Redefining Memorial Day, or, Remembering the Millions of Innocent Civilians Killed in America’s Imperial Wars
In the years since the end of World War II, the United States has killed more innocent people in more foreign countries than any other nation on earth. This irrefutable fact is almost never discussed in this country, and the millions of victims of American bombs, bullets, blockades and bayonets are utterly forgotten. What better day to remember them than this, Memorial Day?
I know, I know– Memorial Day is supposed to be about somberly remembering those brave Americans who laid down their lives so you and I could be free. And while it is tragic that 1.3 million of our nation’s men and women made the ‘ultimate sacrifice’ in service of our nation’s interests, not since the Civil War has any American died for our freedom. And not since World War II has any American soldier, sailor, airman or Marine given his or her life for any cause save that of US imperialism, or for any gain save for those of the strategic or corporate variety. Indeed, the corporate masters who really run this nation have been the main beneficiaries of the mighty sacrifices of our brave troops over the centuries.
I salute all those courageous Americans who died selflessly serving their country and its interests, as naïve as many of them surely were.
It’s funny, we always say how suicide bombers like those who attacked us on 9/11 must be ‘brainwashed’ in order to commit such heinous acts of senseless slaughter. But we ignore the brainwashing required to convince millions of young Americans, most hailing from the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder, to volunteer to be shipped off to far-flung corners of the earth to kill and be killed, maimed or psychologically scarred for life. And all for purposes that have little or nothing to do with them. US troops do indeed deserve a certain measure of reverence, for most of them truly believe that they are spreading freedom and democracy one bomb, one bullet at a time.
Never mind that the government they serve supports some of the most undemocratic regimes in the world, from the Saudi monarchs who brutally repress their own people while funding the very terrorists our nation has been battling for so long, to the Bahraini regime that murders and tortures dissenters, to the wicked Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan– notorious for boiling his opponents alive— to a host of lesser yet equally horrific tyrants in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.
More than 6,000 US troops have died so far while ‘spreading democracy’ in the 11-year ‘War on Terror.’ More than 20 times as many innocent civilians have died as a result of the US-led invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. Years of war and occupation have left these proud nations in ruins. Torture, arbitrary killings, repression and ethnic cleansing of Christians and Jews are everyday facts of life for Iraqis, despite their ‘liberation’ from Saddam Hussein and their newfound freedom to vote.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban are still very much alive and well despite America’s best efforts to root out and destroy them. Repression remains alarmingly commonplace. Women and girls are victims of frequent misogynistic violence, poverty and hunger ravage the war-torn nation, and those who reject Islam face severe penalties, even death, under the country’s new ‘democratic’ constitution. Afghanistan’s government and security forces are spectacularly corrupt and inept, and our Afghan ‘allies’ are prone to turning their guns on our troops.
This is the ‘freedom’ America has brought to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Yet by historical standards, the people of Afghanistan and Iraq have suffered relatively little at the hands of their American ‘liberators.’ In Korea, US commanders ordered troops to deliberately slaughter innocent civilians. In Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, more than a million innocent people, mostly peasants, were killed by a US war machine that unleashed a ferocious aerial bombardment campaign that saw more bombs dropped on tiny, impoverished Laos than fell on Germany during all of World War II. Unexploded ordnance and the chemical weapon Agent Orange still kill, maim and deform thousands of hapless Southeast Asians to this very day. On the ground, US troops operated in “free-fire zones” where anything that moved was considered fair game for slaughter. This is how the United States “protected the Vietnamese from communism,” and in the end, the communists, who enjoyed enormous popular support, won. Vietnam and Laos are still ‘red’ to this day.
The 58,269 Americans who died fighting in Vietnam do deserve special mention since most of them were victims of a draft system which spared those, like former vice president Dick Cheney (5 deferments), who could afford to shirk their duty while millions of young men of lesser means were sent to kill and die for no good reason whatsoever– or more accurately, to oppose a political ideology that the majority of the people being slaughtered in the name of freedom actually supported.
The United States doesn’t have to actually wage war on a nation in order to be culpable for the deaths of millions of innocent civilians in it. By supporting dictatorships in every corner of the world, Washington has been an accomplice to some of the worst atrocities of the past 60 years. The US backed the Indonesian military dictator Suharto, whose forces killed millions in multiple genocides, for decades. Recently, President Barack Obama restored ties with the Indonesian special forces unit responsible for some of the worst massacres.
Hundreds of thousands of indigenous peasants were slaughtered by US-backed Central American dictators whose security forces utilized American-authored training manuals that taught kidnapping, torture and murder. From the Shah of Iran to Saddam Hussein to the military dictators of Latin America’s ‘Dirty Wars’ and too many more murderous despots to mention here, the United States has been the world’s leading supporter of tyranny for far too long. Millions of totally innocent men, women and children have died as a result. And in places like Palestine, where Israel continues to conduct a campaign of slow-motion ethnic cleansing of Arabs financed by billions of American taxpayer dollars, thousands of innocents are still dying.
These victims are almost never mentioned, never remembered. But to me, they’re as much a part of Memorial Day as the 1.3 million Americans who have died in our nation’s many wars. I propose redefining Memorial Day, or perhaps out of reverence for the Americans who have died fighting our (mis)leaders’ wars, setting aside a separate date on which we shall solemnly remember those millions of innocent human lives sacrificed upon the altar of imperialism.
Tagged american atrocities, American imperialism, innocent civilians killed by united states, memorial day, redefining memorial day, spreading democracy, u.s. foreign policy, victims of u.s. imperialism, victims of u.s. wars, War on Terror