Should We Celebrate US War Crimes?

Summer’s here and war is all around. Or, as the great Bob Marley put it, Everywhere is War. The commemorations of Memorial Day, Flag Day and Independence Day are all presented as celebrations of our war dead, symbols of the freedoms we love so dearly and seek to export to the rest of the world and, perhaps most important, the unquestioned rightness of our cause.

In a deeper, sadder, reality, the celebrations are of imperialist war, with the talk about the hallowed dead covering the murderous nature of US foreign policy. Ritualistically celebrating the dead – note that the dead celebrated are just the American dead, not any of the millions killed by US aggression or by its client states – is designed to render anyone who asks the wrong questions a traitor or a terrorist. That US troops are involved in war crimes and that polished, well-educated men like Barack Obama are war criminals is unthinkable. War criminals look like Osama bin-Laden, Saddam Hussein and those other nasty people far away, over there.

It’s also the summer of the centennial of the start of what was once known as the Great War, the greatest blood-letting in history except for that of the Second Great War barely two decades later. Of one thing we can be sure, the lessons drawn from mainstream discussions of World War I will be all the wrong ones – particularly neglecting to draw any poignant conclusions between WWI and, say, our current Worldwide War. Worse, the spectacle of the intelligentsia waxing eloquent about the horrors of World War I, while unflinchingly cheering on the warmakers in Washington, will be accepted by one and all as perfectly reasonable – as beyond discussion, in fact.

In recent weeks, meanwhile, mainstream commentators have been shocked – shocked! – to discover that things in Iraq are not all right. Who knew that an invasion predicated on lies of weapons of mass destruction and Saddam’s love for bin Laden, designed to secure control of massive oil supplies, would go wrong? The political class didn’t, or at least they pretended they didn’t, but millions around the world who demonstrated against the invasion before it was launched did, underscoring that a US invasion would fuel sectarian divisions and violence, precisely as has happened. Al-Qaeda, which did not exist in Iraq prior to the invasion, now flourishes while an offshoot, the Islamist State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) rampages throughout the country.

The response of many in the US political class, naturally, is for more war. Apparently preferring violence over diplomacy, Obama has sent a strike force to Iraq, which grows larger by the day. Whether the people of the US can come together as we did last summer when we prevented Obama from attacking Syria remains to be seen – but we must at least try.

Also on the war front is the Veterans Affairs’ disgraceful neglect of ex-soldiers in need of medical care, as Sen. Tom Coburn’s report finds bad VA care may have resulted in the deaths of more than one thousand veterans. At the same time, political elites are blocking decent benefits for veterans while happily purchasing malfunctioning F-35 aircraft from Lockheed Martin at about $200 million a pop. It is especially outrageous that those most enthusiastic about the illegal Bush-Cheney invasions, the reductions to the VA’s budgets and the tax cuts for the one percent now pretend they care about soldiers.

Last but not least is the saga of the much-vilified Bowe Bergdhal, a heroic young man who came to see the criminal nature of the US invasion of Afghanistan. Over the past 13 years of US aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan, roughly 59,000 soldiers deserted the military – about 378 per month. The refusal of working class youth to fight wars is a ruling class nightmare and the attacks on Bergdahl show some sense of the punishment for those in uniform who dare challenge their imperatives. A decisive aspect of the movement that ended the US carnage in Southeast Asia waswidespread opposition of veterans and active duty resisters. Avoiding a repeat of such resistance is central to imperial objectives. Rather than joining in the Bowe Bergdhal lynch mob, US soldiers everywhere, not to mention those with loved ones in the military, would do well to support him.

As clearly delineated by the 1946 Nuremberg Judgment, a war of aggression, such as committed by the US against Afghanistan and Iraq, “is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime, differing only from all other crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” The same standard must apply to the United States. If the allegations of treason levied on Bergdahl are true, not only was what he did proper, it was obligatory.

So, starting now and for every summer hereafter, amidst the celebratory flag-waving and speechifying that glorify war, we should celebrate and fully support Bergdahl and prisoners of conscience like Chelsea Manning. We should demand that all services that veterans require be provided, all soldiers be returned home, bases and detention centers around the world be closed, and that the US cease its campaigns of endless aggression. And as enticing as it may seem in such desperate economic times, we should counsel young people to emphatically reject the military – no matter how bleak the alternatives may be. Then, perhaps future summertime celebrations will include jubilations for the final end to global war.

Andy Piascik is a long-time activist and award-winning author who writes for CounterPunch. He can be reached at andypiascik@yahoo.com.

More articles by:

Andy Piascik is an award-winning author who writes for Z Magazine, CounterPunch and many other publications and websites. He can be reached at andypiascik@yahoo.com.

August 04, 2020
John Pilger
Another Hiroshima is Coming…Unless We Stop It Now
Dave Lindorff
Unsung Heroes of Los Alamos: Rethinking Manhattan Project Spies and the Cold War
Kenneth Good
Escalating State Repression and Covid-19: Their Impact on the Poor in Kenya
Dean Baker
We Need an Economic Survival Package Not Another Stimulus
David Rosen
Globalization and the End of the American Dream
John Feffer
The Pandemic Reveals a Europe More United Than the United States
Patrick Cockburn
The Government’s Failed Track-and-Trace System is a Disaster for England
Ramzy Baroud
‘Optimism of the Will’: Palestinian Freedom is Possible Now
Manuel García, Jr.
Ocean Heat: From the Tropics to the Poles
Sonali Kolhatkar
Why the Idea of Jobless Benefits Scares the Conservative Mind
Greta Anderson
Framing Wolves in New Mexico?
Binoy Kampmark
Pulling Out of Germany: Trump Adjusts the Military Furniture
Shawn Fremstad – Nicole Rodgers
COVID Stimulus Checks Shouldn’t Penalize One-Parent Households
Adam Shah
The 1 Percent’s Attack on Unemployment Benefits is a Sign of Our Broken Democracy
Evaggelos Vallianatos
On the Beauty of Life
B. R. Gowani
Mohammed Rafi: Singer and Human Par Excellence
David Krieger
Eight A-Bomb Haiku
August 03, 2020
Linda Pentz Gunter
The Resistible Rise of Nuclear Gangsters…and Their Downfall
John G. Russell
The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters
Cal Winslow
Their Heroes and Ours: California’s Health Care Crisis
David Barber
Renouncing White Privilege: A Left Critique of Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility”
Linda G. Ford
Free Joy Powell! America’s Political Prisoner for Fighting Police Brutality
Prabir Purkayastha
Trump’s Withdrawal From WHO: a Cover-Up for His Abject Failure on COVID-19
Dean Baker
The Plunge in Consumption of Services Leads to a Record 32.9 Percent Drop in GDP
Ramzy Baroud
Human Rights Defenders: Palestinian Eyewitness Testimony of the Execution of Abdul Fattah al-Sharif by Israeli Soldier, Elor Azaria
Karen J. Greenberg
Accountability is Gone in America
Cesar Chelala
A Wrong Message for the Pandemic
Jonah Raskin
Chesa Boudin: Reformer in the San Francisco DA’s Office
George Wuerthner
Forest Plan Failure in the Montana Rockies
Ralph Nader
Speaker Nancy Pelosi Writes to Me!
Laura Flanders
Take on the Tech Mob Now or Perish
CounterPunch News Service
Conservationists Intervene to Oppose New Dam Project Near the Grand Canyon
Weekend Edition
July 31, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Bette Lee
Tear Gas and Thugs at the BLM Protests in Portland
Rob Urie
Russiagate, Nazis, and the CIA
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Demon Seed
T.J. Coles
The Space Wars Have Begun
Andrew Levine
Insurgents and Iconoclasts Needed (But for Now Lay Low)
Paul Street
“Time to Say the F-Word”: Why Now?
Matthew Scully
The Triple Antagonist of the Police, Policing, and Policy
Richard D. Wolff
The Consequences of Inequality Can Be Fatal
Richard C. Gross
Feds Give In, Maybe
Erik Molvar
Inside Trump’s Attack on America’s Environmental Charter
W. T. Whitney
“We Charge Genocide:” Forerunner at UN of Black Lives Matter
Brett Wilkins
The Bologna Massacre, the ‘Strategy of Tension’ and Operation Gladio
Nick Pemberton
Does The Left Stand With Uighurs?