For as long as I’ve been alive, my country has been a rogue state.
Actually, the US became a rogue state four years before my birth in 1949 when, in 1945, Washington decided to bomb two militarily insignificant cities in Japan with its new super weapon, the atomic bomb, instantly incinerating several hundred thousand Japanese civilians, including many, many children, and condemning at least that many more to slow agonizing deaths from resulting cancers and birth defects.
From that war crime we went on to the Korean War where the US used the tactic of saturation bombing on the north — bombing that was so extensive that eventually the waves of B-29 bombers were unable to find any more targets to hit and were having to drop their ordnance loads in the ocean before returning to airports in Japan, where landing planes full of high explosives was considered too risky. The death toll of civilians in the North alone is estimated, over three years of bombing, at 1.5 million, or about 15% of the country’s population. Many more civilians were killed by US forces during fighting in the south.
US military and CIA-backed forces engaged in subversion and secret support of civil conflicts in Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia over the subsequent decade of the ‘50s, including the overthrow of the elected secular government of Iran in 1953, an action motivated by Washington’s desire to control Iran’s oil. That overthrow has had long-lasting consequences, as Iranians, chafing at the reign of the US-installed monarchy of the Shah, eventually overthrew it, and brought in a theocracy that was, understandably, virulently anti-US — a situation that continues to inspire endless US violence and war in the region even today.
The ‘60s, of course, is the era of the Indochina War. President Eisenhower set the stage by backing efforts by the French to reclaim their colonial grip over the region after WWII. When the French were finally defeated by the Viet Minh, despite US aid for French forces, it fell to President John F. Kennedy to pick up the rogue-country mantel, sending upward of 20,000 military “advisors” (actually special forces trained in dirty war techniques) to prop up a corrupt neo-colonial regime in the south of Vietnam. Thus began a decade-long war that, under Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, eventually had half a million US troops in country fighting at one time, battling a national liberation army composed of North Vietnamese troops and Viet Cong irregular guerrillas in the south, as well as Pathet Lao forces fighting for freedom in Laos, and Khmer Rouge fighters in Cambodia.
That illegal and imperialist war by the US led to the deaths of 58,000 American troops and an estimated 3 million Vietnamese, plus hundreds of thousands of more, all mostly civilians, in Laos and Cambodia. It also led to the criminal destruction, through use of chemical weapons (defoliant chemicals) of huge tracts of jungle and rice paddies in those countries. The southern region of Laos today resembles a moonscape overgrown with jungle — the whole area is so dotted with perfectly round ponds each of which was a crater formed by a US 500 lb. or 1000 lb. bombs that had typically targeted individual rice farmers or their water buffalo.
It was during the Indochina War, that I, at the age of 17 still a high school senior approaching my 18th birthday and draft age just ahead of graduation, first realized that I was living in a criminal nation. Several months before that birthday (April 4, which also happened to be the day Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis), I resolved not to participate in that war, not to request a college student deferment, and to refuse induction if drafted. I also decided to devote myself to resisting the war and to working to end it to the best of my ability.
In the end, in early 1969, with a draft lottery number of 81, I was called up, though at the time I had a seriously broken leg, the result of a skiing accident. I tried to have my call-up delayed, explaining to my draft board that I was in a cast and on crutches, but was told I had to go to be “checked out” about my claim of temporary injury. At the induction center in New Haven, I got angry when told I needed to make my way, at my own expense, to a consulting physician at Yale New Haven Hospital, a mile distant along icy sidewalks. I went there, only to find the doctor was not in, and returned even angrier, tossed my X-rays on the induction center commander’s desk and said I would not be returning and if he wanted to draft me, the military would have to send the FBI to get me. Instead, a month later I was issued a 4F classification (unfit for military service). It was a year after the Tet Offensive, and, with soldiers in Vietnam in open rebellion, fragging commanding officers, and refusing orders to deploy on missions against Vietnamese forces, I think that they must have decided they didn’t want people like me inside the military.
By 1973, with the US military in a state of disarray and the American people fed up with the war in Indochina, an increasingly embattled President Nixon, recognizing that continued US domination of Vietnam was a lost cause, gave up the fight and pulled the last US troops out of Vietnam. That country was liberated on April 30,1975 with the capture of Saigon by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong fighters.
But while the US, for a time, was politically unable to engage in the kind of all-out war it had fought in Southeast Asia, it continued its rogue-country ways, subverting democratically elected governments in Europe, Latin America and Africa, supporting corrupt insurgencies around the globe, and periodically resorting to nuclear blackmail in an attempt to have its way in the world. That era saw President Carter attempt a miliitary assault on Tehran to “rescue” captive US personnel in the occupied US embassy, and Ronald Reagan’s invasion of the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada where a socialist government was trying to raise the living standard of its mostly black citizens by building a jet-capable airport to boost tourism (Reagan and his national security team saw the Cuban construction company there as evidence of a Commie plot to create another Red Outpost off US shores!).
In 1990, the US returned to its warlike ways again with a vengeance, when President George Bush, anxious to “erase” the so-called “Vietnam syndrome” of American unwillingness to commit to war. He had the US invade and overthrow the upstard government of Manuel Noriega in Panama, and later assembled a force of 500,000 troops in Saudi Arabia to launch an attack on Iraq and on its forces occupying neighboring Kuwait. That small emirate had been pilfering Iraqi oil underground and the US had deceptively told the Iraqi government it could move upon Kuwait to respond to that theft, but then announced it would defend Kuwait against the invasion of its territory. That illegal US war morphed quickly into a brutal and destructive attack on Iraq itself including bombing of the capital of Baghdad. There were US calls for Shia and Kurdish peoples in Iraq to rise up and rebel against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
It was the beginning of three decades of US open warfare in the Middle East, ultimately resulting in launching, by president Bush and VP Dick Cheney, of two illegal US wars against Afghanistan, Iraq (continued by President Obama, and by President Obama’s launching of US wars in Libya and Syria. All these imperial adventures were epic disasters that have killed millions of civilians and displaced millions more, achieving nothing but chaos while costing — thus far — over $5 trillion.
We now find ourselves on the precipice of yet another criminal war by the US in the Middle East, as Donald Trump, our latest, but hardly the first of our criminal presidents, launched a drone-fired missile attack killing Qessim Suliemani, the military commander of Iraq, while he was on a diplomatic mission in Iraq. The assassination was an act of war of the first order that could yet result in an epic armed conflict between the US and Iran, a nation of 80 million, with a large and fairly sophisticated and well equipped army of over 2 million, sitting on one of the world’s largest oil reserves.
The long history of criminal wars and subversion by the US government, and the acquiescence of many of the people of my country, the United States, continues even on my 70th year.
It is a sorry record, one that has not shown signs of getting better. Indeed, it may be that only a massive economic collapse, and/or a dramatic sea-level rise and an Australia-like continent-wide firestorm, will bring this criminal nation to heel. Either that or a popular uprising, the likes of which we haven’t seen since 1776, of an aroused American public fed up with the lies, the corruption and the essential inhumanity of our supposed “democratic” government in Washington.
There is a lot of good among the citizens of this country. If we as a people were to demand that our government respond to our, and not the elite’s, needs and wishes, and that the US behave like a responsible member of the family of nations of the globe, instead of like a rogue bully demanding its way or destruction, it could be a different world, and a much better America. We might even be able to take effective action to confront the climate catastrophe which is growing ever nearer.
Absent such an awakening and uprising in the US, I fear for the future of this rogue nation and of the world.