Earlier today we heard about racism and how it plays out in the conquest and exploitation of African countries, with a focus on the tragic situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. People in North America don’t normally hear much about this; that lack of reporting, and he resulting lack of interest, in itself indicates a high degree of racism. Why do the powers that be, the corporate-owned media that is one with the U.S. government, not care about the blatant racism happening in Africa, and the suffering and deaths of countless men, women and children? Well, obviously, in the minds of those who control the flow of information, those people simply don’t matter. After all, the 1% benefit from the theft from and exploitation of these people, so in their view, nothing else matters. And these crimes against humanity have been perpetrated for decades.
We also heard about Islamophobia, or anti-Muslim prejudice. While the horrific exploitation of people throughout Africa is more or less ignored, Islamophobia is actually embraced; Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump wants to keep all Muslims out of the U.S., and both he and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton want to increase the bombing of mostly Muslim counties.
In May of last year, anti-Islam protestors held a demonstration in Arizona. As you may recall, armed demonstrators surrounded a mosque during services. The demonstration was peaceful, with one of the demonstrators being invited into the mosque, and after his brief visit, said he has been mistaken about Muslims. A little knowledge goes a long way.
But imagine, if you will, the reaction if a group of peaceful Muslims took up arms and surrounded a Catholic church during Mass, a synagogue during services or any other Christian of Jewish house of worship. I can just imagine the body count, with all the victims being Muslim.
So, the killing of Africans by corporate representatives, and of Muslims directly by the U.S. government: is this new? Are these murderous policies something that have just been dreamed up by President Barack Obama? Hardly, but I won’t take the time to detail the horrendous practices of the U.S. since its very founding, but I will discuss a few.
When the earliest Europeans arrived in North America, they found a land rich in natural resources. Unfortunately, it was inhabited by millions of people. Yet in the eyes of these early settlers, the natives were only savages. After the colonies declared independence, the Federal government decreed that it would manage all the affairs of the ‘Indians’. The natives, who had lived from time immemorial managing their own affairs, were now to be managed by people who wanted the land that they relied on for their very existence.
The list of treaties that the U.S government made with the natives and subsequently violated, sometimes within a matter of days, would take volumes to detail. But little has changed in the intervening 200 years. Native Americans today are still exploited, still stuck on reservations, and still suffering under government management. It isn’t surprising that the Black Lives Matter movement has embraced the cause of the natives, currently seen in its support of the NoDAPL (no Dakota Access Pipeline) initiative. Palestinian activists in that country, which also suffers under the heavy hand of U.S. racism, and the Black Lives Matter movement, offer mutual support. Perhaps more than ever before, divergent groups that experience U.S. exploitation are aligning with each other to achieve mutual goals for justice.
Before I return to an abbreviated litany of U.S crimes against humanity, I want to mention what has been called ‘missing white women’s syndrome’. Think for a moment, if you will, about missing women you have heard reported about on the news. Elizabeth Smart and Lacey Peterson are two that come to my mind. There are a few others whose faces I can see in my mind from various news reports, and all of them are white. When women of color disappear, there is little reporting. Again, we need to consider the racism of those who control the corporate-owned media. If the lives of Africans in Africa have no meaning or importance to them, why should the lives of women of African descent have any in the U.S.? And if Native Americans are completely expendable, why should missing native women draw any attention?
And while we’re discussing lives that, in the eyes of the U.S. government, seem to have no meaning, let’s talk about unarmed black men. In the U.S., they apparently serve as target practice for the white police, who kill them for no other reason than their race, and do so with nearly complete impunity. I see that the officer in Tulsa who shot and killed Terrance Crutcher is being charged with manslaughter. Why the charge isn’t first degree murder, I don’t know, but at least she is being charged. But what about the murderers of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Carl Nivins and the numerous other innocent victims? Why are they allowed to walk free?
But let’s return to racism in war.
In the late 1800s, after the U.S. annexed the Philippines, William Howard Taft, who later became president of the U.S., was appointed the civil governor general of the Philippines. He referred to the Filipino people as his ‘little brown brothers’. Major General Adna R. Chaffee, also in the Philippines with the U.S. military, described the Filipino people thusly: “We are dealing with a class of people whose character is deceitful, who are absolutely hostile to the white race and who regard life as of little value and, finally, who will not submit to our control until absolutely defeated and whipped into such condition.”
The U.S. is always talking about winning the hearts and minds of the people whose nation it is invading. Yet the Filipino people, like the Vietnamese 70 years later, and the Iraqis 30 years after that, needed to ‘submit to U.S. control’. It’s hard to win the hearts and minds of the people you are killing.
But, Mr. Taft’s ‘little brown brothers’ needed to be whipped into submission.
In 1901, about three years into the war, the Balangiga massacre occurred during the Samar campaign. In the town of Balangiga, on the island of Samar, the Filipinos surprised the Americans in an attack that killed 40 U.S. soldiers. Now, the U.S. reveres U.S. soldiers who are allegedly defending the ‘homeland’, but has no regard for its own victims. In retribution, Brigadier General Jacob H. Smith ordered the execution of everyone in the town over the age of ten. Said he: “Kill and burn, kill and burn; the more you kill and the more you burn, the more you please me.” Between 2,000 and 3,000 Filipinos, one third of the entire population of Samar, died in this massacre.
During World War I, tens of thousands of African-Americans participated, and demonstrated bravery and valor. There was a belief that, standing side-by-side with their white compatriots, serving the country they both lived in, a new racial equality would be born.
However, this was not to be the case. Throughout the war, the U.S. government and the military feared the ramifications of African American soldiers participating freely in French culture. They warned the French not to associate with African Americans and disseminated racist propaganda. This included falsely accusing African-American soldiers of raping white women.
The French, however, didn’t seem impressed with U.S. propaganda efforts against African-Americans. Unlike the U.S., which awarded no metals to any African-American soldier who served in World War I until years after the war, and then only posthumously, the French awarded hundreds of its most important and prestigious metal, to African-American soldiers due to their exceptionally heroic efforts.
In World War II, it can’t be denied that the German army committed unspeakable atrocities. Yet, in the U.S., it wasn’t the government only that was criticized. Hatred towards all Germans was encouraged in novels, movies and newspapers.
U.S. citizens don’t like to think too much about concentration camps for Japanese-Americans. Once Pearl Harbor was bombed and the U.S entered the war, all Japanese residents in the U.S., including native born citizens, were under suspicion. “Soon after the attack, martial law was declared and leading members of the Japanese American community were taken into custody.
Their treatment was far from humane.
“When the government decided to relocate Japanese Americans, they were not merely driven from their homes and communities on the West Coast and rounded up like cattle, but actually forced to live in facilities meant for animals for weeks and even months before being moved to their final quarters.’ Confined in stockyards, racetracks, cattle stalls at fairgrounds, they were even housed for a time in converted pigpens. When they finally got to the concentration camps, they might find that state medical authorities tried to prevent them from receiving medical care or, as in Arkansas, refused to permit doctors to issue state birth certificates to children born in the camps, as if to deny the infants’’ legal existence,’ not to mention their humanity. Later, when the time came to begin releasing them from the camps, racist attitudes often blocked their resettlement.”
The decision to inter Japanese-Americans had many justifications, all based in racism. California Attorney General Earl Warren was, perhaps, most prominent among them. On February 21, 1942, he presented testimony to the Select Committee Investigating National Defense Migration, displaying great hostility to foreign-born and American born Japanese people. I will quote a portion of his testimony:
“We believe that when we are dealing with the Caucasian race we have methods that will test the loyalty of them, and we believe that we can, in dealing with the Germans and the Italians, arrive at some fairly sound conclusions because of our knowledge of the way they live in the community and have lived for many years. But when we deal with the Japanese we are in an entirely different field and we cannot form any opinion that we believe to be sound. Their method of living, their language, make for this difficulty. I had together about 10 days ago about 40 district attorneys and about 40 sheriffs in the State to discuss this alien problem, I asked all of them … if in their experience any Japanese… had ever given them any information on subversive activities or any disloyalty to this country. The answer was unanimously that no such information had ever been given to them.
“Now, that is almost unbelievable. You see, when we deal with the German aliens, when we deal with the Italian aliens, we have many informants who are most anxious to help …authorities to solve this alien problem.”
Please recall that this man was later Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court for 16 years.
Let’s move on now to Vietnam.
This U.S. attitude of the inferiority of the Vietnamese people, and therefore, the ability to treat them as sub-human, was a constant in Vietnam, but perhaps was most blatantly manifested during the My Lai Massacre. On March 16, 1968, between 347 and 504 unarmed civilians were killed in South Vietnam under the direction of Second Lieutenant William Calley. The victims, mainly women, children – including infants – and the elderly, were savagely killed and their bodies mutilated. Many of the women were raped.
In her book, An Intimate History of Killing: Face-To-Face Killing in Twentieth-Century Warfare, Joanna Bourke said this: “Prejudice lay at the very heart of the military establishment…and, in the Vietnam context Calley was originally charged with the premeditated murder of ‘Oriental human beings’ rather than ‘human beings,’ and undeniably, men who carried out atrocities had highly prejudicial views about their victims. Calley recalled that on arriving in Vietnam his main thought was ‘I’m the big American from across the sea. I’ll sock it to these people here.’” “Even Michael Bernhard (who refused to take part in the massacre) said of his comrades at My Lai: ‘A lot of those people wouldn’t think of killing a man. I mean, a white man – a human so to speak.’” Sergeant Scott Camil said that “It wasn’t like they were humans. They were a gook or a Commie and it was okay.”
Another solider put it this way: ‘It was easy killing them gooks. They wasn’t even people, they was lower down than animals.”
So this is the U.S. military at work, going around the world, spreading its bizarre form of democracy to unsuspecting nations that, before U.S. interference, were doing just fine governing themselves. It supports the racist regime of Israel, apparently seeing the abject suffering of Palestinians in the same light as it sees the suffering of African Americans or Native Americans in the U.S.: simply unworthy of consideration. It encourages terms such as ‘camel jockey’ or ‘raghead’, to demean freedom fighters in the deserts of the Middle East. And all the time it proclaims itself as a beacon of freedom and democracy, a fairy tale not believed much outside its own borders.
This is why we are here this weekend; to forward the radical idea that we can live in a world beyond war, and without the unspeakable racism that is always a part of it.
 Philip Shabecoff Recto, The Philippines Reader: A History of Colonialism, Neocolonialism, Dictatorship, and Resistance, (South End Press, 1999), 32.