Since 1945, the United States has killed more innocent people in more countries than any other nation on earth. This irrefutable fact is almost never discussed in this country, and the millions of victims of American bombs, bullets, blockades and bayonets are utterly forgotten. What better day to remember them than this, Memorial Day?
I know, Memorial Day is supposed to be a somber remembrance of those who gave their lives so you and I could be free, yada, yada. Please excuse my irreverence. Not since the Civil War has any American gave his or her life for our freedom. And not since World War II has any American soldier, sailor, airman or Marine given his or her life for any cause save that of US imperialism; for any gain save for that of the corporate masters who profit mightily from the mighty sacrifice of our men and women in uniform. I salute their selfless sacrifice, naïve though it may be.
It’s funny, we always say how suicide bombers like those who attacked us on that fateful September morning in 2001 must be “brainwashed” in order to commit such heinous acts of senseless slaughter. But we ignore the brainwashing required to convince millions of young Americans, most of them from the lower rungs on the socioeconomic ladder, to volunteer to be shipped off to the furthest corners of the earth to kill and be killed, or maimed, or psychologically scarred for life, for purposes that have absolutely nothing to do with them. US troops do indeed deserve a certain measure of reverence, for most of them truly believe that they are spreading freedom and democracy one bomb, one bullet at a time.
Never mind that their government supports some of the most undemocratic regimes in the world, from the Saudi monarchs who brutally repress their own people while funding the very terrorists our nation has been battling for the last decade, to their Bahraini brethren who murder and torture their opponents, to the wicked Uzbek despot Islam Karimov, who boils his opponents alive, to a host of lesser yet equally horrific tyrants in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.
More than 6,400 US troops have laid down their lives “spreading democracy” in the decade-long War on Terror. More than 20 times that number of innocent civilians have lost theirs in Iraq and Afghanistan. Years of war and occupation left Iraq in ruins. Torture, arbitrary killings, repression and the ethnic cleansing of Christians and Jews are daily facts of life in there despite the fact that Iraqis are now allowed to vote. In Afghanistan, the Taliban are still very much alive and well despite America’s best efforts to root them out and destroy them. And despite the fact that Afghans are free to vote, repression is alarmingly commonplace. Women and girls are frequent victims of horrific attacks, poverty and hunger ravage the war-torn nation, and those who reject Islam face severe penalties, even death, under the country’s new “democratic” constitution. Afghanistan’s government and security forces are spectacularly corrupt and inept.
This is the “freedom” America has brought to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Yet by historical standards, the people of Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered relatively little at the hands of their American “liberators.” In Korea, US commanders ordered troops to deliberately and ferociously slaughter innocent civilians fleeing the North Korean and Chinese advance. In Vietnam, Loas and Cambodia, more than a million innocent people, mostly dirt-poor peasants, were killed by a US war machine that unleashed an aerial bombardment campaign unprecedented in scope or fury. More bombs were dropped on tiny, impoverished Laos, for example, than in all of World War II. Unexploded ordnance and the chemical weapon Agent Orange still kill and maim thousands of hapless victims in Southeast Asia to this very day. On the ground, US troops operated in “free-fire” zones where anything that moved was subject to slaughter. This is how America “protected the Vietnamese from communism,” and in the end, the communists won. Vietnam and Laos are still run by reds to this very day.
The 58,269 Americans who died fighting in Vietnam do deserve special mention since many of them were themselves victims of a draft system which spared those, like former Vice President Dick Cheney (5 deferments), who could afford to shirk their “duty” while sending millions of young men of lesser means to kill and die for no good reason.
America doesn’t actually have to wage war on a nation in order to be culpable for the deaths of millions of innocent people in it. By supporting dictatorships in every corner of the world, Washington has been an accomplice to some of the worst slaughter of the late 20th century. The US supported the military dictator Suharto in Indonesia for decades, during which time his forces carried out multiple genocides that killed millions. And now President Obama has resumed military ties with an Indonesian special forces unit that was one of the worst offenders. Hundreds of thousands of poor, indigenous peasants were slaughtered by US-backed Central American forces who utilized American-authored training manuals that taught kidnapping, torture and murder. From the Shah of Iran to Saddam Hussein to the military dictators of Latin America’s “Dirty Wars” and too many more murderous tyrants to mention here, the United States has been the world’s leading supporter of tyranny for far too long. Millions of innocents have died as a result. And in places like Palestine, where Israel is conducting a campaign of slow-motion ethnic cleansing financed by billions of American taxpayer dollars, thousands of innocents are still dying.
These victims are almost never mentioned, never remembered. I propose we redefine Memorial Day, or perhaps out of reverence for the Americans who’ve died fighting our (mis)leaders’ wars, set aside a separate date on which we shall solemnly remember those millions of innocent men, women and children sacrificed upon the altar of imperialism.