"Throughout the world, on any given day, a man, woman, or child is likely to be displaced, tortured, killed, or 'disappeared', at the hands of governments or armed political groups. More often than not, the United States shares the blame." -- Amnesty International, 1996
"Everything I did, I did for my country." -- Pol Pot
As people recoil in horror at what is undeniably, well, a horror and a tragedy, and as the U.S. undoubtedly starts to mount retaliatory attacks, here are a few brief reminders of how we got here.
I listened incredulously Monday as NPR's "Talk of the Nation" sunk to what I can only wish was a new low, with a spirited, cheerful, explicit hour-long defense of the wholesome goodness for the entire world of the American Empire and its current global military dominance. Two cheerleaders for this arrangement deftly handled softball questions, while nobody, in the segments I could stomach listening to, bothered to point out that, for example, this country was founded because our much-worshipped "Founding Fathers" didn't like being told what to do by bullies halfway around the world. Times haven't changed that much.
Yesterday, Henry Kissinger was facing accusations (thank you, Christopher Hitchens) of being a war criminal. He's not alone. Here's a short list of additional recent American war criminals -- essentially the American leaders of the last decades:
William Clinton, former President, for 78 days and nights of bombing the civilians of Yugoslavia (carried out by U.S. Gen. Wesley Clark under NATO auspices); continuation of sanctions and rocket attacks upon the people of Iraq; and illegal bombings of Somalia, Bosnia, Sudan, and Afghanistan.
Gen. Colin Powell, Secretary of State, for his leading role in the attacks on Panama, Iraq, and covering up My Lai.
George Bush, former President, for the murder of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, and thousands of Panamanian civilians (along with kidnapping the country's leader, a former CIA protégé).
Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, former Commander in Chief, U.S. Central Command, for his role in attacking Iraqi civilians.
Ronald Reagan, former President, for illegal attacks on El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Grenada, and Libya.
Elliot Abrams, former Assistant Secretary of State (and back in the new Bush Administration), for overseeing much of the death and fascism in Central America. Also Casper Weinberger, Secretary of Defense; Lt. Col. Oliver North; and many others.
Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State: Chile, Vietnam, East Timor, Angola, Iraq, and Cambodia.
Gerald Ford, former President, for giving approval to Indonesia for the genocide of East Timor.
And on, back through the war in Southeast Asia. "War criminal" means just that -- inflicting a level of carnage barbaric and unacceptable even in time of war. It does not even begin to touch the many regimes -- today, Israel comes to mind -- that the U.S. has supported, armed, advised, and even installed, who have inflicted horrors on their own populations.
Tuesday was a day of complete horror in the history of the United States; and the American public as well as its leaders will demand retribution. Let's not forget, however, how we got to this day.