More Atrocities of US Imperialism: Self-serving denunciations while the real criminals go unpunished

by Fred Bergen

The state of the Iraq and Afghanistan occupation gives us further proof that revolutionary working class methods are needed to end it. Bush's public approval rating is in free-fall. His loyal enablers, the Democrats, are eagerly anticipating their chance this November to take hold of Congress on the crest of an anti-Bush, anti-Republican tide of public dissatisfaction. Over three years into the Iraq war, Democrats have made the startling discovery that this war, like all the others fought by the two parties of US imperialism, was based on lies. This hasn't stopped them from voting for all the war spending. John "reporting for duty" Kerry says that his vote for the Iraq war was "a mistake". On May 8, 2006, to great fanfare, he introduced a resolution in Congress calling for the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq "at the earliest practicable date", while maintaining an "over-the-horizon military presence to prosecute the war on terror and protect regional security interests" (bad news for the soldiers who want to go home!). Yet just days before, on May 4, Kerry voted for another war spending bill, $71.8 billion dollars this time, for war in Iraq and Afghanistan plus aid to the puppet Iraq government and funding for a new imperialist adventure in Sudan. Also included are provisions for 6,000 national guard soldiers to harass immigrant workers on the Mexican border, plus funds for the construction of prisons for 4,000 more immigrants. Not one Democrat voted against the bill in the Senate, which had already passed the House.

Generals wash their hands of the blood of Haditha victims

Another sordid episode in this criminal war is coming to light, thanks to the brave action of Taher Tabet, an Iraqi journalism student who first brought the evidence of the Haditha massacre to the world's attention. These facts are not in dispute: the US military admits that on November 15, 2005, US Marines killed 24 unarmed Iraqis execution-style in the village of Haditha. The Marines covered up the massacre, saying that the civilians were killed by a bomb planted by the resistance, until the truth became undeniable.

Both the Army and the Navy are investigating the incident. NBC News reported on May 17 that three Marine officers had been relieved of their duties, and called Haditha "the worst single incident involving the deliberate killing of civilians by U.S. military in Iraq." That would be wrong.

Remember Fallujah!

"Fallujah - the Hidden Massacre", a documentary, aired on November 8, 2005 on the Italian state news channel RAI News 24. It presented convincing eyewitness and photographic evidence that the US had dropped white phosphorous bombs indiscriminately on the civilian population of Fallujah a year earlier. The siege and rape of Fallujah in 2004, "Operation Phantom Fury", was an act of revenge against a city whose name had become synonymous with the heroic resistance of the Iraqi people to the US invaders. In the documentary, Jeff Engelhardt, a US soldier, says "I was personally involved with escorting a commander to Fallujah for Operation Phantom Fury. We were told going into Fallujah, into the combat area, that every single person that was walking, talking, breathing was an enemy combatant. As such, every single person that was walking down the street or in a house was a target."

The death toll is still unknown, but local medical authorities confirmed at least 600 Iraqis dead. Most of the victims never made it to the hospitals, and thus are not included in the 600 figure. United Press International estimated at least 800 were killed as of November 14, 2004. US troops siezed the city's hospital and denied access to the Red Cross and Red Crescent. A quarter of a million people were forced to flee as refugees.

But the most indiscriminate killing rained down from the air, in a days-long bombing campaign that razed most of the city's buildings and used illegal chemical weapons. Pepe Escobar reports in the Asia Times that "Fallujah doctors have identified either swollen and yellowish corpses without any injuries, or 'melted bodies' -- victims of napalm, the terrifying cocktail of polystyrene and jet fuel. Our sources confirm testimonies by residents who managed to escape the Jolan neighborhood of bombing by 'poisonous gases'. A resident called Abu Sabah told of 'weird bombs that smoke like a mushroom cloud...and then small pieces fall from the air with long tails of smoke behind them. The pieces of these strange bombs explode into large fires that burn the skin even when you throw water over them.' This is exactly what happens to people bombed with napalm or white phosphorus." (from wsws.org).

This was a crime of historic proportions. An operation of this extent could not have been the simple reaction of a handful of soldiers. It was planned and authorized from the highest levels, without a single voice of dissent from the capitalist politicians. With the blood of Fallujah still dripping from their hands, Bush and his cronies are producing a show-trial of their former accomplice, Saddam Hussein. And it is not an isolated incident. It was Andrew Jackson who drove the Cherokees in a death-march across the the Trail of Tears. It was Theodore Roosevelt who massacred one million Filipinos to prevent their independence. It was Franklin Roosevelt who approved the firebombing of Dresden and Tokyo. It was Harry Truman who brought the nuclear holocaust to Hiroshima and Nagasaki after Japanese empire was all but defeated, to secure the US empire. And it was Bill Clinton who enforced the punitive sanctions against Iraq, murdering at least 1.5 million Iraqis through preventable diseases and malnutrition, according to the complicit United Nations.

They can't be reformed

In light of the Haditha atrocity, the butchers Fallujah are now promising an emergency program of re-education in the ethics of warfare for US soldiers. But there is no "right" way to fight an imperialist war. The only ethical choice for US soldiers is to refuse to serve in the illegal occupation of Iraq, and to turn the war against the people of Iraq into a war against the criminal US government.

There are rumblings of discontent in the armed forces just below the surface. The generals are worried. In a report written in December 2004 and leaked to the press on June 1st, 2005, the commander of the US army reserve Lt Gen James Helmly wrote that the Army Reserve "is rapidly degenerating into a broken force". The official Army historian of the Iraq war, Maj. Isaiah Wilson, wrote in a report presented at Cornell University in October 2004 that "As early as July 2003 the US military lost its dominance in Iraq and is yet to regain that position". Individual conscientious resisters, beginning with the courageous gay filipino marine Steven Funk, including outspoken anti-war soldiers like Carl Webb and Camilo Mejia, threaten to spark broader resistance in the ranks. Organizations of anti-war veterans and military families, mostly opposed to the war on a social-patriotic basis, are gaining an audience. Despite a four billion dollar recruiting budget, the armed forces can't replenish their ranks. The US imperialist monster is not immortal or invincible.

What will turn the tide?

Imperialist wars, like all other social processes and systems, can live on long after the impulses that set them in motion have lost their significance and vitality. An opposing force is needed to change the course. The fact that US imperialism is unlikely to emerge victorious from its Iraqi adventure is no guarantee that the workers in Iraq and the US will succeed in stopping the Pentagon's mad rush toward barbarism and genocide. US imperialism's reckless threats against Iran, Venezuela, the DPRK, and China even as the Army sinks deeper into the Iraq quagmire show us that as imperialist capital grows more desperate and isolated, it becomes more unstable and more insistent on new risky and murderous military adventures to shore up its global competitive position against other imperialist powers, chiefly in Europe.

Only the working class is positioned to end the Iraq war. The reserve of opposition ot the war and willingness to fight it is growing, not weakening. The cynical reformists who count the declining numbers trend at their rallies and marches are only measuring the last gasps of the initial protest strategy, that oriented to the middle class and the Democratic party. The majority of workers in the US who are fed up with the war are looking for a way to end it, not Saturday afternoon speeches about how horrible the war is.

The elements of the anti-war movement that are conscious of the strategic position of the working class have to appeal directly to the workers to exercise their social power through a strike against the war, in their propaganda and at the symbolic marches, and by forming anti-war organizing committees explicitly oriented to the working class and the preparation of anti-war strikes. Unfortunately for the leading "coalitions", UFPJ, ANSWER, and Troops Out Now, this will alienate many of the preachers and politicians who crowd their podiums. Allies should not be unnecessarily rejected, but the truth about the working class strategy necessary to defeat US imperialism can't be suppressed to gain favor with anti-war celebrities.

Follow the May Day example

May Day in the US was the rebirth of the general political strike strategy for mobilizing the power of the working class. Major industries were stopped. Although there was no unified political direction or program, the ruling class was shocked by the outpouring of resistance. It had to change its strategy from the "Sensenbrenner" bill, HR 4437, which relied solely on the ultra-right racist base of support, to the Senate strategy, using the Democratic party to co-opt and divide the movement for immigrants rights. Since May Day, the professional reformists and Democratic vote-getters have been working overtime to make May Day recede into the past, to convince the masses who made history on May Day that instead of using their social power as workers to press their demands, they should return to seeking favors from and alliances with the Democrats, the party of racism and capitalism.

The task of revolutionaries is to explain the betrayals of these servants of the bourgeoisie and organize the workers and all the oppressed for the May Day road of class struggle. Let the reformists say what they will, their strategy is a dead end.