary to Trump’s lies about ending the endless wars, his administration has escalated the “Long War” in the Middle East and North Africa with increased troop deployments, drone strikes, and Special Operations.

Trump is also morphing the War on Terror abroad into a war against dissent at home. He encourages and uses law enforcement to attack nonviolent protesters, calling them “thugs” and “antifa terrorists.” He encourages white racist vigilante militias that show up armed to menace Black Lives Matter demonstrators and to intimidate local and state governments in armed protests against climate action (Oregon) and COVID-19 public health measures (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada, North Carolina, Wisconsin).

Trump encourages these actions with statements that amplify paranoid far-right fantasies that call climate change and COVID-19 hoaxes perpetrated by secret elite conspiracies. Trump has instructed the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) and Border Patrol to violate immigration laws and subject immigrants and asylum seekers to unspeakable brutality, including separating children from their parents and internment in concentration camps where COVID-19 is running rampant. He stokes racial fears and civil strife to justify authoritarian rule. He calls the news media “fake,” the elections “rigged,” and promotes conspiracy fantasies on Twitter. Trump is sowing confusion and demoralization so people will not be able to resist repression by sections of law enforcement and the racist militias should Trump decide to resist a peaceful transfer of power. The ultimate blowback against US coups and wars abroad against democracy threatens to be a coup against democracy at home.

End the Wars on Terrorism Abroad and Dissent at Home

One of my first steps as President would be to end the wars on “terrorism” abroad and at home. Neither major party calls for ending the endless wars against “terror” abroad even though the top priority in the official National Security Strategy of the United States has changed to “Great Power Competition” with the goal of preventing the emergence of strong regional powers in Eurasia, namely China, Iran, and Russia. This New Cold War, like the War on Terrorism, is about the profits of US-based global corporations abroad, not the security of the people of the United States at home.

The nuclear modernization program initiated under Obama and continued under Trump with bipartisan support has destabilized the nuclear balance of terror and kicked off a new nuclear arms race. The nuclear threat, coupled with inaction by the great powers on the climate emergency and the proliferation of disinformation propagated by state actors on all sides that makes it difficult for publics to come to agreement on what to demand of their governments, has prompted the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to move their Doomsday Clock the closest it has ever been to midnight.

I would end the saber rattling against Russia, China, and Iran in the Great Power Competition strategy and focus on diplomacy. We need to partner with other major powers to address our common problems, notably nuclear arms, climate, and cyberwar.

I would also end the bipartisan repression of dissent at home. With Trump’s encouragement, law enforcement is using militaristic tactics to suppress peaceful protests against police brutality and systemic racism. Both major parties are united in suppressing whistleblowers like Edward Snowden and publishers like Julian Assange, whose real crimes in the eyes of the National Security State is that they exposed its secret wrongdoings.

The US should speak out against violations of human rights and democracy wherever they occur, but that should not preclude also working with authoritarian governments to resolve life-or-death global issues like climate change and nuclear arms. War and threats of war are the most powerful destroyers of civil liberties, democracy, and human rights. Military threats, economic sanctions, and covert meddling in the politics of other countries only reinforces the nationalist rationalizations of authoritarian governments for repression at home in order to ward off threats from abroad.

The most powerful way to promote human rights is to set a good example. If the US wants its advocacy of human rights to be credible and effective, it must set the right example at home, where police killings of Black people are seen on social media around the world.  A country where there is mass incarceration in the largest prison system in the history of the world, and from where the US military is deployed in some 800 foreign military bases for its endless wars, making the US the nation that the world’s people consider the biggest threat to peace.

The Other 9/11: Chile

Thirty years before the United States’ 9/11, the CIA orchestrated the violent overthrow of the democratically-elected socialist government of Chile on September 11, 1973.

It is a tragic coincidence of the US bloody intervention history in Latin America that President Salvador Allende was overthrown and pushed to suicide on the same date that decades later would affect US soil by a terrorist attack. The same feelings that American felt of being violated by the first foreign attack since Pearl Harbor were felt in Chile that September 11 in 1973. The sin of Salvador Allende in the eyes of Nixon, Kissinger, and CIA Director Richard Helms was to advance deep socialist reforms that would create a more equal society, a just distribution of incomes, real freedom of expression, and a truly democratic framework that could allow, finally, the participation and voices of all sectors, specially the impoverished workers of Chile.

Sound familiar? These are exactly the challenges that the US faces today, problems that have riddled the US throughout its history and become worse in the Trump era – the authoritarian duopoly of Republicans and Democrats, voter suppression, third party suppression, deep inequality from coast to coast, and chronic poverty. It is the same kind of repression that Chile suffers today under the conservative millionaire Sebastián Piñera when people again advance the same reforms that Allende worked for and paid for with his life. It is the same social, economic, and political oppression that the two countries share on this anniversary of 9/11.

Aid, Not Arms – Make Friends, Not Enemies

In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in the United States, the Green Party of the United States warned against the danger that the two major parties and the corporate media would turn this horrific crime into a rationale for destructive wars abroad and political repression at home.

Instead of treating the 9/11 attackers as criminals to be brought to justice, the US used the attacks as a pretext for a long series of regime change wars in the Middle East and North Africa. The foreign policy leadership of the Bush administration had already written about the need for a “new Pearl Harbor” in order to provide the pretext for an invasion of Iraq to seize its oil fields. They wasted little time in getting started after 9/11.

The Authorization To Use Military Force (AUMF) against the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks passed Congress on September 18 with only one dissenting vote. The US invasion of Afghanistan started on October 1. The AUMF legislation is still the legal basis for today’s endless wars.

The Patriot Act, which gave the federal government broad new intrusive surveillance and investigatory powers that weakened civil liberties, was overwhelmingly voted through Congress by October 25.

The Bush administration, joined by the Democratic amen corner led by Senator Joe Biden, lied about weapons of mass destruction and about Iraq’s alleged role in 9/11 to start a second war in Iraq by March 2003.

After 19 years, US combat troops are now engaged in 14 wars. At least 37 million people, and as many as 59 million people, have been displaced by these wars, creating the greatest refugee crisis since World War II.

The annual observation of 9/11 has been turned by politicians into a militaristic celebration of American power that is used to garner public support for US military spending and imperial aggression abroad. Right after 9/11, the world was united in its grief for our country. It was a moment that should have been used to build peace based on mutual cooperation and respect.

Let us remember 9/11 this year by demanding that the US withdraw from its endless wars, prioritize diplomacy to resolve conflicts, end arms sales to belligerents, and provide humanitarian aid for war refugees, including reopening immigration to the US from these countries.

Let’s turn the US into the world’s humanitarian superpower instead of its global military empire. Providing aid instead of arms is the best way to promote peace and security. It is time for the US to make friends instead of enemies.

The post Reject Militarism on the Anniversary of 9/11 first appeared on Dissident Voice.

How Israel wages War on Palestinian History

When the Palestinian actor Mohammed Bakri made a documentary about Jenin in 2002 – filming immediately after the Israeli army had completed rampaging through the West Bank city, leaving death and destruction in its wake – he chose an unusual narrator for the opening scene: a mute Palestinian youth.

Jenin had been sealed off from the world for nearly three weeks as the Israeli army razed the neighbouring refugee camp and terrorised its population.

Bakri’s film Jenin, Jenin shows the young man hurrying silently between wrecked buildings, using his nervous body to illustrate where Israeli soldiers shot Palestinians and where bulldozers collapsed homes, sometimes on their inhabitants.

It was not hard to infer Bakri’s larger meaning: when it comes to their own story, Palestinians are denied a voice. They are silent witnesses to their own and their people’s suffering and abuse.

The irony is that Bakri has faced just such a fate himself since Jenin, Jenin was released 18 years ago. Today, little is remembered of his film, or the shocking crimes it recorded, except for the endless legal battles to keep it off screens.

Bakri has been tied up in Israel’s courts ever since, accused of defaming the soldiers who carried out the attack. He has paid a high personal price. Deaths threats, loss of work and endless legal bills that have near-bankrupted him. A verdict in the latest suit against him – this time backed by the Israeli attorney general – is expected in the next few weeks.

Bakri is a particularly prominent victim of Israel’s long-running war on Palestinian history. But there are innumerable other examples.

For decades many hundreds of Palestinian residents in the southern West Bank have been fighting their expulsion as Israeli officials characterise them as “squatters”. According to Israel, the Palestinians are nomads who recklessly built homes on land they seized inside an army firing zone.

The villagers’ counter-claims were ignored until the truth was unearthed recently in Israel’s archives.

These Palestinian communities are, in fact, marked on maps predating Israel. Official Israeli documents presented in court last month show that Ariel Sharon, a general-turned-politician, devised a policy of establishing firing zones in the occupied territories to justify mass evictions of Palestinians like these communities in the Hebron Hills.

The residents are fortunate that their claims have been officially verified, even if they still depend on uncertain justice from an Israeli occupiers’ court.

Israel’s archives are being hurriedly sealed up precisely to prevent any danger that records might confirm long-sidelined and discounted Palestinian history.

Last month Israel’s state comptroller, a watchdog body, revealed that more than one million archived documents were still inaccessible, even though they had passed their declassification date. Nonetheless, some have slipped through the net.

The archives have, for example, confirmed some of the large-scale massacres of Palestinian civilians carried out in 1948 – the year Israel was established by dispossessing Palestinians of their homeland.

In one such massacre at Dawaymeh, near where Palestinians are today fighting against their expulsion from the firing zone, hundreds were executed, even as they offered no resistance, to encourage the wider population to flee.

Other files have corroborated Palestinian claims that Israel destroyed more than 500 Palestinian villages during a wave of mass expulsions that same year to dissuade the refugees from trying to return.

Official documents have disproved, too, Israel’s claim that it pleaded with the 750,000 Palestinian refugees to return home. In fact, as the archives reveal, Israel obscured its role in the ethnic cleansing of 1948 by inventing a cover story that it was Arab leaders who commanded Palestinians to leave.

The battle to eradicate Palestinian history does not just take place in the courts and archives. It begins in Israeli schools.

A new study by Avner Ben-Amos, a history professor at Tel Aviv University, shows that Israeli pupils learn almost nothing truthful about the occupation, even though many will soon enforce it as soldiers in a supposedly “moral” army that rules over Palestinians.

Maps in geography textbooks strip out the so-called “Green Line” – the borders demarcating the occupied territories – to present a Greater Israel long desired by the settlers. History and civics classes evade all discussion of the occupation, human rights violations, the role of international law, or apartheid-like local laws that treat Palestinians differently from Jewish settlers living illegally next door.

Instead, the West Bank is known by the Biblical names of “Judea and Samaria”, and its occupation in 1967 is referred to as a “liberation”.

Sadly, Israel’s erasure of Palestinians and their history is echoed outside by digital behemoths such as Google and Apple.

Palestinian solidarity activists have spent years battling to get both platforms to include hundreds of Palestinian communities in the West Bank missed off their maps, under the hashtag #HeresMyVillage. Illegal Jewish settlements, meanwhile, are prioritised on these digital maps.

Another campaign, #ShowTheWall, has lobbied the tech giants to mark on their maps the path of Israel’s 700-kilometre-long steel and concrete barrier, effectively used by Israel to annex occupied Palestinian territory in violation of international law.

And last month Palestinian groups launched yet another campaign, #GoogleMapsPalestine, demanding that the occupied territories be labelled “Palestine”, not just the West Bank and Gaza. The UN recognised the state of Palestine back in 2012, but Google and Apple refused to follow suit.

Palestinians rightly argue that these firms are replicating the kind of disappearance of Palestinians familiar from Israeli textbooks, and that they uphold “mapping segregation” that mirrors Israel’s apartheid laws in the occupied territories.

Today’s crimes of occupation – house demolitions, arrests of activists and children, violence from soldiers, and settlement expansion – are being documented by Israel, just as its earlier crimes were.

Future historians may one day unearth those papers from the Israeli archives and learn the truth. That Israeli policies were not driven, as Israel claims now, by security concerns, but by a colonial desire to destroy Palestinian society and pressure Palestinians to leave their homeland, to be replaced by Jews.

The lessons for future researchers will be no different from the lessons learnt by their predecessors, who discovered the 1948 documents.

But in truth, we do not need to wait all those years hence. We can understand what is happening to Palestinians right now – simply by refusing to conspire in their silencing. It is time to listen.

• First published in The National

How the Israel-UAE Deal puts the Bogus Peace Industry Back in Business

If there is one conclusion to draw from the agreement this week between Israel and the United Arab Emirates – with Israel temporarily “suspending” its threat to illegally annex parts of the West Bank, in return for “full normalisation” with the Gulf state – it is this: The peace industry is back in business.

But this time, unlike the interminable Oslo Accords signed a quarter of a century ago, there won’t even be the pretence that Palestinians are needed for “Middle East peace” to proceed. This is a process that takes place over their heads, a dialogue from which they are entirely absent.

This peace process is not between Palestinians and Israel, Washington’s client in the region. It is between Israel and oil-rich Arab states loyal to the US. It is a process that allows them to end the pretence that they are enemies of Israel. It means that they can stop feigning support for the Palestinian struggle for a state – even one on the last remnants of Palestinians’ homeland.

This is a peace process that effectively rubber-stamps the occupation and the many dozens of illegal Jewish settlements Israel has built to steal Palestinian land over many decades.

This is a peace process that moves the ostensible goal posts from permanently ending the occupation to simply postponing – for a little longer – Israel’s ambition to permanently annex those Palestinian lands it has already stolen.

In short, this is a peace process in which Arab states, led by the UAE, formally join Israel in waging war on Palestinians.

‘Outside-in’ strategy

In that sense, this is a continuation of the process begun by Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s Middle East adviser and son-in-law, in developing the so-called “deal of the century”.

From the start, Kushner turned to the Gulf – to which he and the rest of the US political and economic elite have long been personally close – and sought to craft what became known as the “outside-in” strategy.

That meant recruiting as many Arab regimes as possible, starting with the oil-rich Gulf states, to sign up to the Trump “peace plan” and use their weight – and money – to strong-arm Palestinians into surrendering to Israeli diktats.

A White House dedicated to the politics of the used-car lot was bound to imagine that economics could be used to bludgeon Palestinians into compliance. That was why Kushner held an economic conference in Bahrain early last summer, even before he had a peace plan to unveil.

Saudis next in line?

Sensing how this was playing out, the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas refused early on to engage with the Trump plan, and soon cut off all ties to Washington. It made no difference. This was a peace plan that did not need the Palestinian people to be involved in the haggling over their future.

The Trump plan, unveiled earlier in the year, offered Palestinians the promise of an eventual state on shards of the West Bank, after Israel had been allowed to annex swaths of their territory.

Now, Israel has put this move on temporary hold in return for normalisation with the UAE. Kushner says other states are expected to follow. Bahrain and Oman are likely to be close behind.

The agreement states: “The United States, Israel and the United Arab Emirates are confident that additional diplomatic breakthroughs with other nations are possible, and will work together to achieve this goal.”

The real coup would be Saudi Arabia, which is presumably waiting to see how the deal with the UAE is received. It is hard to imagine, however, that the UAE’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, took this step without first getting the green light from Riyadh.

By contrast, the previous Saudi ruler, King Abdullah, championed a regional peace agreement in 2002 that offered Israel full recognition by the Arab states in return for Israel conceding Palestinian statehood in the occupied territories.

That offer exposed the true colours of Israel and Washington. Israeli leaders ignored the Saudi plan, and, taking their cue from Tel Aviv, US leaders refused to seize the opportunity to advance the bold Saudi offer as the basis for a peace agreement.

Biden jumps on board

Under Trump, things have rapidly worsened for Palestinians. Millions of refugees have been starved of aid; the US embassy has been moved to Jerusalem; Israel’s illegal annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights has been approved; and illegal settlements have continued to expand.

And yet, Israeli intransigence is paying off. The Gulf is ready to offer Israel normalisation not just without any meaningful concessions, but at the same time as the situation for Palestinians deteriorates significantly.

Trump has called the Israeli-UAE pact “a historic peace agreement between our two great friends”. Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, described the UAE’s normalisation with Israel as “a significant step forward for peace in the Middle East”.

But anyone who imagines that this is simply a floundering, implausible last move by a lame-duck president – assuming Trump fails to win the presidential election in November – is likely to be in for a disappointment.

Joe Biden, his Democratic challenger, has also excitedly jumped on board. He described the agreement as “a welcome, brave, and badly needed act of statesmanship”, adding that the alternative – annexation – “would be a body blow to the cause of peace”.

Bitter victory

In one sense, this is a victory, even if a very bitter one, for the Palestinian leadership. They denounced the agreement. Palestinians’ belated refusal to engage with the Trump plan – after long colluding in a US-dictated Oslo peace process that was designed from the outset to negate their right to live in dignity in their homeland – has flushed the real US-Israeli agenda out into the open.

Even with the best interpretation of the Oslo Accords, Palestinians were never going to be allowed the semblance of a sovereign state, even on the remnants of their original homeland.

They were to have no control over their borders, their airspace, the electromagnetic spectrum, or their diplomatic relations with other states. And of course, they were most definitely not going to be allowed an army.

The peace process was always about keeping Israel in control of the entire space, with a segment of Palestinians allowed to live there as a caged, dependent people. They could either willingly agree to their subordination, or face further repression from Israel to crush their spirit.

Now, all of this is no longer being disguised, even if politicians and diplomats in Washington and the Gulf wish to mislead the rest of the world that this should still be called a “peace process”.

Signs that they may get away with this monumental deception were evident in the responses of major European capitals, which welcomed the agreement. Germany called it “an important contribution to peace in the region”, while Boris Johnson in the UK said it was “hugely good news”.

The message sent by Israel, the US and the UAE is that committing war crimes and violating international humanitarian law can pay handsome dividends over the long run.

A shared agenda

The gains in this deal for the UAE and the other Gulf states – assuming, as seems likely, that they follow suit – are simple. The Sunni Gulf has long wanted fuller integration into the US-Israeli security nexus in the Middle East.

The US, Israel and the Gulf states share a deep hostility towards Iran and its Shia coreligionist factions in the region – from Lebanon and Syria to Iraq and Yemen.

Israel opposes these Shia actors because they have proved most ready to resist it, as well as Washington’s imperial designs, centred on control over the region’s oil.

The Gulf, meanwhile, as the birthplace of Sunni Islam and the supposed guardian of its honour, has a separate interest in securing its sectarian hegemony in the region. Gulf states have been developing close, if semi-covert, ties to Israel in recent years while engaging more actively in wars across the region, either through proxies in Syria and Iraq or directly in Yemen.

They have been keen to go public with normalisation so that they can gain greater access to US-Israeli intelligence and improved military technology, which would naturally flow from increased levels of trust.

Imperial agenda

Aside from the bland, positive diplomatic wording, the agreement does not veil this goal: A new “Strategic Agenda for the Middle East” will be developed to “expand diplomatic, trade, and security cooperation”. The US, Israel and the UAE “share a similar outlook regarding the threats and opportunities in the region, as well as a shared commitment to promoting stability”.

Repackaging its role in this entirely self-interested deal, the UAE can also still present itself as the champion of the Palestinian cause and the two-state solution, delaying annexation to another day.

The advantages to the Gulf run deeper still, however. Washington’s imperial agenda inevitably feeds and needs enemies, especially in an oil-rich region such as the Middle East, to justify endless wars and endless profits for its “defence” industries.

The Gulf states want to be on the right side of that military-industrial divide as the US moves into choppier waters ahead, facing oil shortages, a deterioration in the global climate, and the rise of China as a superpower.

Diplomatic coup

Washington’s interests in the deal, and Trump’s, are similarly clear. Pushing ahead with annexation has proved much harder than the Trump administration expected. European and Arab capitals were adamantly opposed to a move that would deprive them of the two-state cover story that, for more than two decades, had allowed them to pretend they were committed to Middle East peace.

And it became ever harder for Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to muster support from the Israeli public for annexation as the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changed priorities.

Months from a presidential election he is predicted to lose, Trump needed a diplomatic coup in the Middle East after promising so much and achieving so little with his much-trumpeted “deal of the century”. Now he has it.

This move will placate his large Christian evangelical electoral base, which is devoted to Israel and supports whatever it wants. Evangelical leaders lost no time in saying they were “elated” by the announcement.

It can also be spun, as his officials began vigorously doing from the outset, as an “historic peace agreement” – equivalent to the deals Israel signed previously with Egypt and Jordan. That can be used on the campaign trail to sell Trump to the wider electorate as one of the great US statesmen.

Sharpening the battle lines

But there are wider benefits for the bipartisan Washington foreign policy elite. They have long wished to cement ties between Israel and the Gulf states, having the US’ two most reliable regional allies publicly cooperating.

As the Gulf states have become more deeply and obviously enmeshed in wars across the Middle East – from Syria to Yemen – an agreement allying them to Israel helps Washington’s improbable narrative that they are really the good guys. It will sharpen the region’s battle lines and, it is hoped, convey greater legitimacy on these theocratic dictatorships.

The US hopes, too, that the agreement with the UAE – and other Gulf states later – will once again provide a plausible cover story as Israel entrenches its occupation, steals more Palestinian land and intensifies its repression of Palestinians.

It will allow Washington to revive its bogus claims of being an “honest broker”, seeking the best for Palestinians, even if their leaders are supposedly too dimwitted to understand what is good for them.

Pitting the Palestinian leadership against the Gulf – as well as other Arab states, such as Jordan and Egypt, that dare not antagonise their oil-rich neighbours – will further isolate Palestinians. They can now be presented more convincingly as entrenched opponents of peace, at best – or, if they resist, as terrorists.

Netanyahu bailed out

Lastly, Netanyahu, who is in deep trouble at home, hopes this agreement can dig him out of his hole. He is up against a wave of protests that have rallied large sections of Israeli society, including on the right. He faces an unprecedented corruption trial. His handling of the Covid-19 pandemic looks increasingly catastrophic. The Israeli economy is imploding.

In this context, his focus on West Bank annexation alienated much of the Israeli public, and even failed to satisfy sections of the settler community, who want all of the Palestinian territories, not just large parts. A deal with the UAE – and implicitly one with the rest of the Gulf – allows him to climb down from an unpopular annexation plan.

Netanyahu has long declared himself Mr. Security, the protector of Israel’s interests, and the only Israeli leader capable of making dramatic moves on the global stage. Here, he appears to have done both. It has even forced his political opponents to praise his achievement.

Netanyahu has managed to pull all this off while being able to argue that annexation is still “on the table”, placating his supporters among the settlers.

The agreement may yet set the stage for him to win a winter election he is widely reported to be preparing for.

No price to pay

The abandonment of annexation – temporarily or otherwise – will not, of course, interrupt Israel’s continuing capture of ever more Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank, nor its relentless campaign of ethnic cleansing.

Netanyahu has demonstrated to Israelis that he was right. Israel could violate international law, steal land, commit war crimes – and western and Arab states would stomach it all. Israel would have to pay no price for its behaviour.

Haaretz recalled on Friday that, when asked in 2018 whether concessions to Palestinians initiated in the Oslo Accords had gradually led to improvements in relations with the Arab world, Netanyahu responded that it was the “exact opposite”.

By first recruiting the West and Arab regimes to Israel’s side, he said, Israel would “become so strong” that it would force Palestinians to “understand that they have no choice but to compromise with us” – his term for absolute submission.

For Netanyahu, a strategic alliance with the Gulf – at the expense of Palestinians – has always been about more than just grabbing the occupied territories. It is central to his vision of an unreformed, maximalist, ethnic supremacist, Israeli state secure in the Middle East, serving as a regional hegemon alongside US global power.

Now, with this deal, Netanyahu believes he is in sight of the finishing line.

• First published in Middle East Eye

US: Crimes against Humanity at Home and Abroad

Photo Credit:  Albert Eisenstaedt

This month marks the second year since former President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, announced to the world a campaign promoted by a group of Latin American writers and academics to declare August 9 as International Day of US Crimes against Humanity. Appropriately the day is to remember the second nuclear bomb dropped in 1945 on Nagasaki, Japan that came just three days after the first nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Imagine how depraved and cold-blooded the then Democratic President Truman could be to find that he had incinerated 150,000 people on one day and turned right around and did it again in Nagasaki instantly killing 65,000 more human beings. US historical accounts love to turn truth on its head by saying how many lives those nuclear bombs saved when Japan was already defeated before the bombs were dropped after 67 Japanese cities had been leveled to the ground by relentless US aerial fire bombings.

The people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were sacrificed as an exclamation point on a proclamation to the world announcing the arrival of the US as the world’s new pre-eminent super power. It also served as an example that the US would commit any murderous crime of any proportion to maintain that imperial position of dominance and they have demonstrated that to be true time and time again. Even now in decline the US has never apologized for this unnecessary crime because that could convey a sign of weakness and a step back from a policy of nuclear blackmail held over the nations of the world. Obama had the chance to do that in the final year of his presidency when he had nothing to lose in a 2016 visit to Hiroshima. Instead of apologizing to the people of Japan or easing tensions in the world Obama, in eloquent fluffy double talk, said, “Mere words cannot give voice to such suffering. But we have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again.”

The responsibility for the majority of suffering in the world was then, and continues to be, on an imperialist policy and its inherent neoliberal engine that violently throttles the ability of countries to develop in a way that would bring health and prosperity for the benefit of their majorities. In the end it is an unsustainable system that only benefits a sliver of privileged society.

The US crimes against humanity did not begin or end with the dropping of the nuclear bombs on Japan. As militant civil rights leader Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (formerly H. Rap Brown) pointed out years ago, “Violence is as American as cherry pie.” Since its inception the US has been ingrained with a motor force of violent oppression against everyone and every country that stood in the way of its expansion for control of resources and its entitlement to limitless accumulation of vast wealth for a few.

The original thirteen colonies that rebelled against England were not motivated solely by being taxed without representation but more for the restrictions that King George had placed on the unbridled greed of the white settlers to expand and steal the lands of the indigenous nations and communities and to establish a system of slavery which was the main source of capitalist accumulation especially for the southern colonies. At the time of the revolution close to 20% of the population consisted of Black slaves.  Slavery actually ran contrary to British Common Law so the only way the emerging class of landowners in the colonies could flourish was to secede from the British Empire. In doing so it established a pivotal component of the original DNA of the United States; structural racism as a means to justify any level of discrimination and oppression with a deeply embedded belief in the inferiority of any race not white and Christian. The cries of Black Lives Matter in the streets of all the major cities and towns of the US today are a resounding echo of resistance that comes from the plantations and the slave ships that came from Africa.

The genocide of indigenous people in the US was its initial crime wave against humanity as it expanded westward destined by God to exercise their Manifest Destiny. The early history of this country is littered with hundreds of massacres of the original caretakers of the land from the Atlantic to the Pacific. And that crime continues to this day with Native Americans suffering from the highest infection rates of Covid-19 in the country as a direct result of government neglect and broken treaties that keep the reservations in grinding poverty including in many areas where there is not even running water.

On July 21 Congress passed a $740 billion military appropriations bill, the biggest ever, and $2 billion more than last year. The United States spends more on national defense than the next 11 largest militaries combined.  A well intended but feeble attempt by sections of the Democratic Party to cut 10% of the budget to go to health and human services failed because ultimately funding the 800 US military installations that occupy territory in more than 70 countries around the world takes precedence over something so basic and human as subsidized food programs. Meanwhile approximately 20% of the families in this country are struggling to obtain nutritious food every day just as one example of the growing social and health needs.

Wars and occupations are expensive and that money goes right down the drain. It does not recycle through the economy; rather it is equipment and operations meant to destroy and terrorize, and the only part of it that is reused is the militarization of police forces in the US who are geared out in advanced equipment for the wars at home not even normally seen in theaters of war abroad.

When Obama took over from Bush junior he vowed to end the war in Afghanistan and instead left office with the unique distinction of having had a war going every day of his 8 years in office. He launched airstrikes or military raids in at least seven countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan and Trump came in and did not miss a beat and has carried the war of death, destruction and destabilization of Afghanistan into its twentieth year. The Pentagon knows that the days of outright winning a war are over and relies now on hybrid wars that are perhaps even more criminal. It is now wars of attrition with proxy and contract armies, aerial bombardment, sabotage of infrastructure that turns into endless wars, the intent of which is to make sure that a country is imbalanced, exhausted and does not become independent or develop and use its resources for the benefit of its own people.

This, of course, is not the only type of criminal warfare in the Empire’s arsenal. Economic sanctions are just as much a crime against humanity as military attacks. No one should ever forget the 10 years of the US orchestrated UN sanctions against Iraq in the 1990’s that were responsible for the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children.  Primarily through executive order Trump has put some sort of sanctions on around one third of the countries of the world ranging in severity starting with the 60 year old unilateral blockade of Cuba for the crime of insisting on its sovereignty just 90 miles away, to the sanctioning of medicines and food to Venezuela causing the deaths of 40,000 people, the outright stealing of billions of dollars of their assets out of banks, and organizing coup plots against the democratically elected President, Nicolas Maduro.

Now the chickens have come to roost with Trump sending shadowy military units of federal agents into cities like Portland, Seattle and other cities like it was a military invasion of some poor country, barging in uninvited not to bring order and peace but to brutalize, escalate and provoke people in the streets who for months now have been demanding real justice and equality. The combination of the failure of the Trump Administration to confront the pandemic with any sort of will or a national science based plan, the existing economic crisis with its glaring separation of wealth and the endless murdering of people of color as normal police policy has exposed the system like never before. The growing consciousness of a majority of the US population that now seem to be getting that there has to be fundamental change will be the catalyst for real change to happen. It will not come from a government that does not reflect their interests but only through a unity of struggle will we be pointed in a direction that will push US crimes against humanity, at home and abroad, to become a thing of the past.

Death From the Sky: Hiroshima and Normalised Atrocities

When US President Harry S. Truman made the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, followed by another on Nagasaki a few days later, he was not acting as an agent untethered from history.  In the wheels of his wearied mind lay the battered Marines who, despite being victorious, had received sanguinary lashings at Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

A fear grew, and US military sources speculated about, the slaughter that might follow an invasion of the Japanese homeland.  They also pondered the future role of the Soviets, and wondered whether there were other means by which Japan’s involvement in the war might be terminated before Moscow got its hands on the battered remains of North East Asia.

Much is made about the moral dilemma Truman faced.  He knew there was the nastiest of weapons at hand, born from the race to acquire it from Nazi Germany.  But on a certain level, it was merely another weapon, one to use, a choice sample in the cabinet of lethal means and measures.  By that stage of the war, killing civilians from the air, not to mention land, was banal and common place; enemy populations were to be experimented upon, burned, torched, gassed, shelled and eradicated in the program of total war.

By the time Truman made his decision, Japan had become a graveyard of strategic aerial bombing.  General Curtis E. LeMay of the US Air Force prided himself on incinerating the enemy, and was encouraged by various study commissions advocating the use of incendiary bombs against Japan’s flammable urban architecture.  He was realising the dreams of such figures as the pioneering US aviator and air power enthusiast Billy Mitchell, who fantasised in the 1920s about Japanese cities being “the greatest aerial targets the world has ever seen”. In 1941, US Army chief of staff George Marshall spread the word to journalists that the US would “set the paper cities of Japan on fire”.  Civilians would not be spared.

Towards the end of the war, daylight precision bombing had fallen out of favour; LeMay preferred the use of Boeing B-29 Superfortresses, heavily laden with firebombs, to do the work.  His pride of joy in conflagration was Tokyo.  During the six-hour raid over the night of March 9 and 10, 1945, the US Strategic Bombing Survey concluded that 87,793 had perished, with 40,918 injuries.

There was little novel in LeMay’s blunt approach.  Britain’s Air Force Marshal Arthur “Bomber” Harris fertilised the ground, and the air, for such an idea.  He made it his mission to not only kill Germans but kill German civilians with a cool determination. He did so with a workmanlike conviction so disturbing it chilled the blood of many Britons.  As he put it, “The cities of Germany, including their working populations, are literally the heart of Germany’s war potential.”  It was his intention to, he explained to personnel, “in addition to the horrors of fire … to bring masonry crashing down on top of the Boche, to kill the Boche and to terrify the Boche”.  The Teutonic enemy came, not so much in all shades, but one.  Saturation bombing, regarded after the Second World War as generally ineffective, a ghastly failure to bring the population to its knees, received its blessing in Bomber Command.

This entire process neutered the moral compass of its executioners.  Killing civilians had ceased to be a problem of war, one of those afterthoughts which served to sanction mass murder.  Britain’s chief of the air staff for a good deal of the war, Charles Portal, called it a “fallacy” that bombing Germany’s cities “was really intended to kill and frighten Germans and that we camouflaged this intention by the pretence that we would destroy industry.  Any such idea is completely false.  The loss of life, which amounted to some 600,000 killed, was purely incidental.”  When 600,000 becomes an incidental matter, we are well on the way to celebrating the charnel houses of indiscriminate war.

When the issue of saturation bombing creased the legal minds behind the Nuremberg and Tokyo war crimes trials, an admission had to be made: all sides of the Second World War had made the air a realm of convenience in the killing of humanity, uniformed or not.  To win was all that mattered.  While the Nuremberg Charter left it open to criminalise German aerial tactics, the International Military Tribunal hedged.  As chief of the Luftwaffe, Hermann Göring was singled out for air attacks on Poland and other states but the prosecutors refrained from pushing the point, likely reflecting the cold fact, as Matthew Lippmann puts it, “that both Germany and the Allies engaged in similar tactics.”

It is true that Germany and Japan gave a good pioneering go at indiscriminate aerial slaughter.  But the Allied powers, marshalling never before seen fleets of murderous bombers, perfected the bloody harvest.  The war had to be won, and, if needed, over the corpses of the hapless mother, defenceless child and frail grandparent.  As the historian Charles S. Maier notes with characteristic sharpness, a tacit consensus prevailed after the Second World War that the ledger of brutality was all stacked on one side.  German bombings during the Spanish Civil War, notably of Guernica; Warsaw, Rotterdam, London and Coventry during the world war that followed, were seen as “acts of wanton terror”. The Allied attacks on Italian, German and Japanese urban centres, in proportion and scale far more destructive, were seen as “legitimate military actions”.

Distinctions about civilian and non-civilian vanished in the atomic cloud.  Hiroshima’s tale is the apotheosis of eliminating distinctions in war.  It propagated such dangerous beliefs that nuclear wars might be won, sparing a handful of specialists and breeders in bunkers planning for the new post-apocalyptic dawn.  It normalised, even as it constituted a warning, the act of annihilation itself.

Prior to the twin incinerations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the redoubtable nurse and writer Vera Brittain issued a warning that remains salient to those who wish to resort to waging death from the sky:  “If the nations cannot agree, when peace returns, to refrain from the use of the bombing aeroplane as they have refrained from using poison gas, then mankind itself deserves to perish from the epidemic of moral insanity which today afflicts our civilisation.”

Key U.S. Ally Indicted for Organ Trade Murder Scheme

When President Clinton dropped 23,000 bombs on what was left of Yugoslavia in 1999 and NATO invaded and occupied the Yugoslav province of Kosovo, U.S. officials presented the war to the American public as a “humanitarian intervention” to protect Kosovo’s majority ethnic Albanian population from genocide at the hands of Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic. That narrative has been unraveling piece by piece ever since.

In 2008 an international prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, accused U.S.-backed Prime Minister Hashim Thaci of Kosovo of using the U.S. bombing campaign as cover to murder hundreds of people to sell their internal organs on the international transplant market. Del Ponte’s charges seemed almost too ghoulish to be true. But on June 24th, Thaci, now President of Kosovo, and nine other former leaders of the CIA-backed Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA,) were finally indicted for these 20-year-old crimes by a special war crimes court at The Hague.

From 1996 on, the CIA and other Western intelligence agencies covertly worked with the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) to instigate and fuel violence and chaos in Kosovo. The CIA spurned mainstream Kosovar nationalist leaders in favor of gangsters and heroin smugglers like Thaci and his cronies, recruiting them as terrorists and death squads to assassinate Yugoslav police and anyone who opposed them, ethnic Serbs and Albanians alike.

As it has done in country after country since the 1950s, the CIA unleashed a dirty civil war that Western politicians and media dutifully blamed on Yugoslav authorities. But by early 1998, even U.S. envoy Robert Gelbard called the KLA a “terrorist group” and the UN Security Council condemned “acts of terrorism” by the KLA and “all external support for terrorist activity in Kosovo, including finance, arms and training.” Once the war was over and Kosovo was successfully occupied by U.S. and NATO forces, CIA sources openly touted the agency’s role in manufacturing the civil war to set the stage for NATO intervention.

By September 1998, the UN reported that 230,000 civilians had fled the civil war, mostly across the border to Albania, and the UN Security Council passed resolution 1199, calling for a ceasefire, an international monitoring mission, the return of refugees and a political resolution. A new U.S. envoy, Richard Holbrooke, convinced Yugoslav President Milosevic to agree to a unilateral ceasefire and the introduction of a 2,000 member “verification” mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). But the U.S. and NATO immediately started drawing up plans for a bombing campaign to “enforce” the UN resolution and Yugoslavia’s unilateral ceasefire.

Holbrooke persuaded the chair of the OSCE, Polish foreign minister Bronislaw Geremek, to appoint William Walker, the former U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador during its civil war, to lead the Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM). The U.S. quickly hired 150 Dyncorp mercenaries to form the nucleus of Walker’s team, whose 1,380 members used GPS equipment to map Yugoslav military and civilian infrastructure for the planned NATO bombing campaign. Walker’s deputy, Gabriel Keller, France’s former Ambassador to Yugoslavia, accused Walker of sabotaging the KVM, and CIA sources later admitted that the KVM was a “CIA front” to coordinate with the KLA and spy on Yugoslavia.

The climactic incident of CIA-provoked violence that set the political stage for the NATO bombing and invasion was a firefight at a village called Racak, which the KLA had fortified as a base from which to ambush police patrols and dispatch death squads to kill local “collaborators.” In January 1999, Yugoslav police attacked the KLA base in Racak, leaving 43 men, a woman and a teenage boy dead.

After the firefight, Yugoslav police withdrew from the village, and the KLA reoccupied it and staged the scene to make the firefight look like a massacre of civilians. When William Walker and a KVM team visited Racak the next day, they accepted the KLA’s massacre story and broadcast it to the world, and it became a standard part of the narrative to justify the bombing of Yugoslavia and military occupation of Kosovo.

Autopsies by an international team of medical examiners found traces of gunpowder on the hands of nearly all the bodies, showing that they had fired weapons. They were nearly all killed by multiple gunshots as in a firefight, not by precise shots as in a summary execution, and only one victim was shot at close range. But the full autopsy results were only published much later, and the Finnish chief medical examiner accused Walker of pressuring her to alter them.

Two experienced French journalists and an AP camera crew at the scene challenged the KLA and Walker’s version of what happened in Racak. Christophe Chatelet’s article in Le Monde was headlined, “Were the dead in Racak really massacred in cold blood?” and veteran Yugoslavia correspondent Renaud Girard concluded his story in Le Figaro with another critical question, “Did the KLA seek to transform a military defeat into a political victory?”

NATO immediately threatened to bomb Yugoslavia, and France agreed to host high-level talks. But instead of inviting Kosovo’s mainstream nationalist leaders to the talks in Rambouillet, Secretary Albright flew in a delegation led by KLA commander Hashim Thaci, until then known to Yugoslav authorities only as a gangster and a terrorist.

Albright presented both sides with a draft agreement in two parts, civilian and military. The civilian part granted Kosovo unprecedented autonomy from Yugoslavia, and the Yugoslav delegation accepted that. But the military agreement would have forced Yugoslavia to accept a NATO military occupation, not just of Kosovo but with no geographical limits, in effect placing all of Yugoslavia under NATO occupation.

When Milosevich refused Albright’s terms for unconditional surrender, the U.S. and NATO claimed he had rejected peace, and war was the only answer, the “last resort“.  They did not return to the UN Security Council to try to legitimize their plan, knowing full well that Russia, China and other countries would reject it. When UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told Albright the British government was “having trouble with our lawyers” over NATO’s plan for an illegal war of aggression against Yugoslavia, she told him to “get new lawyers“.

In March 1999, the KVM teams were withdrawn and the bombing began. Pascal Neuffer, a Swiss KVM observer reported, “The situation on the ground on the eve of the bombing did not justify a military intervention. We could certainly have continued our work. And the explanations given in the press, saying the mission was compromised by Serb threats, did not correspond to what I saw. Let’s say rather that we were evacuated because NATO had decided to bomb.”

NATO killed thousands of civilians in Kosovo and the rest of Yugoslavia, as  it bombed 19 hospitals, 20 health centers, 69 schools, 25,000 homes, power stations, a national TV station, the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade and other diplomatic missions. After it invaded Kosovo, the U.S. military set up the 955-acre Camp Bondsteel, one of its largest bases in Europe, on its newest occupied territory. Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner, Alvaro Gil-Robles, visited Camp Bondsteel in 2002 and called it “a smaller version of Guantanamo,” exposing it as a secret CIA black site for illegal, unaccountable detention and torture.

But for the people of Kosovo, the ordeal was not over when the bombing stopped. Far more people had fled the bombing than the so-called “ethnic cleansing” the CIA had provoked to set the stage for it. A reported 900,000 refugees, nearly half the population, returned to a shattered, occupied province, now ruled by gangsters and foreign overlords.

Serbs and other minorities became second-class citizens, clinging precariously to homes and communities where many of their families had lived for centuries. More than 200,000 Serbs, Roma and other minorities fled, as the NATO occupation and KLA rule replaced the CIA’s manufactured illusion of ethnic cleansing with the real thing. Camp Bondsteel was the province’s largest employer, and U.S. military contractors also sent Kosovars to work in occupied Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2019, Kosovo’s per capita GDP was only $4,458, less than any country in Europe except Moldova and war-torn, post-coup Ukraine.

In 2007, a German military intelligence report described Kosovo as a “Mafia society” based on the “capture of the state” by criminals. The report named Hashim Thaci, then the leader of the Democratic Party, as an example of “the closest ties between leading political decision makers and the dominant criminal class.” In 2000, 80% of the heroin trade in Europe was controlled by Kosovar gangs, and the presence of thousands of U.S. and NATO troops fueled an explosion of prostitution and sex trafficking, also controlled by Kosovo’s new criminal ruling class.

In 2008, Thaci was elected Prime Minister, and Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia. (The final dissolution of Yugoslavia in 2006 had left Serbia and Montenegro as separate countries.) The U.S. and 14 allies immediately recognized Kosovo’s independence, and ninety-seven countries, about half the countries in the world, have now done so. But neither Serbia nor the UN have recognized it, leaving Kosovo in long-term diplomatic limbo.

When the court in the Hague unveiled the charges against Thaci on June 24th, he was on his way to Washington for a White House meeting with Trump and President Vucic of Serbia to try to resolve Kosovo’s diplomatic impasse. But when the charges were announced, Thaci’s plane made a U-turn over the Atlantic, he returned to Kosovo and the meeting was canceled.

The accusation of murder and organ trafficking against Thaci was first made in 2008 by Carla Del Ponte, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTFY), in a book she wrote after stepping down from that position. Del Ponte later explained that the ICTFY was prevented from charging Thaci and his co-defendants by the non-cooperation of NATO and the UN Mission in Kosovo. In an interview for the 2014 documentary, The Weight of Chains 2, she explained, “NATO and the KLA, as allies in the war, couldn’t act against each other.”

Human Rights Watch and the BBC followed up on Del Ponte’s allegations, and found evidence that Thaci and his cronies murdered up to 400 mostly Sebian prisoners during the NATO bombing in 1999. Survivors described prison camps in Albania where prisoners were tortured and killed, a yellow house where people’s organs were removed and an unmarked mass grave nearby.

Council of Europe investigator Dick Marty interviewed witnesses, gathered evidence and published a report, which the Council of Europe endorsed in January 2011, but the Kosovo parliament did not approve the plan for a special court in the Hague until 2015. The Kosovo Specialist Chambers and independent prosecutor’s office finally began work in 2017. Now the judges have six months to review the prosecutor’s charges and decide whether the trial should proceed.

A central part of the Western narrative on Yugoslavia was the demonization of President Milosevich of Yugoslavia, who resisted his country’s Western-backed dismemberment throughout the 1990s. Western leaders smeared Milosevich as a “New Hitler” and the “Butcher of the Balkans,” but he was still arguing his innocence when he died in a cell at The Hague in 2006.

Ten years later, at the trial of the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, the judges accepted the prosecution’s evidence that Milosevich strongly opposed Karadzic’s plan to carve out a Serb Republic in Bosnia. They convicted Karadzic of being fully responsible for the resulting civil war, in effect posthumously exonerating Milosevich of responsibility for the actions of the Bosnian Serbs, the most serious of the charges against him.

But the U.S.’s endless campaign to paint all its enemies as “violent dictators” and “New Hitlers” rolls on like a demonization machine on autopilot, against Putin, Xi, Maduro, Khamenei, the late Fidel Castro and any foreign leader who stands up to the imperial dictates of the U.S. government. These smear campaigns serve as pretexts for brutal sanctions and catastrophic wars against our international neighbors, but also as political weapons to attack and diminish any U.S. politician who stands up for peace, diplomacy and disarmament.

As the web of lies spun by Clinton and Albright has unraveled, and the truth behind their lies has spilled out piece by bloody piece, the war on Yugoslavia has emerged as a case study in how U.S. leaders mislead us into war. In many ways, Kosovo established the template that U.S. leaders have used to plunge our country and the world into endless war ever since. What U.S. leaders took away from their “success” in Kosovo was that legality, humanity and truth are no match for CIA-manufactured chaos and lies, and they doubled down on that strategy to plunge the U.S. and the world into endless war.

As it did in Kosovo, the CIA is still running wild, fabricating pretexts for new wars and unlimited military spending, based on sourceless accusations, covert operations and flawed, politicized intelligence. We have allowed American politicians to pat themselves on the back for being tough on “dictators” and “thugs,” letting them settle for the cheap shot instead of tackling the much harder job of reining in the real instigators of war and chaos: the U.S. military and the CIA.

But if the people of Kosovo can hold the CIA-backed gangsters who murdered their people, sold their body parts and hijacked their country accountable for their crimes, is it too much to hope that Americans can do the same and hold our leaders accountable for their far more widespread and systematic war crimes?

Iran recently indicted Donald Trump for the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani, and asked Interpol to issue an international arrest warrant for him. Trump is probably not losing sleep over that, but the indictment of such a key U.S. ally as Thaci is a sign that the U.S.”accountabilty-free zone” of impunity for war crimes is finally starting to shrink, at least in the protection it provides to U.S. allies. Should Netanyahu, Bin Salman and Tony Blair be starting to look over their shoulders?