The United States of Atrocity: When It Comes to War Crimes, USA Is “Number One”

Part 1: 1945-1978

Updated

Editors’ note: A preliminary version of this article was posted under a different title at revcom.us earlier last week. Look for part 2, covering the period from 1979 to the present, here next week. Further endnotes listing all sources for Part I will be added later this week.

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For 12 days, from December 18 to 29, 1972, U.S. round-the-clock bombing pounded and decimated North Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi as well as its nearby seaport and industrial center of Haiphong.   

Part I: 1945–1978

U.S. President Biden has repeatedly labeled Russian President Putin a “war criminal.” Biden and other U.S. officials mouth deep outrage at the suffering of the Ukrainian people. They talk somberly about what is the best international venue to hold Nuremburg-style war crimes trials for Russian leaders. Ukrainian President Zelensky even told the UN Security Council that Russia’s actions in Ukraine constitute “the most heinous war crimes of all time since the end of World War II.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is in fact a criminal violation of the sovereignty of another country, and it is fairly clear that its conduct of the war has involved serious war crimes, such as bombardment of civilian population centers like Kyiv, Mariupol, and Kharkiv. And there are reported cases of use of “cluster munitions”—bombs or shells that break up into smaller explosives that disperse over a wide area. (See ‘Vietnam War” section below for more on cluster munitions.)

There are also allegations of rape, torture and murder, which at this point are largely undocumented and need to be investigated.

But as grievous as these crimes are, and even assuming that all the so-far-unproven allegations turn out to be true, they pale in comparison to the crimes of the U.S. imperialist war machine (including the CIA) that Biden represents and leads, and which Zelensky is closely allied with.

Below is a partial listing and brief description of some of the most egregious war crimes of the U.S. and its close allies in the period that Zelensky focuses on—“since the end of World War II.” These were crimes committed internationally, outside the U.S. borders (i.e., we have not included here crimes against humanity committed against Black people, Native people, and others within the U.S.).

What Do We Mean By War Crimes, Crimes Against Peace and Crimes Against Humanity?

The concepts of “crimes against peace,” “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” were established after World War 2 at the Nuremburg Trials. These trials of political and military leaders of the German Nazi regime implicated in the murders of tens of millions of civilians (as well as murders of prisoners of war, and other crimes) during the war were conducted by the victorious Allies: the Soviet Union (at that time a socialist country1), and three major capitalist-imperialist powers—the U.S., Great Britain and France).

Since that time there have been further international treaties as well as much debate about exactly what these terms refer to and how to apply them in practice, and none of this is settled.

In this article we are not going to engage the intricacies of this debate. Instead, we are going to cite clear-cut acts of the U.S. government and military which, by their scale, scope or nature, shock the conscience of humankind; that contravene basic norms, laws and customs that regulate the conduct of war and armed conflict; and which were undertaken in the context of systematic campaigns by the U.S. in pursuit of their goals.

That is to say, we are not citing every marginal bad act of the U.S., but focusing on acts that any decent person would recognize as abhorrent and unjustified.

Primarily, we are indicting the U.S. for carrying out—or for conspiring with, aiding and abetting U.S. allies in carrying out—the following:

  • Unprovoked invasions of other countries for purposes of imposing governments compliant with U.S. interests, and leading to widespread loss of civilian life;
  • Conspiring in and aiding assassinations of foreign leaders, and/or coups d′état against foreign governments, for the same purpose and with the same result;
  • Inciting and fueling civil wars, for the same purpose and with the same result;
  • Sustained bombardment of civilian population centers, and/or destruction of civilian infrastructure (i.e., electric power, water pumping and purification, communications, hospitals, schools, etc.) in order to terrorize or break the will of the population;
  • Use of blockades, sieges and/or economic sanctions that cause widespread suffering and death among civilians, in order to terrorize or break the will of the population;
  • Use of chemical or biological weapons, or other weapons whose main purpose is to kill and terrorize civilians and to make the areas affected unlivable;
  • Ecocide: massive intentional destruction of the natural environment and/or the agricultural economy with long-term consequences for the people and land;
  • Massacres of unarmed civilians, including rape and other acts of torture;
  • Torture, sexual assault and humiliation, and murder of prisoners of war; holding prisoners indefinitely and without trial;
  • Ethnic cleansing: driving out and/or mass murder of a people to the extent that threatens their physical, economic and cultural viability as a people in the affected area; and
  • Nuclear blackmail: threatening nuclear destruction to achieve political, economic or military objectives.

May 1948 to Present:

Ethnic Cleansing; Seizure of Territory of Other Countries; Using Hunger as a Weapon; Bombing Civilian Population Centers and Infrastructure; Attacking a Civilian Vessel on the High Seas

Arming and Supporting Israel’s War on the Palestinian People

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Israeli bombing of Gaza in 2008.   

For over 60 years, the U.S. has been Israel’s most powerful backer, and Israel has served as the U.S.’s key military outpost and attack dog in the Middle East.2 As of 2019, the U.S. had provided over $142 billion in aid, most of it military.

From its founding, Israel denied the existence of the Palestinian people, proclaiming Palestine “A land without a people for a people without a land.”3 But in fact, in order to establish Israel, almost a million Palestinian inhabitants had to be driven out, often through terrorist massacres like Deir Yassin. Hundreds of Palestinian villages were literally wiped off the map. This was ethnic cleansing!

Since then, Israel has been sustained through a relentless project of repressing or expelling Palestinians, seizure of territory from its neighbors, and other crimes, all carried out with full U.S. political, military and economic support. Here is a small sampling:

  • In 1967 Israel attacked Egypt (seizing the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip); Syria (seizing the Golan Heights) and Jordan (seizing the West Bank of the Jordan River and the whole city of Jerusalem). Sinai was finally returned to Egypt in 1982, but Israel continues to control the other captured lands and their predominantly Palestinian populations. These “territories” are nominally under the control of a toothless, reactionary “Palestinian Authority,” but in every meaningful way, they are controlled by Israel. Millions of Palestinians there are denied Israeli citizenship. This echoes the black “Bantustans” in apartheid South Africa. (Apartheid laws were repealed in 1991.)
  • The West Bank—home to 2.8 million Palestinians—has been under continuous attack since 1967. Over 400,000 Israeli settlers—illegal under international law—have violently established themselves, often taking over the homes of Palestinians and evicting them at gunpoint. Israeli leaders have openly expressed the objective of annexing the West Bank.
  • The Gaza Strip has been described by the UN as “the world’s largest open-air prison”; its nearly two million inhabitants are not even free to travel to other parts of Israel.
  • From 2007 to 2010, Israel blockaded Gaza from land and sea, strictly controlling what could be imported. It even calculated the number of calories per person that were allowed in—2,279, just a notch above malnutrition. When a boat chartered by international activists attempted to bring food and supplies to the besieged area in May of 2010, Israeli commandos attacked and boarded the ship in international waters, killing nine people. The blockade continues to this day.
  • December 2008, Israel launched a major military attack on the densely populated Gaza region. Using U.S. F-16 fighter jets and Apache helicopters, Israel hit 210 targets in the first 24 hours. For 24 days Gaza was pummeled with bombs, mortars and rockets, killing 844 civilians, including 281 children.
  • In 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon. In the course of this, “Israeli military forces surrounded and sealed off the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut while their Lebanese allies massacred between 750 and 3,500 people.” Israel continued to occupy southern Lebanon for 18 years!

June 1950 – July 1953:
Massacres of Unarmed Civilians; “Carpet Bombing” Civilian Cities; Use of Napalm; Ecocide

The Korean War

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From a series of U.S. Army photos depicting the summary execution of 1,800 South Korean political prisoners over three days in July 1950 carried out by the U.S.-installed puppet Syngman Rhee.   

Under the auspices of the UN, 340,000 troops—90 percent American—intervened in Korea as part of the U.S. effort to encircle the Soviet Union and China, which at that time were socialist countries.4

  • In the opening days of the war, UN/U.S. troops herded hundreds of refugees from the fighting—mainly women, children and the elderly—under a bridge near No Gun Ri village, and then massacred 250 of them.
  • U.S. planes “carpet-bombed” North Korea with a half million tons of bombs. Air Force General Curtis LeMay said that the U.S. “burned down every town in North Korea anyway, some way or another, and some in South Korea too…. Over a period of three years or so, we killed off—what—twenty percent of the population of Korea...”
  • Thousands of tons of napalm—jellied gasoline—were also dropped on Korea. The “warhistoryonline” website says that “Napalm causes wounds that are too deep to heal. In contact with humans, it would immediately stick to the skin and melt the flesh. There is no way to put the fire out, except by smothering it, which causes unbearable pain. In panic, many victims would try to wipe it off, but this only causes the fire to spread, expanding the burn area. … Napalm became a psychological weapon, as the enemy was terrified of the hell on earth caused by its use. … A napalm bomb could leave an area of 2,500 square yards engulfed in unquenchable fire.”

Millions of Korean civilians were killed in the war. Historian Bruce Cummings reported that rape by U.S. troops was “extremely common.”

August 1953:
Overthrowing Popularly Elected Government to Install a “Friendly” Fascist Regime; Enabling Torture of Political Prisoners

Coup d′état in Iran

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A CIA-backed coup overthrew the popular Mossadegh government after it nationalized U.S. and British oil assets. The U.S. installed the Shah Pahlavi monarchy to power. Over the next 25 years, the Shah became notorious for the torture and murder of thousands of political opponents, for facilitating the foreign looting of Iran’s natural resources, and for serving U.S. strategic interests in trying to control the Middle East.5

June 1954:
Overthrowing Popularly Elected Government to Install a “Friendly” Fascist Regime

Coup d′état in Guatemala

Starting in 1952, two U.S. presidents (first Truman, then Eisenhower) authorized the CIA to organize a coup to overthrow the popularly elected government of Jacobo Árbenz. Árbenz’s government nationalized (with compensation) large landholdings of United Fruit Company, a major U.S. corporation, and distributed land to landless peasants.

This, plus Árbenz’s decision to legalize the Guatemalan Communist Party, led the U.S. to work with Guatemalan military officers to overthrow him. Coup operations were funded with a $2.7 million budget; and the CIA provided a list of 58 alleged communists to be killed or imprisoned. In June 1954, Árbenz was overthrown and a right-wing military junta took power.

Hundreds were executed in the days following the coup. A civil war erupted that lasted for decades, killing as many as 200,000 people. In 1963, scheduled elections were prevented by yet another coup, this one authorized by the Kennedy administration. Twenty years after that, President Reagan praised and aided a genocidal war against Indigenous people carried out by Guatemala’s Christian fascist ruler, General Ríos Montt.6

October 1957 – February 1986:
Enforcing Brutal Dictatorship on Neighboring Country

Haiti and the Duvalier Dynasty

The Tonton Macoute, a paramilitary force created by U.S.-backed dictator Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, spread nightmarish terror on Haiti for 27 years.

 

The Tonton Macoute, a paramilitary force created by U.S.-backed dictator Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, spread nightmarish terror on Haiti for 27 years.   

The U.S. backed Francois “Papa Doc” and Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier for 28 years as they exercised absolute dictatorship over the people of Haiti. The Duvaliers relied heavily on the Tonton Macoute militia, whose members could pretty much rape and murder at will, to keep the population in line. An estimated 50,000 people died at the hands of the Macoutes, and countless tens of thousands more were imprisoned and/or tortured.7

The U.S. saw the Duvaliers as a counterweight to Soviet influence in nearby Cuba. In the early years of his regime, Papa Doc received millions of dollars annually from the U.S., as well as supportive “visits” from U.S. Navy warships that helped stabilize his regime in the face of popular discontent. When Papa Doc died and power was transferred to Baby Doc, U.S. warships were off the coast to make sure things went smoothly. The pro-U.S. Haitian Army (created by the U.S. after its invasion and occupation of Haiti decades earlier) continued to support the Duvaliers throughout their reign of terror.

January 1961:
Assassination of an Elected Head of State

CIA-Directed Murder of Patrice Lumumba of the Republic of the Congo

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In June 1960, Patrice Lumumba was elected prime minister of the newly independent Republic of the Congo in west-central Africa. Lumumba, a revolutionary nationalist, had been a leader of the fight for independence from Belgian imperialism, whose rule had inflicted slave like conditions on millions working in mines and on rubber plantations. Now their hopes and aspirations rode with Lumumba, who pledged to use Congo’s vast wealth to improve the lives of the people.

Lumumba’s election alarmed the Belgian imperialists, who still had huge economic interests and political power in Congo. The U.S. imperialists were also eager to expand their growing economic, political and military influence in Congo and Africa more broadly—and saw Lumumba as someone standing in their way.

Although the Republic of the Congo was formally independent, Belgian officers still controlled its army and police. Belgian intelligence, the U.S. CIA, and others plotted to keep power in the hands of imperialism. They worked with Joseph Mobutu, a former colonel in Belgium’s colonial army, to stage a military coup, placing Lumumba under house arrest. He escaped, but was recaptured and taken to the city of Leopoldville. Then he was passed from one group of his enemies to another, to be beaten and tortured.

On January 17, 1961, Patrice Lumumba was executed by firing squad. His body was dismembered with saws and axes, and then dissolved in acid so there would not even be a corpse around which his supporters could rally. Though carried out by Lumumba’s Congolese enemies, it was the U.S. imperialists who orchestrated this crime.8 Thousands of Congolese people died in the ensuing civil war. Mobutu ruled with an iron fist, imprisoning, torturing or killing any political opponents. He was backed by the U.S., which saw him as a solid ally in its contention with the Soviet Union for control of the region, and as friendly to foreign “investment”/plunder of the country’s people and natural resources.

Mobutu’s hellish reign lasted 36 years!

April 1961:
Attempted Overthrow of the Government of a Sovereign Nation

Cuba: Bay of Pigs Invasion

Organized, armed and led by the U.S. CIA, 1,400 Cuban exiles landed at Cuba’s Bay of Pigs in an attempt to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro, because he had carried out some radical economic and political reforms, and because the U.S. deemed Castro to be too friendly to the Soviet Union. The invasion was defeated by Cuban soldiers, militia and civilians, thousands of whom were killed or wounded in the battle.9

October 1962:
Nuclear Blackmail to Dictate Internal Affairs of a Neighboring Country 

The Cuban Missile Crisis

Cartoon of Kennedy and Khrushchev arm wrestling, representing Cuban missile crisis.

 

Cuban missile crisis, 1962.   

In the wake of the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban government invited the Soviet Union to install nuclear-capable missiles in Cuba. Although the U.S. already had nuclear missiles close to the Soviet Union, President Kennedy demanded that the Cuban missiles be removed, and threatened nuclear war if they were not. For 13 days, the world hung on the edge of nuclear destruction as the U.S. attempted to dictate what military alliances a sovereign country could enter into.10

April 1965:
Invasion of Neighboring Country; Bombing Civilian Infrastructure; Imposing Dictatorship

Invasion of the Dominican Republic

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In April 1965, twenty-two thousand U.S. troops invaded the Dominican Republic to put down a mass armed rebellion against a pro-U.S. dictator. U.S. planes bombed bridges and other parts of the capital of Santo Domingo, while elite U.S. troops fought the poorly armed and trained rebels for weeks. Estimates of the death toll range from 3,000 to 10,000 Dominicans. Eventually the dictatorship of Joaquín Balaguer was secured in power, ruling for decades in which the Dominican Republic was a “paradise” for U.S. investors and tourists but a hell for the great majority of deeply impoverished people, and of torture or murder of thousands of political dissidents.11

September 1965 – January 1966:
Conspiring and Enabling the Murder of 500,000 – 1,000,000 People

Indonesia: Suharto Coup and Mass Slaughter

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After seizing power from the Sukarno government, the U.S.-backed Suharto regime unleashed a truly unprecedented massacre of leftist political opponents, with active assistance from the U.S. CIA and military.

Documentarian Joshua Oppenheimer wrote: “With American support, more than 500,000 people were murdered by the Indonesian Army and its civilian death squads. At least 750,000 more were tortured and sent to concentration camps, many for decades.”

The U.S. provided the Suharto regime with a list of 5,000 people to target. Later a U.S. “diplomat” summed up: “It really was a big help to the army. They probably killed a lot of people, and I probably have a lot of blood on my hands, but that’s not all bad. There’s a time when you have to strike hard at a decisive moment.”

The New York Times described U.S. officials as “elated to find their expectations being realized.”12

1960 – 1975:
Mass Murder on a Genocidal Scale; Extensive Use of Chemical and Bio-Weapons; Ecocide; Murder of Unarmed Civilians; Mass Torture and Rape; Mass Destruction of Civilian Cities and Infrastructure; Waging War on Neutral Countries in Violation of Treaty

The Indochina Wars: Vietnam, and the “Secret Bombings” of Laos and Cambodia

In the early 1960s, the U.S. launched a war against the communist-led National Liberation Front (NLF) and the country of North Vietnam. Communists and nationalists had defeated French colonialism in a long war and held power in the North.

The U.S. was trying to take over what had been French colonies as part of its own effort to dominate and exploit the region and to encircle communist China. The U.S. controlled South Vietnam; the NLF was fighting to drive it out and to reunite North and South Vietnam.

This war soon spread to the smaller neighboring countries of Laos and Cambodia.

1964 – 1973:
Genocidal Bombing Campaign; Ecocide (1)

The “Secret War” on Laos

Smoke from U.S. napalm bombs dropped 15 miles inside the small country of Laos, which was neutral in the Vietnam War. 

 

Smoke from U.S. napalm bombs dropped 15 miles inside the small country of Laos, which was neutral in the Vietnam War.     Photo: AP

In 1965, Laos had about two million people, overwhelmingly peasants. It was neutral in the Vietnam War, and in 1962 the U.S. signed a treaty pledging not to attack Laos.

Laos had a coalition government including the pro-communist Pathet Lao. Laos was also a through point for supplies being sent to the NLF fighters in Vietnam. These factors made Laos the target of the most brutal bombing campaign in the history of the world.

Without declaring war or revealing what it was doing, the U.S. reportedly dropped two million tons of cluster bombs250 million cluster sub-munitions13—about 100 bomblets for every Laotian14Another study indicates that the U.S. dropped the equivalent of a planeload of bombs every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, for nine years.

By 1975, one out of ten Laotians–200,000 people—were dead; 750,000 had become refugees. Unexploded ordinance continues to kill hundreds every year, more than half of them children.

March 1969 – August 1973:
Genocidal Bombing Campaign; Ecocide (2)

The “Secret Bombing” of Cambodia

 

Smoke rises from bombs dropped by U.S. planes near the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, July 25, 1973.

 

Smoke rises from bombs dropped by U.S. planes near the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, July 25, 1973.    Photo: AP

As with Laos, Cambodia’s government was officially neutral in the war, but it was also a transit route for NLF supplies. A civil war between pro- and anti-communist Cambodian forces was ongoing.

In March 1969, President Nixon authorized the secret bombing of Cambodia. In the first 14 months, the U.S. launched 3,800 air strikes and dropped 108,000 tons of explosives on a country less than half the size of California.15 Four years of this killed at least 100,000 people. Just as bad, the bombing devastated the countryside and destroyed agriculture, driving two million people from their homes. Seeking safety, refugees flooded into the capital city of Phnom Penh, whose population doubled between 1968 and 1972. Food for the city had to be flown in daily and much of the population was reduced to homelessness, hunger and starvation.

Vietnam war crimes-US has no right to fuck with anyone

 

The Vietnam War

Starting with covert operations and “advisors” authorized by President Kennedy in the early 1960s, the U.S. war on Vietnam war grew to involve over half a million U.S. troops… and killed at least three million Vietnamese people. 5.3 million were injured. 11 million were displaced from their homes!

It is literally impossible to convey the barbarity of the U.S. war, but just to give a sense:

  • Free Fire Zones: The U.S. declared areas controlled by the NLF to be “free fire zones,” meaning that U.S. troops should kill anything that moved, thus forcing villagers to move into government-controlled areas or refugee camps—this was aimed at cutting off the NLF from their popular support.
  • Operation Phoenix, 1967-1972, aimed to “neutralize” the NLF’s “political infrastructure.” Translation: this was a program to capture, interrogate16 and/or assassinate non-combatants—teachers, doctors, village mayors, intellectuals, peasants… anyone suspected of supporting the NLF in a non-military capacity.
    While exact numbers are uncertain, in 1972 the U.S. officially bragged
    it had killed 20,587 NLF supporters. An antiwar group investigated and reported that “From January 1969 to summer 1972, 40,000 civilians in South Vietnam were executed without trial under the Phoenix program.” Counterspy magazine referred to Operation Phoenix as “the most indiscriminate and massive program of political murder since the Nazi death camps of World War Two.”
woman tries to carry a child to safety as U.S. Marines storm the village of My Son, S Vietnam

 

A woman tries to carry a child to safety as U.S. Marines storm the village of My Son, near Da Nang, searching for National Liberation Front (“Vietcong”) insurgents in April 1965.    Photo: AP

Massive Use of Chemical and Bio-weapons and Cluster Bombs; Ecocide:

  • Napalm: The U.S. dropped 388,000 tons of napalm—a weapon of terror and atrocity—on Vietnam. (See description of napalm in “Korean War” section above.)
People severely burned from napalm attack run down the road.

 

People with severe flesh burns after napalm attack, June 8, 1972.    Photo: Wikipedia

  • Agent Orange: From 1961 to 1971, the U.S. used 20 million gallons of Agent Orange and other “defoliants” to deforest 4.5 million acres of land in Vietnam. History.com reports that “U.S. aircraft were deployed to douse roads, rivers, canals, rice paddies and farmland with powerful mixtures of herbicides. During this process, crops and water sources used by the non-combatant native population of South Vietnam were also hit.”
    In addition to causing massive destruction of the environment and of the peasant farms and villages, Agent Orange is also incredibly harmful to humans, causing cancer, birth defects and other problems. The government of Vietnam
    reports that 400,000 people were killed or maimed as a result of exposure to herbicides, that half a million children have been born with serious birth defects, while as many as two million people are suffering from cancer or other illnesses caused by Agent Orange.
  • Cluster Bombs: Cluster bombs—munitions that spray dozens or hundreds of smaller “bomblets” over a wide area—are inherently weapons of terror. According to some studies, 98 percent of people killed by cluster munitions are civilians, often children who pick up unexploded bomblets because they look like toys, only to have them blow up in their hands. They were used massively in Vietnam, so much so that the Vietnamese government reported that in the 33 years after the war ended, 40,000 people were killed and another 67,000 maimed by unexploded munitions, mostly cluster bomblets.

Massacres of civilians:

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My Lai massacre, March 16, 1968.    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

  • My Lai Massacre: In March 1968, at least 500 unarmed civilians, mainly women, children and elderly, were gunned down—many tortured or raped first—by a company of U.S. soldiers.17 The U.S. tried to cover it up, and then when it came out claimed it was an isolated incident. But author Nick Turse, based on study of government documents and interviews with over 100 Vietnam vets, concluded that massacres like My Lai “stemmed from deliberate policies that were dictated at the highest levels of the U.S. military.”
  • Turse recounts a story one vet told him: “His unit rolled into a very small hamlet, and the commanding officer—a West Point-trained captain—ordered the civilians in that hamlet rounded up, and a lieutenant asked what should be done with these civilians. And the captain answered, ‘Kill anything that moves.’ Jamie heard this over the radio ... and he got up and tried to make his way towards the captain to see if he could intervene and rescind this order in some way, but he was just seconds late. He arrived on the scene to see five men arranged around these civilians open up on full automatic with their M-16 rifles and kill about 20 women and children.”

Massive Bombing of Civilian Cities and Infrastructure; Bombing of Dikes to Cause Floods:

  • From December 18-29, 1972, the U.S. military carried out round-the-clock bombing of the North Vietnamese capital of Hanoi, as well as the port city of Haiphong. This bombing “targeted and destroyed … radio stations/transmitters, railroads, power plants, docks and shipyards, bridges, petroleum and munition storage depots, and airfields…. This included bombing some dikes along the Red River delta to flood areas around Hanoi. Hospitals, civilian population centers (shopping streets, homes, housing complexes), factories, and diplomatic missions were destroyed as well. Eighty percent of North Vietnam’s electrical power production capacity was demolished.”18 Twenty eight medical staff were killed at Hanoi’s largest hospital. Vietnamese sources estimated 2,300 civilian deaths from the bombings.

September 11, 1973:
Conspiring and Aiding in Overthrowing an Elected Government and Murder of Political Prisoners

The CIA Coup in Chile

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The U.S. CIA directed and supported a military coup against the popularly elected Allende government, which the U.S. felt was too friendly to the Soviet Union. The CIA provided the military with “arrest lists” and “key government installations that need to be taken over.” The new Pinochet regime rounded up tens of thousands in stadiums, where thousands were tortured and/or executed. In the years after that, 140,000 people were rounded up. Rape of women prisoners was nearly universal. Up to a million of Chile’s 11 million people fled the country.19

1975 – 1998:
Conspiring in and Enabling Genocide; Ecocide; Massacre of Civilians; Torture and Rape

Backing Indonesia’s Genocidal War on East Timor

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From 1975 to 1999, the Indonesian military bombed, massacred, tortured, raped, and brutalized the population of East Timor until nearly one-third of the original population of 650,000 had been killed. The U.S. continually gave the military the economic and diplomatic support that enabled this horrific genocide.   

Ten years after the savage U.S.-backed coup that brought him to power, Indonesia’s President Suharto was again consulting with the U.S. about a big move. He was about to launch an invasion of East Timor, a small country of 650,000 people seeking formal independence from Indonesia, a country of 200 million.

U.S. President Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger both gave him the go-ahead. Ford said, “We understand the problem you have and the intentions you have.” The CIA recommended that Suharto go in with “overwhelming force,” and the U.S. doubled its military aid to Indonesia to make that possible.

On December 7, 1975, Indonesia invaded East Timor, unleashing a tsunami of bombardment, massacre, torture and rape. Within months, 60,000 Timorese were dead. Rivers were choked with corpses, hunger and starvation fled as farming became impossible. The Timorese resisted heroically, and after three years the Indonesian army was running out of munitions. So the U.S. doubled its aid again, enabling a new offensive in 1977.

Philip Liechty, the CIA station chief in Jakarta at the time, later stated:

There were people being herded into school buildings by Indonesian soldiers and the buildings set on fire; anyone trying to get out was shot. There were people herded into fields and machine-gunned. We knew the place was a free-fire zone.... Without the continued heavy U.S. logistical military support the Indonesians might not have been able to pull it off. They were able to stay there at no real cost to them; it didn’t put any pressure on their economy and on their military forces because American taxpayers were footing the bill for the killing of all those people.

By the time the war was over in 1998, about a third of the population was dead!20

1979 – 89:
Arming and Inciting Civil War

Afghanistan—Supporting Jihadist War Against Soviets

Osama bin Laden in 1989 with anti-Soviet fighters in Afghanistan

 

Osama bin Laden in 1989 with anti-Soviet fighters in Afghanistan as he was building a network of Islamic fundamentalist fighters with U.S. support.    Credit: SIPA

In July 1979, the U.S. (together with its allies, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia) began a covert campaign to recruit, organize and train reactionary Islamic fundamentalists from around the world to wage a war against the pro-Soviet government of Afghanistan. Three billion dollars in arms and aid was funneled to these forces, and as many as 80,000 received military training, including the then little-known Osama bin Laden. These forces succeeded in unleashing an extremely bloody civil war and drawing Soviet forces into the country, and in imposing medieval oppression on women and others. At least 800,000 Afghans died, and seven million were displaced from their homes. But the U.S. imperialists celebrated this because the rival Soviet imperialists were badly weakened in the process.21

1979 – 89:
Inciting and Arming Counter-Revolutionary War and Massacres of Civilians

Nicaragua and the Contra War of Terror

After the overthrow of the hated Somoza dictatorship, the U.S. CIA organized and funded the “Contra” (for “Contra-revolución”), mostly consisting of officers from the Somoza regime. The CIA advised them to execute civilians, attack schools and health clinics, and blow up pipelines. These monstrous thugs took this advice enthusiastically, and were soon hated and feared for torturing, raping, beheading, blinding, burning or dismembering civilians. From 1981-84 they reportedly assassinated 900 government officials and killed 8,000 civilians. Meanwhile the U.S. imposed heavy sanctions and in other ways sought to strangle the government and economy of Nicaragua. By the time the war ended, 50,000 Nicaraguans had died, the economy had been wrecked... and a new pro-U.S. government was able to take power.22

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American Crime Ad for whole series with image of U.S. airstrike in Gaza.

 

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FOOTNOTES:

1. In the early 1950s, capitalist forces came to power in the Soviet Union and transformed it into a state capitalist country, and it soon emerged as an imperialist rival of the imperialist bloc led by the United States. In 1992 the Soviet Union broke up, and since then Russia—the most powerful nation within the Soviet Union—has again emerged as a major imperialist challenger of U.S. domination of the world. [back]

2. See “Bastion of Enlightenment … or Enforcer for Imperialism: The Case of Israel.” [back]

3. An early Israeli leader, Golda Meir, said: “It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.” [back]

4. See “American Crime Case #93: U.S. Invasion of Korea—1950.” [back]

5. See “American Crime Case #98: 1953 CIA Coup in Iran. Torture and Repression—Made in the U.S.A.” [back]

6. For continued crimes of the U.S. in Guatemala in the 1980s, including genocide against Indigenous people, see “American Crime Case #95: Reagan’s Butcher Carries Out Genocide in Guatemala.” For more on U.S. crimes throughout Central America, see “Banana Republics: Made in the USA.” [back]

7. See “The U.S. in Haiti: A Century of Domination and Misery” [back]

8. See “American Crime Case #73: The CIA-Directed Murder of Patrice Lumumba” [back]

9. See “American Crime Case #45: The Bay of Pigs Invasion, 1961” [back]

10. Bob Avakian, then a teenager, vividly describes this terrifying situation in this chapter of his memoir. [back]

11. See “American Crime Case #68: The 1965 U.S. Invasion of the Dominican Republic.” [back]

12. See “American Crime Case #100: Massacre in Indonesia. [back]

13. “Sub-munitions” refers to the many individual explosive “bomblets” that are dispersed by a single cluster bomb. [back]

14. As already noted, cluster munitions overwhelmingly kill civilians, and their use is inherently a war crime. In 2008 the United Nations put forth a treaty to eliminate cluster munitions. and 110 parties signed, vowing to eliminate the weapons from their arsenal. The U.S., Russia and Ukraine all refused to sign. The U.S. continues to use them, including in Afghanistan (about 250,000 bomblets) and Iraq (about 1.8 million bomblets), and U.S. ally Saudi Arabia has used them “repeatedly in populated areas” of Yemen. [back]

15. See “American Crime Case #47: The Bombing of Cambodia, 1969-1973” [back]

16. Interrogation” often meant being taken up in a helicopter and then thrown out if you didn’t answer questions. [back]

17. See “American Crime Case #96: Vietnam, March 16, 1968—The My Lai Massacre.” [back]

18. See “American Crime Case #34: America’s 1972 Christmas Bombing of North Vietnam. [back]

19. See “American Crime Case #57: The 1973 CIA Coup In Chile.” [back]

20. See “American Crime Case #20: The U.S. Enabled Genocide in East Timor, 1975-1998.” [back]

21. See “American Crime Case #24: U.S. Proxy War Against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, 1979-1988.” [back]

22. See “American Crime Case #29: The Contra War of Terror in Nicaragua, 1979-1989.” [back]

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