Revolution #574, December 17, 2018 (revcom.us)

Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

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Revolution #574 December 17, 2018

American Crime

Case #34: America's 1972 Christmas Bombing of North Vietnam

| Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Bob Avakian has written that one of three things that has "to happen in order for there to be real and lasting change for the better: People have to fully confront the actual history of this country and its role in the world up to today, and the terrible consequences of this." (See "3 Things that have to happen in order for there to be real and lasting change for the better.")

In that light, and in that spirit, "American Crime" is a regular feature of revcom.us. Each installment will focus on one of the 100 worst crimes committed by the U.S. rulers—out of countless bloody crimes they have carried out against people around the world, from the founding of the U.S. to the present day.

American Crime

See all the articles in this series.

 

THE CRIME

The Democratic Republic of Vietnam (called “North Vietnam” by the U.S.), its People’s Army, and the National Liberation Front (NLF) in South Vietnam had been waging a just people’s war for national liberation against the U.S. since 1961 (and before that the Vietnamese had been fighting the French colonialists).1 The U.S. had been bombing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the liberation fighters in the south since 1965, but its “Christmas bombing” in 1972 was the most intense and devastating air offensive of the entire war.

For 12 days, from December 18 to 29, U.S. round-the-clock bombing pounded and decimated North Vietnam’s densely populated capital city of Hanoi as well as its nearby seaport and industrial center of Haiphong. Especially targeted and destroyed were radio stations/transmitters, railroads, power plants, docks and shipyards, bridges, petroleum and munition storage depots, and airfields. Along with these targets, which affected North Vietnam’s logistical and war fighting capability, nearby provinces and villages were also bombed. This included bombing some dikes along the Red River delta to flood areas around Hanoi.2 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.

The massive bombing campaign was code-named Operation Linebacker II. U.S. planes, including the massive, 159-foot-long B-52 bombers, which can carry 70,000 pounds of bombs, and F-111 fighters flew an average of 100 bombing runs a day, raining death and destruction on the Hanoi-Haiphong area day and night. One U.S. pilot casually bragged that “We took off one airplane a minute out of Guam for hours. Just on time takeoff after on time takeoff.”

A wing of Hanoi’s hospital was destroyed by B-52 bombers on December 22. It was North Vietnam’s largest medical facility and research center. Among the dead were 28 doctors, nurses, and pharmacists.

Dr. Nguyen Luan described the scene to Britain’s BBC news:

Cries and moans filled the dark night. We had to use knives, hammers and shovels to break through the concrete walls in order to get to the victims trapped inside. As a surgeon, I operate on people to save their lives. Now I was using my surgical knife not to save people but to cut apart the corpses in the bomb shelter so we could rescue those still alive.

On December 26, the day after Christmas, Hanoi’s large residential and shopping area of Kham Thien was flattened by nearly 100 tons of bombs dropped from B-52s, killing and wounding nearly 600 civilians and destroying 2,000 houses. One resident of the area recounted the horror:

Bombs struck a shelter accommodating 40 inhabitants. I found my wife dead, with only her upper torso left. The bombs pulverized my son, my brother and many others into the soil. Blood and pieces of shredded human flesh remain here and there.

On the evening that the bombings began on December 18, as 129 B-52s roared over Hanoi, 10-year-old Ha Mi watched her friend’s home blown up as she and her sister hid under the stairs of their own home, hearing the B-52 bombers overhead. “Advancing, they were looming, coming towards you with a very low hum. It’s frightening.”

The U.S. government claimed its B-52s dropped about 15,000 tons of bombs in 739 assaults, with another 5,000 tons dropped by other aircraft. However U.S. antiwar veterans’ publications estimated that more than 100,000 tons were dropped, with Hanoi hit by more than 40,000 tons of explosives in the 12 days—the explosive equivalent of the two atomic bombs the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan during World War 2. The U.S. government claimed that 1,600 Vietnamese civilians were killed during the Christmas bombing,3 but Vietnamese sources estimate there were 2,300 civilian deaths—about 1,500 in Hanoi alone.

The U.S. declared Operation Linebacker II a big success even as it suffered heavy losses—in planes shot down and pilots captured and killed. While the official U.S. claim is that 11 B-52s were shot down and 11 other aircraft, Vietnamese sources have argued the toll on the U.S. Air Force was significantly greater: that the People’s Army of Vietnam (called the North Vietnamese Army—NVA—by the U.S.) had “...successfully gunned down 81 U.S. aircraft in just 11 days and nights.” America’s “Christmas Bombing” generated worldwide outrage and protests.

Representatives from Sweden and the Vatican compared the Christmas bombings to the kinds of atrocities carried out by the Nazis in WW2.

THE CRIMINALS

President Richard Nixon (1969-1974) ordered Operation Linebacker II, following the same logic that guided him in ordering an earlier bombing raid in 1972: “These bastards have never been bombed like they’re going to be bombed this time.” Nixon even told his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, that he wanted to use nuclear weapons against North Vietnam’s dikes, saying, “No, no, I’d rather use the nuclear bomb. Have you got that, Henry?” When Kissinger responded he thought that would “just be too much,” Nixon replied, “The nuclear bomb, does that bother you?... I just want you to think big, Henry, for Christsakes.”

Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was a main architect and engineer of the Christmas bombings. He said B-52s were the weapon of choice in Operation Linebacker II because of their “ability to shake the mind and undermine the spirit.”

Presidential military aide General Alexander Haig, who helped plan the operation, argued the U.S. should “strike hard ... and keep on striking until the enemy’s will [is] broken.”

Generals John Dale Ryan, John W. Vogt, Jr., and John C. Meyer were the direct commanders of Linebacker II. The entire U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, the pilots and other military personnel who took part in this war crime.

South Vietnam President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu (1967-1975) collaborated with U.S. imperialism against the national liberation struggle in Vietnam, including during the 1972 Christmas bombings.

THE ALIBI

The U.S. claimed the 1961-1975 Vietnam War was being fought to defend free and democratic South Vietnam from an invasion by communist North Vietnam. In 1972, the U.S. was negotiating with the North Vietnamese to bring what Nixon called an honorable end to the war. But when peace talks broke off on December 13, Nixon and Kissinger blamed the North Vietnamese, claiming they had “stalled” and walked out of the negotiations, and then also claimed that bombing them was the only way to force them back to the table and reach a real peace agreement.

Nixon instructed his aides to say the rationale for the Christmas bombing was that “We need to get across the point that the reason for the success of negotiations was the bombing and the converse point that we did not halt the bombing until we had the negotiations back on track.”

THE ACTUAL MOTIVE

The war of liberation being fought by the Vietnamese people of North Vietnam and the National Liberation Front was part of a wave of anti-colonialist, national liberation struggles that swept Asia, Africa, and Latin America during the 1950s, ’60s, and into the ’70s. The U.S. imperialists were determined to crush these struggles and maintain or extend domination over and exploitation of these regions. America’s war in Vietnam was also aimed at encircling revolutionary China, led by Mao Zedong, and contending with the then-imperialist Soviet Union. According to estimates released by the Vietnamese government in 1995, two million Vietnamese civilians and one million soldiers were killed during the war.

The U.S. rulers knew by the mid-1960s that they could not win the war in Vietnam, even as they lied to the public about their great military progress. By the late 1960s, their war losses were mounting, and the war had spawned massive upheaval and protest against the U.S. around the world. By the early 1970s, the antiwar movement in the U.S. had also taken hold among America’s own troops—weakening their morale and fracturing their cohesion, discipline, and fighting ability. During the Christmas bombings, for the first time elite U.S. pilots reportedly rebelled by trashing officers clubs, making antiwar statements, and finding ways to opt out of flying missions. Many did this because they opposed or questioned the bombings; others did so out of a realistic fear of being shot down.

The U.S. rulers were also facing new challenges around the world, in particular from the Soviet Union. Formerly a socialist country, the Soviet Union had by that time restored capitalism and emerged as an an imperialist power, and the U.S.’s main global rival. The Soviets were backing the Vietnamese liberation fighters, and extending their reach around the globe, including by using national liberation struggles to expand their empire.

So the U.S. began withdrawing its troops and secretly began peace talks with the North Vietnamese in 1970, not simply to extricate themselves from Vietnam, but also to reposition themselves globally and take on the Soviet Union.

Those negotiations were near their end stage in December 1972, and the Christmas bombings were aimed at giving the U.S. greater leverage in the talks, crippling North Vietnam militarily, demoralizing the Vietnamese people and robbing them of their will to fight, and to take blood revenge against a people that had defied and defeated them. The U.S. sought to ensure the survival—at least for a period—of their reactionary clients in South Vietnam, and to be able to save face and credibility by claiming they’d achieved an “honorable” end to the war. And the U.S. bombings may well have been aimed at sending a message to the Soviet Union, revolutionary China, and the world, that despite their looming defeat in Vietnam, the U.S. retained both the military capacity and the political will to wreak enormous death and devastation.

The U.S. claimed Operation Linebacker II was a military success, and it may have had some impact on the final peace agreement signed in January 1973. But it didn’t fundamentally change the fact that the agreement mandated the U.S. withdraw all of its troops and advisers and dismantle all its bases in Vietnam. Nor did the Christmas bombings succeed in either destroying North Vietnam’s military or the will of the Vietnamese people to fight on. In April 1975, North Vietnam and the National Liberation Front finally overthrew the pro-U.S. government in the south, finally unified Vietnam, and inflicted a serious defeat on U.S. imperialism.


Sources

Vietnam Christmas Bombings: 1972 Mutiny of B-52 Crews,” Vietnam Veterans Against the War

North Vietnam, 1972: The Christmas bombing of Hanoi,” Rebecca Kesby, BBC World Service, December 24, 2012, bbc.com

The Christmas bombings of Hanoi in retrospect,” Voice of Vietnam, December 29, 2007

Operation Linebacker II”; “Operation Linebacker”; “1972 in the Vietnam War, Wikipedia

The War Is Suddenly Grim for the B-52 Fliers on Guam,” Richard Halloran, December 30, 1972, New York Times

Why the B-52 Failed,” by David Bacon, January 11, 2016, Foreign Policy in Focus

The Vietnam War, a film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, Part 9 "A Disrespectful Loyalty" (May 1970-March 1973)

 

Footnotes

1. The Democratic Republic of Vietnam was founded in 1945 in northern Vietnam under the leadership of Hồ Chi Minh. However, since 1955, South Vietnam had been ruled by reactionaries beholden to the U.S. In 1960, the National Liberation Front, in alliance with North Vietnam, began a guerrilla war in South Vietnam to overthrow its reactionary rulers, drive out U.S. imperialism, and reunite all of Vietnam. [back]

2. The extent of damage to North Vietnam’s dikes is a subject of debate. It appears some dikes were hit during Operation Linebacker II, but the U.S. never carried out an all-out attack on the dikes, which Henry Kissinger estimated could have drowned 200,000 people. [back]

3. The Vietnam War, a film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, Part 9 "A Disrespectful Loyalty" (May 1970-March 1973) [back]

 

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

See also:

Case #96: Vietnam, March 16, 1968—the My Lai Massacre

THE CRIME: On Saturday morning, March 16, 1968, 100 soldiers from Charlie Company, U.S. Army Americal Division, entered and took over My Lai, a small hamlet in Vietnam’s countryside. “We met no resistance and I only saw three captured weapons.... It was just like any other Vietnamese village—old papa-sans, women and kids,” a soldier said. “The order we were given was to kill and destroy everything that was in the village,” another soldier later testified. Read more

 

Case #47: The Bombing of Cambodia, 1969-1973

THE CRIME: On the night of March 18, 1969, at the height of the Vietnam War, 60 U.S. B-52 bombers began raining explosives from the skies over Cambodia. A U.S. official said at the time “We had been told ... that those carpet bombing attacks by B-52s were totally devastating, that nothing could survive.”

Thus began America’s first campaign of saturation aerial bombing. It was called “Operation Menu” and for the next 14 months, a total of 3,800 airstrikes of B-52 and F-111 bombers dropped 108,823 tons of explosives on this Southeast Asian country less than half the size of California. Cambodia (and Laos) shared a border with Vietnam, and the Hồ Chí Minh trail (named after the North Vietnamese leader), a military and supply route for the Vietnamese liberation forces, ran through Cambodia. This highly effective military and logistical supply route, and the Vietnamese bases along it, were the main targets of the U.S. bombing. But these were not “surgical strikes”—wide swaths of the lush countryside were obliterated, and the U.S. bombed anything that moved. Read more

Hanoi, 1972, Carrying the dead and injured.

 

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Revolution #574 December 17, 2018

American Crime

Case #33: The 1944 Lynching of 15-Year-Old Willie James Howard for Writing a Christmas Card to a White Girl

| Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Bob Avakian has written that one of three things that has "to happen in order for there to be real and lasting change for the better: People have to fully confront the actual history of this country and its role in the world up to today, and the terrible consequences of this." (See "3 Things that have to happen in order for there to be real and lasting change for the better.")

In that light, and in that spirit, "American Crime" is a regular feature of revcom.us. Each installment will focus on one of the 100 worst crimes committed by the U.S. rulers—out of countless bloody crimes they have carried out against people around the world, from the founding of the U.S. to the present day.

American Crime

See all the articles in this series.

 

THE CRIME

In December 1943, Willie James Howard, a 15-year-old Black youth, was in the 10th grade in Live Oak, Florida, and working at the local dime store. For Christmas, Willie James gave cards to all his co-workers, including a 15-year-old white girl named Cynthia Goff. He signed the card to Cynthia “with L.”

Apparently, Willie James heard that Cynthia was upset about receiving the card. On New Year’s Day, he delivered a second note to explain, saying, “I know you don’t think much of our kind but we don’t hate you all. We want to be your friends but you won’t let us... I wish this was [a] northern state. I guess you call me fresh. Write an[d] tell me what you think of me good or bad... I love your name. I love your voice, for a S.H. [sweetheart] you are my choice.”

Cynthia showed the note to her father, A. Phillip Goff, a former state legislator. On January 2, Goff and two other white men, S.B. McCullers and Reg H. Scott, drove up to Willie James Howard’s house. Willie’s father, James, had left for work at the lumber company. Willie’s mother, Lula, said in an affidavit she provided later that when her son came home, Goff grabbed him and ordered him to come along. According to Lula Howard, “I tried to pull him away, and also kept pleading and asking what Willie had done. By this time Mr. Goff had pulled a revolver out from somewhere on his person and leveled it at me. He dragged Willie out to the car, got in with the other white men, and drove off....”

The three white men with their young captive then drove to where Willie’s father, James Howard, was working and forced him into the car as well. Then Goff and his friends drove Willie James and his father to the banks of the Suwannee River. According to testimony that James Howard gave to an attorney later, Goff and others tied Willie’s hands and feet and forced him to stand at the edge of the water. Then the white men gave Willie a “choice”—be shot to death, or jump into the river. Willie, with his hands and feet bound, jumped into the cold waters of the Suwannee and drowned.

The next morning, the town’s Black undertaker was told by the sheriff to retrieve Willie James Howard’s body from the river. The body was immediately buried in an unmarked grave at the “coloreds only” Eastside Cemetery. Goff gave a statement to the sheriff denying he and his two friends had murdered the Black youth.

Fearing for their lives, James and Lula Howard and their family fled from Live Oak and moved to Orlando a few days after Willie James was lynched. A woman who was in Live Oak at the time recalled decades later, “We found out at school the next day. It was so scary, but that was in the 1940s. We thought the KKK were coming to get the rest of us.”

An attorney visiting Live Oak at the time heard about the lynching and brought it to the attention of the NAACP. The NAACP demanded that Florida Governor Spessard Holland open a full investigation.

The grand jury did not return any indictments against Goff and his accomplices. The U.S. Justice Department refused to intervene. No one was ever punished for the lynching of 15-year-old Willie James Howard.

THE CRIMINALS

A. Phillip Goff, a former Florida state legislator, S.B. McCullers, and Reg H. Scott, the three white men who carried out the lynching.

The Live Oak grand jury, which issued no indictments for the lynching of Willie James Howard.

Florida Governor Spessard Holland, who replied to NAACP’s demand for a full investigation into the lynching of Willie James Howard by sending them Goff’s denial of any responsibility and warning of “particular difficulties involved where there will be testimony of three white men and probably the girl against the testimony of one Negro man.”

U.S. Justice Department, which declined to act on demands for investigation and charges in the lynching of Willie James Howard.

THE ALIBI

Phillip Goff admitted he and his friends had taken Willie James and his father to the banks of the river and tied up the youth’s feet. He claimed they wanted the father to whip his son “for his misdeed,” writing the letter to Goff’s daughter. But, Goff said, the boy jumped into the river to avoid a whipping. In other words, this lyncher claimed that Willie James Howard had killed himself.

THE ACTUAL MOTIVE

The lynching of Willie James Howard and thousands of others are part of the reality of American society. Even after literal slavery was ended through the Civil War, the horrors of oppression continued for Black people in new forms—and lynching and its effects were a certain concentration of what the masses of African-Americans faced. For decades under the overt segregation known as Jim Crow in the South, every Black person there faced the threat that at any time they could be brutally murdered for anything they did that might “offend” some white people—or for nothing at all except the color of their skin—and nothing would happen to their killers. This was a key way that white supremacy and the subjugation of Black people were enforced.

It is not just that the whites who carried out these lynchings were racist monsters. These murders and other atrocities were rooted in, and served to keep in place, a whole system in this country. This is a system that could not have existed without first slavery and then near-slavery of millions of Black people—a system with white supremacy built into its foundations. And segregation of and discrimination against Black and other oppressed people continue down to today, from jobs and education to housing, health care, and all parts of society—and this continues to be backed up by official and unofficial violence and brutality.

In Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror, the Equal Justice Initiative documents over 4,000 lynchings of Black people between 1877 and 1950 in just 12 Southern states. This number represents only the number of known lynching deaths—many, perhaps even most, went unreported or were covered up.

The murder of 15-year-old Willie James Howard took place 11 years before the torture and lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till. Willie James was lynched by white men outraged at a Black youth writing a Christmas card to a white girl. Emmett was lynched by white men outraged at a Black youth whistling at a white woman.

 

Sources:

* “Willie James Howard Lynching,” from the website for the PBS program Freedom Never Dies.

* “Willie James Howard,” Northeastern University School of Law Civil Rights and Restorative Project.

* “60 years later, a cry for justice in Fla. killing: Black teen who liked white girl was taken at gunpoint and drowned in Suwannee River,” by Audra D.S. Burch, Baltimore Sun,December 10, 2006.

* “Before Emmett Till’s Death, Willie James Howard, 15, Was Murdered in Fla,” by Tonyaa J. Weathersbee, The Root,August 29, 2015.

* “Episode 7: Christmas Lynchings,” The Color Line Murders podcast.

* “Three Christmas Day Lynchings,” thiscruelwar.com.

* Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror, the Equal Justice Initiative.

* “Emmett Till and Lynchings, Past and Present,” revcom.us, an excerpt from the 2003 talk, Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About, by Bob Avakian.

 

 

Bob Avakian: "Emmett Till and Jim Crow: Black people lived under a death sentence"

An excerpt from REVOLUTION: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About. Watch the whole talk at revolutiontalk.net.

Other Christmastime Lynchings

According to the website thiscruelwar.com, there were more than 70 lynchings of Black people in the week of December 19 to 25, from 1877 to 1950. As the compiler of the list notes, this number is incomplete because of unreported lynchings and inadequate databases.

Among the lynchings that took place on Christmas Day itself are the following:

* 1901, Prairie Blossom, Texas—J.N. McClinton, a Black minister and farmer, shot to death on the doorway of his own home.

* 1906, Kemper County, Mississippi—After a police officer was killed shortly before Christmas, George Simpson, a Black man alleged to be the suspect, was lynched. A white mob then lynched Simpson’s two sons. The murders of Black people by the racist posses continued, including the lynching of Colvin Nicholson on Christmas, described by a newspaper account at the time as “one of the most brutal, which has occurred since the days of Reconstruction.”

* 1928, Jackson, Louisiana—In an alleged dispute over a hunting dog belonging to the owner of a plantation, a group of white men attacked the family of Bob Taylor, a Black tenant on the plantation. They murdered Taylor’s 15-year-old and 20-year-old daughters and wounded another daughter and their mother.

 

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Revolution #574 December 17, 2018

American Crime

Case #32: The 1991 Persian Gulf War – “Operation Desert Storm”

| Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Bob Avakian has written that one of three things that has "to happen in order for there to be real and lasting change for the better: People have to fully confront the actual history of this country and its role in the world up to today, and the terrible consequences of this." (See "3 Things that have to happen in order for there to be real and lasting change for the better.")

In that light, and in that spirit, "American Crime" is a regular feature of revcom.us. Each installment will focus on one of the 100 worst crimes committed by the U.S. rulers—out of countless bloody crimes they have carried out against people around the world, from the founding of the U.S. to the present day.

American Crime

See all the articles in this series.

 

THE CRIME

From January 16 until February 27, 1991, the U.S. led a massive war of aggression, based on lies, against Iraq, a war which killed some 100,000 Iraqi soldiers, wounded another 300,000, and led to the deaths of 70,000 civilians by January 1992.

On August 2, Iraq’s army invaded and occupied the neighboring country of Kuwait, a U.S. ally. President George H.W. Bush denounced Iraq’s action as “unprovoked aggression” and declared that it “will not stand.” Over the next five months, the U.S. built a military coalition and deployed more than 500,000 American and 200,000 allied troops to the Persian Gulf. The U.S. and its allies pushed through UN Security Council resolutions demanding an Iraqi withdrawal and the imposition of punishing sanctions.

Throughout these months, Bush claimed that “America does not seek conflict.” Yet Bush and his team rejected Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s offers to leave Kuwait, and at least 11 other international proposals to head off a U.S. attack. Bush secretly told his cabinet, “We have to have a war.”1

Phase I: “Instant Thunder.” The U.S.-led war began on the night of January 16, 1991, five months after Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait, with an unprecedented bombing assault code named “Instant Thunder.” For the next 43 days and nights, U.S. and British bombs and missiles pummeled Iraq from above. Coalition warplanes flew 109,876 combat sorties and dropped some 250,000 weapons—6,000 a day. The 88,500 tons of bombs were the explosive equivalent of six atomic bombs dropped on a country the size of California.2

Coalition planes targeted Iraq’s leadership and government and its military facilities and forces. But they also targeted Iraq’s civilian economic and social infrastructure—a war crime. U.S. and British bombs and missiles destroyed 80 percent of Iraq’s oil and gas refineries, many of its telecommunications centers, more than 100 bridges,3 and 11 of Iraq’s 20 power-generating stations. By the war’s end, Iraq’s electrical generation had been slashed by 96 percent.

Without electricity, water couldn’t be pumped, sewage couldn’t be treated, hospitals couldn’t function, and Iraq’s drinking water system was soon “in or near collapse,” according to the World Health Organization.4 Iraqi deaths from the devastating combination of contaminated water and crippled medical care began to soar. The old and the very young were hit hardest.

It was estimated that by January 1992, some 70,000 Iraqi civilians had died due mainly to the destruction of water and power plants. This hidden slaughter would continue for over a decade, taking the lives of at least 500,000 Iraqi children, as the U.S. and its allies imposed crippling sanctions that prevented Iraq from repairing this damage.5

Phase II: the ground war. On February 24, at 4:00 am local time, the U.S. launched its ground war from Saudi Arabia, moving into Kuwait and then southern Iraq.

The next day, February 25, Iraq announced it was pulling out of Kuwait, and made clear it would accept any U.S. or UN terms in return for a ceasefire. That day U.S. forces used tanks with plows mounted on them to push tons of sand into the World War 1-style trenches Iraqi troops were fighting from and bury them—some while they were alive—as heavy machine gun fire was also directed into the trenches. “What you saw was a bunch of buried trenches with people’s arms and land [sic] things sticking out of them. For all I know, we could have killed thousands,” said the colonel in command.

The morning of February 26, Bush rejected Iraq’s offer and other pleas to end the fighting. That day Iraqi forces were retreating north from Kuwait City to Basra. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell ordered U.S. forces to “cut them off and then kill them.”

U.S. planes attacked both ends of the convoy, blocking off any escape, and for the next 48 hours coalition aircraft and ground forces attacked anything that moved. Thousands were slaughtered, and the six-lane “highway of death” was left littered with burnt-out vehicles and charred bodies. Many were noncombatants, just trying to escape. One U.S. soldier said it was like “a medieval hell.” The White House declared the dead to be “torturers, looters, and rapists.”

The London Observer called it “one of the most terrible harassments of a retreating army from the air in the history of warfare.” Only after the slaughter was complete did Bush declare a ceasefire, at midnight on February 27.

The Pentagon later estimated that 100,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed and 300,000 wounded during the war. Meanwhile, 147 U.S. soldiers were killed in combat, another 235 died of other causes, and 467 were wounded.6

THE CRIMINALS

President George H.W. Bush. Bush pulled together an international war coalition based on a campaign of deliberate lies and insisted in the face of global protests and peace initiatives that the U.S. wage war, and carry it out with maximum destruction.

Bush’s war council, the so-called “Gang of 8”: National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft and his deputy Robert Gates, Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Colin Powell, Vice President Dan Quayle, Secretary of State James Baker, and White House Chief of Staff John Sununu.

The U.S. military, in particular Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf and Gen. Colin Powell, committed war crimes and waged what has been described as one of the most one-sided slaughters in history.

The United Nations. The UN Security Council (controlled by the world’s biggest powers) passed 12 resolutions against Iraq. The Bush administration saw these resolutions as its primary vehicle for building a war coalition and giving Desert Storm “a cloak of acceptability,” as Scowcroft put it.

The U.S.-led coalition of 28 countries that participated in one way or another in the U.S.-led and -controlled war on Iraq. These included—in various ways and to varying degrees—Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Turkey, Jordan, and Egypt.

The U.S. media. The U.S. media overwhelmingly cheered on the Gulf slaughter. They broadcast hours of footage selected by the Pentagon to present an image of a clean, surgical war, and refused to show pictures of Iraqi casualties, which were readily available in the Arab media.

Defense Secretary Dick Cheney had instituted a press blackout banning media from the front, and any dispatches were vetted by the military. “More than 150 reporters who participated in the Pentagon pool system failed to produce a single eyewitness account of the clash between 300,000 allied troops and an estimated 300,000 Iraqi troops,” Newsday’s Patrick Sloyan reported. “There was not one photograph, not a strip of film by pool members of a dead body—American or Iraqi.”7

THE ALIBI

The U.S. concocted “satellite intelligence” showing Iraqi troops massing on Saudi Arabia’s border, when there were none, to justify sending hundreds of thousands of troops to the Gulf. To whip up war fever, it had a young Kuwaiti woman testify that she’d seen Iraqi troops in Kuwait take babies out of incubators and left them “to die on the cold floor,” and then spread what she said through the media. The story was made up; the young woman was the daughter of Kuwait’s ambassador to the U.S. The U.S. also claimed war had been forced upon it after its “months of constant and virtually endless diplomatic activity” had been “totally rebuffed” by Iraq.

Bush said the coalition air war was aimed at “Saddam’s vast military arsenal,” not civilians, and that the U.S. simply sought to remove Iraqi troops and restore the “legitimate government of Kuwait,” and force Iraq’s compliance with UN resolutions.

On January 16, as the air war began, Bush declared:

This is an historic moment. We have in this past year made great progress in ending the long era of conflict and cold war. We have before us the opportunity to forge for ourselves and for future generations a new world order—a world where the rule of law, not the law of the jungle, governs the conduct of nations.

THE REAL MOTIVE

Control of the Middle East, with its vast petroleum reserves and location at the junction between Asia, Africa, and Europe, had been a key pillar of America’s global imperialist empire since the end of World War 2. That control had been exerted through U.S. bullying, threats, CIA coups, military assaults, and a network of regional “allies”—murderous U.S.-backed regimes including Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states like Kuwait. The Bush administration felt Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait was intolerable because it represented a potential threat to these allies, this setup, and to America’s domination of the whole region.

But Bush and the U.S. rulers weren’t just focused on Kuwait and the Middle East—they had their eyes on the whole world. Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait was taking place when the Soviet Union was engulfed in crisis and its empire was breaking apart. The Soviets had been the U.S.’s main global rivals for decades and their “Cold War” conflict had brought the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation more than once.

Bush and his main adviser, Brent Scowcroft, realized that with their main rival imploding (the Soviet Union collapsed shortly after the Gulf War), they were at an historic turning point which they could seize to create “a new world order”—not of human emancipation but of unparalleled U.S. imperialist global domination.

This realization shaped how the Gulf War was fought.8 Bush and Scowcroft wrote, “In the first days of the crisis we had started self-consciously to view our actions as setting a precedent for the approaching post-Cold War world.” Scowcroft called the Gulf War “the bridge between the Cold War and the post-Cold War eras.”

This gave the U.S. rulers the freedom and the necessity to carry out this most direct, massive, and devastating U.S. military intervention in the region.

The U.S. rulers had backed, armed, and unleashed the Hussein regime to batter Iran during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war9 and to some degree built up its military capacity—including enabling it to develop chemical and biological weapons. And in the immediate aftermath of that war, the U.S. continued to work with the Iraqi regime. But the U.S. had sharply clashed with Hussein’s regime in the 1970s, and still didn’t trust him. Hussein had longstanding ties with the Soviet Union, was not fully under the U.S. thumb, and had ambitions for Iraq in the region (including stated opposition to Israel and support for the Palestinian people) that clashed sharply with U.S. interests.

Hussein’s sudden takeover of Kuwait represented a threat for all those reasons, especially because Iraq now had a large army, chemical and biological weapons (thanks to the West), and was pursuing the capacity to build nuclear weapons. Allowing Hussein to negotiate his way out of Kuwait, as he immediately tried to do, with Iraq’s military in one piece, its political weight increased, and its weaker Gulf neighbors intimidated, could alter the regional balance of power and pose dangers for key U.S. clients like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, and allies like Israel and Egypt.10

So removing the danger Iraq posed and solidifying America’s grip on the region and the world required war—to crush Iraq as a regional player and send a clear message of U.S. power and dominance—across the region and around the world.

Scowcroft called “destroying as much of the Iraqi military machine as possible” their “foremost” objective.11 And Air Force strategists admitted that bombing Iraq’s civilian infrastructure was part of a deliberate strategy to give the U.S. post-war “leverage” over Iraq by destroying “valuable facilities that Baghdad could not repair without foreign assistance.”

The U.S. rulers could not create their “new world order” with their military encumbered by the legacy of its defeat in Vietnam. So the Bush leadership worked to rebuild the confidence of the U.S. armed forces and public support for military action abroad. “This will not be another Vietnam,” Bush declared. This dictated a strategy of overwhelming force, minimal U.S. casualties, and quick victory. “A spectacular victory was required,” Powell said.

This, and overall U.S. objectives, necessitated a military strategy that made the Gulf War one of the most one-sided slaughters in history and insured that tens of thousands of civilians would be killed—many during the war and far more afterward.12 Chillingly, the U.S. also had some 600 nuclear weapons in the region and was prepared to use them if Iraq used chemical or biological weapons.

On August 8, days after Iraq invaded Kuwait, Bush declared the U.S. did not “seek to chart the destiny of other nations.” In reality the U.S. was seeking to violently “chart the destiny” not merely of nations, but of the whole world.


1. Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate (Simon & Schuster, 1999), p. 185, corroborated by George H.W. Bush and Brent Scowcroft, A World Transformed (Alfred A. Knopf, 1998), p. 463 [back]

2. The U.S.-led air war terrorized children: “I have a son 5 years old. During the air raid he was shaking, shivering, saying ‘Bush is coming, Bush is coming,’” one Iraqi said. Air Force Lt. General Charles A. Horner, who had overall command of the air war, called such psychological terror a “side benefit.”  [back]

3. Coalition warplanes hit roads, highways, railroads, hundreds of locomotives and boxcars full of goods, radio and television broadcasting stations, cement plants, and factories producing aluminum, textiles, electric cables, and medical supplies.  [back]

4. This destruction was compounded by U.S. attacks on plants making water purification chemicals such as chlorine.  [back]

5. U.S.-led forces fired 320 tons worth of DU (depleted uranium) munitions, generating tens of thousands of pounds of dust and debris that are both radioactive and toxic. They attacked Iraqi oil refineries and chemical weapons depots, which together with Iraq’s actions, triggered massive oil spills and released a toxic stew of chemical agents, pesticides, acid rain, soot, and smoke from burning oil wells into the atmosphere.  [back]

6. “Why U.S. casualties were low,” Dennis Cauchon, April 20, 2003, USA Today citing Department of Defense figures.  [back]

7. Some reporters did resist the Pentagon’s blackout. According to Sloyan, “More than 70 reporters were arrested, detained, threatened at gunpoint and literally chased from the front lines when they attempted to defy Pentagon rules.” In the end, all the press accounts of the highway of death came from reporters working outside the Pentagon pool.  [back]

8. Scowcroft later wrote: “The final collapse of Soviet power and the dissolution of its empire brought to a close the greatest transformation of the international system since World War I.” World Transformed.  [back]

9. The 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war was one of the wars since Vietnam with nearly a million people killed or wounded. It was launched by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, with a green light from the U.S., in order to weaken and possibly overthrow Iran’s new Islamic Republic, which had come to power in 1979. The U.S. armed both Iraq and Iran at different points, dragging out the war to weaken both countries, and thus contributing directly to the extent of the slaughter.  [back]

10. The U.S. “liberating” Kuwait meant restoring a despotic and decadent monarch ruling a country where a mere 3.5 percent of the population—literate male citizens over the age of 21—were allowed to vote, where nearly two-thirds of the pre-war population of 1.9 million were non-citizens who performed 80 percent of the labor, and where women were relegated to inferior, second-class status.  [back]

11. The day after Iraq’s invasion, Bush ordered the CIA to draft plans for overthrowing the Hussein regime through an “all-fronts effort to strangle the Iraqi economy, support anti-Saddam resistance groups inside or outside Iraq, and [to] look for alternative leaders in the military or anywhere in Iraqi society.”  [back]

12. Greenpeace called the U.S.-led Gulf War “the most efficient killing campaign ever executed by any military force.”  [back]

On February 25, 1992, Iraqi forces were retreating north from Kuwait City to Basra in a long convoy of tanks, personnel carriers, trucks, buses, and cars. U.S. planes attacked both ends of the convoy, blocking off any escape, and for the next 48 hours Coalition aircraft and ground forces attacked anything that moved along that strip of roadway. Thousands were slaughtered, and the six-lane "highway of death" was left littered with burnt-out vehicles and charred bodies. Above photo: AP. Below photo: Kenneth Jarecke

 

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Revolution #574 December 17, 2018

American Crime

Case #31: Double Murder by Police in Chicago—on the Night After Christmas

| Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Bob Avakian has written that one of three things that has "to happen in order for there to be real and lasting change for the better: People have to fully confront the actual history of this country and its role in the world up to today, and the terrible consequences of this." (See "3 Things that have to happen in order for there to be real and lasting change for the better.")

In that light, and in that spirit, "American Crime" is a regular feature of revcom.us. Each installment will focus on one of the 100 worst crimes committed by the U.S. rulers—out of countless bloody crimes they have carried out against people around the world, from the founding of the U.S. to the present day.

American Crime

See all the articles in this series.

 

THE CRIME

On the night of December 26, 2015—the night after Christmas—Antonio LeGrier called 911 because his 19-year-old Black son, Quintonio, was struggling with mental health issues and his family wanted help. Antonio called Bettie Jones, a 55-year-old Black woman who lived downstairs, to alert her to his son’s situation and let her know to be on the lookout for the police.

Bettie’s daughter Latisha told reporters afterwards that her mother had gone to the door—presumably to let the cops in the building—and then Latisha heard shots. She rushed to the hall to find her mother and Quintonio lying there bleeding. As Latisha came to the doorway, the police threatened to shoot her as well. One bullet fired by the police went through the front door and through several rooms in Bettie Jones’ home.

According to the two cops, when they entered the lobby Quintonio was coming down the stairs from the second-story flat carrying an aluminum bat. The cops backed up, but Robert Rialmo—the cop who opened fire killing both Quintonio and Bettie—said Quintonio came at him swinging the bat, giving him no choice but to shoot Quintonio to save his own life. He claimed Bettie Jones was standing behind the youth and was shot “by accident.”

In a report issued in 2017, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) revealed that the killer—Robert Rialmo—and his partner had lied about key details justifying these deaths. They concluded that Rialmo’s shooting of both LeGrier and Jones were unjustified. No, Quintonio was not swinging the bat that Rialmo claimed gave him no choice but to shoot the youth. In fact, when Rialmo’s partner was first interviewed, he never mentioned the bat being swung. Added to this, it was found that Rialmo was nowhere near Quintonio when he opened fire. Witnesses, shell casings, and other evidence showed that Rialmo was standing outside the building, halfway between the stoop and the sidewalk, when he fired into the lobby, killing both LeGrier and Jones.

Quintonio LeGrier had been shot seven times, and Bettie Jones three times, in a hail of police bullets inside the lobby of a two-flat (a two-unit apartment building) on Chicago’s West Side. It was Latisha, not the cops, who stayed with Quintonio and her mom, checking their pulse and making sure they were still breathing. It took the ambulance half an hour to arrive. Latisha said when they got there, the ambulance attendants “just dragged” her mother and Quintonio out of the house and down the steps to the waiting wheeled stretchers. Both Bettie and Quintonio died at the hospital.

Antonio LeGrier filed a wrongful death lawsuit two days after his son and Bettie LeGrier were shot and killed by police. No charges were brought by Chicago prosecutors against Rialmo for the killing of Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones.

People in the neighborhood were furious and talked about how this happens way too often. One person commented, “They used to do it with a noose but now they do it with a gun and a badge.” One guy compared “how they do us” to slavery days. One of Quintonio’s friends at Northern Illinois University said, “Police are killing innocent children. People are being killed and it’s not right.” And Latisha said, “They tell me to be calm but there ain’t no being calm! They killed my mama!”

Quintonio LeGrier had graduated with honors from Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy and was studying electrical engineering at Northern Illinois University. Friends remembered Quintonio as being especially good at math and how he helped them with their homework. He was always smiling and cracking jokes. Quintonio was an avid runner and was part of a team of students who ran the 2013 Chicago Marathon to raise money for clean drinking water for African children.

Bettie Jones had five children. Her niece described her as “a lively spirit” who loved Smokey Robinson and step dancing. She had been fighting ovarian cancer, and was working on the assembly line at Alpha Baking. Latisha and her mother had plans to have a mother-daughter day together before Bettie was murdered by the police.

A Crime on Top of a Crime

Two months after the double murder, in February 2016, the attorney for the killer cop Robert Rialmo filed a lawsuit against the estate of Quintonio LeGrier—on the grounds of “assault and emotional distress”—to the cop! He said in justification, “Something that bothers Officer Rialmo and myself about the way this is going is the family filed the lawsuit [for wrongful death] before the funeral. It seems like people believe now that if you have a family member killed by a police officer it’s the functional equivalent of winning the lottery.”

On top of this, in mid-December 2017, Chicago city attorneys went to federal court for permission to sue the LeGrier estate as well! According to their logic, Quintonio was responsible for Bettie Jones’ death as well as his own, so his estate should pay any damages the city owed to the Jones family. When word of this became public, there was such outrage the city quickly backtracked and stopped pursuing the suit. Quintonio’s mother said the city just keeps pouring salt into her wounds.

It was just two weeks later that COPA issued its report, described above, which revealed that Rialmo and his partner had lied about their lives being in danger to justify the killing of Quintonio and Bettie. The Chicago prosecutors had access to all of this evidence against Rialmo when they made their decision not to prosecute him. And there was no prosecution of Rialmo after the COPA report was released.

THE CRIMINALS

Robert Rialmo and his partner, Anthony LaPalermo. Rialmo was the cop who shot and killed Quintonio LeGrier  and Bettie Jones, and LaPalermo backed up his lies to justify it.

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson was Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked choice to be police superintendent. This was shortly before the double murder, amid the public outrage after the video of the police murder of Laquan McDonald was made public. Emanuel hoped that putting a Black cop in charge would quell criticism of the department, whose reputation for brutality is infamous. But Johnson disagreed with COPA’s recommendation that Rialmo be fired, saying his actions were “justified and within department policy.” This shouldn’t have been a surprise; Johnson’s record shows that he repeatedly approved police shootings, or ignored allegations of excessive force in case after case over years in positions of authority: Rekia Boyd, Dakota Bright, Niko Husband, Christian Green, and many more. And he has been involved in some of the most notorious recent police killings and scandals. Johnson came to Rialmo’s defense, calling for his exoneration despite the COPA report concluding that the killing was unjustified.

Chicago Police Department, or CPD—the second-largest police force in the country after New York’s—has a long and sordid history of shooting and murdering people with complete impunity. In 2017, the Department of Justice investigated the CPD after the uproar over McDonald’s murder and cover-up. They reported a police “pattern of unlawful force” and that “the failure to review and investigate officer use of force has helped create a culture in which officers expect to use force and not be questioned about the need for or propriety of that use.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago city government, over and over and over again, have protected the police, with prosecutors refusing repeatedly to charge cops for murdering Black and Latino youths, and pretending ignorance (really, ignore-ance) of the “code of silence,” which enables cops to cover for other cops who commit murder.

THE ALIBI

The excuse the cops used for this double murder was the one that is used over and over again—that they believed their lives were in danger. And despite the fact that in this case it was shown that their justification for these killings was based on lies, no charges were brought by the prosecutors. There is a constantly repeated refrain in this country: “Police officers stand as the thin blue line that protects society from evil and chaos.” From that perspective, if a disproportionate number of those killed by police are Black and Brown—Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones, Rekia Boyd, Laquan McDonald, and hundreds more—and even if the killing is unjustified, people are trained to think: “Well, yes, that looks bad, but we have to keep in mind that the police have a difficult and dangerous job, and there are a lot of cops who are killed in the line of duty, too.”

THE REAL MOTIVE

The real motive behind this double murder, and the ongoing crimes of covering up and justifying the wanton police killing, predominately of Blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans, especially youths, goes to the actual role of the police in this society overall. As Bob Avakian has said:

The role of the police is not to serve and protect the people. It is to serve and protect the system that rules over the people. To enforce the relations of exploitation and oppression, the conditions of poverty, misery and degradation into which the system has cast people and is determined to keep people in. The law and order the police are about, with all of their brutality and murder, is the law and the order that enforces all this oppression and madness. (BAsics 1:24)

In this society, whose origins are rooted in slavery and genocide, white supremacy is sewn into its fabric. The wanton murders of the most oppressed in this society—the murders they carry out without being provoked—are an essential part of their job. Because the more arbitrary these murders seem, the more broadly they deliver the message that no one is safe, everyone among the oppressed and exploited in this society has a target on their back.

REPEAT OFFENDERS

The number of police shootings in Chicago has averaged one every week over years. Statistics compiled by the Guardian (UK) show there were 435 police shootings in Chicago from 2010 through 2015. Cops killed 92 people and wounded 170. The newspaper’s findings showed that about four out of every five people shot were African-American males.

Besides police murders, there have been repeated discoveries of organized operations by the police where torture and brutality were carried out systematically. In 2015, the Guardian wrote about the “black site” at Chicago’s Homan Square, supposedly a police-evidence storage facility, where people detained by the police, disproportionately Black and Latino, were taken “off the record.” (See “Homan Square: Chicago Police Dept.’s Continuing Criminal Enterprise” at revcom.us.) People were tortured, some forced to make false confessions. Many disappeared for days and lawyers and families could not find where they had been taken while police “questioned” them.

Before this there was the years-long Burge torture scandal. Under Chicago police commander Jon Burge, many people were subjected to unbelievable cruelty, including electric shocks to their genitals. Burge was protected from prosecution for this torture until the statute of limitations ran out—and then only did minor time for perjury. He collected a pension for the rest of his life, which funded his retirement in Florida. Other cops involved in the torture with Burge are still on the force.

Chicago is not the exception; rather it is a concentration of what continues to go on all over this country.

Quintonio LeGrier

Bettie Jones

The role of the police is not to serve and protect the people. It is to serve and protect the system that rules over the people. To enforce the relations of exploitation and oppression, the conditions of poverty, misery and degradation into which the system has cast people and is determined to keep people in. The law and order the police are about, with all of their brutality and murder, is the law and the order that enforces all this oppression and madness.

Bob Avakian, BAsics 1:24

“How Long?! How Many More Times Do The Tears Have To Flow?”

A clip from BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!, a film of a talk by Bob Avakian given in 2012. Watch the whole talk at revolutiontalk.net.

 

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Revolution #574 December 17, 2018

American Crime

Case #30: Israel’s U.S.-Armed and -Backed Massacre in Gaza (2008-2009)

| Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Bob Avakian has written that one of three things that has "to happen in order for there to be real and lasting change for the better: People have to fully confront the actual history of this country and its role in the world up to today, and the terrible consequences of this." (See "3 Things that have to happen in order for there to be real and lasting change for the better.")

In that light, and in that spirit, "American Crime" is a regular feature of revcom.us. Each installment will focus on one of the 100 worst crimes committed by the U.S. rulers—out of countless bloody crimes they have carried out against people around the world, from the founding of the U.S. to the present day.

American Crime

See all the articles in this series.

 

THE CRIME

From December 27, 2008 to January 19, 2009, Israel, backed by the U.S., brutally and viciously attacked the Palestinian people in Gaza—a Palestinian territory on a small strip of land 25 miles long and five miles wide on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, bordered by Egypt on the south and Israel on the east and north. Overwhelmingly, the Palestinian people in Gaza were driven from their homes in what is now Israel. The violent expulsion of the Palestinians from their homeland was most ferocious during the Nakba (Arabic for catastrophe) in 1948.1 Israel has kept more than 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza with no way out. (See the Revolution/revcom.us special issue, Bastion of Enlightenment…or Enforcer for Imperialism: The Case of Israel.)

The number of Palestinians killed during the 24-day assault, which Israel called “Operation Cast Lead,” has been estimated to be between 1,166 and 1,417,2 including 844 civilians, 281 of them children.3 More than 3,000 were injured during the invasion.4

The attack that initiated the slaughter was launched on a Saturday, shortly before noon, when most people would be in the streets. The Israelis used U.S.-supplied F-16 warplanes and Apache helicopters to attack all of Gaza’s main towns, including Gaza City, Khan Younis, and Rafah, striking more than 210 targets in the first 24 hours.5 On that day, at least 225 to 230 Palestinians were killed and more than 700 injured. It was the deadliest one-day death toll in 60 years of conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. The Palestinian people call that day “The Massacre of Black Saturday.”6,7

During the first seven days, Israel pounded Gaza with bombs, artillery, and mortar shells, as Israelis sat on the hills of Sderot watching the mass carnage in Gaza below.8

Then on January 3, Israel launched a land invasion, sending thousands of troops into Gaza with tanks, armored personnel carriers, and artillery divisions.

Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert said this was “all-out war against the civilian population of Gaza,” and he said he hardly saw a military casualty among the hundreds of Palestinian bodies.9 The International Committee of the Red Cross discovered small children next to their mothers’ corpses and called the situation a “full blown humanitarian crisis.”10

Forty-two Palestinians were killed and another 55 wounded in a single attack on a United Nations school that was sheltering Palestinians who had been forced to flee their homes. Doctors said all of the victims were civilians, including many children. The Guardian reported that this “appears to be the biggest single loss of life of the campaign when Israeli bombs hit al-Fakhora school, in Jabaliya refugee camp, while it was packed with hundreds of people who had fled the fighting.” According to the Guardian, “Most of those killed were in the school playground and in the street, and the dead and injured lay in pools of blood. Pictures on Palestinian TV showed walls heavily marked by shrapnel and bloodstains, and shoes and shredded clothes scattered on the ground. Windows were blown out.”11

On January 19, when Israel knew a ceasefire was only hours away, they continued their assault, killing 54, including 43 unarmed civilians, 17 of them children in the last hours of the invasion.12

A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report said that the Israeli military “repeatedly exploded white phosphorus munitions in the air over populated areas, killing and injuring civilians, and damaging civilian structures, including a school, a market, a humanitarian aid warehouse and a hospital.” This violated international laws of war. The HRW report pointed out, “The dangers posed by white phosphorus13 to civilians were well-known to Israeli commanders, who have used the munition for many years. According to a medical report prepared during the hostilities by the ministry of health, ‘[w]hite phosphorus can cause serious injury and death when it comes into contact with the skin, is inhaled or is swallowed.’ The report states that burns on less than 10 percent of the body can be fatal because of damage to the liver, kidneys and heart.” The white phosphorus shells were made in America.

It was estimated that the Israeli assault destroyed up to 60 percent of the agriculture industry in Gaza, and that “13,000 families who depend directly on herding, farming … have suffered significant damage.”14 Ahmad Sourani, director of the Agricultural Development Association of Gaza, said,” What we have seen in large areas of farmland is the destruction of all means of life.” Peter Beaumont of the Observer reported that most of Gaza’s agriculture infrastructure was destroyed. The Ministry of Agriculture was targeted, the agriculture faculty at al-Azhar University in Beit Hanoun was largely destroyed, and the offices of the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees in Zaitoun, which provides cheap food for the poor, was ransacked and vandalized by soldiers who left abusive graffiti.”15

The Israelis attacked and destroyed science and educational institutions. They destroyed al-Da’wa College for Humanities in Rafah and the Gaza College for Security Sciences. Six university buildings in Gaza were totally destroyed and another 16 damaged. Two buildings that housed the science and engineering laboratories of the Islamic University in Gaza were demolished. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza City that contained tons of emergency food and medicine was destroyed. Two floors of the al-Quds hospital were destroyed and the hospital set on fire. The fishing industry in Gaza was targeted where “Gaza’s 40,000 fishermen have been deprived of their livelihood.”16

The death and destruction in Gaza was overwhelming:

In total, more than 20,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed. Nothing was left untouched by the Israelis—schools, shelters, businesses, roads, and bridges.17,18

The Aftermath

Following the war, there was an increase of children born with birth defects. The number of blood cancer cases doubled, and Norwegian medics found traces of depleted uranium, a radioactive and genotoxic material used in some types of munitions, in some Gaza residents who were wounded. Soil samples showed that there were areas that contained up to 75 tons of depleted uranium.19

One year after the war ended, 20,000 Palestinians in Gaza remained displaced.20

In September 2009, a UN special mission, headed by South African Justice Richard Goldstone, produced a report that accused Israel of “serious violations of international humanitarian law,” war crimes and crimes against humanity, and recommended bringing those responsible to justice.21

After the war, Israel, with the collaboration of Egypt and support of the Obama administration, imposed a draconian blockade that kept essential medical, construction, and food supplies from reaching Gaza. Israel even attacked civilian relief boats in international waters—murdering five people on one of them, the Mavi Marmara—in 2010, an act the Obama administration refused to condemn.22

THE CRIMINALS

President George W. Bush and his administration (2001-2009): On May 15, 2008, President George W. Bush, in a speech to the Israeli Knesset on the 60th anniversary of the founding of Israel, said, “The alliance between our governments is unbreakable.” In referring to Israel’s struggle with the Palestinians, he said, “…we applaud the courageous choices Israeli’s leaders have made. We also believe that nations have a right to defend themselves and that no nation should ever be forced to negotiate with killers pledged to its destruction.”23 Less than a month later and six months prior to the attack on Gaza, Israel began planning the war.

The main weapons (F-16 fighter jets, Apache helicopters, tactical missiles, and a wide array of munitions) used in the Gaza Massacre were supplied to Israel by the Bush administration.24

The Bush administration blocked a UN vote for an immediate ceasefire the day the invasion started. Further, the U.S. voted against a UN treaty in December 2008 to regulate arms trade, and a resolution on “the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.”25

The Democratic Party-controlled 2008 Congress: Since the mid-1960s, Israel has served as a base, and an enforcer, for U.S. imperialism in the Middle East and beyond. By 2008, when the position of the U.S. atop a world of exploitation and oppression was being challenged and under stress from many directions, the “special relationship” between the U.S. and Israel was seen as all the more critical by the U.S. rulers—both Republicans and Democrats.

The Democratic Party-controlled U.S. Senate and House passed near unanimous resolutions giving full support to Israel and upholding its “inalienable right to defend against attacks from Gaza.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “We support the state of Israel, very strongly as a national policy, because it is in our national interest to do so.”26 Jerrold Nadler, a leading Democratic House member, said, “Israel has commendably made strenuous efforts to minimize harm to civilians, while Hamas has needlessly imperiled innocent Palestinians in Gaza.”27 A year later, top Democratic senator Chuck Schumer said, “[Y]ou have to force them [the Palestinians] to say Israel is here to stay” and “...to strangle them economically until they see that’s not the way to go, makes sense.”28

U.S. government and U.S. military: In their 2008-2009 assault on Gaza, the Israeli Defense Forces made use of M-92 and M-84 “dumb bombs,” Paveway II and JDAM guided “smart bombs,” AH-64 Apache attack helicopters equipped with AGM-114 Hellfire guided missiles, M141 “bunker defeat” munitions, and special weapons like M825A1 155mm white phosphorous munitions—all supplied as American foreign aid. Israel is also allowed to spend 25 percent of military funding from the U.S. on weapons made by its own weapons industry.29

From 1949-2018, the U.S. has provided Israel with $135 billion in aid, with $95 billion being military aid. The George W. Bush administration supported Israel with $21 billion during its eight years, $19 billion of that going for military aid.30

Candidate and then President Barack Obama: When Barack Obama was running for president, he repeatedly made his support for Israel crystal clear. On July 23, 2008, standing in front of a local police station in Sderot, Israel, just a few miles from Gaza, Obama said, “If someone was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that, and I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.”31

In October 2009, the Obama administration blocked the Goldstone Report from reaching the International Criminal Court in order to stop any legal proceedings against Israel for the war crimes it committed against the people of Gaza that are documented in the report.32 And, as noted earlier, Obama backed the vicious blockade Israel and Egypt imposed on Gaza after the war.

The Israeli government: Ehud Barak, the Israeli defense minister and former prime minister, said the military operation in Gaza would expand and deepen as necessary. He said, “There is a time for calm and a time for fighting, and this is the time for fighting.... Right now, we have to hit Hamas hard.... I don’t see any other way for Hamas to change its behavior. Hamas is not just a terrorist organization. It actually rules Gaza.”33 Barak said that this was going to be a “war to the bitter end.”34

THE ALIBI

Israel claimed that they launched the all-out assault on Gaza because rockets had been fired from Gaza into Israel. Those rockets were in response to Israel’s earlier attack on Gaza that killed seven Palestinians. That attack by Israel broke a six-month ceasefire. Israel excused that attack by saying they found a tunnel between Gaza and Israel.35,36

The officially stated Israeli goal of Operation Cast Lead was “to diminish the security threat to residents of southern Israel by steeply reducing rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, weakening Hamas, and restoring Israel’s deterrence.”37

THE REAL MOTIVE

The Goldstone Report stated, “the (Israeli) operations were in furtherance of an overall policy aimed at punishing the Gaza population for its resilience and for its apparent support for Hamas, and possibly with the intent of forcing a change in such support ... that what occurred in just over three weeks at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009 was a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.”38

“Wars” between Israel and Gaza are actually one-sided slaughters. Israel and its apologists defend the massacres by invoking rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel. This is an obscene pretext that denies the extreme one-sidedness of the death and devastation, and masks the real and fundamental factors involved, starting with the violent dispossession of the Palestinian people from their land.

The Palestinian people in the West Bank, in Gaza, within the borders of Israel, and in diaspora around the world have never stopped resisting being driven from their homeland, being dehumanized, and being subjected to genocide. And from its inception, Israel has dealt with that resistance through death, torture, and terror. That ongoing genocidal violence frames the specific situation in Gaza today.

In 2007, the Islamic fundamentalist organization Hamas gained political control in Gaza. Hamas and the trend it is part of are reactionary, based on a draconian interpretation of Islam. Nevertheless, the rise of Hamas posed a serious threat to Israel, including creating openings for the Islamic Republic of Iran—which the U.S. and Israel see as the top threat to their interests in the Middle East—to expand its influence in the region.

For the rulers of the U.S. in 2008 (and this is, if anything, even more true now), there was no ally like Israel in a region of the world critical to maintaining its position atop a planet of exploitation and oppression. The U.S. does pursue alliances with other countries in this region—Saudi Arabia and Egypt, for example. But the situation in those countries is much more unstable, and public opinion is much more inclined to identify with the Palestinian people. In contrast, that is not the case (at this point, at least) in Israel. Israel fills a role for the interests of the U.S. empire that no other ally in the region can. And this is, essentially, why the U.S. backed the massacre of the people of Gaza in 2008, and the ongoing crimes Israel commits against the Palestinian people.

 


1. Israeli historian Ilan Pappé carefully documented this in his book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, citing first-hand sources written by Zionists who established Israel and carried out the ethnic cleansing on which it is based.  [back]

2. “Gaza War (2008-2009),” Wikipedia.  [back]

3. Gaza In Crisis, Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappé, edited by Frank Barat, Haymarket Books, 2010, p. 94.  [back]

4. Chomsky and Pappé, p. 95.  [back]

5. “Israel Unleashes a Massacre in Gaza,” revcom.us, December 29, 2008.  [back]

6. “Gaza War (2008-2009),” Wikipedia.  [back]

7. To read more about that first day, see “Israel Unleashes a Massacre in Gaza,” at revcom.us.  [back]

8. “Israelis Watch the Fighting in Gaza From a Hilly Vantage Point,” Charles Levinson, Wall Street Journal, January 8, 2009.  [back]

9. Chomsky and Pappé, p. 93.  [back]

10. “Gaza Children Found With Mothers’ Corpses,” Alan Cowell, New York Times, January 9, 2009.  [back]

11. “Gaza’s day of carnage-40 dead as Israelis bomb two UN schools,” Chris McGreal and Hazem Balousha, Guardian, January 9, 2009.  [back]

12. Chomsky and Pappé, p. 94.  [back]

13. White phosphorus ignites and burns on contact with oxygen, and continues burning at up to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit (816 degrees Celsius) until nothing is left or the oxygen supply is cut. When white phosphorus comes into contact with skin it creates intense and persistent burns. (See “Israel,” Human Rights Watch News, March 25, 2009.)  [back]

14. “Gaza desperately short of food after Israel destroys farmland,” the Guardian, January 31, 2009.  [back]

15. “Gaza desperately short of food after Israel destroys farmland”  [back]

16. Chomsky and Pappé, pp. 105, 108.  [back]

17. “What was the 2008 Gaza war?” ProCon.org.  [back]

18. “Effects of the Gaza War,” Wikipedia.  [back]

19. “Gaza War (2008-2009),” Wikipedia.  [back]

20. “What was the 2008 Gaza War?” ProCon.org.  [back]

21. “Human Rights in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories,” September 25, 2009, UN General Assembly, aka Goldstone Report. (The report also cites some violations by the Palestinians. If true, they are miniscule compared to the egregious violations committed by the Israelis.)  [back]

22. “From A World to Win News Service: U.S. to Israel after the Gaza ship massacre: keep up the killing,” revcom.us, October 10, 2010.  [back]

23. Address of US President George Bush to the Knesset, May 15, 2008  [back]

24. “U.S. Arms Transfer and Security Assistance to Israel,” William D. Hartung and Frida Berrigan, World Policy Institute Report, May 6, 2002. (Several sources, including Wikipedia and the Guardian, report that the F-16 fighter jets made by General Dynamics and the AH-64 Apache helicopters made by Boeing, were the main weapons used during this war. The above report chronicles all the weapons—fighter planes, helicopters, missiles, rifles, grenade launchers, 50-caliber machine guns, and ammunition—supplied to Israel by the U.S.)  [back]

25. Chomsky and Pappé, pp. 92, 94.  [back]

26. “US Senate supports Israel’s Gaza incursion,” Reuters, January 8, 2009.  [back]

27. “The Democrats on Israel,” Adriana Kojeve, January 22, 2009, Counterpunch.  [back]

28. “Schumer Says It ‘Makes Sense’ To ‘Strangle [Gaza] Economically’ Until It Votes The Way Israel Wants,” Zaid Jilani, ThinkProgress.com, June 11, 2010.  [back]

29. “Washington’s Military Aid to Israel,” Chase Madar, Huffington Post, February 10, 2104.  [back]

30. “U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel: Total Aid,” Jewish Virtual Library.  [back]

31. Times of Israel blog.  [back]

32. “U.S. to block Goldstone Gaza referral to ICC,” Laura Rozen, Politico, September 23, 2009.  [back]

33. “Israelis Say Strikes Against Hamas Will Continue,” Taghreed El-Khodary and Ethan Bronnerdec, New York Times, December 27, 2008.  [back]

34. “War Over Gaza,” New York Times editorial, December 29, 2008.  [back]

35. “US to block Goldstone Gaza referral to ICC.”  [back]

36. “US to block Goldstone Gaza referral to ICC.”  [back]

37. “Israel and Hamas: Conflict in Gaza (2008-2009),” US Congressional Research Service Report, February 19, 2009.  [back]

38. “Human Rights in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories,” September 25, 2009, UN General Assembly, aka Goldstone Report, pp. 406, 408.  [back]


Palestinian family escaping the bombing in Southern Gaza Strip, 2008. Photo: AP


Israeli bombs strike Gaza Strip, 2008. Photo: AP

Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution

A speech by Bob Avakian
In two parts:

 

Watch it, spread it, fund it

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Permalink: https://revcom.us/a/463/american-crime-case-74-the-fbi-assassination-of-fred-hampton-en.html

Revolution #574 December 17, 2018

American Crime

Case #74: The FBI-Chicago Police Assassination of Fred Hampton

October 31, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

 

Bob Avakian recently wrote that one of three things that has "to happen in order for there to be real and lasting change for the better: People have to fully confront the actual history of this country and its role in the world up to today, and the terrible consequences of this." (See "3 Things that have to happen in order for there to be real and lasting change for the better.")

In that light, and in that spirit, "American Crime" is a regular feature of revcom.us. Each installment will focus on one of the 100 worst crimes committed by the U.S. rulers—out of countless bloody crimes they have carried out against people around the world, from the founding of the U.S. to the present day.

American Crime

See all the articles in this series.

 

 

THE CRIME

At 4:45 am on December 4, 1969, a special operations team of 14 Chicago police stormed into the apartment of Fred Hampton, the 21-year-old chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party. They were being directed by Cook County Prosecutor Edward Hanrahan and acting in close coordination with the FBI Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO). Armed with shotguns, handguns, and a .45-caliber machine gun, and guided by a floor plan of the apartment provided by an informant, the police shot anyone they saw and sprayed the apartment with machine-gun fire.

Moving to the back of the apartment, they entered Fred Hampton’s bedroom. Hampton, already wounded, was still in bed, having been drugged earlier by the FBI’s informant. Alongside him was Deborah Johnson, his girlfriend who was eight-and-a-half months pregnant with their child. As they lay there, the cops stood over Hampton and put two bullets in his brain. One cop reportedly said, “He’s good and dead now.”

The shooting continued—by the time they were done, they had also killed 22-year-old Mark Clark and critically injured four other Panthers, most of whom were asleep when police entered the apartment. After carrying out this massacre, the cops proceeded to abuse the seven surviving occupants and arrest them on major felony charges.

THE CRIMINALS

FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover: The FBI played the main role in targeting the Chicago Panthers, and Fred Hampton in particular. It assigned one of its agents to work closely with the Chicago state’s attorney’s office on this. (Initially the authorities hid the role of the FBI, but later the FBI’s own documents revealed not only their key role, but a conscious effort to cover up that role.) An FBI informant (William O’Neal) infiltrated the Chicago Panthers and became Hampton’s bodyguard. O’Neal provided the cops with a floor plan of the apartment. And on the night of the raid, he slipped barbiturates into Fred Hampton’s drink, causing him to fall asleep in the middle of a phone call with his mom and to sleep through the whole raid. After the assassinations, O’Neal received a $300 bonus from the FBI Headquarters in Washington for his work.

Cook County Prosecutor Edward Hanrahan: Hanrahan organized the actual raid—and the outrageous arrests of the survivors—and he was the front man and mouthpiece for the assassinations. He loudly proclaimed that his officers had been under heavy fire from the Panthers and that what went down was a “shoot-out.” He even displayed a revolver that he said Hampton had fired at police. All of these claims were soon exposed as complete lies. The police fired nearly 100 shots and suffered no injuries; only one shot was fired by the Panthers. (Mark Clark’s gun went off accidentally as he fell to the floor, fatally wounded by police.) As the truth was revealed, all charges against the surviving Panthers were dropped, and Hanrahan himself was ultimately indicted for obstructing justice and tried in connection with the raid. (The trial judge directed an acquittal.)

Chicago Tribune: The system’s mass media played a key role in preparing public opinion for murderous attacks on the Panthers by painting them as thugs, racists, and animals. A Tribune editorial, “No Quarter for Wild Beasts,” 20 days before the raid, urged cops to approach the Panthers ready to shoot to kill. When the police story of the raid started falling apart, Hanrahan asked the Tribune to run an interview with the killer cops, promoting their lies. The Tribune also ran an article with pictures showing holes in the apartment walls, purportedly caused by bullets fired by the Panthers. They were actually nail holes. A Tribune reporter later admitted that the police and state’s attorney were his “sole source” for this article, even though the Panthers were conducting tours of the apartment for hundreds of people to show the world what really happened.

THE ALIBI

Hanrahan claimed that the purpose of the raid was to seize “illegal weapons” that were in Hampton’s apartment. He also claimed that police were met with heavy gunfire and were forced to fire back in response.

THE ACTUAL MOTIVE

The claim that this was a search for weapons was a lie. For one thing, the FBI knew from their informant that most or all of the occupants of the apartment were at a political education meeting the night before the raid. So they could have executed their search warrant without a confrontation. For another, after the raid, they didn’t even bother to properly tag and catalogue the weapons they allegedly found at the apartment. And no weapons charges were pursued.

       

In reality, Hampton’s assassination was part of a broad campaign by the FBI to smash the Black Panther Party and the rapidly growing revolutionary movement that burst onto the scene in the 1960s.

In September 1968, Hoover called the Panthers “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country.” According to PBS, Hoover claimed that “1969 would be the last year of the Party’s existence.”

The Panthers were the number one target of COINTELPRO, which carried out 233 documented operations against them. These ranged from assassinations like those of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark to attempts to turn street gangs against the Panthers, efforts to create divisions within the BPP and between the BPP and white radicals, and setting up Panthers on false criminal charges. Dozens of Panthers were murdered and hundreds jailed on trumped-up charges in a coordinated national effort to crush this revolutionary force.

Hoover specifically aimed to prevent the rise of what he called “a Black messiah”—leaders and potential leaders of the people, like George Jackson or Malcolm X. Many of them were killed by the authorities. Fred Hampton was targeted because he was a bold leader, famous for his chant "I am a revolutionary," who inspired many others to take up revolution. Hampton was influenced by studying the revolutionary communist leader Mao Zedong, and was known for working with the hardest youth in the hood, as well as reaching out to other segments of society. Hampton's influence and that of the Black Panther Party were growing in Chicago and nationally.

All of the things that inspired many to love "Chairman Fred" aroused the hatred of the FBI and other defenders of this system, who feared the potential for a revolutionary force that could seriously challenge their rule during this period of tremendous social upheaval in the U.S. and revolutionary struggles around the world.


Eyes On The Prize - (Part 12) A Nation of Law 1968–1971

So Hampton was placed on the FBI’s “Agitators Index” as a “key militant leader.” His mother’s phone was tapped. Many FBI informants were planted in the Chicago Panther chapter, one to become his bodyguard. The FBI even wrote an “anonymous” letter to the leader of the Blackstone Rangers street organization saying the Panthers were planning to kill him, hoping to incite them to attack Hampton. All of this culminated in the savage assassination of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark.

SOURCES:

December 1969: The FBI Assassination of Fred Hampton—'I AM... A REVOLUTIONARY,” Revolution #184, November 29, 2009 (updated December 4, 2015)

Decision in: Iberia HAMPTON et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Edward V. HANRAHAN et al., Defendants-Appellees. UNITED STATES of America ex rel. Honorable Joseph Sam PERRY, Appellee, v. Jeffrey H. HAAS, Attorney at Law, Contemnor-Appellant. UNITED STATES of America ex rel. Honorable Joseph Sam PERRY, Appellee, v. G. Flint TAYLOR, Attorney at Law, Contemnor-Appellant. United States Court of Appeals, Seventh District, 1979. See especially, paragraphs 41-86.

Haas, Jeffrey (2010).The Assassination of Fred Hampton. Lawrence Hill

Wikipedia entry on Fred Hampton

PBS documentary, Eyes on the Prize, America at the Racial Crossroads 1965-1985, Part 12 (“A Nation of Law 1968-1971”) begins with the murder of Fred Hampton and follows with a segment on the 1971 prisoners uprising at Attica State Prison.

 

 


 

Permalink: https://revcom.us/a/553/american-crime-case-number-37-december-26-1862-lynching-of-38-dakota-men-en.html

Revolution #574 December 17, 2018

American Crime

Case #37: December 26, 1862: The Lynching of 38 Dakota Men―The Largest Mass Execution in U.S. History

| Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Bob Avakian has written that one of three things that has "to happen in order for there to be real and lasting change for the better: People have to fully confront the actual history of this country and its role in the world up to today, and the terrible consequences of this." (See "3 Things that have to happen in order for there to be real and lasting change for the better.")

In that light, and in that spirit, "American Crime" is a regular feature of revcom.us. Each installment will focus on one of the 100 worst crimes committed by the U.S. rulers—out of countless bloody crimes they have carried out against people around the world, from the founding of the U.S. to the present day.

American Crime

See all the articles in this series.

 

THE CRIME

On December 26, 1862, in the midst of the U.S. Civil War (April 1861-May 1865), and in the same week that the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, President Abraham Lincoln ordered 38 Dakota Santee Sioux men sent to the gallows in Mankato, Minnesota. They were hooded and hanged simultaneously from a single scaffold, surrounded by 1,500 Union troops and a howling lynch mob of 4,000 white settlers. It was the largest mass execution in U.S. history.

The 38 had been taken prisoner after the Dakota people rose up against the U.S. government on August 17 in the Dakota Uprising of 1862. The Dakota people had been under relentless assault for 10 years—with deceitful and broken treaties, their reservations encroached on, their annuities unpaid, promised goods late or never delivered, price gouging and other abuses by the U.S. government and their agents. In 1858, the government took half the Dakota people’s reservation and opened it to white settlement. During the 1850s, over 160,000 settlers flooded the area, seizing and clearing the Native Dakota people’s lands to the point where their hunting and fishing virtually ended and starvation loomed.

On August 15, when half-starved Dakota people asked for food from a well-stocked warehouse, the government food trader Andrew Jackson Myrick replied: “[I]f they are hungry, let them eat grass or their own dung,” which was cited by Dakota Chief Little Crow as the last straw in provoking the Dakota to revolt. Myrick was one of the first killed and his body found with his mouth stuffed with grass. The uprising was sparked off when four starving Dakota youths, on an egg-stealing foray, impulsively killed five white settlers.

The 38 condemned men were told of their impending deaths on December 22 while shackled in pairs and bolted to the prison floor. They were among the 303 condemned to die in a mass trial of 392 Dakota men. Each defendant had five to 10 minutes in which to defend himself before a military court. On one day alone, 40 were tried, charged, and convicted for “murder and outrages.” A law professor later noted: “Most of them did not speak English. They did not even know they were being tried for crimes. Most also did not have counsel defending them.” Little evidence of their “crimes” existed. So the U.S. government used some defendants, who faced charges and execution themselves, to testify against other Dakotas in multiple trials. One such defendant-turned-witness provided evidence in 55 cases.

After the mass lynching, the bodies of the Dakotas were thrown into a mass grave. It was dug up that night, and the bodies were distributed to doctors for use as medical cadavers. Later, small boxes supposedly containing skin removed from the bodies were sold in Mankato.

There was never an official count of the settlers killed in this war. Accounts of the death toll in the 37 days of fighting vary widely, from 77 U.S. government troops, 29 citizen-soldiers or militia, and 300-800 settlers as well as some 29-150 Dakota warriors. After the uprising, more than 1,600 Dakota men, women, and children were exiled to a concentration camp on Pike Island, Minnesota, where living conditions were so bad that infections killed more than 300. In April 1863, the U.S. Congress abolished the Dakota reservation, declared all prior treaties with the Dakota null and void, and expelled the Dakota people completely from Minnesota. To this end, a $25 bounty was put on any Dakota found free within the boundaries of the state. U.S. General Oscar Malmros offered a bounty of $200 to independent scouts for each Dakota Sioux scalp.

Little Crow escaped capture until July 3, 1863, when he and his son left their hidden camping spot to pick raspberries. Two settlers shot and killed Little Crow. His body was dragged down the main street of Hutchinson and firecrackers were put in his nose and ears. His scalp, skull, and remains were put on display in St. Paul, Minnesota, until 1971. Two other Dakota leaders, Little Six and Medicine Bottle, had escaped to Canada but were captured, drugged, returned to the U.S., and hung in 1865.

THE CRIMINALS

President Abraham Lincoln (March 1861-April 1865). Lincoln oversaw the breaking of treaties and the robbing of the Dakotas and other Native peoples of their land, livelihood, and often their lives. And he sent troops to crush their resistance. Lincoln made clear his white supremacist views. Speaking in February 1860, he asked “[W]hy did Yankees almost instantly discover gold in California, which had been trodden upon and overlooked by Indians and Mexican greasers for centuries?” He also argued that phonetic writing was what separated whites from “savages,” and that this ability had given rise to the fruits of civilization—government, culture, etc. In 1863, Lincoln said: “Although we are now engaged in a great war between one another, we are not, as a race, so much disposed to fight and kill one another as our red brethren.”

U.S. troops and their commanders who were sent to put down the Dakota uprising. Companies led by Capt. Joseph F. Bean, Capt. David D. Lloyd, Capt. Calvin Potter, Capt. Mark Hendrick, and elements of the 5th and 6th Iowa Militia. Col. Henry Sibley played a pivotal role in the 1851 treaty negotiations that cheated the Dakota of their land, and then led U.S. troops to suppress their 1862 uprising. Sibley also oversaw the military tribunal that convicted the 38 as well as the punitive expeditions against the Dakota of 1863. Gen. John Pope was sent by Lincoln to command the 3rd, 4th, 9th, and 10th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiments and openly stated: “It is my purpose to utterly exterminate the Sioux. They are to be treated as maniacs and wild beasts.”

Minnesota Governor Alexander Ramsey exiled the entire Dakota Santee people, offered bounty for their scalps, and said: “The Sioux Indian must be exterminated or driven forever beyond the borders of the State. The public safety imperatively requires it. Justice calls for it. The blood of the murdered cries to heaven for vengeance.”

Thomas Galbraith, Andrew Myrick, and other traders who withheld cash payments, food, and other trade goods owed to the Dakota people causing their increasing hunger, hardship, and anger.

The New York Times sensationalized stories of how settlers died and wrote racist depictions of the Dakota prisoners, fueling mass hysteria and bloodlust: “It was a sad, a sickening sight, to see that group of miserable dirty savages, chained to the floor, and awaiting with apparent unconcern for the terrible fate....”

THE ALIBI

The Dakota men were executed for the killing of innocent white settlers, and Lincoln was being lenient by hanging only 38 of the 303 who were tried and condemned to death by the military court.

THE ACTUAL MOTIVE

The Dakota Uprising was a just uprising and one of many by various Native tribes throughout the U.S. against the genocide being committed against them by the U.S. government and white settlers. During the 1860s, many Native peoples like the Dakotas were compelled to rise up by years of exploitation and oppression, including imminent starvation.

Lincoln explained to the U.S. Senate: “Anxious to not act with so much clemency as to encourage another outbreak on one hand, nor with so much severity as to be real cruelty on the other, I ordered a careful examination of the records of the trials to be made, in view of first ordering the execution of such as had been proved guilty of violating females.” Given only two men were found guilty of rape, he expanded the criteria to include those who had taken part in “massacres” of civilians rather than just “battles.” In contrast, Lincoln did not indict or execute any Confederate soldiers for such crimes.

It also may have been important to make an example of the Dakota people and their uprising because, despite having few fighting forces, little equipment like canons, and being outmatched in guns and ammunition, they fought very effectively against the U.S. military. For example, U.S. forces suffered a major defeat at the Battle of Birch Coulee on September 2, 1862, where a three-hour firefight ended with 13 U.S. soldiers dead and 47 wounded, while only two Dakota warriors were killed.

During this period, the Union, representing the interests of the capitalist class centered in the North, was waging the Civil War. At the same time, railroads were being built across the country and settlements vastly expanded. The robbery of the huge land mass from coast to coast occupied by the many Native tribes, the defeat of any resistance to this historic colonial expansion, and the outright genocide carried out against Native peoples were foundational to the growth and development of U.S. capitalism and the later rise of the U.S. empire.

 

Sources

BAsics from the Talks and Writings of Bob Avakian, 1:2, RCP Publications, 2011

Bury My Heat at Wounded Knee, An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown, Chapter 3, “Little Crow’s War,” Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1970

Dakota War of 1862, Wikipedia

Sham Trials: The Traumatic Truth of What Happened to the Dakota 38,” by Konnie LeMay, Indian Country Today, December 26, 2015

The Dakota Conflict, documentary aired January 27, 1993, produced by KTCA, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Lynching of 38 Dakota (Santee Sioux) men, December 26, 1862.

Excerpt on Native Americans, from the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal)


Authored by Bob Avakian, and adopted by the Central Committee of the RCP

C. Native Americans.

1. The conquest, domination, plunder and life-stealing exploitation carried out by European colonialism in the Americas–including by the European settlers who founded the United States of America and expanded its reach on the North American continent through force and violence, as well as deception and other means–had a massive genocidal impact, decimating and devastating the populations of the first inhabitants of the Americas. As the boundaries of the USA were continuously expanded through conquest–and huge numbers of Native Americans were killed or died off due to this armed expansionism and the destruction of their way of life, the spread of diseases common among Europeans for which the Native Americans had no immunity, and other factors–most of the Native Americans who survived were forced onto reservations that were encircled and controlled by the forces of the imperialist state.

2. The defeat of this imperialist state has opened the way to overcoming the effects and legacy of this terrible history. As one key expression of the importance it attaches to this, the New Socialist Republic in North America shall ensure that the right of autonomy of Native American peoples within this Republic is upheld; and, beyond that, wherever autonomous regions of Native Americans may be established, in the general vicinity of the historical homelands of the various native peoples, the central government will also act to ensure that these autonomous regions not only have the necessary territories but also the resources that will enable a real flourishing of these peoples, within the overall framework of the New Socialist Republic in North America. The central government of the New Socialist Republic in North America will provide special assistance and support to any Native American autonomous regions, on the basis of the principles and objectives set forth in this Constitution.

3. This special assistance and support shall be especially important with regard to Native American autonomous regions, but also with regard to concentrations of Native Americans in urban areas and other parts of this Republic–where autonomous Native American areas may also be set up–and with regard to the Native American population as a whole.

Such special assistance and support will also be of great importance, and shall be extended, to all the formerly oppressed peoples, and any autonomous regions and areas of these peoples, within the New Socialist Republic in North America.

Check out the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) and order it online.

Basics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian

If you can conceive of a world without America—without everything America stands for and everything it does in the world—then you’ve already taken great strides and begun to get at least a glimpse of a whole new world. If you can envision a world without any imperialism, exploitation, oppression—and the whole philosophy that rationalizes it—a world without division into classes or even different nations, and all the narrow-minded, selfish, outmoded ideas that uphold this; if you can envision all this, then you have the basis for proletarian internationalism. And once you have raised your sights to all this, how could you not feel compelled to take an active part in the world historic struggle to realize it; why would you want to lower your sights to anything less?

Bob Avakian, BAsics 1:31

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Revolution #574 December 17, 2018

American Crime

Case #72: Wounded Knee Massacre, 1890

November 21, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Bob Avakian recently wrote that one of three things that has "to happen in order for there to be real and lasting change for the better: People have to fully confront the actual history of this country and its role in the world up to today, and the terrible consequences of this." (See "3 Things that have to happen in order for there to be real and lasting change for the better.")

In that light, and in that spirit, "American Crime" is a regular feature of revcom.us. Each installment will focus on one of the 100 worst crimes committed by the U.S. rulers—out of countless bloody crimes they have carried out against people around the world, from the founding of the U.S. to the present day.

American Crime

See all the articles in this series.

 

 

Victims of the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee, where the U.S. Seventh Cavalry killed as many as 300 Lakota Indians, including children.

Victims of the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee, where the U.S. Seventh Cavalry killed as many as 300 Lakota Indians, including children. Photo: Library of Congress

Spotted Elk
Spotted Elk lying dead at Wounded Knee

Ghost Dance
Depiction of a Ghost Dance.

Civilian burial party at Wounded Knee
The dead being collected after Wounded Knee massacre

The Crime:

On December 29, 1890, U.S. government soldiers massacred nearly 300 of the 350 Lakota men, women, and children on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The massacre took place near Wounded Knee Creek. Some of the women murdered were already widows whose husbands had previously been killed by U.S. troops. The Lakota Chief Spotted Elk (Big Foot), who was dying of pneumonia, was among those massacred.

The Lakota had been chased down by a detachment of the U.S. 7th Cavalry under the command of Major Samuel Whiteside. They were later joined by additional troops of the 7th Cavalry under Colonel James W. Forsyth. The U.S. troops, now numbering 500, surrounded the camp and positioned four Hotchkiss guns nearby so no one could escape. (Hotchkiss guns were lethal, firing shells that exploded on contact, showering the enemy with jagged shell fragments.) The Lakota feared that there would be revenge in the hearts of the 7th Cavalry. This was the unit that had been defeated at the Little Big Horn when under the command of General George Armstrong Custer.

On the morning of December 29, the Lakota men were separated from the women and children, and were ordered to disarm. Unsatisfied with the number of rifles that were turned in, Colonel Forsyth ordered that all lodges and men be searched. In the course of the search, a scuffle broke out between the soldiers and one of the Lakota, a deaf man named Black Coyote (Black Fox), who had spent a lot of money on his rifle. In the course of the struggle, a shot rang out. Immediately, the soldiers opened fire on the whole encampment.

A Lakota survivor, American Horse, described the massacre:

When the firing began, of course the people who were standing immediately around the young man who fired the first shot were killed right together, and then they [the U.S. Cavalry] turned their guns, Hotchkiss guns, etc., upon the women who were in the lodges standing there under a flag of truce. ...

There was a woman with an infant in her arms who was killed as she almost touched the flag of truce.... Right near the flag of truce a mother was shot down with her infant; the child not knowing that its mother was dead was still nursing, and that especially was a very sad sight. The women as they were fleeing with their babes were killed together, shot right through, and the women who were very heavy with child were also killed. ... [A]fter most all of them had been killed a cry was made that all those who were not killed [or] wounded should come forth and they would be safe. Little boys who were not wounded came out of their places of refuge, and as soon as they came in sight a number of soldiers surrounded them and butchered them there.

“The soldiers lost 25 dead and 39 wounded, most of them killed by their own bullets or shrapnel,” Dee Brown wrote in Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. “A detail of soldiers went over the Wounded Knee battlefield, gathering up Indians still alive and loading them in wagons. As it was apparent by the end of the day that a blizzard was approaching, the dead Indians were left where they had fallen.”

After a few days, and a freezing blizzard, the dead became frozen in grotesque shapes. Then these Lakota were buried in mass graves. At least one was buried alive.

President Benjamin Harrison awarded 20 soldiers Medals of Honor, the U.S.’s highest military distinction, to the butchers of the 7th Cavalry. This was the most ever awarded for a single battle in American history, before or since. Despite protests and demands, those medals have never been rescinded.

The Criminals:

U.S. President Benjamin Harrison: In late November 1890, President Benjamin Harrison ordered federal troops into South Dakota in the largest military mobilization since the Civil War. Considering the Lakota as “naturally warlike and turbulent,” he “placed at the disposal of General Miles, commanding the Division of the Missouri, all such forces as were thought by him to be required.”

The War Department of the U.S.

General Nelson A. Miles: Miles played a leading role in nearly all of the U.S. Army’s campaigns against the American Indian tribes of the Great Plains. During 1874-1875, he led the attacks on the Kiowa, Comanche, and the Southern Cheyenne. During 1876-1877, he forced the Lakota and their allies onto reservations.

In 1890, Miles aimed to crush any further resistance by the Lakota on their reservations. Miles and others in the U.S. government worried that this resistance was taking the form of the “Ghost Dance,” a group spiritual dance taken up by many Lakota in hopes it would reunite them with the spirits of their dead; bring the spirits of the dead to fight on their behalf; make the white colonists leave; and bring peace, prosperity, and unity to Indian peoples throughout the region. While he did not directly order the massacre, Miles’ overall campaign to subdue the Lakota led to the slaughter at Wounded Knee.

Major Samuel Whiteside and Colonel James W. Forsyth: Carried out the bloodthirsty massacre at Wounded Knee.

       

The Alibi: The U.S. government had long justified its murderous plans to force Native Americans, including the Lakota, off their traditional lands and onto reservations by the doctrine of “Manifest Destiny.” This was the claim that God—or “Providence”—supported the territorial expansion of the United States. (This included the claim that white people and Western Christianity and civilization were inherently superior to the “heathen” Native Americans.)

In 1890, the public excuse given for the campaign against the Lakota was that the rise and spread of the Ghost Dance would lead to a violent outbreak by the Lakota. Journalists who accompanied the federal troops sent to South Dakota wrote inflammatory articles to spread fear among the whites who had settled on Lakota land, which led to hysteria by 1890.

The Actual Motive:

In reality, the Ghost Dance was a pacifist movement.

A former agent, Valentine McGillycuddy, ridiculed the panic that overcame the agencies, saying: “If the Seventh-Day Adventists prepare the ascension robes for the Second Coming of the Savior, the United States Army is not put in motion to prevent them. Why should not the Indians have the same privilege? If the troops remain, trouble is sure to come.”

But more to the point, the massacre at Wounded Knee was meant to be the final end to any kind of resistance by Native peoples—the last episode in the bloody history of the U.S government’s genocide of the Lakota. The U.S. government wanted to consolidate its rule over the original inhabitants of North America, further opening up the West to white settlers, and saw any kind of resistance among the Lakota as a threat to its ambitions.

In 1851, the U.S. government had promised the Lakota an enormous extent of land in the north-central U.S. in the Fort Laramie Treaty. The government broke that treaty, and signed a new one for a much smaller amount of land in 1868. But three years later it passed the Indian Appropriation Act, which effectively turned reservations into prisoner of war camps whose inhabitants had no rights and could not leave. When gold and other valuable resources were discovered in the Black Hills, the government divided up the land, between Native Americans who hated the concept of private ownership of land and white settlers to whom private property was everything. Native Americans were left with land nobody else wanted.

Sources

Heartless at Wounded Knee,” from A World to Win News Service, Revolution, April 18, 2013

Dee Brown, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1970

Lakota Accounts of the Massacre at Wounded Knee, PBS Archives of the West

Shelley Fisher Fishkin, “Remembering the Wounded Knee Massacre,” Utne Reader, June 2016

WOUNDED KNEE MASSACRE,” Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

Benjamin Harrison, President of the United States, “Third Annual Message,” December 9, 1891

Jeffrey Ostler, “Conquest and the State: Why the United States Employed Massive Military Force to Suppress the Lakota Ghost Dance,” Pacific Historical Review, May 1996

Written Testimony of Mario Gonzalez from the September 25, 1990 Senate Hearing

Ghost Dance,” hanksville.org

Alysa Landry, “Benjamin Harrison: Busted Up Sioux Nation, No Remorse for Wounded Knee,” Indian Country Today Media Network, June 7, 2016

President Benjamin Harrison and Indian Policy,” Native American Netroots, March 18, 2014

James Mooney, The Ghost Dance Religion and Wounded Knee, Dover Publications, 1896

Ghost Dance,” New World Encyclopedia

Hari Jagannathan Balasubramanian, “America’s Westward Expansion, the Ghost Dance and Wounded Knee,” Thirty letters in my name, November 4, 2007

 

 


 

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Revolution #574 December 17, 2018

American Crime

Case #60: The 1917 Camp Logan Rebellion and the Mass Legal Lynching of 19 Black Soldiers

September 10, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Bob Avakian recently wrote that one of three things that has "to happen in order for there to be real and lasting change for the better: People have to fully confront the actual history of this country and its role in the world up to today, and the terrible consequences of this." (See "3 Things that have to happen in order for there to be real and lasting change for the better.")

In that light, and in that spirit, "American Crime" is a regular feature of revcom.us. Each installment focuses on one of the 100 worst crimes committed by the U.S. rulers—out of countless bloody crimes they have carried out against people around the world, from the founding of the U.S. to the present day.

American Crime

See all the articles in this series.

 

THE CRIME:

December 11, 1917: At five in the morning, 13 Black soldiers are taken from the barracks at a military camp near San Antonio, Texas, and marched to the gallows. Each is placed on a chair, noose slipped over his head. Simultaneously, the chairs are kicked out and the soldiers drop to their death. Buried in graves nearby, the markers are not their names, just numbers 1 through 13. Each, to the end, proclaimed his innocence.

The events leading to the hanging began five months earlier. On July 27, 1917, the U.S. Army ordered the Third Battalion of the all-Black 24th Infantry Regiment to move from New Mexico to Houston to guard Camp Logan, which was under construction.

The regiment originally consisted of Black cavalry units formed in 1866. Made up of former slaves who had fought in the Union army during the Civil War, they were sent west to slaughter Native Americans, who called them Buffalo Soldiers. In 1916, they had been sent to Mexico as part of General Pershing’s forces who were trying, unsuccessfully, to hunt down the revolutionary leader Pancho Villa. They were disappointed when they were not chosen to fight in Europe after the U.S. entered World War 1 earlier in 1917. But they continued to think that their patriotic service at home would result in some semblance of civility towards them from whites. But as events in Houston were to show, they were gravely mistaken.

At Camp Logan, white construction workers taunted the soldiers and demanded separate tanks of drinking water. In Houston itself, the soldiers encountered at almost every turn the overtly racist, degrading Jim Crow segregation pervading the Deep South. They were infuriated by the “whites only” signs, the verbal abuse by whites, and trolley conductors demanding they sit in the rear. Some refused, leading to clashes with the police.

Early afternoon, August 23, 100 years ago last month: Two white Houston cops break up a craps game in a predominantly Black neighborhood, and one, searching for a “fleeing suspect,” enters the house of Sara Travers. No “suspect” there, but he drags Travers outside in her nightgown, as her five children look on. Seeing this, Private Alonso Edwards of the Third Battalion offers to take custody of Travers, but the cop pistol-whips and arrests him.

Later that afternoon, the battalion’s Corporal Charles Baltimore goes to the police station to ask about Travers. There, Baltimore is beaten, flees, is shot at three times, captured, beaten again, and arrested. Baltimore is later released, but soldiers at the camp hear he’s been shot and killed.

Night, August 23: Fearing trouble from the seething soldiers, one of the battalion’s white officers revokes all passes for the evening, orders the men to assemble without arms, and warns them not to take the law into their own hands. One of the men, who has smuggled his rifle into the formation, fires it and yells that a white mob is approaching the camp. The soldiers break formation, race to the supply tents to grab rifles and ammunition, and 156 of them begin marching toward Houston.

When the soldiers reached the city, they fought white police and local residents in pitched gun battles. When the fighting ended, four Black soldiers, five white cops, and 12 white civilians were dead. The day after the rebellion, martial law was declared in Houston.

Sixty-three soldiers were charged with disobeying orders, mutiny, murder, and aggravated assault. At the court-martial, they were defended by only one person, who taught law at West Point but was not a lawyer and had no trial experience. Nearly 200 testified for the prosecution at the 22-day trial, but almost none could identify any of the defendants, or distinguish among them, because the rebellion had occurred at night during heavy rain.

At the three trials, no evidence was brought forth to prove the existence of a conspiracy, and in fact, having endured several weeks of racist Jim Crow laws, constant taunts, and police brutality, the soldiers had good reason to believe a mob attack was in the offing. Further, a little earlier in 1917, on July 2 and 3, a mob of white vigilantes in East St. Louis, Illinois, had burned hundreds of Black homes and beaten, shot, and lynched Black residents, with most historians estimating that at least 100 Black people were killed. The soldiers of the Third Battalion, who knew what had happened in East St. Louis, were well aware of what could happen in Houston.

But on November 28, 1917, a “prestigious” court consisting of three brigadier generals, seven full colonels, and three lieutenant colonels sentenced 13 of the Black soldiers to hang. Forty-one were given life sentences. Only five were acquitted.

Two more courts-martial followed. At the second, 15 were tried, five sentenced to death. At the third, 40 soldiers were tried, 23 were found guilty and 11 of the 23 were sentenced to death, the other 12 to life in prison.

THE CRIMINALS:

The chiefs of the U.S. Army set up and presided over the three courts-martial which, given the lack of evidence against the accused, were nothing but kangaroo courts.

General John Ruckman was the Army’s point man for the three trials. After the 13 soldiers at the first court-martial were sentenced to hang, the court recommended clemency for one of them, but Ruckman refused to grant it. He then approved all the death, life imprisonment, and other sentences handed down at the other two trials.

President Woodrow Wilson: While Wilson deceitfully promised “democracy” and “self-determination” for the planet’s colonized people during World War 1, back at home he was an openly racist and outspoken defender of white supremacy who publicly upheld this legal mass lynching. Wilson mourned the deaths of white “innocent bystanders,” “peaceable disposed citizens of the City of Houston.” He claimed that the three trials were “properly constituted,” that “extraordinary precautions” had been taken to “insure the fairness of the trials,” and that the rights of the defendants had been “surrounded at every point” by the “safeguards” of “a humane administration of the law.” This, in face of the fact that no substantial evidence had been presented at any of the three trials. Wilson went on to affirm the death sentences of the six other soldiers because there was “plain evidence” that they had engaged in “shocking brutality.”

On August 31, 1918, only after coming under heavy public pressure, Wilson commuted the sentences of 10 of the 16 men still awaiting hanging, consigning them instead to life imprisonment. He did so, he declared, because the “lesson” of the “lawless riot” had already been “adequately pointed,” and he hoped this clemency would inspire Black soldiers “to further zeal and service to the country.”

THE ALIBI: The authorities responsible for the “legal lynching” of 19 Black soldiers and life imprisonment for many more claimed that the men had engaged in a conspiracy, that they manufactured fear of a white mob attack in order to justify a murderous rampage against the white cops and citizens of Houston.

THE ACTUAL MOTIVE:

The political power of the U.S. ruling class rests, most fundamentally, on its military, and these brutal mass hangings signaled that the military command would brook no disobedience, much less mutiny, no matter how justified, especially by Black soldiers. Far from being an instrument of social justice or transformation, the U.S. military reflects and reinforces the relations of exploitation and oppression America is based on—in this case the overt, legalized Jim Crow segregation and lynch mob racism in the South and the brutal and often murderous white supremacy that reigned in the North. The Black soldiers at Camp Logan frontally and militantly challenged both military discipline and Jim Crow segregation and white lynch mob rule—with arms.

Coming at a time of major social and economic transformations, a major migration of Black people from the South, and growing protests and demands by Black people for equality, the Camp Logan rebellion represented the worst fears of white Southerners and powers in the North as well: Black people taking up arms against their oppression. This was seen as requiring the most severe punishment, including 19 hangings, as a warning and lesson to Black people who would consider doing the same. One message: no matter what Black people do for “their country,” this system still considers them as less than fully human, with no rights white people are bound to respect. That was true then, and it remains true today.

 

 

 

 


 

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Revolution #574 December 17, 2018

American Crime

Case #43: The U.S. Invasion of Panama, 1989-1990

April 23, 2018 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Bob Avakian recently wrote that one of three things that has “to happen in order for there to be real and lasting change for the better: People have to fully confront the actual history of this country and its role in the world up to today, and the terrible consequences of this.” (See “3 Things that have to happen in order for there to be real and lasting change for the better.”)

In that light, and in that spirit, “American Crime” is a regular feature of revcom.us. Each installment focuses on one of the 100 worst crimes committed by the U.S. rulers—out of countless bloody crimes they have carried out against people around the world, from the founding of the U.S. to the present day.

American Crime

See all the articles in this series.

 

THE CRIME:

On December 20, 1989, the U.S. military invaded Panama with 27,684 troops and 300 aircraft, killing thousands of civilians and removing Manuel Noriega and his Panamanian Defense Force (PDF) from power. The invasion was given the name of “Operation Just Cause” by U.S. Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney.

The lead-up to the invasion happened during the Ronald Reagan presidency (1981-1989), while the invasion itself was planned and occurred during the first year of the presidency of George H.W. Bush (Bush Sr.).

In 1986, it was revealed that Noriega had ties to Colombian drug interests, and he was linked to drug trafficking and money laundering. Further, he was providing intelligence information simultaneously to Cuba and the U.S.1

Reagan instituted economic and military measures against Noriega as a way to have him removed from power, but despite wanting to send troops to remove Noriega from power, he never did. By cutting economic aid to Noriega, Reagan created an economic crisis, including food shortages and widespread hunger among poorer Panamanians.

By mid-1988, middle class Panamanians who supported the U.S. and were backers of Noriega began to turn against him as the Panamanian economy fell apart and the banking system was in shambles. Black and impoverished Panamanians suffered the most from the U.S.-imposed economic measures, but there was a section of those people who supported Noriega because he was a mestizo (mixed race) who came from their impoverished neighborhood. Noriega’s main support came from the military forces of the PDF and small shopkeepers. Noriega’s determination to remain in power made him more hostile towards the U.S.

After Bush became president, Noriega stole an election in May 1989 from Guillermo Endara, who was backed by the U.S. Bush began to ramp up troop levels in and around Panama. (The U.S. had approximately 18 military installations inside Panama in 1989.) Then in October, an attempted coup against Noriega, which the U.S. supported but did not militarily back, failed.

On December 16, a U.S. Marine lieutenant was shot and killed. The Bush administration claimed Noriega’s forces were responsible and ordered the U.S. National Command Authority to execute “Operation Just Cause.”

The U.S. invasion began with an overwhelming ground force and unchallenged air superiority. Its goal: destroying Noriega’s military forces, capturing Noriega, and terrorizing the community where Noriega had his strongest support

Stealth bombers, which had never been used before in combat, dropped 2,000-lb bombs.

The Central American Human Rights Commission (CODEHUCA) reported, “The most devastated civilian neighborhoods—such as Chorrillos and San Miguelito—were extremely poor, densely populated areas. Half of the neighborhood of Chorrillos—which had a pre-invasion population of approximately 25,000—was literally destroyed by US troops and civilian residents were victims of direct attacks.”2

The headquarters of Noriega and the PDF was situated next to the impoverished Chorillos neighborhood, Noriega’s hometown. The destruction of that neighborhood included destroying Noriega’s forces and was meant to eliminate any support for Noriega from the people of Chorillos.

U.S. troops set buildings on fire and executed people in the streets. In the Academy Award–winning documentary The Panama Deception, a witness says, “The North Americans began burning down El Chorrillo at about 6:30 in the morning. They would throw a small device into a house and it would catch on fire. They would burn a house, and then move to another and begin the process all over again. They burned from one street to the next. They coordinated the burning through walkie-talkies.” Witnesses recounted U.S. soldiers setting residential buildings on fire. Video footage shows the charred remains of rows of housing complexes in El Chorrillo.3

Author William Blum reported that “...people burning to death in the incinerated dwellings, leaping from windows, running in panic through the streets, cut down in cross fire, crushed by tanks, human fragments everywhere.”4

The devastation of the El Chorrillo neighborhood, a residential area the size of ten city blocks, was so complete that not one single structure was left standing. Those who were not killed and lived in El Chorrillo called it “Guernica” or “Little Hiroshima.”

Panamanians interviewed by CODEHUCA testified to the horrors of the invasion:

[W]e saw from our window a group of approximately 18 soldiers coming down the street, and saw them entering each house. We saw the residents coming out, followed by the soldiers, and then we saw the houses, one by one, go up in smoke. The US soldiers were burning the houses. We saw people trapped in their apartments, because they lived on the second floors of these wooden houses. (COHEHUCA Doc. #7)

[W]e saw a pile of bodies, both dead and wounded, piled all together on top of each other. We thought that they were all dead until we saw some of them moving. We saw some of them with their heads smashed open. We saw others that were totally crushed and I think that tanks had passed right over these people because they were so crushed. (CODEHUCA Doc. #7)

Every day, truckloads were taking bodies to the common graves. In the morning and in the afternoon, I saw US troops driving US trucks taking 50 bodies—each trip—to be buried.... (CODEHUCA Doc #24)

Shortly after the invasion ended, bulldozers excavated mass graves and shoveled in the bodies. “Buried like dogs,” said the mother of one of the civilian dead.5

During and after the invasion, the U.S. military enforced repressive actions against the Panamanian population which included:

* Illegal detentions of thousands of civilians.

* Illegal searches and seizures of unions, churches, government offices, opposition political parties, human rights groups and embassies of other countries.

* Unauthorized and illegal dismissals of more than 10,000 Panamanians from their jobs in the private and public sectors.6

In its brutal invasion of Panama, the U.S. military used a number of sophisticated weapons for the first time in combat—this against an unarmed civilian population. Thousands were killed, and whole neighborhoods were destroyed. Human remains were incinerated and dumped into mass graves, thus making the full death toll unknown.

It has been estimated that 3,000-6,000 Panamanians lost their lives. Foreign journalists were also killed in the invasion.

THE CRIMINALS:

President George H.W. Bush (Bush Sr.) was the president when the U.S. government planned and ordered the invasion. The New York Times reported that Bush said, ‘‘Let’s do it,” and that “[H]e also felt that the Panamanian leader, Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega, ‘was thumbing his nose at him.’ The President felt that General Noriega was getting more and more abusive and that at some point he would have to be dealt with...”7

Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense, and Colin Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, oversaw “Operation Just Cause” from Washington, DC. Cheney had drafted the plan and it was refined and “significantly improved” by Powell following the October 3 coup attempt that failed to oust Noriega.8

They were responsible for having the Defense Department experiment with a new “super-weapon” during the invasion—the Lockheed F-117A stealth ground attack aircraft that delivers a 2,000-pound bomb with “pinpoint accuracy.”

Powell wrote in My American Journey that they settled on the name of the invasion “Operation Just Cause” because “Along with the inspirational ring, I liked something else about it. Even our severest critics would have to utter ‘Just Cause’ while denouncing us.”9

The U.S. media were cheerleaders for the invasion and complicit in the cover up of its crimes. Fairness  & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) reported, “Few TV reporters seemed to notice that the jubilant Panamanians parading before their cameras day after day to endorse the invasion spoke near-perfect English and were overwhelmingly light-skinned and well-dressed. This in a Spanish-speaking country with a largely mestizo and black population where poverty is widespread.”10

FAIR reports that “In the first days of the invasion, TV journalists had one overriding obsession: How many American soldiers have died? The question, repeated with drumbeat regularity, tended to drown out the other issues: Panamanian casualties, international law, foreign reaction.”

Ted Koppel of ABC’s Nightline told his audience, “Noriega’s reputation as a brutal drug-dealing bully who reveled in his public contempt for the United States all but begged for strong retribution” (December 20, 1989).11

The Panama Deception showed how the mainstream media uncritically adopted U.S. government propaganda about the invasion. The film exposes what the media refused to: the lies and distortions, the hypocrisy, the dead bodies, the survivors’ harrowing tales, and the complete impunity of the U.S. military in suppressing the truth.

THE ALIBI:

George H.W. Bush gave four reasons for the invasion in his address the day the invasion started:

The goals of the United States have been to safeguard the lives of Americans, to defend democracy in Panama, to combat drug trafficking and to protect the integrity of the Panama Canal Treaty [the Torrijos—Carter Treaties]. Many attempts have been made to resolve this crisis through diplomacy and negotiations. All were rejected by the dictator of Panama, Gen. Manuel Noriega, an indicted drug trafficker...[The] forces under his command shot and killed an unarmed American serviceman, wounded another, arrested and brutally beat a third American serviceman and then brutally interrogated his wife, threatening her with sexual abuse. That was enough.

General Noriega’s reckless threats and attacks upon Americans in Panama created an eminent danger to the 35,000 American citizens in Panama. As President, I have no higher obligation than to safeguard the lives of American citizens.12

The next day Bush said, “Our efforts to support the democratic processes in Panama and to ensure continued safety of American citizens is now moving into its second day.’”13

THE ACTUAL MOTIVE:

In reality, Bush knew that there was no concerted effort by Noriega to endanger U.S. citizens in Panama.

And he knew that Noriega had been involved in “drug trafficking”—on behalf of the U.S.! Noriega had been a CIA operative since 1967, providing the U.S. with valuable information about Cuba and anti-U.S. movements in Latin America. The U.S. knew of and made use of Noriega’s drug dealing. Under Reagan, the CIA paid Noriega $200,000 per year14 to allow the U.S. to ship weapons purchased in Poland through Panama into Nicaragua to the U.S.-backed Contras (armed right-wing groups), who were fighting the Sandinista government.15 The CIA paid for the weapons by trafficking cocaine—the “drugs-for-guns” trade that Noriega was a part of.

So these were pretexts to hide Bush’s real agenda: U.S. control of the Panama Canal in service of its imperialist domination of Latin America, its global dominance, and the “New World Order” Bush was attempting to hammer into place as the Soviet Union was falling. By 1989, the U.S. rulers felt Noriega had become unreliable and that his belligerence threatened these interests, particularly when administrative control of the Panama Canal was formally being shifted from the U.S. to Panama.

Even before the canal, Panama was of enormous geopolitical, economic and strategic military significance for the U.S. as it became a global power in the late 1800s. Then after the Panama Canal was built, the U.S. interest in this small strip of land focused on the strategic importance of the canal. “The Canal was crucial to U.S. global operations—its capitalist penetration of Latin America and Asia, and its ability to shift its military forces aggressively around the world.”16 (see the Revolution article “The U.S. Invasion of Panama 1989: The Injustice of ‘Operation Just Cause’”). Further, Panama provided the U.S. with military bases from which they could launch any military incursions into other countries in Latin America.

The Revolution article also pointed out:

In the 1970s, faced with defeat in Vietnam and growing challenges from its Soviet rivals, the U.S. ruling class decided to change how they exercised control over the Panama Canal Zone—from direct U.S. colonial control, to control through the Panamanian neocolonial government.

As that changeover approached, Noriega looked less and less like the man-for-the-job...[The invasion] represented a tightening of the U.S. grip on Panama and all of Latin America. It was one of the first new global moves (after the collapse of the Soviet Union) to push forward the U.S. as the world’s “only superpower”...17

The importance of Panama and the Panama Canal to the U.S. cannot be overstated. Controlling passage through the canal and being able to have military bases in that region in 1989 was a very high priority for the U.S. The Bush regime could not allow a belligerent leader in Panama with the canal’s administrative changeover to Panama only 10 years away.

The invasion of Panama with its brutality and overwhelming force, was a precursor for other U.S. invasions yet to come. On September 11, 1990, George H.W. Bush told Congress that the U.S. was going to implement a “New World Order,” under which the U.S. would use its brute force to enforce its role as the only superpower in the world. Next up was removing Saddam Hussein in Iraq. A few months after Bush’s speech, the U.S. invaded Iraq, killing and wounding “at least 100,000 Iraqis” in a six week period.18


Selected Bibliography

Blum, William, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since World War II—Updated Through 2003, Common Courage Press, 2008.

“Central American Human Rights Commission (CODEHUCA) Panama Delegation Report to Peacenet”

Chomsky, Noam, What Uncle Sam Really Wants, Odonian Press, 1992, the section on The Invasion of Panama.

“How Television Sold the Panama Invasion” by Jeff Cohen and Mark Cook, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting.

Musicant, Ivan, The Banana Wars: A History of the United States Military Intervention in Latin America from the Spanish-American War to the Invasion of Panama, Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, 1990.

“The 25th Anniversary of the Invasion of Panama” by Joseph Palermo, Huffington Post, February 18, 2015.

The Panama Deception, Director: Barbara Trent, Writer and Editor: David Kasper, Narrator: Elizabeth Montgomery, Released: Empowerment Project, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. A Rhino Home Video Release, 1992.

The U.S. Invasion of Panama 1989: The Injustice of “Operation Just CauseRevolution #017, October 9, 2005.

“United States Invasion of Panama” from Wikipedia

 


1. Panama Strongman Said to Trade in Drugs, Arms and Illicit Money,” Seymour Hersh, June 12, 1986, New York Times. [back]

2. Central American Human Rights Commission (CODEHUCA) Panama Delegation Report to Peacenet, (The CODEHUCA report states, “The US invasion of Panama has been presented by the US government and the international media as a surgical strike that toppled the Manuel Noriega regime with minimal human and material cost. This report, prepared by a joint delegation of the Central American Human Rights Commission (CODEHUCA) and the Panamanian Human Rights Commission (CONADEHUPA), is based on testimonies and interviews collected on a recent fact-finding visit to Panama. It reveals that the reality of the Panamanian invasion, and the conditions under which the Panamanians now live, is fundamentally different from the image presented to the international community.” [back]

3. The Panama Deception, documentary film by the Empowerment Project, 1992, narrated by Elizabeth Montgomery and winner of the 1993 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. “The Panama Deception documents the untold story of the December 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama; the events which led to it; the excessive force used; the enormity of the death and destruction; and the devastating aftermath. The Panama Deception uncovers the real reasons for this internationally condemned attack, presenting a view of the invasion which widely differs from that portrayed by the U.S. media and exposes how the U.S. government and the mainstream media suppressed information about this foreign policy disaster.” The film asserts that the U.S. government invaded Panama primarily to destroy the PDF, the Panamanian Defense Forces, who were perceived as a threat to U.S. control over Panama, and to install a U.S.-approved government. The film includes footage of mass graves uncovered after the U.S. troops had withdrawn, burned down neighborhoods, as well as depictions of some of the 20,000 refugees who fled the fighting” (from the Empowerment Project). [back]

4. Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since World War II – Updated Through 2003, William Blum, Common Courage Press, 2008. [back]

5. How Our 1989 Invasion of Panama Explains the Current US Foreign Policy Mess,” Mother Jones, December 23, 2014. [back]

6. CODEHUDCA Report. [back]

7. Fighting in Panama: The President; A Sense of Inevitability In Bush's Decision to Act,” New York Times, December 24, 1989. [back]

8. “U.S. in No Hurry to Quit Panama,” by Thom Shanker and Timothy J. McNulty, Chicago Tribune, December 22, 1989. [back]

9. How the 1989 War on Manuel Noriega’s Panama Super-Charged US Militarism,” Nation, May 30, 2017. [back]

10. “How Television Sold the Panama Invasion”, FAIR.org. [back]

11. John Chancellor, commenting approvingly upon hearing only nine U.S. soldiers had died: “We lose numbers like that in large training exercises.” (NBC, 12/20/89) CNN anchor Ralph Wenge, interviewing a former U.S. military commander, said: “Noriega asked for this. President Bush listed all the things Noriega had done to force him to take action. Why does Noriega do these things?” (12/21/89). Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather all said similar things. [back]

12. “Fighting in Panama: The President,” New York Times, 12/21/89. [back]

13. “How Our 1989 Invasion of Panama Explains the Current US Foreign Policy Mess”, Mother Jones, December 23, 2014. [back]

14. “United States invasion of Panama“, Wikipedia. [back]

15. Musicant, Ivan, The Banana Wars: A History of the United States Military Intervention in Latin America from the Spanish-American War to the Invasion of Panama,  Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, 1990, p. 391. [back]

16. “The U.S. Invasion of Panama 1989: The Injustice of ‘Operation Just Cause,’” Revolution, October 9, 2005. [back]

17. Ibid. [back]

18. “Tens of Thousands of Iraqi Soldiers' Bodies Left Behind : Casualties: Body count is practically impossible with victims in tanks, bunkers and roadside ditches”, by James Gerstenzang, Los Angeles Times, March 1, 1991. [back]

 

 

 


 

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Revolution #574 December 17, 2018

On the Death of George H.W. Bush:

Let the Dead Bury Their Dead—Humanity Needs Revolution and Communism

| Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

The ceremonies surrounding the death of George H.W. Bush, like the ones around John McCain a few months ago, again brought out the sharp contradictions among different sections of the capitalist-imperialist rulers over how to resolve the crises they face. And it brought out as well the news organs of the liberal bourgeoisie to mourn the “days of the patricians,” when there was “civility and respect between political opponents within the government, based on a love of country.”

On one side sat Trump, stone-faced, representing the fascist future now being bolted into place. The “solution” that he and his regime, including Pence, represent is extreme and brutally ugly—and is one possible “solution” to those crises.

On the other side were those there to celebrate Bush and his era as one in which the institutions of the ruling class could be used to forge consensus—and by implication to criticize Trump for breaking the norms represented by Bush. In actual fact, in George Bush they were celebrating 70-plus years of bloody service to imperialism—a record in which Bush himself ordered or was deeply involved in the killing of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people.  (See “The Nostalgia for George H. W. Bush and the Dream of a Kinder, Gentler Imperialism.”) Beneath the nostalgia for Bush’s politeness, good humor, and decency—whether real, imagined, or exaggerated—they were objectively nostalgic for the “order” that Bush helped enforce, nostalgic for the days of ruling class unity he represented.

And all the while the drumbeat of horror was on the world’s split screen: children starving from a U.S.-backed war in Yemen; report after report being issued showing that the imperialists are accelerating the drive to ecological destruction; increasingly sharp contention between the U.S. and China; and attacks across the board within the U.S. on basic civil and human rights, and the rule of law.

Neither side of this funeral party has any answer fit for humanity. To be clear, the conflicts within the ruling class are significant and can be made use of, if there is a struggle from below, of masses of people fighting for their own interests.

But the main thing is this: There IS a solution to this madness. This whole system needs to be swept away through revolution and a better one put in its place. A different—a far better—world is possible: revolution and communism—the new communism, brought forward by Bob Avakian. There is the science, the strategy, and the leadership for an actual revolution, and a radically new society on the road to real emancipation.

Get with THIS. Go here for why we need this revolution and the strategy to really win. Go here for the blueprint for the new society. And go here to learn more about this leadership.

A better world IS possible. And YOU have a role to play in bringing it into being.

 

Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution

A speech by Bob Avakian
In two parts:

 

Watch it, spread it, fund it

Check out clips and audio of the film and Q&As

Find out more about this speech—and get organized to spread it »

 

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Revolution #574 December 17, 2018

The Nostalgia for George H. W. Bush and the Dream of a Kinder, Gentler Imperialism

| Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

In the week just past, the treatment of the death of George H. W. Bush called forth the hope of a “kinder, gentler America.” But do the facts back up those hopes?

Let’s start with this: In 1988, an Iranian commercial airliner, flying its normal route in Iranian airspace, was shot down by a U.S. Navy ship, illegally operating in Iranian waters. Two hundred ninety people, including 66 children, were killed. And what was then-Vice President Bush’s reaction? “I will never apologize for the United States—I don't care what the facts are. [Emphasis added]”

If you’re the leader of a country where the facts are that it enslaved tens of millions of African people for centuries... that it committed genocide against millions of Native Americans and then stole the lands of the rest... that it dropped the only two nuclear weapons that have ever been dropped, on two Japanese cities with no military installations... and then went on to kill millions in Korea in the 1950s and millions more in Vietnam in the ’60s and ’70s, along with other crimes too numerous to mention... all to ensure that the rulers of this country could exploit and plunder whoever and whatever they could get their hands on... then it probably makes sense to never apologize and to ignore, cover over, or just not care what the facts are.

But if you really want a better world, you do have to look at the facts.

“Kinder and Gentler”?

Leaving aside his stint as head of the CIA in 1976, Bush came to the top levels of national power in 1980 as vice-president, and then ruled as President from 1989 to 1993. Though, we could fill a whole edition of revcom.us with crimes of U.S. Imperialism that George Herbert Walker Bush participated in his years working with CIA, and briefly as head of the CIA, and in the many positions he held as a “diplomat” in close proximity to brutal efforts to suppress people around the world.

In 1989, shortly after coming to office, Bush launched war against Panama. The de facto leader of Panama, Manuel Noriega, had been someone who worked with the CIA but then ran afoul of the U.S. when he was rumored to have become a double agent for Cuba. After Noriega annulled an election in Panama, Bush sent more American troops to guard the U.S.-owned canal there. When an off-duty U.S. Marine was killed, Bush launched an invasion! This invasion included wholesale massacres in El Chorrillo, a poor neighborhood where support for Panamanian President Noriega ran high. U.S. air power pulverized El Chorrillo from the air until it looked like “Little Hiroshima”; then U.S. troops moved through burning building by building, shooting the inhabitants in the streets, piling the dead and wounded together in heaps. At least hundreds of civilians, perhaps more, were killed in El Chorillo alone.

Flush with that “victory,” Bush went on to wage the first Gulf War against Iraq in 1990-91. Iraq had occupied Kuwait after what was at least an ambiguous signal from the U.S. Ambassador that it would not be opposed if it did so. Bush moved to marshal an international fighting force against Iraq in part on the basis of a campaign of outright lies about Iraqi troops having ripped babies from incubators in Kuwait and an imminent Iraqi invasion of Saudi Arabia. Quickly routing the vastly out-armed Iraqi forces, the U.S. used overwhelming air power to rain death on a retreating caravan of Iraqi soldiers, many of whom had abandoned their military vehicles, as well as on Kuwaiti civilians. At least 25,000 retreating Iraqi soldiers were slaughtered, many on what became known as The Highway of Death. The White House declared the dead to be “torturers, looters, and rapists.” During the war, the U.S. Air Force deliberately devastated Iraq’s civilian infrastructure (water purification plants, flour mills, power plants), leading to malnutrition and outbreaks of cholera and typhoid. One Census Bureau demographer estimated that by January 1992 some 70,000 Iraqi civilians had died due mainly to the destruction of water and power plants.1

And yes, Bush did, as vice president under Reagan, and then as President, play a major role in formulating a full-court press against its main imperialist rival in the world, the Soviet Union, which—along with a severe internal crisis—led to its collapse and the reintegration of much of its bloc into the U.S. empire. But this did NOT happen “without a shot” as Barack and Michelle Obama claimed in a formal statement on Bush’s death, but through a decades-long bloody campaign of coups, interventions and regional wars against Soviet interests on several continents—wars in which at least hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed and countries and regions like Central America, Afghanistan, and southern Africa were driven from the “regular” grinding oppression under imperialist thumbs into a straight-up nightmarish existence of war and ruin. All this took place in the context of and was set against a backdrop of a massive U.S. nuclear buildup that at different points brought the world to the brink of possible nuclear annihilation. (For example, see these articles in the revcom.us “American Crime” series: "Operation Condor 1968-1980s: U.S.-Directed Campaign of Political Assassination and State Terror in Latin America”; “The 1973 CIA Coup In Chile.”)

“Thousand Points of...” What?

Bush was eulogized for trying to bring light to America, and for refusing to demonize whole sections of people, as Trump does.

Again, though, what are the facts?

Bush became president in 1988 after one of the dirtiest campaigns of those times, against the Democrat Michael Dukakis. There were slanders and lies, but the most notorious was the Willie Horton ad. This ad featured a Black prisoner who, while on furlough in Massachusetts, raped a white woman. While not “officially” sponsored by the campaign, Bush’s campaign manager and protégé, Lee Atwater, had bragged that he was going to make America think that Willie Horton was Dukakis’s running mate. The ad helped get Bush elected, but more fundamentally it served the ruling class program of demonizing Black people at a time when the system was furiously heightening the mass incarceration of Black, and Latino, masses.  

Bush continued the War on Drugs, which during the Reagan administration included not just vicious criminalization and repression rained down against Black and Latino people, but the continued pumping of drugs into the ghettos and barrios (including during his vice-presidency with, at minimum, the cooperation of high-ranking members of the Reagan Administration). During Bush’s time in office, as vice-president and then president, the federal prisoner population nearly tripled—with 60 percent Black or Latino.  The sheer amount of suffering embodied in this simple recital of facts hurts the mind to contemplate.

Much has been made of Bush’s vote for the Open Housing Act of 1968, which probably did cost him re-election to the House that year. And some have said that Bush regretted the Willie Horton ad. But the fact that Bush did not traffic in the most openly retrograde white supremacy as his regular public image (in distinction from people like Reagan or Trump) and even opposed it on occasion early in his career, and may to some extent have personally regretted the times he did, only underlines his willingness to use, legitimize, and reinforce the most vile white racism when he thought the chips were down and it would serve not just his career but even more the needs of the system which relies on that racism as an integral element of its social order.

In the early 1980s, when a section of the ruling class brought forward the Christian fascists as a major political force, Bush set aside whatever personal “social liberalism” he was said to have had in order to promote what he understood to be “larger” imperialist interests. Bush’s administration opposed federal funding for abortion and unsuccessfully urged the Supreme Court to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.2 And, he nominated and pushed through the appointment of Christian fascist Clarence Thomas—widely considered the most reactionary Justice on the Supreme Court. 

Bush became president as the HIV/AIDS epidemic grew to massive scale—59,000 Americans, mainly gay men—had already died. But Bush was, according to LGBT activists, “absent” or “actively hostile” to the effort to find a cure, and he “utterly ignored” even the recommendations of his own National Commission on AIDS. Instead, Bush argued that AIDS was “a disease where you can control its spread by your own personal behavior” (and for the Bush administration, this did not mean education in safer sex, but total abstinence).

Nostalgia for the Norms

Bush was eulogized for not just respecting but befriending and even taking under his wing ruling class opponents like Bill Clinton, who defeated him. Bush left Clinton a world in which the U.S. seemed to be riding high, finally unchallenged. In fact, even as Bush was stepping down, deep centrifugal forces within U.S. society were being exacerbated, and new international challenges to U.S. dominance began to arise. These would find expression in extremely sharp contradictions between different blocs of the ruling class. The dynamics of how that unfolded and what brought it into being are beyond the scope of this piece, but we urge you to go to Bob Avakian’s “The Truth About Right-Wing Conspiracy... And Why Clinton and the Democrats Are No Answer” to read what was a deep-going and highly prescient analysis. The point here is that the respect that Bush (generally) extended to his ruling class opponents did NOT extend to those whom the empire he headed exploited and oppressed; and the same holds true for those ex-presidents who mourned him.

There is no kinder, gentler imperialism; there are no thousand points of light under capitalism. And whether those who eulogize Bush care or not, those are the facts.

 


1. Oil, Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda, p.155, citing Philadelphia Inquirer, January 5, 2003. [back]

2. All Things Considered, December 8, 2018. [back]

Panama Invasion

On December 20, 1989, the U.S. military invaded Panama with 27,500 troops and 300 aircraft, killing thousands of civilians and removing Manuel Noriega.  Photo: AP

 

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Revolution #574 December 17, 2018

Like a “Speeding Freight Train”: Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions Accelerate, Threaten the Planet

| Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

From a reader:

For the last three years people have been told that they should look to governments and the 2015 Paris Agreement to rein in greenhouse gas emissions and seriously deal with climate change. But despite all that is known about global warming and its devastating impacts on all life and human society, and despite solemn pledges made in the Paris climate negotiations, every year more and more greenhouse gases are being pumped into the atmosphere. And several recent scientific reports make clear that the global environmental emergency is not just continuing—it is accelerating toward catastrophe.

“We thought, perhaps hoped, emissions had peaked a few years ago,” Rob Jackson, a professor of earth system science at Stanford and an author of one of the reports, said. “After two years of renewed growth, that was wishful thinking.”

The Paris Agreement allowed each government to set climate goals for itself. And the goals which were set were known at the time to be far from enough to stop or even slow down climate change. The result after three years? Globally, carbon emissions broke records in 2017 and 2018. Almost no country is on track to even come close to meeting their Paris goals, including the U.S., which is rated by the research organization Climate Action Tracker as “critically insufficient” in meeting the goals.*

The repeated promises on climate change that the U.S. and other major polluters make are like a batterer vowing to “change his ways.” These capitalists make promises—and they not only go on carrying out their horrors, they amp them up.

Scientific Reports Issue Increasingly Dire Warnings

In October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations body responsible for studying climate change, issued a shocking report. The IPCC report said that, if the earth warms by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, (°C) people will face a horrific situation. Tens or hundreds of millions of people will be forced to migrate from their homes... rising sea levels will flood coastal regions and Pacific islands... droughts will disrupt the lives of more than 350 million people, leading to widespread famine... 99 percent of coral reefs in the world’s oceans will die. The report estimated that the planet would cross the 1.5°C threshold between 2030 and 2052—within the lives of most of the people alive today.   

Just two months later, two scientific reports were released saying that the IPCC scientists may have underestimated the urgency and the danger. These new reports say that 2018 will set a new record for greenhouse gas emissions. Worldwide fossil fuel emissions rose by 1.7 percent in 2017 and are set to rise 2.7 percent this year. One of the reports compared greenhouse gas emissions to a “speeding freight train” that will “make climate change faster and more furious than anticipated.” 

Since 2000 the planet has been warming at a rate of .2°C per decade, and that is the rate that the IPCC has used for its projections. The new studies predict that in the next 25 years, the earth’s temperature will increase at a rate of .25-.32°C per decade, a 25 percent to 60 percent increase above the previous predictions. This means that the world could breach the 1.5°C level ten years earlier than predicted by the IPCC—by 2030, just 11 years from now.

Lancet: For Centuries to Come

For several years the Lancet, one of the oldest and most respected medical journals in the world, has published the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change. The Countdown is a collaboration between 24 academic institutions and intergovernmental organizations based in every continent and with representation from a wide range of disciplines.

This year’s report, subtitled “shaping the health of nations for centuries to come,” reveals much of the human misery that lies behind the statistics on rising greenhouse gas emissions. 

Some of Lancet’s findings:

Rising sea levels will flood coastal regions where 50% of the world's population live. Bangladesh during heavy rains, 2018. (Photo: AP)

Droughts will disrupt lives of more than 411 million people, leading to widespread famine. Kenya. Photo credit: Buzz Kenya

In the report’s conclusion, the Lancet authors say that climate change is responsible for an “unacceptably high risk for the current and future health of populations across the world,” adding that it has the “potential to disrupt core public-health infrastructure and overwhelm health services.”

Climate Change Emergency

The bitter truth is that our planet is on a precipice. Plundering the earth for fossil fuels to fire the global economy without regard for their environmental impact is built into the capitalist-imperialist system. Only with a revolution that puts into place a radically new economic and political system can we begin to heal the planet’s scars. See here for excerpts from the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America on how a revolutionary socialist society will address the climate crisis, and here  for a report on a Revolution Club discussion on those excerpts.

 


* According to Climate Action Tracker only Gambia and Morocco are on target to keep climate change at 1.5°C. Bhutan, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, India and the Philippines are on track for a 2.0°C increase. All of the other countries are rated either insufficient (corresponding to a 3 degree increase), highly insufficient (corresponding to a 4 degree increase), or, like the United States, critically insufficient (corresponding to an increase of greater than 4 degrees). [back]

 

The Destruction of the Planet by Capitalism-Imperialism

Share widely on social media

This video clip is from Bob Avakian's speech Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution. Watch the speech and learn more about it here.

USA: Climate Criminal #1

Global Climate Budget 2018 looks at emissions by country and found that China, the U.S., India, and the European Union are responsible for about 60 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. China produces 27 percent of global emissions, according to the report. The United States accounts for 15 percent of emissions, the European Union 10 percent and India 7 percent.

Some, including Trump, have seized on these numbers to say that countries like China or India are the most responsible for global warming. This is bullshit. A deeper look reveals the United States as the number one climate criminal in the world.

First, total global emissions do not take into account the population of a country. Looking at per person emissions, the U.S. is MUCH worse than any of the other countries on this list. The U.S. dumps more than twice the amount of carbon emissions per person as China or India: 16.07 tons per person into the air for the U.S. compared with 7.72 by China and 1.87 by India.

Second, historically the U.S. has been by far the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions with more than 26 percent of the total emissions, more than twice the total of the entire European Union, which is made up of 28 developed capitalist countries! Because greenhouse gases remain in the atmosphere for a long period, much of these “historical” emissions are still in the atmosphere.

Third, the total emission numbers give no context. For example, India is in the midst of trying to bring electricity to 300 million people. This is not equivalent to people in the U.S. driving giant gas-guzzling SUVs. Estimates are that about 33 percent of China’s greenhouse gas emissions are for goods produced for export, much of which feeds both profit and consumption in the U.S.

Fourth, many ways that the U.S. contributes to climate change are not included. For example, at the insistence of the U.S. emissions by the military are not included in calculations related to climate change. That means the U.S. military, which produces more emissions than any other single institutional entity is not even counted. The United States leads the world in extracting oil and gas and is number two in coal mining and exports much of this—which means the U.S. profits from fossil fuels burned in other countries.

Finally, the U.S., more than any other country, is actively working to remove any constraints on its emissions of greenhouse gases. The two biggest sectors of the economy contributing to greenhouse gases in the U.S. are transportation and power. In August, Trump unveiled the misnamed “Affordable Clean Energy Act,” which, if it goes into effect, would increase the amount of greenhouse gases dumped in the atmosphere by power plants in the next decade by a factor of 12. Trump’s proposed changes to auto emission standards would allow an additional one billion tons of greenhouse gases to be pumped into the air annually.

Trump and his regime attack any effort to even recognize that climate change is an issue. For this reason, they are withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement. While other countries are sending heads of state to the climate conference in Poland which is going on right now, Trump is sending the lowest-ranking official that he could to head the U.S. delegation, the principal deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES) at the Department of State.

The U.S. delegation is planning just one event at the conference: a presentation promoting expanded use of fossil fuels!

 

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Revolution #574 December 17, 2018

To the Revolution Club and all those who want to be part of digging more deeply into the Speech by Bob Avakian over the holidays

| Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

The holidays are a great time for people to come together.  And a great time to let them in on the revolution we so badly need—why we need nothing short of that, and how to do it.  It’s also a great time to let them “meet” the leader of the revolution—Bob Avakian.  In other words, let’s show the Speech to and use BA's Official Biography with everyone we know.

The holidays are also a great time for people to raise and give money to make the year ahead far better than this one. 

So, we are encouraging you to pull people together to make plans—to do so based on digging into the pamphlet How We Can WIN—How We Can Really Make Revolution.

How We Can WIN begins the section on What We Need To Do Now with “To make this revolution, we need to be serious, and scientific.” Let's start with the basic question: what is everything we're doing working towards?

How We Can WIN lays this out:

All this is aiming for something very definite—a revolutionary situation: Where the system and its ruling powers are in a serious crisis, and the violence they use to enforce this murderous system is seen by large parts of society for what it is—murderous and illegitimate. Where the conflicts among the ruling forces become really deep and sharp—and masses of people respond to this not by falling in behind one side or the other of the oppressive rulers, but by taking advantage of this situation to build up the forces for revolution. Where millions and millions of people refuse to be ruled in the old way—and are willing and determined to put everything on the line to bring down this system and bring into being a new society and government that will be based on the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America. That is the time to go all-out to win. That is what we need to be actively working for and preparing for now.

But doing that needs a strategy.  And while How We Can Win has different parts of the strategy, the first one and a big one is spreading the word.  Here’s what BA says about that in the speech:

First, it is important to understand that, although it is true (as I have said in The New Communism) that revolution cannot and will not be made just by “spreading the idea of revolution around, and perhaps getting some positive responses,” nevertheless it is also true that spreading the word about this revolution can itself be very important revolutionary work—an important part of building the movement for revolution. The fact is that, among those who really need to know about this, including those who most desperately need this revolution, very few have even heard about it—and they are living with the belief that this world, as it is, is the only one that’s possible, and for many this means that, on top of being subjected to continual brutality, degradation and torment, they are suffocated by the lack of hope. Raising people’s sights to the possibility of a radically different world can not only bring hope to people, on a scientific basis, but can also awaken a potentially powerful force for the revolution that could make this hope a reality. For these reasons: “We need to be on a mission to spread the word, to let people know that we have the leadership, the science, the strategy and program, and the basis for organizing people for an actual, emancipating revolution.” Here again is the importance of the point I emphasized earlier about the great strengths we do have—and what is still missing: masses of people “who catch the worst hell under this system, and those who are sickened by the endless outrages perpetrated by this system,” who need to be brought forward, wave after wave, and developed into conscious revolutionaries and revolutionary leaders.

Getting organized into the ranks of the revolution means acting together with others in a unified way, as an organized force, guided by the strategic plan and leadership for the revolution. So, let’s ask ourselves: what are we doing when we show the film?  How does that bring revolution closer?  How is this so critical to bringing in what is missing?

A big part of the revolution is relying on the masses of people for support.  Why do we need that money?  And how do we raise that money in a way that gives people an understanding of what the revolution is all about?  What happens when someone gives money—how does that change them?  And how is raising money—and working with people to raise money as they know how—how can that be part of them also raising their consciousness?

BA talks a lot about the “Points of Attention for the Revolution” (POA) in the film.  Why do you think he does that?  Why are the POA important?  How should the POA influence and be part of fundraising activities?

** In Part 2 of this speech, BA talks about the importance of people starting with “basic tasks that they can readily carry out and feel confident doing which make a real contribution to building the revolution, and can learn to take on more responsibility as they gain more experience and a deeper understanding.  The important thing is that they are part of the process of building the revolution, together with others.”

What does he mean by this being “a process?”  How would fundraising or hosting a film showing (or helping to spread word of that) fit into that?

** Where should we set up film showings or carry out fundraising?  What do you think about what How We Can Win says about who should be part of the revolution?  Why? 

** How can the discussion and engagement in those screenings be part of people wrangling with, and working on the problems of, the revolution, and why is that approach important?

~~~~~~~~~~

The point is that everything we are doing, at all times, is part of making revolution—actively working, according to a strategic approach and plan, to move things, as fast as possible, toward the time when it will be possible for millions to fight all-out with a real chance to win.

Grasp Revolution, make plans and set goals.

Let's bring in 2019—building up the organized forces for revolution!

 

 

 

Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution

A speech by Bob Avakian
In two parts:

 

Watch it, spread it, fund it

Find out more about this speech—and get organized to spread it

Points of Attention for the Revolution

The Revolution Club upholds, lives by and fights for the following principles:

 

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Revolution #574 December 17, 2018

Ceremony and Celebration for New Members of the Revolution Club

by the Revolution Club, New York City

| Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

On a misty Sunday afternoon, people gathered at Revolution Books for an inspiring event full of heart and science, humor and revolutionary love for humanity. People came to a ceremony to celebrate a diverse group of individuals stepping up to officially join the Revolution Club. It was put together and hosted by leaders in the Revolution Club, and in attendance were current Revolution Club members, the newest recruits to the Revolution Club and their invited guests—family members, friends and partners, longtime revolutionaries and supporters of the movement for revolution, and others. One new member took the day off work and made a two-hour drive to be part of the ceremony. People active in RefuseFascism.org came to be part of the experience. A ceremony like this was the first of its kind in NYC.

During the opening remarks to the ceremony, one of the co-hosts made the point that in a world and in a society where all around you everybody is hit with the same message to “only think about yourself” and forget about the larger world, forget about the 65 million refugees fleeing war, poverty, and hunger, forget about the destruction of the environment, and on and on, it is a great thing, in the face of all that, to have people saying they refuse to accept these horrors, they’re about the emancipation of all of humanity so “count me in!” This is a beautiful thing that was celebrated on this day.

The new recruits were given a warm welcome and presented with an official Revolution Club membership patch. Each new person went up on stage and shared a story or recounted the process that got them to this point. There were many heartfelt statements made and some went deep into the transformations they have gone through, politically and ideologically, as a result of running with the Revolution Club, struggling over the big questions confronting humanity and seriously engaging with Bob Avakian (BA) and the new communism. It was very moving for everyone involved.

The program featured the trailer of the new speech by Bob Avakian, Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution; it included a statement from Carl Dix; and there was a special performance from the revolutionary rock band Outernational; and important statements were made by current Revolution Club members who talked about their own experiences becoming revolutionaries and what it has meant to be part of this group and contribute to the world historic effort to emancipate humanity.

The Revolution Club co-hosts kept bringing the audience back to the core message: that this system cannot be reformed and it must be overthrown, that there’s leadership in Bob Avakian. and that today that’s the process people are stepping into in answering the call and challenge to be a part of the Revolution Club. They did a dramatic reading of the Points of Attention for the Revolution; and they called attention to the need to defeat the attempts by the system to silence and repress the Revolution Club in different cities, in particular highlighting the serious charges facing the comrades in Chicago and Los Angeles. And through all this they also gave a sense of the Revolution Club as an organization with national scope.

The program ended with a challenge to the audience to put on the R-NL! [BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!] T-shirt as part of taking a first step in powerfully representing for this revolution... there was a momentary silence and then a couple of people enthusiastically did. We called on new and current members of the Revolution Club as well as those who got a T-shirt that day to come up on stage for a group picture—with fists in the air—and we chanted, “This system can’t be reformed—It must be overthrown!”

As HOW WE CAN WIN—How We Can Really Make Revolution puts it, the Revolution Club is “where people can take part in and powerfully represent for the revolution in an organized way, as they learn more about the revolution and advance toward joining the Party.” Those responsible for putting the ceremony together worked hard in the days before to come up with a program that would capture this through statements, videos, and visuals. We wrestled with the importance of how this ceremony is part of the process of recruiting the thousands now into the revolution and bringing forward communists, and tried to present and convey the strategic importance of new and current members taking up the responsibility to be part of a force and organization—the Revolution Club—that is getting organized and ready to make real revolution—to overthrow this system at the soonest possible time.

Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution

A speech by Bob Avakian
In two parts:

 

Watch it, spread it, fund it

Find out more about this speech—and get organized to spread it »

 

From Statements Made at the NYC Revolution Club Patch Ceremony

Prepared statement from a new member of the Revolution Club read at ceremony

I’ve long been convinced of the necessity for revolution and communism. Most of my adult life has been spent dedicated to studying the works from Marx to Mao, the history of the international communist movement, the breakthrough that marked the first stage of communist revolution, and fighting like hell for that right here in the belly of the beast. I have known about Bob Avakian and the Revolutionary Communist Party for quite some time, reading bits and pieces of various works here and there, and occasionally “checking in” online to see what this revolution was up to. But for far, far too long I did not take it seriously. In fact, I was among those who were quite hostile to it. That all changed when I met supporters of the Party and its leadership, and when I opened myself up to struggling with them. There’s so much that I can say about the period between then and now, and my whole life leading up to this point... but instead, I’ll ask y’all: where am I standing now? I’m standing here and now to join the Revolution Club, to make a leap in my further transformation as an emancipator of humanity, to be a part of the vanguard of the future.

The truth is, before I linked up with this revolution, I was just about ready to give up on revolution. Because ideas, determination, resolve, drawing on experiences of the past—all of that alone can only take you so far. What was missing, what I so desperately needed, even if I didn’t know it at the time, was the living scientific method and approach that Bob Avakian has synthesized and brought forward. My mind was so full of dogmatism, idealism, a whole package of all that bullshit, even as I spoke vehemently against such things. For me, “science” had become synonymous with “philosophy” and “ideology,” which really means I was guided by religiosity more than anything else. The New Communism that Bob Avakian has brought forward has changed everything for me; I’m still in the process of shaking off the old ways of thinking, making the ruptures needed in order to really stand up to the challenges ahead. But I have accepted the invitation to join him on this revolutionary road, joining the collectivity of others who are fighting together to take up and enrich this science, and applying it to transform society towards the final aim of world communism.

Because all of humanity, the very planet itself, is counting on us to follow through on that. We have to become a major contending force in society, so that thousands and then millions more come to accept this invitation too. The work that BA has done objectively represents the only way out of the long nightmare that humanity has suffered, the endless horrors of capitalism-imperialism that all other projects for humanity will ultimately keep us locked within. We have seen a glimpse of what is possible in revolutions past, now we must go even further. And look, one thing those experiences taught us is that we should never be afraid to go against the tide, to go up against all the prevailing winds that lead the people away from what they must rise up to accomplish. We’re not anywhere close to where we need to be, but we have the basis for us to make huge leaps forward in this movement, and very quickly. With communism that is grounded in a scientific method and approach, and an inexhaustible impatience, we can live up to what we say we are. We can be the real, revolutionary communists that the world so desperately needs.

New member

... it’s amazing to know that there are organizations out there that are actually fighting to emancipate all of humanity and not just one pocket or two here and there because the more you do any kind of activism the more you realize how interconnected all these issues are to the horror that is capitalism, so I’m really, really honored to be part of the movement to truly overthrow that so that we can actually live in a better world and actually make real progress and real change, so thank you everyone.

New member

... I’m a citizen of the world... and I’m very happy to be here with you, to be part of the Club, of the Revolution Club. And I’m very excited, very excited to fight against the capitalism-imperialism system. Yes I agree the Trump/Pence regime must go but the system we must definitely destroy it because like you say all the time a better world is possible. If we look around, whether in Haiti, Dominican Republic, in Mexico... you see the same thing, poverty, misery, ignorance, diseases... war, police brutality, all those things come from the capitalism system, capitalism-imperialism. And I believe like BA says all the time, this system cannot be reformed, cannot be reformed, this is the nature of the system, it must be totally, I’m going to use a very hard word, it must be totally destroyed... we must be serious and scientific and that’s what I love about the Revolution Club... And I would like to say thanks to them... on a daily basis those guys, you know, they call me all the time, I call them all the time, they come to my house, we really work together. Again I’m very happy to be with you and I know, I’m pretty sure, I’m not going to say 100 percent but at least 98 percent I will be helpful for the Revolution Club. Before I finish, on the Points of Attention for the Revolution... the first one is very important, “...We do not tolerate using the revolution for personal gain.” This is very, very important, a lot of people they did that, they did that in the Dominican Republic, they did that in Haiti, they did that in Mexico... the second one is very important, they’re all important... the third one, “We fight for a world without borders”... I’m a citizen of the world, everywhere the capitalist-imperialist system exists I will fight against it... “and for equality among different peoples, cultures and languages,” that’s the reason I speak four languages because since I was young I said I must communicate with all people in America, wherever you’re from, you’re from Venezuela or born in Venezuela or you were born in the Dominican Republic, or Haiti... “We do not tolerate insults, ‘jokes’ or derogatory names about a person’s race, nationality, or language.” That’s very important.

Points of Attention for the Revolution

The Revolution Club upholds, lives by and fights for the following principles:

New member

... I’ve been around the movement for revolution for a long time fighting police brutality, standing up against the wars, but the longer that I’ve been around this the more I see, fuck, we need to get rid of this system, this system has to be overthrown it cannot be reformed and so some of us were talking about this quote the other day and this quote had a really big impact on me becoming a revolutionary. This is by Bob Avakian from BAsics 1:31.

If you can conceive of a world without America—without everything America stands for and everything it does in the world—then you’ve already taken great strides and begun to get at least a glimpse of a whole new world. If you can envision a world without any imperialism, exploitation, oppression—and the whole philosophy that rationalizes it—a world without division into classes or even different nations, and all the narrow-minded, selfish, outmoded ideas that uphold this; if you can envision all this, then you have the basis for proletarian internationalism. And once you have raised your sights to all this, how could you not feel compelled to take an active part in the world historic struggle to realize it; why would you want to lower your sights to anything less?

So that’s why I’m part of this Revolution Club.

New member

So I’m so proud to be here—I just can’t even begin to tell you guys—but on top of that... we still need to do so much more. All of us here, I think. One step that I’m definitely taking as we move forward is I want to contribute not just more of my time, more of my being, more of my expertise that I have, but I must give monetarily as well. ... the intellectual integrity that we have within this room [is so high], we need to match that, and we need to talk to all of our friends we need to talk to family we need to talk to anyone that we can because the movement will go faster will happen better and more efficiently, because BA has already done all of the think work... and again the one message that BA has that nobody else has in this world today is putting humanity first and that’s what I want for all of us in this room.

A current member

... we are serious about this shit, but this is a thing where there’s no place on earth where you could run. There’s no running away from this shit that doesn’t involve on one level or another willfully blinding yourself towards it. Especially coming from this situation and as people have said furthermore none of this is necessary. But if you go out into the street you see that everyone has an explanation justifying why it is or why there’s only something you can do about it to change it in this way or that way to serve you, or them, or my people, or those people. And too few people know about this. And so as somebody that’s been around and in the club through these various stages of development. Why I’m wearing this patch today has to do with consciously stepping up to being part of solving this problem. Seeing it around and seeing that too few fucking people know about this shit and that absolutely none of this is necessary. I’ve had this patch put on consciously as part of taking responsibility of putting up and putting on this radical revolt against this revolting culture on the map, of deepening my understanding but also bringing my questions and working on the problems of the revolution. I’m putting on this patch as part of representing for this revolution wherever I am, and working to bring forward and inspire others as part of this and... it’s one thing to do this and work through this shit on your own and wrangle with these ideas on your own and it’s a different thing entirely to do it collectively with people working on the biggest problems of the revolution and so that’s why I’m wearing this patch today.

 

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Revolution #574 December 17, 2018

From a member of the Revolution Club, Bay Area

Revolution Club Digs into the New Socialist Republic and the Environment, Economy, International Relations, and Education

| Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Last weekend at our Revolution Club meeting we read and discussed some excerpts from the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America that talk about the environment and related topics. One of the Revolution Club members has been emphasizing the importance of envisioning the world we’re fighting for, and not having our thinking be so trapped in the way the world is now. And we’ve all been thinking a lot about the environment, since we spent so much time this past month literally choking on the smoke from fires fueled by global warming, while first the UN and then the U.S. government came out with dire reports about how little time we have to radically change everything in order to stop a climate catastrophe. Plus, after the revolution, we’re the ones who are gonna have to implement this Constitution and solve all these pressing problems while keeping things going forward toward a liberated communist world. And right now, at a time when more and more people are starting to identify “capitalism” (however they understand that) as the problem but can’t imagine anything beyond that, bringing people the understanding that there IS a radical solution to this environmental emergency is a key avenue for putting real revolution on the map. So this was a very important subject for us to dig into!

We had a really interesting discussion. After we read the part where it talks about how the New Socialist Republic will not develop or use nuclear weapons (Article I, Section 2, C. Defense and Security), which people really liked, someone raised the question of how you defend yourself from other countries which will still have nuclear weapons. Other people talked about how using nuclear weapons would turn us into what we’re fighting against, and the positive example of leadership that is set for the world by dismantling them, but how this problem can only really be dealt with by spreading revolution throughout the world.

We talked about what a consciously planned economy is, as opposed to worker-owned co-ops which someone had raised, and the need to move beyond a system where things are bought and sold as commodities. We discussed the three criteria of economic development (Article IV, Section 1), and the tension between them, and from what perspective these things would have to be weighed and balanced as you make decisions about what to produce, how to produce it, and where to allocate resources.

We explored some of the contradictions involved in international relations (Article I, Section 2, E. International Relations), becoming self-reliant while still having trade relations, but as much as possible not relying on long-distance shipping (for environmental reasons), and not relying on the super-exploitation of people throughout the world. We had a whole discussion about how we would go about repairing the damage that was done to these Third World countries, environmentally and in terms of the poverty, etc. People raised the question of what you would do with all the U.S. capital around the world, the factories and plantations, etc., and if there was something else that could be done besides just turning it over to the ruling classes of those countries. People brought up different ideas, like maybe we can send teams to other countries to build housing, etc., and what would happen if the oppressive governments tried to stop you from doing that, and how that too could hasten revolution in those countries.

Someone correctly raised the need to not just transform the economy, but also the culture. For example, she talked about a documentary she’d seen about the exploitation and environmental damage caused by the fashion industry and why, in addition to the socialist state taking over the means of production, we also have to change people’s felt need to have a Prada bag or whatever. We also talked about the principle of communism—from each according to their ability, to each according to their need—and all the changes in economics, social relations, and ideas that would be required to get there.

We talked about what it says in the Education section (Article I, Section 2, F. Education) about pursuing the truth, using rational and critical thinking, and teaching the scientific method (and teaching the truth of things that are true like evolution and global warming)... which people really liked, in comparison to the current school system, and especially in contrast with the proud ignorance of the people running the U.S. government now. One person said it sounded like the Enlightenment, and so we talked about Bob Avakian’s point, as discussed in "Marxism and the Enlightenment," about the Enlightenment dividing in two. We talked about the “solid core and elasticity” in this, in terms of core curriculum and the elasticity of whatever people do outside out that, and what difference it would make for this to be the core, not just in terms of education, but the whole character of society and how the new generation is being raised.

All of this is very much related to these two Q&A clips from Bob Avakian, which just got posted on revcom.us: “What Would Society Look Like Right After the Revolution?” and “ Would Mexico and Central America Still Be the U.S. Backyard After the Revolution?

 

CONSTITUTION For The New Socialist Republic In North America

CONSTITUTION For The New Socialist Republic In North America
(Draft Proposal)

Authored by Bob Avakian, and adopted by the Central Committee of the RCP

Read and Download (PDF)

See Also:

How Would a Revolutionary Socialist Society Address the Environmental Emergency?

Excerpts from the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America

Read more.

 

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Revolution #574 December 17, 2018

How Would a Revolutionary Socialist Society Address the Environmental Emergency?

Excerpts from the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America

| Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America is a visionary and concrete application of the new synthesis of communism, written by the architect of that new communism, Bob Avakian. It is a "blueprint" for the day after a revolution has established a socialist state. While the following excerpts speak to crucial aspects of the new socialist government's approach to the environment—from the economy and international relations, to art and culture, science and education, and more—the orientation of being "caretakers of the Earth" runs through the whole thing.

These are not the planks and promises of some bourgeois party platform. To do any of this would require an actual revolution. As the “Introductory Explanation on the Nature, Purpose and Role of This Constitution” explains:

In order to bring this new socialist state into being, it would be necessary to thoroughly defeat, dismantle and abolish the capitalist-imperialist state of the USA; and this in turn would only become possible with the development of a profound and acute crisis in society and the emergence of a revolutionary people, in the millions and millions, who have the leadership of a revolutionary communist vanguard and are conscious of the need for revolutionary change and determined to fight for it. To work for this objective–to hasten while awaiting the emergence of these necessary conditions, with the goal of revolution and ultimately communism clearly in mind–is the strategic orientation of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. And, as one important part of giving life to and carrying out this strategic orientation, we are publishing this “Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal)”: as a contribution to a process in which growing numbers of people are seriously considering and grappling with whether, how, and in what form there could be a real alternative to the present capitalist-imperialist system and the unspeakable suffering and depredations it imposes on the great majority of people in the world, on humanity as a whole, as well as on the environment and the webs of interconnected species which inhabit this earth; to provide a more concrete sense of the basic nature, structure and functioning of the socialist society, and its government, envisioned here, and the principles and objectives underlying and guiding this; and to enable people to see, sharply outlined, what is in reality the radical difference between the society and government envisioned here and the capitalist-imperialist system which currently rules in this country and exercises domination over the world as a whole, with such terrible consequences.

We publish these excerpts at a time when the capitalist-imperialist plunder of the planet and the destruction of the webs of life themselves are actually accelerating. These pose the only real way out of this. But these are part of a larger vision and blueprint embodied in the Constitution, which we urge our readers to deeply engage.

 

****

 

This Constitution (Draft Proposal) is written with the future in mind. It is intended to set forth a basic model, and fundamental principles and guidelines, for the nature and functioning of a vastly different society and government than now exists: the New Socialist Republic in North America, a socialist state which would embody, institutionalize and promote radically different relations and values among people; a socialist state whose final and fundamental aim would be to achieve, together with the revolutionary struggle throughout the world, the emancipation of humanity as a whole and the opening of a whole new epoch in human history–communism–with the final abolition of all exploitative and oppressive relations among human beings and the destructive antagonistic conflicts to which these relations give rise.

From the Introductory Explanation (p. i)

 

----------------

 

A. The Economy.

1. The basic character and objectives with regard to the economy and its development are set forth in Article IV. Here it is important to underline that the development of the economy, along socialist lines, is the foundation for carrying out the functions of government and affairs of state in the interests of the broad masses of people, within the New Socialist Republic in North America and in the world as a whole. The fundamental objective is to carry out the development of the economy and the transformation of economic relations, and relations in society and the world overall, in such a way as to eliminate and uproot all aspects of exploitation and oppression and so that finally the means of production (as distinguished from items of personal use and consumption) become the common property and resource of the whole of society, and ultimately all of humanity, in accordance with the fact that these means of production, and the wealth that is produced in general, are fundamentally the result of the labor, both intellectual and physical, of people throughout the world. With the achievement of communism, throughout the world, ownership of the means of production by the whole people will take place directly, that is, without the need for or the mediation of a state (although, once again, there will still be a need for, and a role of, government, in regard to the economy as well as other aspects of society, as discussed in the Preamble of this Constitution). Within a particular socialist country, before the goal of communism has been achieved on a world level–and this is particularly so with regard to the early stages of the socialist transition to communism, to which the New Socialist Republic in North America, and the Constitution embodying the principles of this Republic, now correspond–the ownership by society of the means of production will be expressed primarily and most essentially through the medium of the socialist state, and its increasingly predominant role in the ownership of means of production and the overall socialist economy, even as the state itself is being continually transformed in line with and in the direction of the achievement of communism.

From Article I, Section 2 (pp. 18-19)

 

------------------

 

B. The Environment.

1. In the development of the socialist economy, and in the overall functioning of the government, within the New Socialist Republic in North America and in its international relations, not only must the fundamental orientation and principles of proletarian internationalism be consistently adhered to and applied, but this has special and urgent relevance with regard to the environment. In addition to–and in a dimension far beyond–damage that had been done to the environment in previous periods of history, the fundamental dynamics and the overall operation of the capitalist-imperialist system in this era–not least the wars and other massive destruction this system repeatedly gives rise to and continually causes–have created an environmental crisis constituting a genuine and increasingly severe emergency, and this is being and will be continually heightened and exacerbated, for so long as the system of capitalism-imperialism continues to dominate, or to exert significant influence and force in, the world.

The establishment of the New Socialist Republic in North America, through the defeat of the imperialist state of the USA, while it could not have occurred without the unleashing of further violent and destructive acts on the part of that outmoded imperialist state, nevertheless represents a truly gigantic stride toward the emancipation of humanity and with regard to the ability to more frontally and comprehensively confront and address the critical environmental emergency threatening humanity and the other species and ecosystems (the complex webs of interacting and interrelating life) on this earth. In full recognition of this, the New Socialist Republic in North America, in its development of a socialist economy, in all spheres of government and social activity, and in its international relations, will apply itself–and the initiative, knowledge, energy and creativity of the masses of people who make up and are the backbone of this Republic–to addressing this environmental emergency, in its various dimensions, and will seek out the ways to do so through increasing cooperation and common endeavor with scientists, and people from all walks of life, in every part of the world, struggling and joining with others in struggle to overcome barriers that are placed in the way of such efforts by the operation of the capitalist-imperialist system and the functioning of imperialist and other reactionary states.

2. Already, in the period before the revolution that led to the establishment of the New Socialist Republic in North America, the Revolutionary Communist Party (in what was then the imperialist United States of America) published a special issue of its newspaper, Revolution (issue #199, April 6, 2010) which analyzed the extent, depth and urgency of the environmental crisis at that time and the fundamental elements and principles of a program for addressing this crisis. One of the distinguishing features of the New Socialist Republic in North America is its determination to apply the principles set forth at that time by the Revolutionary Communist Party–and what has been learned since, with further developments with regard to the environmental crisis and in the world more generally–in order to contribute all it can to solving this environmental crisis and, to the greatest degree possible, reversing its terrible and manifold effects, and to ushering in a new era in which human beings and their society can truly be fit caretakers of the earth.

From Article 1, Section 2 (pp. 21-22)

 

-------------

 

Article IV. The Economy and Economic Development in the New Socialist Republic in North America.

Section 1.

The economy of the New Socialist Republic in North America is a planned socialist economy, under the direction of the state and led by the Revolutionary Communist Party, in accordance with the principles and provisions set forth in Article I, Section 2 and elsewhere in this Constitution. Social production and economic development are guided and evaluated according to three overarching criteria:

1. Advancing the world revolution to uproot all exploitation and oppression and to emancipate all of humanity;

2. Meeting social need, creating a common material wealth that contributes to the all-around development of society and the individuals who make it up, and overcoming oppressive divisions between mental and manual labor, town and country, different regions and nationalities, and men and women;

3. Protecting, preserving, and enhancing the ecosystems and biodiversity of the planet for current and future generations.

Section 2.

Socialist production is based on and promotes relations and values of people working cooperatively for the common good and for the interests of world humanity. Socialist relations of production must enable the masses of people to gain increasing collective mastery over economic processes. In line with this orientation and these objectives, the exploitation of human labor, and the sale and purchase of labor power, is forbidden, except as this may be allowed and provided for, for a limited time on a transitional basis, and on a small scale, within the overall framework of socialist economic development and in accordance with socialist planning to effect such development.

Section 3.

In order to develop the economy along socialist lines it is necessary to put revolutionary politics in command of economic matters. To meet goals and solve problems of production, the state must mobilize the conscious activism of people in accordance with the principles and objectives set forth here and elsewhere in this Constitution. It must encourage initiative and creativity to advance the public interest.

Section 4.

1. A socialist economy operates according to principles of “socialist sustainable development.” It takes the “long view” of what is needed to benefit humanity and the planet. It organizes and regulates production and growth on the basis of awareness of natural limits and the interconnected web of ecosystems. It emphasizes safe and renewable sources of energy.

2. The state in the New Socialist Republic in North America recognizes special internationalist responsibilities to share knowledge and technology, to allocate resources, and to promote initiatives to protect the global environment–and to assist the people in other parts of the world, especially in the Third World, to cope with the damage caused by imperialist environmental despoliation and plunder.

pp. 78-79

 

---------

 

Section 5. The System of Public-State Ownership is the

Foundation of the New Socialist Economy.

 

1. This form of ownership concentrates the highest interests of the proletariat and masses of people and the revolution which embodies those interests. It enables society to consciously and collectively utilize and develop social productive forces in order to transform society and the world and to enable humanity to truly become caretakers of the planet…

 

3. Land, waters, forests, minerals, and other natural resources are protected and managed as “public goods.” They fall within the scope of public-state ownership. Socialist-state ownership recognizes its responsibility to preserve the “commons”–the atmosphere, oceans, wildlife, and so forth–for all of humanity and for the future.

 

pp. 80-81

 

----------

 

In contrast to the way in which the capitalist-imperialist state serves and enforces the interests of a small ruling group of exploiters, the New Socialist Republic in North America, with the continuing leadership of the Revolutionary Communist Party, bases itself on, and proceeds from, the fundamental interests of those most bitterly exploited and oppressed under the old system, and the masses of people broadly, and provides the means for them to play an increasingly widening role in the exercise of political power and the functioning of society in accordance with those interests–in order to carry forward the struggle to transform society, with the goal of uprooting and finally eliminating all oppressive and exploitative relations among human beings and the destructive antagonistic conflicts to which these relations give rise.

This is a process and goal which, fundamentally and in the final analysis, can only be achieved on a global scale, with the advance to communism throughout the world. The orientation and principles of this state, as embodied in this Constitution, are internationalist: While giving due emphasis to meeting the material, intellectual and cultural needs of the people within this state, on a continually expanding basis, and to promoting the further transformation of this society to continue uprooting social inequalities and remaining aspects of exploitation and oppression, the socialist state must give fundamental priority to the advance of the revolutionary struggle, and the final goal of communism, throughout the world, and must adopt and carry out policies and actions which are in accordance with and give concrete effect to this internationalist orientation.

From the Preamble, p. 2

See Also:

On the New U.S. Climate Report: A Dire Warning from the Scientific Community

Read more.

 

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Revolution #574 December 17, 2018

Commitment and the Process of Building a Movement FOR Revolution

June 11, 2018 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

People need to be serious in whatever commitments they make—they need to follow through on such commitments—and we should set and struggle for this to be the standard and the actual reality. But getting involved in the movement for an actual revolution has a specific dynamic that differs, say, from joining a sports team or a music group. We should not demand “zero to sixty” right away—or, in any case, try to force a leap, rather than winning people to it as part of an overall revolutionary process. What we need to be building is a continually developing mass movement for revolution—yes, an actual revolution—with a vibrant “Ohio,”* through which exponentially growing numbers of people can be actively involved and continue to advance (not all, but many of them) through the dialectical interplay of contributing and learning in continually increasing dimensions. As for those who do reach the “advanced end” of this “Ohio,” again this raises the question of their becoming not only part of the Revolution Club but also making the further leap to becoming part of the communist vanguard; but here again as well, the question of commitment should not be approached (even if in a somewhat “backhanded” way) from the negative, defensive position that amounts to: “We have had people make commitments and then not keep them, and then disappear (‘ghost’) on us; so we are going to make sure you don’t (can’t) do that!” Rather, we should proceed with the recognition that commitment, while it involves and requires (repeated) leaps along the way, essentially corresponds to and is grounded in what aspirations have been awakened, or brought forward, in people, and what they are coming to understand is required in relation to that. So, again, while we do need to have a serious attitude with regard to people making and carrying through on commitments, this must be commensurate with what their understanding and sentiments are at a given point, and most essentially must be in the context of and contribute to the broader mass revolutionary movement that they are part of (or becoming part of) and, while not involving any tailing, should proceed from what they themselves have been won (yes, won through struggle, even at times sharp struggle) to see as a necessary and essential contribution to the revolution.

 

* The “Ohio” refers to the Ohio State marching band’s practice of marching in such a way as to spell out “OHIO” when viewed from above; in this process, band members who begin the first O, then move through the other letters of the word until they are at the last “O”. The point is that there is an analogous process involved in building any kind of progressive or revolutionary movement, in which people “move through” various levels of understanding and commitment, though this is not (“in the real world”) quite so linear and in lockstep as the Ohio State marching band!*

 

 

 


 

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Revolution #574 December 17, 2018

You Can’t Change the World If You Don’t Know the BAsics

| Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

 

 

Every week, Revolution features quotes from BAsics, by Bob Avakian, the handbook for revolution. We encourage Revolution Clubs and other readers, everywhere, to take the time to discuss these quotes—the whole quotes—and to write us at revolution.reports@ yahoo.com with accounts of these discussions, or thoughts provoked in yourself by reading the quotes.

 

Basics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian

BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian

"You can't change the world if you don't know the BAsics."

BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian is a book of quotations and short essays that speaks powerfully to questions of revolution and human emancipation.

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Permalink: https://revcom.us/a/572/what-do-you-do-with-system-that-gives-no-future-to-millions-of-black-and-latino-youth-en.html

Revolution #574 December 17, 2018

Question: What Do You Do With a System That Gives No Future to Millions of Black and Latino Youth; Whose Police Brutalize, Lock Them Up and Even Kill Them in Cold Blood, and Then Covers It Up?

Answer: Overthrow It.

| Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Last fall, an on-duty Chicago cop (Jason Van Dyke) was put on trial for murdering Laquan McDonald. The trial was rare, the jury’s conviction for second degree murder even rarer. The trial was rare not because the police in Chicago rarely kill Black youths but because they are never prosecuted for it. From 2010 to 2016, police killed 92 people and wounded 170. Four out of five were Black. Before Van Dyke, no Chicago cop had ever been put on trial for shooting a Black person while on duty. (Chicago Tribune, August 26, 2016)

Now three former and current Chicago cops are being tried in a bench trial (a trial before a judge, not a jury) for conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and official misconduct, i.e., lying in official police reports to cover up and justify Van Dyke shooting Laquan. Both sides have rested and the judge said she will rule on December 19.

Laquan McDonald was just 17 years old. (His friends morphed their greeting, “Quon Dog” into an affectionate “Corn Dog.”) He had made a new start at an alternative high school on the South Side where the principal described him as quick to smile and hug his teachers. On an October night in 2014, Laquan was already surrounded by multiple police on a major street in an industrial section of the South Side of Chicago when Jason Van Dyke arrived on the scene. Seconds later, he jumped out of his patrol car and opened fire. Laquan crumpled to the ground. Van Dyke paused for a moment and then resumed shooting over and over and over. 16 shots. The eight Chicago pigs on the spot provided no first aid, no comfort.

***

The story of Laquan McDonald and really the millions of Laquans in inner city neighborhoods doesn’t start that night on a street on the South Side of Chicago. It doesn’t start with the hard life he had as a child. The story really starts decades and even centuries before he was born. You get a deep picture of this in Bob Avakian’s speech, Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution, as well as in the Q&A now posted. But just to briefly sum that up:

The U.S. was founded on slavery and genocide. After the long nightmare of slavery was ended after the Civil War, instead of genuine and lasting freedom for Black people there was violent reassertion of slavery by another name—sharecropping farming in the South, where Black people were kept in legal second-class citizen status, terrorized to stay “in their place” by the KKK and white Citizen Councils for decades, as well as forced into slave labor in prisons for “crimes” such as vagrancy, where many were literally worked to death.

When Black people were no longer needed to do that backbreaking labor down South, they were both driven off the land and lured to go north seeking freedom and a better life, only to be super-exploited in the lowest and dirtiest jobs in factories, steel mills and stockyards—if they could find work at all. In Chicago, like cities all over the U.S., Black people were segregated in overcrowded and dilapidated slums. White mobs rioted over and over again in the decades that followed whenever Black people dared to move into the “wrong neighborhood” or integrate the schools—all managed by the top real estate interests in the city, again for the benefit of their capitalist system.

Today those factories have long since closed and the rulers have no real way to make profits off of large swaths of the masses of Black people. Chicago is a city where years after the civil rights movement, segregation is still the rule of the day, when they are not literally driving Black people OUT OF the city... where the schools in Black neighborhoods are turned into virtual prisons and pipelines to actual prisons or the military, when they’re not being shut down... where masses of youth are consigned to lives of such hopelessness and desperation that crime, in the words even of one of the capitalist system’s defenders, becomes a “rational choice” and “the life” becomes a source of meaning for the youth so they are driven to murdering and shooting and crippling each other.

So what does this system do with youths who are robbed of any decent future or prospects? It contains them violently through heavily armed police forces that brutalize and murder them. The blue uniform of the police has replaced the white robe of the KKK and the mounted slave patrols and militias of the past. The role of the police “is to serve and protect the system that rules over the people. To enforce the relations of exploitation and oppression, the conditions of poverty, misery and degradation into which the system has cast people and is determined to keep people in....” (from BAsics 1:24)

This is the world that Laquan was born into and which condemned him even before he was born. This is the real story of the millions of Laquans and of the pigs who murdered him, who covered up his murder, of the city administration and all its agencies that shielded the police. This is the story that will not be told in the courtroom or the media.

If you want to understand WHY this keeps happening over and over for generations; if you want to understand why the oppression of Black people is poured into the foundation of this capitalist-imperialist system and why there is no future for the youth; if you want to understand why the Chicago consent decree was a product of the struggle against police brutality but won’t fundamentally solve the problem; if you want to understand why a revolution is the solution and how one could be made... if you agonize about this situation—then you need to watch the film of Bob Avakian’s talk Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution and listen to his answer during a Q&A in Chicago about the consent decree.

Anatomy of a Cover-Up

Oppression breeds resistance and people do rise up... and the system is forced to both repress and maneuver when they do. These trials in Chicago are only happening now because of what people did in Ferguson and Baltimore and all the other cities where people straightened their backs to demand police terror STOP! And as part of this, there was all the journalists’ exposures and the authorities’ mounting fear of how the city, including people who want to believe the police are “fair,” would be shocked and convulsed in response to the release of the video of the cold-blooded execution of Laquan and the massive cover-up that ran right up through the entire city administration.

Craig Futterman, a University of Chicago law professor, describes “CPD standard operating procedure is, and has been for years, when an officer is accused of misconduct, when an officer uses force, it’s to justify it and circle the wagons and get the officer’s back. You don’t even need a conspiracy, it’s just standard operating procedures.” It is, he said, “investigation as cover-up.”

A car with a Latino man and his adult son in it had pulled over when the police started to surround Laquan in the middle of the street. They had a clear view of the events surrounding the shooting. These eye witnesses were made to leave without being asked for any information as potential witnesses. Police went into a nearby Burger King that night and after they had gained access to the relevant surveillance video, according to the BK manager, the portion of the video surrounding the shooting was erased.

Within hours after the shooting, Van Dyke and other officers who were on the scene of Laquan’s murder and the detective in charge of investigating it for the CPD met together back at area central. There they discussed the shooting and watched the dashcam video. Only AFTER this meeting did the pigs on the scene write their reports and get interviewed individually by the detective, David March, who was leading the investigation for the CPD. Two of the reports falsely claimed that Van Dyke was acting in defense of his life to stop McDonald’s attack, using identical language to Van Dyke’s description of the situation: that McDonald had committed battery right before Van Dyke shot him and was aggressively swinging a knife toward police... and that after Laquan was shot and on the ground, he was still a threat because he kept trying to get up with the knife in his hand.

One cop at the scene has testified that Detective March pressured her to lie in her report about what she saw and when she refused, he altered her report without her knowledge to make it sound like Laquan was a threat.

March’s investigation found that all the accounts by the officers were consistent with the video and concluded that the shooting was justified. A high ranking deputy chief reviewed and signed off on it, clearing Van Dyke of any wrongdoing. (This deputy chief was later allowed to retire with full pension.)

The video from one dashcam that captured the shooting is in stark contrast to all the lies that the police told. (Conveniently, the audio and the video on some dashcams were rendered inoperable prior to this.) The video clearly shows Laquan walking away from the police in the middle of a four lane street. He never committed an assault. His arm is at his side. It is never raised. He never lunged. In fact, Van Dyke advanced toward him as he opened fire. Laquan never tried to get up as bullet after bullet struck his body on the ground. It was, as the world would see, a ruthless execution of a Black teenager.

In the wake of the shooting, the whole machinery of the city administration went into gear to protect the murdering police and conceal the truth from ever seeing the light of day. The police chief saw the dashcam video early on as did the “Independent” Police Review Authority, the district attorney, the city’s legal counsel, and the mayor, Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff. The “independent” agency’s investigation went nowhere in collusion with the mayor’s (documented in email exchanges that the city had to release.) In the midst of Emanuel’s mayoral race, the city council ratified a $5 million settlement in literally five seconds—no discussion, no questions. A settlement before a suit was even filed by McDonald’s family. The settlement stipulated that the video not be released. The mayor continued to fight in court to prevent the video from being released. All the people involved in this cover-up should have been indicted for their role in aiding and abetting the murder of Laquan, yet only three cops are facing charges.

It is important to remember that the cover-up almost worked as had countless others. The police narrative (i.e., lies) was duly reported as fact by all the mainstream media. A medical examiner put in his formal report that Laquan had lunged at police based on a phone call from Detective March. (March’s lawyer is now bizarrely claiming that someone impersonated him in the call to the medical examiner’s office!) No one even questioned the shooting at the time, until some clues about what a horrific murder it really was were leaked to journalist Jamie Kalven from the Invisible Institute. Almost a year after the murder, a judge finally ordered the dashcam video to be released to the public. Shocked by what they saw and how it was in stark contrast to the police narrative, people of all nationalities took to the streets in outrage night after night for weeks.

Cover-Up or Business As Usual?

The lawyer for Van Dyke’s partner, who is currently on trial, brought home the truth that this is how it works. He argued that there was nothing wrong with the cops meeting together after the shooting or the cops coordinating how they would handle the situation, “[T]hose factors are what occurs in every single major crime that occurs in this city. And it occurs at every single police department in this state and this country. This is not evidence of an agreement. This is typical standard operating procedure of what occurs in the wake of a major crime.”

The journalist Jamie Kalven, who has for decades exposed police brutality in Chicago, made an important observation: “While the term ‘code of silence’ evokes something essential—the coerced silence of police officers who observe but do not report abuses by their fellow officers—it is, in some respects a misnomer, a euphemism. The practices to which it refers are less a matter of silence than of tightly orchestrated lying and various means used to maintain narrative control.” And further, that it is not some "vague 'culture'" among cops but “a set of institutional mechanisms central to the operation” of the Chicago Police Department.” (See Kalven’s “Code of Silence” published online.)

The Trial

In this current trial, Laquan McDonald is once again being demonized and painted as responsible for his own death, AND the police who systematically lied in their reports are once again being given a platform to viciously claim his murder was justified. Along with allowing Laquan to be put on trial, the judge has also allowed wild and unfounded attacks by the defense on the personal character and integrity of witnesses against the police. In a surreal moment, one of the pigs’ attorneys actually grilled the Latino eyewitness who has courageously fought to tell the truth about what he saw that night—why didn’t he call 911 to report what he witnessed? Mr. Torres pointed out that when you call 911 you get the police who were already there. The whistle-blower cop was attacked by the defense, accused of lying to save her job so she wouldn’t have to return to working as a cashier at a fast food joint. She testified that as result of refusing to falsify her report and testifying in this trial, she has been labeled a rat and a traitor on the job, re-assigned to desk duty for fear that her fellow pigs would put her in harm’s way on the street.

The judge will make her ruling on the outcome of this trial on December 19. It remains to be seen if fear of further exposure of the whole judicial system will result in this judge, who is a former veteran prosecutor, finding these cops guilty or whether the whole weight of the system and everything the system has invested in protecting the police will result in the judge letting these pigs walk. And whatever the verdict, the fact that so few of the guilty have even been tried amounts in itself to a whitewash and an outrageous injustice, even on the terms of what this system CLAIMS to be about (equality before the law).

This trial could also could have ramifications on the upcoming sentencing of Van Dyke and his appeal of his guilty verdict for 2nd degree murder.

While it would be an outrage if any of these pigs walk free, it is still worse that this system goes on even after a few scapegoats are punished, creating new Laquans with the same brutality and the same orchestration of lies that cover it up.

This system cannot be reformed, it must be overthrown.

Concessions on police terror; violence among the youth; why you need a revolution: Q&A w Bob Avakian

If you want to understand WHY this keeps happening over and over for decades; if you want to understand why the oppression of Black people is poured into the foundation of this capitalist-imperialist system and why there is no future for the youth; if you want to understand why the Chicago consent decree was a product of the struggle against police brutality but won’t fundamentally solve the problem; if you want to understand why a revolution is the solution and how one could be made... if you agonize about this situation—then you need to watch the film of Bob Avakian’s talk Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution and listen to his answer during a Q&A in Chicago about the consent decree.

Eddie Johnson was named police chief when Garry McCarthy was forced to step down after the video of Laquan’s murder became public. Johnson was Emanuel’s hand-picked choice to run the department in the hopes that putting a Black cop in charge would quell the criticism of the department, which is notorious for its brutality. Even the Department of (in)Justice was forced to investigate the CPD in 2017 after the uproar in the city over Laquan’s murder and found a police “pattern of unlawful force” and that “the failure to review and investigate officer use of force has helped create a culture in which officers expect to use force and not be quest[ion]ed about the need for or propriety of that use.”

The Invisible Institute recently published a lengthy exposure at The Intercept about Eddie Johnson’s history in orchestrating and overseeing these cover-ups, protecting pigs involved in notorious shootings and excessive force complaints in case after case: Rekia Boyd, Dakota Bright, Niko Husband, Christian Green and many more. See “Use of Force—Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson’s Long Record of Justifying Police Misconduct and Shootings” published by Invisible Institute at The Intercept, November 14, 2018.

 

 

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