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S. Brian Willson
This site contains essays describing the incredible historic pattern of U.S. arrogance, ethnocentrism, violence and lawlessness in domestic and global affairs, and the severe danger this pattern poses for the future health of Homo sapiens and Mother Earth. Other essays discuss revolutionary, nonviolent alternative approaches based on the principle of radical relational mutuality. This is a term increasingly used by physicists, mathematicians and cosmologists to describe the nature of the omnicentric*, ever-unfolding universe. Every being, every aspect of life energy in the cosmos, is intrinsically interconnected with and affects every other being and aspect of life energy at every moment.
*everything is at the center of the cosmos at every moment
All blog entries and essays posted on this site are authored by S. Brian Willson.
he arrogance of Eurocentric and ethnocentric thinking in the New World, bolstered by the settler’s utilization of military technology, led to an omnipotent mindset enabling the conquering with impunity everything and everybody in their path. Examining US history reveals that when popular movements within or without, and revolutionary governments around the world emerge, they are often perceived as a threat to global hegemony, antithetical to the meme of expansion of oligarchic power benefiting a few at any cost.
Wherever Western man went, slavery, land robbery, lawlessness, culture-wrecking, and the outright extermination of both wild beasts and tame men went with him - Lewis Mumford
The West has ravaged the world for five hundred years, under the flag of master-slave theory which in our finest hour of hypocrisy was called ‘the white man’s burden’….What sets the West apart is its persistence to stop at nothing - Hans Koning
In 1779, during the Revolutionary War, Continental Army Supreme General George Washington’s ordered General Sullivan to completely defeat the Indigenous Iroquois Indians in upstate New York. He ordered “The Indian Country should be occupied with all expedition…to lay waste all the settlements around, with instructions to do it in the most effectual manner, that the country may not be merely overrun, but destroyed”. The orders stressed the “total destruction and devastation of their settlements”, including to “ruin their crops”, while stipulating that Sullivan would “not by any means listen to any overture of peace before the total ruinment of their settlements ….Our future security will be in their inability to injure us and in the terror with which the severity of the chastisement they receive will inspire them”. Here we find historical US military operating principles of total war targeting civilians (all inhabitants) through use of terror, while refusing any efforts for achieving peace.
In 1776, Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence that included the following words: “He (King of Great Britain) has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions”. The description of our original inhabitants – genuine human beings – as “merciless savages”, of course, is grotesquely a racist, demonizing term, enabling massively slaughtering them with no remorse whatsoever. Ironically, this description accurately describes our own US military behavior around the world, an example of what psychologist Carl Jung called the “shadow concept”, a trick that projects ones own inner demons (shadow) on others, rather than honestly addressing them.
In 1866, as Sioux Indians were opposing construction through their sacred lands of the Bozeman Trail linking white settlers to the newly discovered gold mines in Montana, US Army Captain William J. Fetterman boasted that with his eighty men he could destroy the Indigenous Sioux nation. Shockingly, on hearing of the defeat of the entire Fetterman detachment (Ft Kearney Massacre), General William Tecumseh Sherman wrote US Commanding General Ulysses S. Grant: We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to their extermination, men, women and children. Nothing else will reach the root of this case.
When there was temporary cessation of shooting in Korea on November 28, 1951, the day after agreement on a cease-fire line, there was a near hysterical fear of peace in Washington. As the truce talks bogged down over existence of air bases and exchange of prisoners, US military officers were readily scheming a roll back war with China. Chiang Kai-shek (the loser, along with his US backers, in the China Civil War when the Communists prevailed two years earlier in November 1949) and right wing political sidekick Syngman Rhee, feared Korean peace would be the end of their political ambitions. And prominent Republican and future Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, feared that peace would severely interfere with plans to build the old axis powers (including of course Japan) into a new anti-Soviet crusade. The dominant trend in US political, economic and military thinking was fear of peace. General Van Fleet confirmed this when speaking to a delegation of Filipinos in January 1952: “Korea has been a blessing. There had to be a Korea either here or some place in the world”.
In May 1986, a National Security Planning Group meeting of Reagan’s Cabinet-level officials was convened due to their alarm that Nicaragua was prepared to sign the Contadora peace plan ending Reagan’s gruesome terrorist war against the elected government of revolutionary Nicaragua. Washington’s strategy was to portray the plan as unacceptable to others in the region “while denouncing the Sandinistas for refusing to negotiate”. One official who attended the meeting was reported to have said it had been convened because “there was a peace scare”.
Another report indicated that “U.S. officials said the Reagan administration sought to disrupt the efforts of the Contadora group of nations …..because the peace talks complicated efforts to persuade Congress to approve Contra aid”.
New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis, in discussing the Central American peace process, summarized the Reagan administration: “They want war. That is the policy…As Mr. Wright said, they ‘are scared to death that peace will break out’”.
Peace absolutely requires justice as a foundation. The U.S. cannot afford justice in Central America (or elsewhere) unless it is willing to endure a painful but liberating revolution of consciousness and values that no longer lives by the principles of greed, unlimited consumerism and domination. The US population with 4.6 percent of the world’s population insists to remain in denial about the fact that preservation of its insatiable consumption habits requires devouring some 30 percent of the world’s resources, outsourcing all the consequent pain and suffering of the majority of the world’s people and destruction of the Earth’s ecosystem.
 Lewis Mumford, The Myth of the Machine: The Pentagon of Power (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1964), 9.
 Hans Koning, Columbus: His Enterprise, Exploding the Myth (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1991), 116.
 Writings of George Washington. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, XV, pp. 189-93; Richard Drinnon, Facing West: The Metaphysics of Indian-Hating and Empire-Building (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1980), 331.
 Robert M. Utley and Wilcomb E Washburn, The American Heritage History of the Indian Wars (NY, American heritage Publishing Co., 1977), 240-41,
 Drinnon, 329.
 I.F. Stone, The Hidden History of the Korean War, 1950-1951 (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1952), 345-348.
 Stone, 348.
 Joel Brinkley, “Reagan Offer: A Way to Help Contras”, New York Times, August 6, 1987.
 Alfonso Chardy, “Threats Abetted Contras Imperiling Talks Was One U.S. Tactic”, The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 10, 1987.
 Anthony Lewis column, “ABROAD AT HOME; The Peace Scare”, New York Times, November 19, 1987.
“Thank You For Your Service!” – Armistice Day* Has Morphed Into Veterans Day, From Honoring Peace to Glorifying War
“Thank you for your service.” For more than the three decades that I have publicly acknowledged being a veteran, I continue to hear over and over this professed appreciation. Not long ago I was admitted to the Portland, VA hospital. Once completing medical intake the attending physician made a point to thank me for my service. I cringed. My service? The physician left my room before I could compose an honest response. Nothing I did while in my 3 years, 11 months and 17 days of military functioning could be even closely defined as service – not to the US people, not to the people of the world, and certainly not to myself. And the implicit, if not explicit message is a thank you to veterans for preserving “our freedom.” Ugh!
In 2012 the Pentagon (Department of War) launched a thirteen-year national Vietnam War Commemoration public relations project (until 2025) explicitly designed to justify, glorify and honor the Viet Nam War, especially its brave soldiers. In fact, of course, it is a poorly masked effort to obliterate from our memory the egregiously criminal US war, and the popular GI and citizen opposition to it. This effort has likely made such thank yous a more pronounced ubiquitous policy. Eradicating memory is a long historical pattern of imperial powers.
It is a shame that the public seems unwilling to grasp that virtually all our military adventures are lawless, imperial barbarisms, violently robbing others of their freedom and autonomy. These are necessary to enable the US people to continue living in fantastic opulence justified by a sense of exceptionalism. To accomplish this grotesqueness we callously outsource the consequential pain and suffering inflicted on innocent others and the sacred earth, requiring us to remain in pathological denial. Our veteran “service” does not protect our “freedoms”, though it serves our national freedom to rob, pillage, and rape others – what Noam Chomsky calls our Fifth Freedom.
Since World War II alone, the US military has intervened at the direction of our President, funded by Congress and the US American people, at least 390 times against dozens of sovereign countries in violation of both domestic and international laws while bombing 30 of them, and launching thousands of covert interventions to boot. All have been criminal, conducted with virtual total impunity while murdering and impoverishing millions – a diabolical history beyond comprehension.
During Viet Nam my initial role consisted of designing security procedures for new weapons systems while sitting in an air-conditioned Air Force headquarters office in Washington. Subsequently, I became night security commander of a US air force base in Viet Nam’s hot and humid Mekong Delta where my unit protected invasive lethal fighter-bombers from indigenous sapper and mortar attacks. Our “national interest” required assuring that these death machines could daily inflict their firepower to destroy inhabited, undefended fishing villages, murdering and maiming thousands of innocents.
In effect, I was a cog in a vast murder machine organizing genocide against people I knew nothing about, people simply seeking preservation of their own self-determination (autonomy) from outside imperial, lawless forces. That I was brainwashed and duped is an understatement. Thus, it is painful to hear the persistent “thank yous” which in fact serve only to justify continued, unthinking support of US wars, ad nauseum. This absurd habit of thanking veterans for our service performs a terrible disservice to a genuine search for a truthful national history. Memory is obliterated, fatal for any future enlightenment.
*Known as “The Great War”, World War I ceased with an armistice effective on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. November 11, 1918, was initially regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.” In 1926, Congress passed a resolution with the words: “the 11th of November 1918 marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals … and it is fitting that … this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving … designed to perpetuate peace …” A 1938 law made every November 11th a legal holiday to be … celebrated as “Armistice Day.” But sixteen years later, in 1954, following the Korean War, veterans service organizations pressured Congress to strike out the word “Armistice” and insert in its place the word “Veterans.” The wars continue.
Features of US Culture: Economic Exploitation/Expansion, Ecological Destruction, Oligarchic Governance, Built on Genocides With Impunity
Primary Meme of US culture: Profits for a few (mostly White men/patriarchy) through expansion at ANY cost =US empire. This selfish model is now global on a finite planet. John Locke defined empire as a way of life that takes wealth and freedom from others to provide one’s own welfare, pleasure, and power. It is an ecological disaster and morally indefensible.
1. An unthinkable premise to ponder: The US as a nation and culture is irredeemable and unreformable, built on three Genocides.
Genocide #1: Our origins derive from forceful dispossession of Indigenous and their land, killing millions with impunity, justified through a myth of exceptionalism. This set in motion a pattern of a pretend society, built on lie after lie, from Manifest Destiny to Full Spectrum Dominance. The past is never in the past, as its features always remain present in the psyche.
Genocide #2 was forceful dispossession of Africans of their labor and dignity, killing millions with impunity.
Genocide #3 was and remains the forceful dispossession of “Third World” peoples of their resources and labor, killing millions with impunity.
The US, as is typical of empires, is unsustainable, built on unspeakable behaviors. The wool has not been pulled over our eyes. Our eyes are the wool. Our US model has morphed into neo-liberal globalization, destined to destroy virtually all planetary life.
But Humans ARE redeemable and reformable if we choose to re-organize in bioregionally sufficient food and simple tool cooperative cultures. Ceasing obedience to nation states will free up our energy and imaginations to create new social configurations integrated within bioregional carrying capacity.
2. An unthinkable premise to ponder: Industrial civilization, now nearly 300 years old, is a heat engine that is destroying virtually all life on the planet. Its collapse is inevitable and essential!
Patterns of plunder without accountability lead to delusions of grandeur and obsessive narcissism. As a species we are on the eve of a terrifying era of accountability/correction after centuries of mindless entitlement when arrogance overwhelmed humility. Question: Can we access our ancient archetypes of cooperation, mutual respect, local community, and fairness, enabling us to experience a radical, evolutionary liberation from an epistemology (system of knowledge) rooted in separation from and domination over nature, to one of integration with while embracing nature? Our dignity begs us to practice a turn toward local, bioregional cooperative food and simple tool economies. Nature bats last and since we have considered ourselves separate from nature we are on the verge of striking out. We could choose to rejoin the earth even as Gaia’s corrective mechanisms cause rightful collapse of industrial civilization!
3. An unthinkable premise to ponder: The Gaia, or earth-life force, is in process of a massive correction of our species’ wayward behavior, i.e., correcting a lethal planetary cancer. This correction is causing rapid, irreversible disaster due to heating of our planet. A rise of four or even six degrees centigrade seems likely, and will result in death of our species and thousands of others – the 6th great extinction in geological history. This one is caused by us! Virtually all the scientific data that examines rapid convergence of critical ecological tipping points reveals irreversible global climate catastrophe.
So, what do we feel when we think of these unthinkable premises? Courageously facing our historical habit of denial requires us to honestly process the fact that we are in the midst of the 6th great extinction caused by our own behavior. How do we face this while we socialize and share food with one another? Might this be an evolutionary opportunity for dramatic shifts in consciousness, for (re)discovering an earth-based epistemology? Hopium does not serve us. Practicing compassionate love, empathy and mutual respect are critical as we face scary, unprecedented realities. Experiencing life’s precious sacredness in every moment is urgent as we discover a higher consciousness where dignity trumps longevity, with death and extinction in mind. Life is a spiritual journey into the unknown.
*S. Brian Willson conducted this workshop at the 57th Pacific Northwest Regional Seabeck Conference, July 3, 2015, Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR)
To this day, some of the heaviest sustained bombing in the Twentieth Century was rained on Korea, especially in the North, during the three years of the Korean War, 1950-53. This bombardment occurred from naval ships offshore as well as from fighter-bombers in the air. The U.S./U.N. forces were intervening in a country experiencing an active fratricidal war created in August 1945 by a decision of the U.S. to force an artificial and arbitrary division of an historically homogenous Korean people. This quickly became a revolutionary war where the majority of the people were adamantly opposed and hostile to any continued occupation by outside powers, whether they were from Japan, the Soviet Union, or the United States.
A combination of factors contributed to the U.S./U.N./Rhee forces showing almost total disregard for human life of Korean civilians: (1) grotesque Western racism; (2) “divinely inspired” ethnocentrism; (3) delusions in Western minds unwilling to distinguish between “Third World” peoples’ self-determination struggles and the “First World’s” paranoid obsession with exaggerated and hated monolithic “communism;” and (4) a hostile local Korean population.
It is important to look at the historical context of use of bombing and assess the patterns of its use and the mind-set behind it.
Aerial bombardment – first known occurrence was in 1849 over Venice, Italy
Aerial bombardments are first known to have occurred in 1849 when Austria sent time-bomb filled balloons over Venice, Italy. On August 1, 1907 the US Signal Corps organized its first aeronautical division, and by 1909 it had a plane called the Wright Flyer. Also in 1909, the British, French and Germans acquired their first military aircraft. Turkish pilots used airplanes as a source of bombs, dropping explosives on Bulgarian troops during the 1913 Balkan wars.[i]
Early Air Power, Including use of Gas Bombs – Early 20th Century
Firebombing and Gas Bombs
The first example of aerial firebombing is believed to have been committed by the Italians in October 1911 against Tripoli, Libya (pop. ca. 30,000), and surrounding populations of 600,000 Arab nomads, in the last piece of Turkish North Africa, using live grenades thrown from open cockpits. Noncombatants were murdered ruthlessly, including destruction of a funeral parlor and a hospital.[ii]
The British are believed to have used gas and incendiary bombs from warplanes indiscriminately killing massive numbers of Russian civilians and troops during the 1919-20 intervention against the new Soviet Union,[iii] and against rebellious Kurds and Arabs in British-controlled Palestine and Iraq from 1920-24 (states created from the post-World War I breakup of the Ottoman Empire by the newly formed League of Nations), attempting to control a vast area without use of ground troops significantly depleted from World War I casualties.[iv] Winston Churchill, ex-British Colonial Under-Secretary, then Secretary of State for War and Air, advocated the use of “poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes”, especially to “cause disablement” of the turbulent tribes in Iraq and Kurdistan.[v]
Italy Bombs Ethiopia, October 1935 – May 1936
On October 3, 1935, Mussolini’s Italy invaded Ethiopia with an occupation that continued into May 1936, supported by 500 planes flying 7,500 air missions dropping bombs and burning hundreds of villages, committing systematic terror against and extermination of countless thousands of civilians using large amounts of tear and mustard gas. The Italians showed no mercy. On New Year’s Day 1936, the Italians bombed the Swedish Red Cross ambulance in Ethiopia.[vi]
Guernica, April 26, 1937
As regular use of air power was being introduced in the early Twentieth Century, percentages of civilian casualties (obvious non-combatants) dramatically escalated. Bombings tend to cause indiscriminate casualties no matter how careful the bombardiers claim they are, or how precise they claim their technology. Often it has been said, incorrectly, that the first instance of bombing of civilian populations was committed by German Luftwaffe planes (the Condor Legion) on Monday, April 26, 1937, destroying much of the small undefended city of Guernica, Spain (pop. ca. 7,000). Guernica had special symbolic significance as it was considered the spiritual capital of the autonomous spirited Basque region. Flying under the command of the Spanish Nationalist Government of General Francisco Franco, the German planes dropped 5,771 explosive and incendiary bombs on market day during a three-hour period, destroying 271 houses in the center city, or seventy percent of its housing stock.[vii] The wealthy neighborhood of Franco’s sympathizer’s homes had been spared,[viii] intentional or not. Surrounding Basque villages in the region of northern Spain were also destroyed during the Spanish Civil War. Casualty figures in Guernica cannot be precise since all records were destroyed, but the Basque government claimed minimum numbers of 1,650 dead and 889 wounded.[ix]
The Basque region is comprised of seven traditional provinces in an area both east and west of the Pyrenees Mountains that define the border between Northeastern Spain and Southwestern France, extending down the coast of the Bay of Biscay.
Dramatic Escalation of Bombings
The pattern of bombings escalated after 1911 where countless civilian casualties became routine. Spanish shrapnel bombs were dropped on Moroccan villages in 1913, using exploding steel balls, perhaps an early version of today’s cluster bombs.[x]
The record reveals the following: The British bombed restless natives, the Pathans in India (1915); revolutionary Egyptians and resisting natives in Darfur/West Sudan (1916); the Mashuds on India’s border with Afghanistan (1917); conducted systematic air attacks against German cities during World War I in 1917-18, designed to “weaken the morale of civilian inhabitants”; bombed rebellious populations in Somaliland, Afghanistan and Egypt (1919); the Enzeli in Iran and Arabs in Trans-Jordan (1920).
The South Africans bombed the Hottentots (Khoikhoi natives) in Southwest Africa (1922, 1925, 1930, 1932, etc.); the Spanish bombed Moroccan villages near Tetuan (1924); joint French and Spanish forces dropped thousands of tons of high explosive bombs in 1925 on the villages of Rifis and Jibala in Morocco, including the use of gas, and on the totally undefended holy town of Sheshuan where countless women and children were massacred; and the French bombed Damascus, Syria and surrounding towns in the Druze region (1925-26).[xi]
The 1925 bombing of the undefended Moroccan town of Sheshuan was an act of revenge for a dreadful defeat the Spanish ground forces suffered there in late 1924 at the hands of Moroccan guerrillas. General Francisco Franco, who had founded the Spanish Foreign Legion in 1920, had conducted a ruthless occupation against Moroccans until the German air force moved his forces to Spain at the beginning of the civil war in 1936. The earlier defeat of the Spanish military at Sheshuan was nothing that Franco would forget. Sheshuan was bombed to ruins with most of its inhabitants murdered from the air with remaining survivors mostly maimed and blinded. And this massacre was assisted by a squadron of volunteer U.S. American fliers (mercenaries) who had joined The French Flying Corps, who in turn, with the Spanish, planned the bombing. Franco would use the brutal occupation of Morocco, and the total destruction through bombing of Sheshuan, as the model that would guide his forty-year occupation of Spain (1936-1975). Sheshuan in effect laid the foundation for the relentless bombing committed during the Spanish Civil War, symbolized by the destruction of the Basque capital at Guernica in 1937.[xii]
And this record of increased dependency upon bombings with virtually no consideration for civilian life was to lay the foundation for the unprecedented bombings that were to occur during World War II, especially by the Allies and the United States in Europe and Japan.
Though the United States was not the first country to use indiscriminate bombings, as can be seen from the above record, it subsequently became the master of relentless bombings where millions of civilians were cumulatively murdered in Germany and Japan during World War II; then in Korea in the early 1950s; subsequently in Laos, Cambodia, and Viet Nam in Southeast Asia, early 1960s-1973; Libya in 1986; Panama in 1989; Iraq, 1990 to present; Serbia-Kosovo in mid-to-late 1990s; Afghanistan, 2001 to present; Pakistan, starting in 1998, but intensely drone bombed since 2004.
First Use of U.S. Air Power
First Use of U.S. Air Power
I. MEXICO. U.S. military operations in Mexico, 1913-14, produced four historic firsts for its military air power: (A) aerial bombing, (B) aerial combat, (C) aerial reconnaissance support of ground troops, (D) airplane hit by hostile ground fire.
A. May 10, 1913 witnessed the first instance of aerial bombing in the Hemisphere when Didier Masson, a French mercenary piloting a Glenn Martin “pusher” plane smuggled into Mexico from Arizona, began a series of bombing raids for Mexican Gen. Alvarado Obregon against Mexican federal gunboats in Guaymas Bay, in the Gulf of California, Mexico. It is not known if civilians were present on the ground where and when the bombing was occurring.[xiii]
B. On November 30, 1913, two U.S. pilots flying for opposite sides in the Mexican Revolution engaged in the first aerial combat, firing pistol shots at one another over Naca, Mexico.[xiv]
C. The first use of U.S. military (Naval) aircraft in aerial photographic and reconnaissance support of U.S. troops occurred when Navy planes were supporting Marine ground troop operations in Vera Cruz, Mexico, April-May 1914, after Mexican authorities arrested eight U.S. sailors from the USS Dolphin and U.S. President Wilson’s demand of an apology from Mexican President Huerta was ignored.[xv] There is no known account of any U.S. planes bombing or firing on any ground targets in this first aerial support of U.S. troops in a combat operation. The planes were on reconnaissance and photography missions for the ground forces.
D. On May 6, 1914, one of the reconnaissance planes over Vera Cruz, Mexico became the first U.S. airplane hit by hostile ground fire.[xvi]
Note: Other accounts indicate that General Victoriano Huerta, who forcefully succeeded to the Mexican Presidency after assassinating the popular President General Francisco Madero in Mexico City in 1913, was backed by Dutch Royal Shell and British oil cartel interests in Mexico, and was receiving arms from Germany, and that Wilson landed troops at Vera Cruz to intercept those arms. So before WWI began, British and German interests in Mexican oil were in collusion to insure business as usual for the cartels.[xvii]
II. HAITI. U.S. air power in Haiti in 1919 witnessed the first known use of U.S. aerial bombings of civilians and the utilization of aircraft in close air-support of ground combat troops.[xviii] U.S. warships were sent into Haitian harbors at least 24 times between 1849 and 1913 to “protect American lives and property,”[xix] landing Marines on at least three of those occasions (1888, 1891, 1914)[xx]. Changes in Haitian leadership in 1915, perceived as a threat to long standing American interests, greatly alarmed U.S. President Woodrow Wilson who quickly sent an initial contingent of 330 U.S. Marines to Port-au-Prince on July 28, which quickly grew to a force of 2,000,[xxi] prodded by U.S. “Americans who were concerned about their investments.”[xxii] Especially troubling to “Americans” was the fact that the Haitian National Assembly refused to ratify a U.S.-crafted constitution that assured U.S. corporations the right to purchase Haitian properties.[xxiii] Within six weeks, representatives from the United States controlled Haitian customs houses and administrative institutions with many more Marines being dispatched over the years.[xxiv]
However, this time the U.S. Marine forces remained continuous occupiers for 19 years until 1934, always rationalized “to protect property and preserve order.”[xxv] During the occupation, American troops “murdered, destroyed, reinstituted virtual slavery and demolished the constitutional system,” wrote Noam Chomsky, with estimates of number of Haitians killed ranging from 15,000,[xxvi] to 50,000.[xxvii] Typically possessing a European mindset arrogantly conditioned by “Guns, Germs, and Steel,”[xxviii] the U.S. Marines “successfully” conducted this early counterinsurgency warfare killing thousands while suffering but insignificant casualties of their own – reportedly 26 killed in action and 79 wounded out of a total of several thousand combat troops.[xxix]
The United States bombings against Haitian civilian populations occurred as early as 1919 and continued into 1920. Haitian Indigenous armed resistance increased during the period 1919-20, and was met by the first known application of U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine, which was used extensively in Nicaragua ten years later. This doctrine included the conscious policy of terrorizing urban populations from bombings, and was applied against Les Cayes, Haiti’s, Haiti’s third largest city with large casualties.[xxx] Combat aviators flying seven Curtiss HS-2L flying boats and six Curtiss “Jenny” bi-planes with 25-pound bombs loaded into canvas mailbags experimented with “dive-bombing,” releasing the bombs with a tug of rope from about 250-feet during a steep dive of 45 degrees.[xxxi] Pilots freely used these new aerial tactics against the “hostile” civilian communities, as well as against the presence of their armed resisters called cacos under the direction of charismatic Charlemagne Peralte. The U.S. Marines, excitedly using air bombings and strafings to support troops on the ground, killed Peralte and rousted the cacos by March 1920. The Marine Corps reported “hundreds of casualties” in their successful counterinsurgency campaign, bragging about their defeat of local opposition forces.[xxxii]
High casualty figures were reported by the New York Times in 1920. A U.S. American present in Haiti reported that “American marines, largely made up of and officered by Southerners, opened fire with machine guns from airplanes upon defenseless Haitian villages, killing men, women and children in the open market places; natives were slain for ‘sport’ by a hoodlum element among these same Southerners…The natives were armed largely with obsolete and useless firearms, some even with scythes, according to Mr. Franck, and it is to this fact rather than to the boasted marksmanship of the marines that he attributes the deaths of 3,000 blacks and of only twelve whites.”[xxxiii] Harry A. Franck was a noted traveler and authority on the West Indies and he had been in Haiti in January 1920 on a tour of the Caribbean for The Century Magazine. He had heard the atrocity stories “from many reliable sources, including sources friendly to the Americans.”[xxxiv] A similar casualty figure was reported in 1920 by the NAACP which had taken on a project to liberate Haitians from U.S. occupation. Their on-site report found “that 3,000 Haitians had been killed by U.S. Marines, torture had been practiced, and rigid censorship imposed, Haitian freedom…had been destroyed by the U.S.”[xxxv] And this was after only the first five years of a 19-year occupation.
III. Oklahoma, May 31 – June 1, 1921. Tulsa, Oklahoma was the scene of the second known use of U.S. planes to intentionally bomb civilians. [The first known use of airplanes (Italian) to bomb civilians is believed to have occurred when Italy bombed Tripoli in 1911. See “Early Air Power, Including use of Gas Bombs – Early 20th Century” above.]
From May 31-June 1, 1921, angry Whites organized and launched a ruthless campaign against the thriving Black community in the emerging U.S. oil capital, Tulsa, Oklahoma. According to survivors, the Oklahoma National Guard used airplanes to fire bomb the Greenwood section of Tulsa in a massacre of Blacks. This was never openly acknowledged by officials. Survivors and witnesses to the massacre kept this atrocity to themselves until word leaked out in the 1980s, over sixty years later. Whites had been silence from shame, the Blacks from fear.[xxxvi]
According to a number of Black witnesses, including at least four first-hand written accounts, about a dozen airplanes, apparently from the National Guard, and perhaps one plane owned by Sinclair Oil, “rained fire” from the air, while strafing with rifles, and firebombing with incendiary devices, including turpentine balls. The White terrorists destroyed 1,256 houses and other buildings, including churches, stores, businesses, newspaper offices, a school, a hospital, and a library, in a thirty-six square-block area of the prosperous Black section of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma.[xxxvii]
Original reports indicated 31 killed, hundreds injured, 3,000 Blacks left homeless. [ADD Footnote: Bergman, 401]; Subsequent accounts suggest hundreds killed, thousands injured [Muwakkil, Salim. (April 17, 2000). “Paying Back the Slavery Debt.” Chicago Tribune].
The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921:”more than 300 blacks were killed and 10,000 left homeless after a mob of white deputies and Oklahoma National Guardsmen descended on the all-black Greenwood section of Tulsa, burning everything in sight.” Tulsa officials deputized men who burned Greenwood with the “help of uniformed police.” [Brune, Adrian. (March 18, 2002). "Tulsa's Shame." The Nation].
“Removal at gunpoint from their homes throughout the day, the African Americans were lined up on the street, their hands raised above their heads, and slowly marched out of the district. Others were taken in trucks and cars…With the city jail full, the blacks were detained at the Convention Hall, a few blocks beyond Greenwood’s western boundary…Guards shot at the heels of those who couldn’t keep pace…By Thursday, June 2, 6,000 blacks had been rounded up at the fairgrounds, about one mile northeast of Greenwood, where platforms used to groom cows were transformed into sleeping floors [Hirsch, 108-09].
Many members of the recently formed (1919) national service organization of WWI veterans, the American Legion, were involved in their military uniforms with their weapons, taking credit for having “saved the damn city from militant blacks” [Hirsch, pp. 93-94, 285].
IV. Blair Mountain, West Virginia, August – September 1921. Logan County, West Virginia, was the scene of the third known use of planes to intentionally bomb civilians, during one of the largest civil uprisings in US history, and largest armed insurrection since the Civil War. Between late August and early September 1921, 10,000 to 15,000 coal miners congregated in efforts to unionize as they were confronted by 2,000 armed sheriff’s deputies, paramilitaries hired by the coal companies, and US troops. President Warren Harding threatened to dispatch federal troops along with Army Martin MB-1 bombers. Private planes were hired to drop homemade bombs on the miners. A combination of gas and explosive bombs leftover from WWI were dropped in several locations near the towns of Jeffery, Sharples and Blair. Orders from General Billy Mitchell directed Army bombers from Maryland to provide aerial surveillance to oversee the repression and battle against the strikers. More than one million rounds were fired in the battles. Up to 30 deaths were reported among the sheriff’s deputies and paramilitary units, with 50-100 miners killed. Federal troops arrived on September 2 to mop up. Nearly 1,000 (985) miners were indicted for murder. The confrontation in effect severely hurt United Mine Worker membership out of fear of repeated battles with coal companies and their trusted local police.
As of mid-2010, subsidiaries of two of the United States’ largest coal producers – Arch Coal, Inc., and Massey Energy – hold permits to blast and strip mine huge chunks of the upper slopes and ridge of Blair Mountain, removing much of the mountaintop.
V. Nicaragua, 1926 – 1933. The fourth known incidence of U.S. bombings where civilians were known to be present on the ground occurred in Nicaragua in 1926-27, and continued until 1933. The U.S. had militarily intervened in Nicaragua on numerous occasions, the most recent being an occupation that lasted from 1912 to1925. The Marines soon returned the next year in May 1926 when civil disputes broke out when Liberal forces under the leadership of Dr. Sacasa landed in Bluefields to protest the Conservative Diaz Presidency. The Marines quickly responded by landing at three points on the Atlantic Coast to “protect U.S. interests” and “restore democratic processes.” They did not expect, however, to be confronted by a resilient guerrilla force adamantly against the presence of U.S. military forces. Thus, they remained until 1933. Even U.S. adventurers/mercenaries joined the Conservative cause. Two were killed in their efforts to thwart Sacasa’s Liberals, as other “patriotic” U.S. mercenary pilots being paid $500 a month bombed Liberal enclaves in Managua as early as 1926,[xxxviii] even before the Marines entered that city in January 1927, bolstering the forces of the beleagured U.S.-supported Conservative President Diaz.[xxxix]
Preserving US Investments in Nicaragua
There were many U.S. investments in Nicaragua. The Guaranty Trust Company and J. & W. Seligman & Co. had loaned millions to the Nicaraguan Government, and to the U.S.-created “The National Bank of Nicaragua.” The banks were also the majority owners of Nicaragua’s Pacific Railroad which had been turned over to the U.S.’s J.G. White Management Corporation for its operation. Brown Brothers & Co. and the Seligmans (The Guaranty Trust Company later replaced Brown Brothers in the Nicaraguan field) took over various loans/debts owed by Nicaragua, knowing that the U.S. stood behind the lenders, securing customs receipts, pledges of stock from the Pacific Railroad, and was able to assert control of Nicaragua’s budget process to limit “extravagance” for its domestic needs.[xl]
The December 25, 1926 edition of the New York Times reported that “Extensive mahogany growths are owned by Americans on the east coast of Nicaragua” and the “payment of duties [export taxes] by American exporters of lumber” was in dispute. Export duties legally due to the Nicaraguan government were being confiscated to pay off loans owed U.S. investors. “The Marines have been landed [in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua] upon the request of American citizens now living in and doing business in certain parts of Nicaragua. They report that their lives and property are in danger…”[xli]
One of the “lootings” of Nicaragua as charged by a Nicaraguan economist related to “[T]he Emery claim…for mahogany and other concessions in Nicaragua held by Americans. The concessions were earlier repudiated under Nicaragua leader Zeledon and now the American claimants sought to recover.”[xlii]
Bolshevism Feared in Mexico and Nicaragua
On November 17, 1926, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert E. Olds told a reporter that the Mexican government was “seeking to establish a Bolshevik authority in Nicaragua to drive a ‘hostile wedge’ between the U.S. and the Panama Canal.” U.S. politicians claimed Olds was eager for war with Mexico over its lucrative oil fields in Vera Cruz. However, on January 2, 1927, Olds wrote a confidential memo arguing that the Mexican involvement in the affairs of Nicaragua was “a direct challenge to the United States…We must decide whether we shall tolerate the interference…in Central American affairs or insist upon our dominant position….Until know Central America has always understood that governments which we recognize and support stay in power, while those which we do not recognize and support fail. Nicaragua has become a test case. It is difficult to see how we can afford to be defeated.“[xliii]
By January 1927, the U.S Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg was accusing the forces of Juan Sacasa threatening the Nicaragua Diaz government by working in concert with the revolutionary government of Mexico under President Calles. The perceived threat: Nicaragua was likely to become a “Bolshevist regime, hostile to the United States…under instructions from Moscow…to actively support Latin-American strikes against American concerns.”[xliv]
As one can imagine, the U.S. American eyes were seeing RED, the future of their lucrative investments and profitable playground threatened. In 1927, the contingent of Marines were surprisingly confronted by small groups of armed Nicaraguan Indigenous resistance, a ragtag campesino army organized under the leadership of and coordinated by Augusto Sandino. The Marines became increasingly frustrated as they chased Sandino’s people’s army through the mountains of northern Nicaragua.
Sandino’s Detailed Record of U.S. Marine Bombings of Civilians in Northern Nicaragua
Because Sandino kept a journal of his activities, as well as those of the U.S. Marines, there is a detailed record of the consequences of air power without consideration for the well-being of civilians. This early example of U.S. counterinsurgency reveals a callous, and racist attitude, that exacted diabolical destruction on civilians, on their houses and other community buildings.
The Marines introduced air power to Nicaragua in early 1927. They initially bombed much of the city of Chinandega with number of casualties unknown.[xlv] In the mountain city of Ocotal near the Honduran border, for the first time the Marines were confronted by a large gathering of Sandino’s army. The Marines had the support of five De Havilland biplanes and Boeing O2-B1s planes that began dropping fragmentation bombs (aerial antipersonnel bombs that scatter shrapnel over a wide area upon explosion), a number of seventeen-pound bombs, and multiple machinegun fire strafing the city. This was the second known example of organized dive-bombing by U.S. air forces supporting ground forces, having rehearsed this tactic eight years earlier in Haiti during 1919-1920. The Marines reported “scores of men fell from the bombing and strafing” as the “miracle of Marine air” produced “streets…strewn with the dead and dying.”[xlvi]
The Marine Corps successful experience of using aircraft in a close air support role with ground troops in Haiti and Nicaragua were later incorporated into the important Small Wars Manual which has formed the basis for Marine Corps counterinsurgency doctrine.[xlvii] A news correspondent who accompanied U.S. troops reported that the U.S.-Nicaragua military campaign offered the “first practical laboratory for the development of post-war aviation in coordination with ground troops.”[xlviii]
Despite the advantage of superior weaponry and total air power the Marines were frustratingly unable to contain the “unexpected stiffness of Sandino’s resistance…better equipped and organized than there has been reason to think.” More than 1,000 additional Marines were ordered to Nicaragua in January 1928, increasing their numbers to 2,570.[xlix] Eventually, the U.S. forces would number 12,000 Marines supported by their expanding air forces and the local U.S.-created constabulary, against Sandino’s popular army that at one point numbered 3,000.[l]
The U.S. Marines six-year counterinsurgency campaign against Sandino and his campesino army formed glimpses of the standard elements of twentieth-century air-ground warfare: extended reconnaissance flights, ground-to-air communication signaling, using aircraft to evacuate wounded soldiers, psychological warfare using leaflet drops, and long-distance movement of troops and supplies.[li]
According to Marine records from Nicaragua, their tactics, as supplemented by the emerging Nicaraguan National Guard, included burning crops, destroying peasant homes and huts, bombing and strafing civilian populations killing and injuring thousands of Nicaraguans.[lii]
Scorched Earth is an old U.S. policy carried out again and again since the early 1600s.
In an effort to restore order satisfactory to the United States and its efforts to maintain virtual control over Nicaragua, the U.S. supervised the November 1928 elections between new Liberal candidate, General Jose Maria Moncada, and Adolfo Benard, Conservative (replacing Diaz as a candidate), with U.S. Marines guarding the polls, and 20 planes soaring over various polling stations to insure safety of the ballot boxes. The U.S. Marine chair of each precinct carried the ballots to the department capitals for recounts. Brig. General Frank B. McCoy, was head of the U.S. electoral mission in Nicaragua.[liii] Sandino did not agree with Moncada’s efforts at a truce under U.S. terms and continued fighting for five more years until the frustrated Marines left in 1933.
However, a former US Marine who fought against Sandino’s forces in 1928-1930, tells a different story. Bill Gandall, 77, was present at a demonstration in front of the US Embassy in Managua in 1986. He expressed deep remorse over his and other Marine’s actions in Nicaragua nearly 60 years earlier. And in a Colman McCarthy column in the Washington Post, Gandall said “We never caught him [Sandino] because no matter how we tortured, we could never get people to inform.” He described the 1928 elections as “fraudulent” and described the Marine’s version of U.S. democracy as one marked by brutality: “I shot a guy at the polls…[and] after that, it was taking part in rapes, burning huts, cutting off genitals. I had nightmares for years. I didn’t have much of a conscience while I was in the Marines. We were taught not to have a conscience.”[liv]
Sandino himself reported in his writings that the brutal “Yankees sow terror among the peaceful inhabitants”, violating women and girls, while “in the towns and villages they destroy houses and furniture as well as provisions and crops…newly planted fields and domesticated animals.”[lv]
On November 27, 1927, the Marines bombed “peaceful villages…dropping incendiary and asphyxiating bombs on the humble shacks of defenseless campesinos” and on the day before the U.S. dropped “incendiary and gas bombs, killing thirty-two women and eleven children.”[lvi]
On December 23, 1927, Sandino’s friend, Florencio Lopez in Ciudad Antigua, described the attack on that village on December 6 by two airplanes using machine guns and bombs over a period of an hour-and-a-half in which the greater part of the houses of the town were destroyed while the church suffered fifty-two large ruptures, gravely wounding elderly Norberta Quinonez, fracturing Paulina Centeno’s left forearm, and seriously wounding a little girl named Quinonz.[lvii]
Sandino’s January 8, 1928 description revealed how the Yankees “have sown terror, destroying in a cowardly fashion everything they have found in their way, filling the country with mourning and consternation, murdering, violating, robbing, and burning the homes of peaceful campesinos, leaving thousands of children as orphans, and widows and invalids with no help at all, since to commit these acts of savagery they use fleets of airplanes and large-caliber cannon, contrary to all human law, certain of impunity because of their knowledge that our army lacks these elements of combat.”[lviii]
On January 19, 1928, Sandino described that “Our wounded die for lack of adequate medical treatment of their wounds caused by bombs and shrapnel,…not only soldiers, but also of the civilians, among whom are many women and children, because the enemy airplanes are causing more damage in the towns than in our trenches. Ciudad Vieja, Guanacaste, and San Albino have been turned into smoking ruins.”[lix]
Remarking on the sieges of El Chipote (Sandino’s headquarters), Sandino described the bombing attacks that cause “massive destruction of the crops and cattle that belonged to the local people, carried out for the purpose of denying us provisions, caused many, many men to come to us to swell our ranks. And women as well…,”…including some from Honduras and El Salvador.”[lx]
A March 25, 1928 letter from Sandino described the merciless airplane bombing of the modest huts of campesinos who live in the mountains of Murra but only “as long as they were certain that there was nobody in those huts who could respond to their aggression.”[lxi]
In a War July 1932 Bulletin, Sandino noted that surprisingly large units of U.S. troops have crossed into Nicaraguan territory from the Mosquito Cost of supposedly neutral Honduras with the Marine quarters located at the Yankee United Fruit Company banana station in the Honduran Port of Trujillo.[lxii]
Again, these tactics are not new, having been used from the origins of the US civilization in its genocide against Indigenous Americans, including the origins of the place of my birth in Geneva, NY, and the same ones I observed or studied about in Korea, Viet Nam, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, etc., that included use of airpower.
Again, memories of local survivors described many dead as a result of the bombings and the Marine ground campaigns, supplementing the Marine’s own accounts that the streets were “strewn with the dead and dying”[lxiii] from their air power. Though the July 26, 1927 Ocotal bombing forced Sandino back to the mountains in ever more decentralized revolutionary combat strategies, the Marines were never able to definitively defeat his army.
The Marines even bombed villages in Honduras perceived as sympathetic with Sandino’s guerrillas, though Honduran troops patrolling the border for five years captured only one Sandino supporter, and allowed him to escape.[lxiv] The Marines finally withdrew in 1933 when a peace agreement was reached prior to a betrayal that directly led to the assassination of Sandino by Somoza, the new U.S. puppet dictator.
World War II – Germany and Japan
During World War II, of course, there were devastating, indiscriminate bombings of cities in Germany and Japan with virtually no regard for civilian casualties. The Germans had bombed Rotterdam in Holland (1940), Coventry in England (1940), and other cities as well. However, these German bombings were minor when compared with British and U.S. bombing of German cities.[lxv] Roosevelt, Churchill and the US Chiefs of Staff met at Casablanca January 14-23, 1943, to plan future strategy that included large-scale air attacks with the aim of “Destruction and dislocation of the German military, industrial and economic system and the undermining of the morale of the German people to the point where their capacity for armed resistance is fatally weakened.”[lxvi] However the first 1,000 plane saturation bombings had already begun in Cologne, May 30-June 1, 1942, with the Germans claiming 5,500 casualties.[lxvii]
Saturation bombings of forty German cities[lxviii] began in earnest in 1943 with thousand-plane bombing raids, such as Magdeburg, Wurzberg, towns along the Ruhr River, Hamburg (killing at least 50,000 in a single night on July 27, 1943,[lxix] and Berlin, Essen, and Frankfort, often at night. These bombings made no pretense of striking only military targets. In a relatively short period of time 500,000-600,000 German civilians were killed in these bombings, and another 800,000-1,600,000 injured.[lxx]
The incredible terror bombing of Dresden alone (February 13, 1945), with phosphorous and other high explosive and incendiary bombs, by more than 1,200 allied bombers, murdered in a single night at least 100,000 civilians.[lxxi] One source cites deaths as high as 135,000 at Dresden.[lxxii]
While the Pacific theatre was witnessing the last battles on various islands, the Allies emulated the German carnage when they relentlessly targeted Japanese cities with saturations of incendiary bombs. U.S. air power in the Pacific was placed under the direction of 38-year-old Major General Curtis LeMay on January 20, 1945, twenty-five days before the Dresden bombing atrocity. He had previously been in the Europe Theater overseeing much bombing there.[lxxiii] His assistant was Robert McNamara, a young Lt. Colonel in the Army Air Forces, later to be Secretary of War under President Johnson. Lemay later became the architect of the unrestrained air war in Korea, 1950-53.
LeMay’s proudest moment came on the very day, less than a month after Dresden, when he launched the 160-day incendiary campaign that was to last from March 9 to August 15, 1945. On the very first night, March 9, in less than three hours, the firebombing by 298 U.S. B-29s low-flying under 10,000 feet dropped jellied-gasoline M-47 and M-69 fire bomb clusters over fifteen square miles of virtually defenseless Tokyo where residential areas had been marked in advance. Up to 2,000 tons of incendiary bombs destroyed nearly 270,000 buildings, burning alive at least 100,000 civilians while injuring many thousands more, leaving at least 800,000 people homeless. It is believed that more people died from fire where temperatures reached 1,800 degrees at Ground Zero in one few hour period than ever before in human history. USAF headquarters in Washington was ecstatic. Tokyo was considered the greatest victory of the U.S. air force ever, at the cost of fourteen B-29s. The Boeing plant was booming the in Seattle, Washington economy, cranking out 135 B-29s a month.[lxxiv]
This firebombing was popularly cheered on by news organs such as Time magazine, who explained that “properly kindled, Japanese cities will burn like autumn leaves.” Rather than denying this firebombing that was slaughtering civilians in the hundreds of thousands beyond most people’s comprehension, a spokesman for the Fifth Air Force claimed that “the entire population of Japan [was] a proper military target.”[lxxv]
Colonel Harry F. Cunningham proudly described U.S. policy: “We military men do not pull punches or put on Sunday School picnics. We are making War and making it in the all-out fashion which saves American lives, shortens the agony War is and seeks to bring about an enduring Peace. We intend to seek out and destroy the enemy wherever he or she is, in the greatest possible numbers, in the shortest possible time. For us, There are no civilians in Japan.”[lxxvi]
From the safety of his Quonset hut headquarters on Guam 1,500 miles away, the island the U.S. military had taken from Spain in 1898 during the Spanish American War, LeMay directed the low-flight firebombings of Japan. In late March the napalm supply had become depleted and it took until mid-April for the production to once again catch up. In all of Germany 79 square miles had been destroyed by bombing in five years; in Japan 178 square miles in a half-year.[lxxvii] By mid-June, bombings of Japan’s five other large industrial centers – Nagoya, Kobe, Yokohama, Osaka, and Kawasaki – and fifty-seven mid-size and small cities produced thousands more persons murdered, 2 million buildings destroyed, and many millions homeless.[lxxviii]
To review: U.S. and other Allied air forces totally or partially burned sixty-six Japanese cities to the ground through intensive, unprecedented incendiary bombing, murdering or maiming over 800,000 Japanese civilians while destroying over two and a half million homes, displacing 6 million.[lxxix] This was prior to the “cosmic” atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The urban incendiary bombings were more lethal than the combined dropping of the indiscriminate 15-kiloton Atomic bomb by the B-29 bomber, Enola Gay, piloted by Colonel Tibbets, flown from the Pacific Atoll Island of Tinian, August 6 on Hiroshima, and the Plutonium-core 20-kiloton bomb by the B-29 bomber, Bock’s Car, piloted by Major Sweeney (filling in for the usual pilot, Frederick Bock), August 9 on Nagasaki. About 100,000 people, 95,000 of whom were civilians, a quarter of Hiroshima’s citizens, were killed instantly, with another 100,000, most of them civilians as well, who died of long drawn-out deaths. The consequences to the residents of Nagasaki, a city of 275,000: 75,000 killed, with another 75,000 to die slowly from burns and radiation sickness.[lxxx] The combination of 160 days of fire bombings of sixty-six Japanese cities and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, left 330,000 civilians murdered, over 475,000 wounded, 6 million displaced, and over 2.5 million houses destroyed. The civilian casualties exceeded military dead and wounded.[lxxxi]
This record of U.S. and allied bombings established the policy, the mind-set, that there was truly no difference between so-called “civilized” nations, and fascist or other “evil” incarnations. The very manner in which these “constitutional democracies” chose to overwhelm fascism, in effect, institutionalized abandonment of any moral standards applied to war conduct, despite rhetoric and international laws to the contrary. The practice of indiscriminately exterminating civilian populations by conventional bombing established the breakdown of morality which in turn “justified” use of the Atom bomb, providing a “cheaper” means for accomplishing the same result. Terror was now official policy.
Ironically, on August 8, 1945, the U.S. joined the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and France in signing the London Agreement identifying war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes against peace punishable in international tribunals. This was only two days after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and one day before the similar bombing of Nagasaki where 175,000 civilians were immediately vaporized. Amazingly, the allied systematic bombing was exempted from such criteria identified in the London Agreement. Telford Taylor, chief counsel at the Nuremberg trials, declared in his concluding report, that bombings by Germany and the Allied nations were not criminal because “air bombardment of cities and factories has become a recognized part of modern warfare, as practiced by all nations.”[lxxxii] This statement, if taken seriously, totally invalidates the fourth Hague Convention which forbids aerial bombing of civilian targets. It also is the reason that Albert Camus concluded that diabolical violence was the victor in World War II, that we all now “live in terror because persuasion is no longer possible”.[lxxxiii]
Pattern of Killing Civilians Is Entrenched
The pattern of murdering civilians has continued. Subsequent U.S. military operations, both on the ground and from the air, in Southeast Asia (1954-1975), Grenada (1983), Panama (1989-90), and the Persian Gulf massacre (1991), cumulatively took upwards of six million lives, the overwhelming majority having been civilians knowingly or deliberately murdered, maiming millions more. Defenseless bombings of Libya (1986), Iraq (1993), Afghanistan and Sudan (1998), Iraq (1998-present), Yugoslavia/Kosovo/Serbia (1999), Afghanistan (2001 to present) murdered countless numbers of additional civilians as well, where civilian population and infrastructure were deliberate targets. This is wholesale terrorism of the rich against the poor.
William Blum concludes that what the U.S. and Europe calls a terrorist is in reality someone who has a bomb but doesn’t have an air force. Blum has identified 29 countries the U.S. has bombed since the end of World War II.[lxxxiv] Furthermore, various formulas of U.S. sponsorship, such as provision of weapons and/or training and funding, directly or indirectly, for counterinsurgency forces and contra terrorists, and death squads, in dozens of countries such as Afghanistan, Angola, Bangladesh, Chiapas, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, East Timor, El Salvador, Guatemala, Indonesia, Mozambique, Nicaragua and Turkey have produced upwards of six million additional civilian murders, with millions of others maimed for life. More wholesale terrorism of the rich against the poor. The United States government goes to great lengths to remain in denial about its crimes, using the old psychological trick of projection – calling others the evil ones. In 1999, the Department of Defense concluded: “We should expect conflicts in which adversaries, because of cultural affinities different from our own, will resort to forms and levels of violence shocking to our sensibilities.”[lxxxv]
Evidence from documents prepared by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), among the most secret offices of the U.S. national security apparatus, reveals that the U.S., and its dupe Allies in the U.N., deliberately destroyed Iraq public water supplies during the Persian Gulf massacre in 1991.[lxxxvi]
Since the end of the first Gulf massacre in February 1991 up to the U.S. invasion in 2003, the U.S. has made sure that any attempts to restore a healthy water system have been thwarted, stating that spare parts and water purifying chemicals possess a dual use that could be used by the Iraqi military as well. During the January-February 1991 bombing, Iraq’s eight multi-purpose dams were repeatedly hit, wrecking flood control, four of seven major pumping stations were destroyed, as were 31 municipal water and sewerage facilities, resulting in sewage pouring into the Tigris. Water purification plants were destroyed throughout Iraq. Municipal and industrial water storage, hydroelectric plants and distribution lines, and irrigations systems were systematically destroyed. The DIA report suggests that Iraq had developed an elaborate pure water system for its population, heavily dependent upon imported specialized equipment and purification chemicals. A shortage of pure drinking water, the document discloses, could “lead to increased incidents, if not epidemics, of disease and certain pure-water dependent industries becoming incapacitated.” The subsequent blockade of Iraq has assured that the destroyed water system not be corrected, which, as a consequence, has directly contributed to the deaths of perhaps an additional one million or more Iraqi civilians, the majority young children.
In light of this history, the fact that as many as three, possibly as many as four million civilians were killed during the Korean War should come as no surprise. The documented, historical record powerfully reveals that U.S. policies have never been concerned with respecting civilians or the international laws that are in force to protect them in times of war and military conflict. Despite official U.S. rhetoric to the contrary, the facts in the record strongly suggest that the U.S. deliberately and intentionally terrorizes civilians living in “enemy” territory with the expectation for coercing surrender, capitulation, or assimilation to the Western way of life. A Fifth U.S. Air Force memo, dated July 25, 1950, acknowledges that the Army has asked them to “strafe all civilian refuges.” Alarmed about continued advances by North Korean forces, on August 13, 1950 General MacArthur instructed the entire B-29 bomber force to “carpet bomb” wherever presence of enemy troops were identified. As the US/UN forces began to push the North Korean forces northward in the fall, on November 5 MacArthur ordered the air forces using incendiary munitions “to destroy every means of communication and every installation, factory, city, and village” beginning at the Manchurian border, progressing southward to the allied battle lines.[lxxxvii] This included the expectation to burn the cities to the ground.[lxxxviii] Only by the late 1990s did U.S. media begin reporting the atrocities that occurred nearly 50 years earlier. For example, the Washington Post reported in September 1999 that declassified U.S. Air Force reports disclosed that pilots sometimes “deliberately attacked people in white,” apparently suspecting them of being disguised North Korean soldiers.[lxxxix] In December 1999, and again in 2000, the New York Times similarly reported that U.S. Air Force planes bombed and strafed Korean civilians deliberately under direction of spotter planes.[xc]
[i] Edward Tick, War and the Soul: Healing Our Nation’s Veterans from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (Wheaton, IL: Quest Books, 2005), 69.
[ii] Lindqvist, A History of Bombing, 32-34; Terry C. Treadwell and Alan C. Wood, The First Air War: A Pictorial History 1914-1919 (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1996), 2.
[iii] Martin Gilbert, Churchill: A Life (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1991), 411 and Noam Chomsky, Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies (Boston: South End Press, 1989), 182, 386n5.
[iv] Noam Chomsky, Deterring Democracy (New York: Hill and Wang, 1992), 182; and Raghid Sohl, Britain’s Two Wars With Iraq (London: Ithaca, 1994), 42, as quoted in Said K. Aburish, Saddam Hussein: The Politics of Revenge (New York: Bloomsbury, 2000), 6; and Ward Churchill, A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas 1492 to the Present (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1997), 405
[v] Geoff Simons, Iraq From Sumer to Post-Saddam (New York: Palmgrave MacMillan, 2004), 213.
[vi] Linqvist, A History of Bombing, 69-70.
[vii] Sven Lindqvist, A History of Bombing, trans. Linda H. Rugg (New York: The new Press, 2001), 72-73.
[viii] Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan Watts, Guernica: The Crucible of World War II (New York: Stein and Day, 1975), 279.
[ix] Gérard Brey, “La destrucción de Guernica,” Tiempo de Historianº, April 29, 1977, (accessed online September 14, 2006) which appears to be a review of Herbert R. Southworth, La destrucción de Guernica (Paris: Ruedo Ibérico, 1975) as quoted in Bombing of Guernica (Wikipedia, accessed January 7, 2009). Also see Thomas, Guernica, 228-81.
[x] Lindqvist, A History of Bombing, 37.
[xi] Ibid., 40-53.
[xii] Ibid., 50-51.
[xiii] “Up From Kitty Hawk: A Chronology of Aerospace Power Since 1903,” Air Force Magazine (December 2003).
[xiv] Daniel L. Haulman, One Hundred Years of Flight: USAF Chronology of Significant Air and Space Events, 1903-2002 (Maxwell AFB, AL: Air University Press, 2003), 11.
[xv] Jerry K. Sweeney, ed., A Handbook of American Military History: From the Revolutionary War to the Present (Boulder, CO: Westview Press,1996), 110, 115].
[xvi] Haulman, One Hundred Years of Flight: 11.
[xvii] Mark Walter Evans, “Was Pancho Villa Framed?” Culture Change, (March 2007), http://www.culturechange.org/cms/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=102&Itemid=2 (accessed January 7, 2009).
[xviii] Patrick Bellegarde-Smith, Haiti: The Breached Citadel (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1990), 80.
[xix] Noam Chomsky, Year 501: The Conquest Continues (Boston: South End Press, 1993), 200.
[xx] “Instances of use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-1945,” Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress (Washington, DC: GPO, 1975).
[xxi] Hans Schmidt, Maverick Marine: General Smedley D. Butler and the Contradictions of American Military History (Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 1987), 74.
[xxii] Charles R. Shrader, ed., Reference Guide to United States Military History, 1865-1919 (New York: Facts on File, 1993), 82.
[xxiii] Noam Chomsky, Failed States: The Abuses of Power and the Assault on Democracy (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2006), 153.
[xxiv] Ivan Musicant, The Banana Wars: A History of United States Military Intervention in Latin America from the Spanish-American War to the Invasion of Panama (New York: MacMillan Publishing Company, 1990), 182.
[xxv] Bellegarde-Smith, Haiti, 74.
[xxvi] Chomsky, Year 501, 202; “History of U.S. violence Across the Globe, Washington’s War Crimes,” Socialist Worker (November 16, 2001), 6-7.
[xxvii] Bellegarde-Smith, Haiti, 80.
[xxviii] “Guns, Germs and Steel” is the name of a comprehensive journey through 13,000 years of human history written by physiologist Jared Diamond (New York: W. W. Norton, 1999).
[xxix] Max Boot, The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power (New York: Basic Books, 2002), 180.
[xxx] Bellegarde-Smith, Haiti, 83.
[xxxi] Joseph H. Alexander, Don Horan and Norman C. Stahl, The Battle History of the U.S. Marines (New York: HarperPerennial, 1999), 53-54; Boot, The Savage Wars of Peace, 175.
[xxxiii] “Harry A. Franck Says Innocent Blacks Were Slain in Villages From Airplanes, Others Shot For Sport,” New York Times, October 15, 1920.
[xxxv] Peter M. Bergman, The Chronological History of the Negro in America (New York: Harper & Row, 1969), 396.
[xxxvi] Adrian Brune, “Tulsa’s Shame,” The Nation (March 18, 2002).
[xxxvii] James S. Hirsch, Riot and Remembrance: The Tulsa Race War and Its Legacy (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2002), 6, 106, 191, 259-60.
[xxxviii] Godfrey Hodgson, The Colonel: The Life and Wars of Henry Stimson, 1867-1950 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), 105.
[xxxix] Robert Edgar Conrad, ed., Sandino: The testimony of a Nicaraguan Patriot, 1921-1934 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990), 11-12.
[xl] Harold Denny, “Wall Street Role Large In Nicaragua,” New York Times, July 29, 1928.
[xli] “American Marines Land At Capital of Nicaragua Rebels: Liberal Government Charges It Was ordered to Get Out Today or be Disarmed,” New York Times, December 25, 1926.
[xlii] Denny, “Wall Street Role Large.”
[xliii] Hodgson, The Colonel, 108-9.
[xliv] Richard V. Oulahan, “Kellogg Offers Evidence Of Red Plots In Nicaragua And Aid From Calles,” New York Times, January 13, 1927.
[xlv] “American Pilot in the Nicaragua Air Service,” New York Times, March 5, 1927, as quoted in Conrad, Sandino: The testimony of a Nicaraguan Patriot, 58n2.
[xlvi] Alexander, Battle History of the U.S. Marines, 56-58.
[xlvii] Shrader, Reference Guide To United States Military History, 245.
[xlviii] Harold Denny, “Marines Push Drive in Nicaragua Wilds”, New York Times Magazine, January 21, 1928.
[xlix] “1,000 Additional Marines Are Ordered To Nicaragua To Quell Sandino Revolt”, New York Times, January 4, 1928.
[l] The World Guide, 2001/2002, (Oxford, UK: New Internationalist Publications Ltd., 2001), 404.
[li] Greg Grandin, Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, The United States, And the Rise Of the New Imperialism (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2006), 22.
[lii] Ibid., 22.
[liii] “Nicaraguans Elect Moncada President, Returns Indicate,” New York Times, November 5, 1928.
[liv] Colman McCarthy Column, “In Nicaragua, An Ex-Marine’s Campaign of Conscience,” Washington Post, Sunday, March 2, 1986)
[lv] Conrad, Sandino, The Testimony of A Nicaraguan Patriot, 88-90. Sandino kept journals of his six-year effort to rid Nicaragua of the Yankee troops and documented the practices and policies of the U.S. Marines. In the example here, Sandino describes the battles of Ocotal, San Fernando, Los Calpules, July 1927.
[lvi] Ibid., 137.
[lvii] Ibid., 146-147.
[lviii] Ibid., 156.
[lix] Ibid., 159.
[lx] Ibid., 163.
[lxi] Ibid., 190-91.
[lxii] Ibid., 412.
[lxiii] Alexander, Battle History of the U.S. Marines, 57.
[lxiv] Walter LaFeber, Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1983), 67.
[lxv] Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States (New York: Harper Perennial, 1980), 412.
[lxvi] Ibid., 412-13.
[lxvii] Robert Goralski, World War II Almanac 1931-1945: A Political and Military Record (New York: Bonanza Books, 1981), 218-19.
[lxviii] Goralski, WWII Almanac, 395.
[lxix] Lindqvist, A History of Bombing, 95.
[lxx] Goralski, World War II Almanac, 401; John Keegan, The Second World War (New York: Penguin Books, 1990), 433; Adam Young, “The Real Churchill,” Ludwig Von Mises Institute, http://mises.org/story/1450, posted February 27, 2004 (accessed January 10, 2009).
[lxxi] Martin Gilbert, Churchill and America (New York: Free Press, 2005), 332; Zinn, A People’s History, 413; Lindqvist, A History of Bombing, 102.
[lxxii] Susan Griffin, A Chorus of Stones: The Private Life of War (New York: Anchor Books/Doubleday, 1992), 10.
[lxxiii] Lindqvist, A History of Bombing, 107.
[lxxiv] Ibid., 107-110; Edwin P. Hoyt, Inferno: The Firebombing of Japan, March 9–August 15, 1945 (Latham, MD: Madison Books, 2000), 7-73.
[lxxv] Michael Zezima, Saving Private Power (New York: Soft Skull Press, 2000), 107-9.
[lxxvi] Ronald Takaki, Hiroshima: Why America Dropped the Atomic Bomb (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1995), 28-29.
[lxxvii] Lindqvist, A History of Bombing, 109.
[lxxviii] Hoyt, Inferno, 75-117.
[lxxix] Lindqvist, A History of Bombing, 108-110; Hoyt, Inferno, 137.
[lxxx] James Trager, The People’s Chronology: A Year-by-Year Record of Human Events from Prehistory to the Present, 893; Lindqvist, A History of bombing, 112.
[lxxxi] Hoyt, Inferno, 137-38.
[lxxxii] Lindqvist, A History of Bombing, 113.
[lxxxiii] Albert Camus, Neither Victims Nor Executioners, trans. Dwight Macdonald (1946; Philadelphia, PA: New Society Publishers, 1986), 28.
[lxxxiv] William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 2000), 92-95; – The Anti-Empire Report, July 28, 2011, www.killinghope.org.
[lxxxv] New World Coming, Phase 1 Report (U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century, September 15, 1999), 3, as quoted in Blum, Rogue State, 95, 285n2.
[lxxxvi] Thomas J. Nagy, “The Secret Behind the Sanctions: How the U.S. Intentionally Destroyed Iraq’s Water Supply, ” The Progressive (September 2001), http://www.progressive.org/0801issue/nagy0901.html (accessed January 12, 2009). Thomas J. Nagy, teaches at the School of Business and Public Management at George Washington University. All DIA documents mentioned are found at Department of Defense’s Gulflink site: www.gulflink.osd.mil. To access the documents, google “Iraq Water Treament Vulnerabilities”.
[lxxxvii] Robert Frank Futrell, The United States Air Force in Korea, 1950-1953 (Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History, United States Air Force, 1983), 221.
[lxxxix] Sang Hun Choe, Charles J. Hanley and Martha Mendoza, “U.S. Massacre of Civilians in Korean War Described,” Washington Post, September 30, 1999, A1.
[xc] “U.S. Bombers Hit Civilians in Korean War, Reports Say,” New York Times, December 29, 1999; Choe Sang-Hun, “South Korea Says U.S. Killed Hundreds of Civilians,” New York Times, August 3, 2000.
Fifty years ago today, November 2, 2015, at about 5:20 p.m., a 31-year-old Quaker named Norman Morrison immolated himself 40 feet from the window of US Secretary of War Robert McNamara’s office at the Pentagon. I was a law student in Washington, DC at the time.
Most US Americans know little of our nation’s history and seldom reflect on the moral issues relating to its genocidal origins and imperial nature. And, it seems, they avoid at all costs reflection on anything that may produce “negative” feelings (i.e., the truth).
For more than eight years, 1965-73, the US expended more than 16 million tons of deadly ordnance on Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos, more than was utilized in all previous wars combined by all sides. Seventy-five percent of South Viet Nam was designated a “free fire zone” by US military planners. B-52 bombing missions occurred virtually every day. Hundreds of schools, hospitals, Catholic churches and Buddhist pagodas were considered “psycho-social targets”. Thirteen thousand, or 60 percent, of all villages in Viet Nam were severely damaged or destroyed. Twenty-one million gallons of deadly chemical herbicides were sprayed over villages, farms and forests. The third generation of birth defects are now appearing. Over 6.5 million Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians were murdered during the war, over five million in Viet Nam alone – thirteen percent of their population!
Vietnamese resistance and self-defense were treated as a crime deserving evermore vengeance from the US war machine. Use of systematic terror, including torture, was unprecedented. Surrender not forthcoming, genocidal scorched-earth and search-and-destroy policies sought to eliminate the entire Vietnamese population. By mid-1965, the war was just beginning to seep into the consciousness of a small minority of people. Heavy bombings began to make the news, along with the open invasion of US troops that had occurred in March.
Norman Morrison, director of a Quaker Meeting in Maryland, agonized over the US criminal war, and was distressed by lack of public outrage, especially from Quakers. On the morning of November 2, 1965, in preparing a lecture for an upcoming class, Norman penned: “Quakers seek to begin with life, not with theory….The life is mightier than the book that reports it”. Over lunch, Norman and his wife Anne discussed the latest issue of I.F. Stone’s Weekly that reprinted a letter from a Catholic priest in Paris Match who barely survived US bombings: “I have seen my faithful burned up. I have seen the bodies of women and children blown to bits. I have seen all my village razed”.
After lunch, his wife Anne went to school to pick up their 6-year son Ben, and 5 year-old daughter Christina, Norman stayed with their daughter, Emily only nine days shy of her first birthday. With no evidence of premeditation or discussion, Norman drove to the Pentagon with baby Emily. At about 5:20 p.m., within 40 feet of the window of Secretary of War/Defense Robert McNamara, Norman safely placed Emily aside before dousing himself with a flammable liquid and striking a match. Within a few minutes Norman was dead, the second US American to immolate in protest of the war. As the war dragged on, seven others would follow suit. At least 76 Vietnamese immolated themselves protesting the barbaric war being waged against them for simply seeking political autonomy.
Anne received a letter the next day penned by Norman: “Dearest Anne, I have been praying only that I be shown what I must do. This morning with no warning I was shown, as clearly as I was shown that Friday night in August 1955 that you should be my wife…Know that I love thee but must act for the children in the priest’s village. Norman”.
His wife Anne would later describe that Norman had a philosophy of “guided drift”, a kind of divine inspiration where each moment possesses reflective wisdom of its own.
Norman’s life has special significance to me. In the small town I grew up in rural western New York, he dated our neighbor’s daughter and was the first Eagle Scout I ever knew. Though seven years my senior, we graduated from the same Chautauqua Central High School, each with 28 students in our class. He considered becoming a minister as I would. We both loved baseball.
I thought Norman must have gone off his rocker. However, three-and-a-half years later, as a US Air Force lieutenant in Viet Nam, I personally witnessed the after effects of unspeakable napalm bombings of farming villages where virtually all inhabitants were murdered in a flash, mostly young mothers and children. Official reports identified them as “VC” (enemy) but I knew they were civilians. The horror caused me to turn against the war.
During an incredible dinner conversation with an educated Vietnamese family in Can Tho City, I was stunned to discover that the Vietnamese deeply revered Norman for his “constructive” sacrifice. They sang for me, in English, “An Ode to Norman Morrison,” that included the words: “The flame which burned you will clear and lighten life and many new generations of people will find the horizon. Then a day will come when the American people will rise, one after another, for life”. I wept as I grasped the extraordinary meaning that Norman’s life and act had on an entire nation of people, even though unrecognized by his own country’s citizenry.
If that was not enough, I later discovered there was a postage stamp the North Vietnamese government issued shortly after the immolation, revealing Norman’s face looking down from the clouds on US war demonstrators. The lettering on the stamp, translated reads: “Norman Morrison, the ultimate sacrifice as duty and purpose demand.”
I also learned there were streets named after Norman in Viet Nam. Posters and photos of him had appeared throughout the country, and Vietnamese soldiers on the Ho Chi Minh Trail carried his photos on their trucks. President Ho Chi Minh personally invited Norman’s widow Anne to Viet Nam. North Viet Nam’s Prime Minister Pham Van Dong shared this high national praise: “Norman Morrison has gone into Vietnamese mythology: The Vietnamese people, when fighting oppression, always have in their heart the image of Norman Morrison.”
Five days after Norman’s immolation, North Viet Nam’s revolutionary poet laureate To Huu wrote a poem, still famous in Viet Nam, “Emily, My Child,” dedicated to Norman. Towards the end of the poem is a section: “McNamara!/ Where are you hiding? /…you hide yourself / from the flaming world / as an ostrich hides its head in the burning sand”. Her father, who considered the entire human family just as valuable as his own, bore witness in the clearest and most incontrovertible manner against McNamara’s impersonal, mechanistic, and analytical waging of a war that was unleashing unspeakable violence on the innocents of Southeast Asia.
From my Viet Nam and other experiences, and from Norman’s example, my own long activist life has been guided by the mantra, “We are not worth more; They are not worth less”.
Perhaps as more of us become acquainted with the example of Norman Morrison, we will find our own version of “guided drift”.