These days, with mass protests taking place after the murder of George Floyd, many people are saying that Colin Kaepernick was right when he kneeled on the football field during the national anthem to protest police brutality and murder. Of course, there are those die-hard racists and outright fascists who continue to echo Donald Trump’s attack on Kaepernick (and other professional football players who have also taken part in such protests). In response to these attacks, many—including many prominent people—have spoken out to defend Kaepernick, which of course is very good and important. But, at the same time, some of the expressions of support for Kaepernick have included things that are wrongly defensive and actually deny or distort crucial parts of Kaepernick’s position.
For example, Lebron James has wielded his considerable prestige in support of Kaepernick (and James has expressed his outrage over the murder of George Floyd and support for the outpouring that has erupted in response to this), but at the same time James has insisted that Kaepernick was not disrespecting the flag or the U.S. military. Well, let’s look at what Kaepernick actually said at the time, in explaining his actions: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
Clearly, Kaepernick was disrespecting the flag—and righteously so! As he himself put it, why should he respect (“show pride in”) a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color? Why should anyone who stands against oppression?! The flag is the symbol of what this country is really all about—the oppression of Black people and people of color, and all the other monstrous oppression it carries out, here and worldwide.
As for the military of this country, here is the truth: It is not the case, as Lebron James (and others) have claimed, that this military protects the freedoms that people have in this country. What freedoms? The freedom to be brutalized, terrorized and murdered by the police? To be mass incarcerated? To be discriminated against in every part of society? To be locked up in concentration camps on the border? To be subjected to systematic racial and gender oppression? To have the environment destroyed?
The reality is that this military is, along with the police, the armed enforcer of all this—all the oppression, exploitation and plunder which is built into this system of capitalism-imperialism, and to which it subjects masses of people in this country and billions all over the world—enforcing this with the most depraved violence and wanton destruction.
As I have pointed out before, the U.S. military
is—without the slightest exaggeration—a machinery of massive, and unspeakable, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and its actions in Vietnam constitute a systematic concentration of this, with a level of destructiveness and depravity that is almost unfathomable:
the slaughter of millions of Vietnamese civilians, with incessant bombing and shelling, including of schools, hospitals, dams and other crucial infrastructure, and widespread use of napalm, white phosphorous, Agent Orange, and millions of anti-personnel weapons, burning to death and maiming huge numbers of children and others;
ruining the livelihood of millions of Vietnamese—destroying large parts of the soil and livestock so essential for the people in rural Vietnam;
torture of people held as prisoners—including large numbers of civilians—male, female, old and young, including the very young;
mutilating the bodies and wearing as “trophies” body parts of Vietnamese killed;
mass rape of Vietnamese women and girls.1
If you don’t believe (or don’t want to believe) that this is true, get the book by Nick Turse, Kill Anything That Moves, The Real American War in Vietnam and make yourself read it, and keep reading it.
And, as I have also emphasized, what the U.S. military did in Vietnam is not some kind of exception or aberration—it represents the real nature and role of this military and of the system of capitalism-imperialism that it enforces. (To see more fully the truth of this, go to revcom.us and read the “American Crime” series.)
Everyone, and especially everyone who lives in this country, in whose name these countless crimes against humanity and war crimes are continually carried out, has the responsibility to know and act on this truth—the whole truth about this country and what it does throughout the world—the responsibility, yes, to disrespect, to deeply despise, and more than that to actively oppose all this.
1. Bob Avakian, On Impeachment, Crimes Against Humanity, Liberals and Lies, Provocative and Profound Truths, available at revcom.us. [back]