by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley
The United States could fill scores of International Criminal Courts with homegrown war criminals, but prefers to honor them as “statesmen” and “the best and the brightest.” The recently deceased Robert McNamara even indicted himself for crimes against Japanese civilians – but only as a mental exercise enveloped in real-world impunity. McNamara has had lots of company in the past forty years since he last served an American president.... Obama expanded war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, continuing a process begun by Carter and Brzezinski thirty years ago.”
Freedom Rider: American War Criminals
by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley
“No matter how egregious their acts, or how big their lies, they are accepted as honored statesmen and women.”
Robert McNamara died last week at the age of 93. He served presidents Kennedy and Johnson as Secretary of Defense and bares responsibility for the escalation of the Vietnam War, which spread to the rest of Indochina and killed 3 million people.
McNamara was part of a very small, rarified group. They are the people who answer to presidents and prime ministers and princes. They are admired and lionized, even when they do great harm to humanity. Regardless of the awful consequences of their actions, they are called brilliant, the “best and the brightest.”
The McNamaras of the world are all criminals, mass killers. Yet because they kill on behalf of the state, they are punished only if they are unfortunate enough to be on the losing side. McNamara said so himself. His first brush with mass murder occurred during World War II when he served as an analyst under the tutelage of General Curtis LeMay. LeMay was responsible for the firebombing of Tokyo that incinerated 100,000 people. He and McNamara both acknowledged the horror of their act.
“LeMay said, ‘If we'd lost the war, we'd all have been prosecuted as war criminals.’ And I think he's right. He, and I'd say I, were behaving as war criminals. LeMay recognized that what he was doing would be thought immoral if his side had lost. But what makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?"
“The Vietnam War did for a time quench America’s appetite for invasions and bloody conquests.”
McNamara was not the first, nor the last man to kill millions on behalf of his government. He has had lots of company in the past forty years since he last served an American president. The Vietnam War did for a time quench America’s appetite for invasions and bloody conquests. In the 1970s and 1980s our government settled for propping up favored tyrants like Saddam Hussein and helped to instigate their wars of aggression. It also beat up on small, vulnerable countries like Panama and Grenada that were no match for the United States war machine.
It wasn’t until the early 1990s when the first president Bush took office and turned former friend Saddam Hussein into a foe that the old fashioned methods were once again in vogue. Iraq was victimized not once but twice and turned into a killing field for eager foreign policy and defense experts.McNamara had plenty of successors who quite happily served as Secretary of Defense or State or as National Security Advisers who took up the charge of killing enormous numbers of people on behalf of Uncle Sam.
Some, like Zbigniew Brzezinski, sent money and arms into places like Afghanistan and Pakistan. Brzezinski committed his worst acts during the Carter administration but he has been recycled and is now advising president Obama some thirty years after he destroyed and destabilized those two countries.
“Iraq was turned into a killing field for eager foreign policy and defense experts.”
It doesn’t seem to matter what these people do or how badly they mess up. They are always forgiven and are always likely to turn up at a later date, a la Donald Rumsfeld. Others like Colin Powell are between foreign policy gigs but are still allowed to advise presidents and pontificate to ordinary citizens. No matter how egregious their acts, or how big their lies, they are accepted as honored statesmen and women and given a pass on their heinous behavior. Colin Powell may, like his partners in crime, turn up again at a president’s right hand at some future date.
There will be plenty of McNamaras in our present and our future as long as we turn a blind eye and give the government permission to kill. Obama managed to get support from millions of people who actually opposed the occupation of Iraq.He clearly states he isn’t interested in ending the occupation any sooner than Bush administration agreements will allow him to. Obama expanded war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, continuing a process begun by Carter and Brzezinski thirty years ago. The cracks in his support are beginning to surface, but he is still admired far more than he is scorned.
McNamara never faced the hangman’s noose or a firing squad, but he once was very nearly killed by a man who decided to take justice into his own hands. In 1972 an artist saw McNamara on a ferry traveling to Martha’s Vineyard and tried to throw him overboard.
“Obama expanded war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, continuing a process begun by Carter and Brzezinski thirty years ago.”
There are a lot of people in the corridors of power who we are justified in wanting to punish. Every American president is on that list. The Kissingers and Brzezinskis and Powells and Rumsfelds and Cheneys and Rices (Condi and Susan) all inspire thoughts of violence in any person who realizes the enormity of their criminality.
They should all have mug shots on file and wear orange jump suits in their homes behind bars. Rather than trying to toss them into the sea, we should first call them what they are. The day we refuse to believe their lies, and support their evil acts, will be the day that their awful reign will end.
Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgandaReport.Com.