Last month, I touched on a fraction of February's forgotten history vis-à-vis America's long history of global brutality. Here's a small taste of March's madness:
In WWII's Pacific theater-cheered on by the likes of Time magazine, which explained that "properly kindled, Japanese cities will burn like autumn leaves"-U.S. General Curtis LeMay's Twenty-first Bomber Command, laid siege on the poorer areas of Japan's large cities. On the night of March 9-10, 1945, the target was Tokyo, where tightly packed wooden buildings took the brunt of 1,665 tons of incendiaries. LeMay later recalled that a few explosives had been mixed in with the incendiaries to demoralize firefighters (96 fire engines burned to ashes and 88 firemen died). The attack area was 87.4 percent residential. By May 1945, 75 percent of the bombs being dropped on Japan were incendiaries and LeMay's campaign took an estimated 672,000 lives. In a confidential memo of June 1945, Brigadier General Bonner Fellers, an aide to General MacArthur, called the raids, "one of the most ruthless and barbaric killings on non-combatants in all history." Secretary of War Henry Stimson declared it was "appalling that there had been no protest over the air strikes we were conducting against Japan which led to such extraordinarily heavy loss of life." Stimson added that he "did not want to have the United States get the reputation for outdoing Hitler in atrocities." After the "good war," LeMay admitted: "I suppose if I had lost the war, I would have been tried as a war criminal. Fortunately, we were on the winning side."
After learning of the horrors his bomb had wrought on Japan, atomic scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer began to harbor second thoughts, and he resigned in October 1945. In March of the following year, Oppenheimer told President Truman: "Mr. President, I have blood on my hands." Good ol' Harry replied, "It'll come out in the wash." Later, the president told an aide, "Don't bring that fellow around again."
"In all my years in the Army I was never taught that communists were human beings," said U.S. Lieutenant William Calley. "We were there to kill ideology carried by-I don't know-pawns, blobs of flesh. I was there to destroy communism. We never conceived of people, men, women, children, babies."
The date was March 16, 1968. "Under the command of Lieutenant William L. Calley, Charlie Company of the Americal Division's Eleventh Infantry had 'nebulous orders' from its company commander, Captain Ernest Medina, to 'clean the village out'," explains historian Kenneth Davis. All they found at My Lai were women, children, and old men...no weapons, no signs of enemy soldiers. Calley ordered villagers to be killed and their huts destroyed. Women and girls were raped before they were machine-gunned. By the end of the massacre, hundreds of villagers were dead.
When the truth about My Lai was eventually revealed by reporter Seymour Hersh, Henry Kissinger sent a note to White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman: "Now that the cat is out of the bag, I recommend keeping the President and the White House out of the matter entirely." Nixon, for his part, blamed the New York Times, what he called "dirty rotten Jews from New York," for covering the story. Perhaps what had the White House on edge was best articulated by Colonel Oran Henderson, charged with covering up the My Lai killings, who explained in 1971: "Every unit of brigade size has its My Lai hidden someplace."
While it was subsequently cited as one of the many spurious pretexts for the second Gulf War, the U.S. and Britain did not call for a military strike after Iraq's gassing of Kurds at Halabja in March 1988. "When Saddam bombed Kurdish rebels and civilians with a lethal cocktail of mustard gas, sarin, tabun, and VX in 1988, the Reagan administration first blamed Iran, before acknowledging that the culprits were Saddam's own forces," explained reporters Christopher Dickey and Evan Thomas. "There was only token official protest at the time. Saddam's men were unfazed. An Iraqi audiotape, later captured by the Kurds, records Saddam's cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid talking to his fellow officers about gassing the Kurds." On that tape, al-Majid, a.k.a. Chemical Ali, asks: "Who is going to say anything? The international community? f*ck them!" Right on cue, Washington stepped up arms supplies to and diplomatic activity with Iraq.
March 17: President George W. Bush declares, "The United States and other nations did nothing to deserve or invite this threat, but we will do everything to defeat it."
March 18: On Good Morning America the president's mother asks: "Why should we hear about body bags and deaths and how many, what day it's gonna happen? It's not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?"
March 20: The day mistakenly considered the "beginning" of the Iraq War. This "war" began when the Security Council imposed comprehensive sanctions against Iraq on August 6, 1990, four days after Iraq invaded Kuwait...and has continued unabated (via bombings, sanctions, invasion, and occupation) since then.
Postscript: Some of the reactions to my February article demonstrated shameful ignorance of and/or tacit support for transparent crimes against humanity. Many chose to fall back on excuses along the lines of "every country has such episodes in its history" and/or "you have to break some eggs to make an omelet." For example: "What modern nation state isn't like this? If a nation has power, it abuses it. Why would we be any different?" It seems the decency bar has been lowered (to say the least). Also, since no other nation claims moral superiority with more frequency than the U.S., to nonchalantly absolve America of its myriad transgressions is to conveniently disregard such reprehensible rhetoric and arrogance.
Mickey Z. can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net.