by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley
The United States leaves an indelible impression on the peoples that come in contact with it: in the case of Iraqis, a legacy of death by bombs, bullets, incineration, starvation, disease and genetic damage. The U.S. didn’t invent war crimes, but its global reach and high tech style of killing makes America unique in the annals of inhumanity.
“Rates of cancer, leukemia, and infant mortality are higher in Fallujah than in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after they were bombed with nuclear weapons in 1945.”
The term war criminal conjures up images of Hitler’s henchmen or General Tojo heading for the gallows as punishment for crimes committed against humanity during World War II. Auschwitz and the rape of Nanking come to mind, but the references are all too often consigned to faraway places, long ago times or foreign despots.
Americans are rarely thought of in this category, but that level of ignorance and denial is inexcusable. America exists because of the atrocities which took place from the moment the first Europeans arrived on this continent. It all began with the killing of millions of indigenous people and then the ensnarement of millions of Africans into the hell of chattel slavery. If crimes against humanity were ever committed, they were committed here.
Those crimes didn’t stop at these borders and they weren’t all committed in centuries past. Numerous invasions and occupations should have put this country on the war crimes map, and one of those atrocities is ongoing but has been disappeared by the corporate media and Republican and Democratic politicians.
“Only those Americans intrepid enough to seek out their own sources of news know about the degree of horror their government brought to the Iraqi people.”
If there is anything worse than the United States destruction of Iraq and the killing of one million people, it is the fact that this crime has gone largely unreported. Most Americans don’t know very much about the invasion and occupation for the simple reason that the corporate media didn’t tell them much of anything important about it. Media consolidation into ever larger corporate conglomerates, and political subservience to big money guaranteed that only those Americans intrepid enough to seek out their own sources of news know about the degree of horror their government brought to the Iraqi people.
They don’t know that shells and missiles made of depleted uranium have poisoned Iraq’s air and water and that it was first used in the Gulf War of 1991. They don’t know that thousands of Iraqi children were killed when sanctions prevented them from getting food and medicine. They don’t know about the city of Fallujah and how it was destroyed by United States forces in 2004.
A campaign to “pacify” this city began after U.S. military contractors were killed there in 2003. In April and then in November of 2004 the city was decimated by a campaign meant to destroy popular resistance. The U.S. military attacked Fallujah’s hospitals in order to prevent the international media from seeing the carnage they had produced. Civilians trying to flee were turned back or even killed and soldiers cut off supplies of water and electricity. Mark77 firebombs, a variant of napalm, and white phosphorus, a weapon which melts skin and bone, were used during the attacks. All of these ghoulish concoctions are banned by international law and so is using collective punishment against a civilian population.
“The U.S. military attacked Fallujah’s hospitals in order to prevent the international media from seeing the carnage they had produced.”
The result of the use of depleted uranium and other weapons is a rate of genetic damage higher than that of any other population ever studied. Rates of cancer, leukemia, and infant mortality are higher in Fallujah than in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after they were bombed with nuclear weapons in 1945.
Babies in Fallujah are born without eyes, or only one eye, or organs outside of their bodies, or no heads or two heads. The gruesome toll has gone on since 2005 and now nearly ten years later continues unabated.
The United States is not a signatory of the Treaty of Rome which established the International Criminal Court. That is not by accident. Former president George W. Bush, his vice president and all of his foreign relations and national security team would be in the dock in the International Criminal Court if it hadn’t been created to punish only Africans. Bush, Cheney, Rice, Powell and company are easy targets for blame but the denunciation must go much further. Only two members of congress, Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul, ever made an effort to investigate the number of civilian fatalities in Iraq. No candidate for president or any other high office ever raised the subject. Newspapers and television networks were eager to curry favor with the Bush administration and never directed their embedded reporters to say anything about the war’s toll on civilians.
Now the Bush administration has been out of power for four years. Newspaper editorial boards no longer have to worry about them. Most combat troops have left Iraq and reporters have left with them. What now prevents the New York Times from doing a story on the high rate of cancers and congenital deformities in Fallujah? MSNBC is supposed to be the Democratic Party’s cable news network. Why haven’t they covered this story?
“Only two members of congress, Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul, ever made an effort to investigate the number of civilian fatalities in Iraq.”
The questions are rhetorical. They won’t do it because they support their government and powerful people more than they support democracy or our right to know anything important. Democrats are no better than Republicans because they acted as accessories to their crimes, supported them outright or are committing some of their own.
There are still war criminals and they aren’t all Congolese or Rwandans. Some of them are Americans. Some are Republicans while others are Democrats. They are the people who leave office and go on to make fortunes giving speeches or writing books. They are considered respectable when they are anything but and if they are constantly allowed to go unpunished more carnage will surely be the result.
Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.