American Crime

Updated November 12, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

American Crime is a regular feature of revcom.us. Each installment focuses on one of the 100 worst crimes committed by the U.S. rulers—out of countless bloody crimes they have carried out against people around the world, from the founding of the U.S. to the present day.

Members of the youth wing of the Indonesian Communist Party being hauled to a Jakarta prison, October 30, 1965.AP photo

Case #100: 1965 Massacre in Indonesia

THE CRIME: Bloated corpses clogged and choked the rivers of Indonesia. Villagers didn’t want to eat anything caught in these waters because human fingers were found inside the fish. This sounds like a horror movie. But this was an American-made reality. For many months, starting at the end of 1965, the Suharto regime in Indonesia slaughtered people with wild abandon. At least 500,000, perhaps more than a million, people were killed, including members of the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI), trade unionists, intellectuals, teachers, land reform advocates, ordinary peasants, ethnic Chinese, women, and children. Hundreds of thousands more were arrested and tortured. Read more

Osage Avenue burns after Philadelphia police dropped bomb on MOVE house. May 13, 1985.

Case #99: May 13, 1985 – The MOVE Massacre

THE CRIME: 5:35 am, May 13, 1985. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor aims his bullhorn at the house at 6221 Osage Avenue and declares: “Attention MOVE! This is America.” Seven adults and six children, members of the MOVE organization, were in their home. Outside, hundreds of heavily armed police and city officials surrounded them. Fifteen minutes later the police assault began. By the end, five children ages 9 to 14 were murdered by the police, as were six adults, their bodies mostly in pieces. Sixty-one homes were burned; 250 people rendered homeless. Read more

Case #98: 1953 CIA Coup in Iran: Torture and Repression – Made in the U.S.A.

 In Tehran, Iran on August 19, 1953, mobs joined by the military took over streets chanting “Long live the Shah! Death to Mossadegh!” They ransacked pro-Mossadegh newspapers and attacked his supporters.

THE CRIME: On August 19, 1953, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) along with British intelligence launched a military coup overthrowing Iran’s popular, elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh. In 1951, during an upsurge of protest against British colonialism, Mossadegh had nationalized Britain’s Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. Great Britain had plundered Iran’s oil wealth for decades. Britain moved to destabilize Mossadegh’s government, including by launching an international boycott of Iranian oil. The U.S. soon joined the coup plotting, conspiring with Iran’s Mohammad Reza Shah [King] Pahlavi and the military, and orchestrating an anti-Mossadegh propaganda campaign. Read more

Nagasaki mail carrier Sumiteru Taniguchi's back injuries, taken in January 1946, from the U.S. atomic bomb attack on August 9, 1945.

Case #97: August 6 and 9, 1945—The Nuclear Incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

THE CRIME: At 8:15 am, on August 6, 1945, a blazing, million-degree fireball suddenly appeared just above the Japanese city of Hiroshima, instantly killing, burning alive, or vaporizing tens of thousands. Firestorms engulfed the city. Shockwaves and winds over 1,000 miles an hour came next, shattering bodies and buildings, hurling men, women, and children through the air. Nearly all structures were destroyed over a mile from ground zero. Read more

My Lai Massacre
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Case #96: Vietnam, March 16, 1968—The My Lai Massacre

THE CRIME: On Saturday morning, March 16, 1968, 100 soldiers from Charlie Company, U.S. Army Americal Division, entered and took over My Lai, a small hamlet in Vietnam’s countryside. “We met no resistance and I only saw three captured weapons... It was just like any other Vietnamese village—old papa-sans, women and kids,” a soldier said. “The order we were given was to kill and destroy everything that was in the village,” another soldier later testified. Read more

 Ixil indigenous women outside the court the day after a judge ordered the suspension of the genocide trial against Guatemala's former dictator General Efrain Rios Montt and General Jose Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez, April 19, 2013. AP photo
Photo: AP

Case #95: Reagan's Butcher Carries Out Genocide in Guatemala

THE CRIME: In the early 1980s, following a U.S.-backed coup by General José Efraín Ríos Montt, the Guatemalan military systematically destroyed more than 600 indigenous Mayan villages in the highlands of the country. Seventy-five thousand people, overwhelmingly Mayans, were slaughtered under Ríos Montt in this small, impoverished country in Central America. Soldiers ripped the hearts out of children as their bodies were still warm and piled them on a table for their parents to see. Read more

Fallujah, Iraq, November 2004. Photo: AP
Photo: AP

Case #94: November 2004—War Crime Fallujah

THE CRIME: In the early morning hours of November 8, 2004, the U.S. launched “Operation Phantom Fury”—a massive air and ground assault on Fallujah, a city of 300,000 in central Iraq.

Weeks before, the U.S. military had cut off entry and exit from Fallujah. U.S. Marine and Army troops poured thousands of artillery rounds, hundreds of rockets, bombs, and missiles, and nearly 100,000 machine gun and cannon rounds into this densely populated city. A U.S. Marine sergeant warned, “We’ll unleash the dogs of hell, we’ll unleash ‘em... They don’t even know what’s coming—hell is coming! If there are civilians in there, they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Read more

This U.S. Army photograph, once classified "top secret", shows a moment during the summary execution of 1,800 South Korean political prisoners by the U.S.-backed South Korean military at Taejon, South Korea, over three days in July 1950.Photo: U.S. Army

Case #93: U.S. Invasion of Korea—1950

The Crime: Mass murder of millions; carpet bombing an entire country into rubble; use of chemical weapons against civilians; repeatedly threatening use of nuclear weapons; wholesale rape of women.

In June 1950 the U.S. orchestrated a United Nations invasion of Korea. Of the 342,000 invading troops, 90 percent were American, and the entire force was under U.S. command. The U.S. and its allied war criminals killed millions of Koreans in three years of open warfare—estimates range from three to five million. The dead were overwhelmingly civilians. Read more

ACT UP demonstrators, angry with the government's response to the AIDS crisis, shut down the Food and Drug Administration, Rockville, MD, October 1988.
AP photo

Case #92: Ronald Reagan Condemns 180,000 Gay Men and Others to Demonization, and Death by AIDS

THE CRIME: In 1981, at the beginning of the Ronald Reagan presidency, an AIDS epidemic broke out in the United States. For four years, Reagan studiously refused to even utter the word “AIDS” in public. By 1987, the first time Reagan would address AIDS with any substance, the plague had killed over 180,000 people in the U.S.

The toll was excruciating. Friends and lovers saw each other stricken by (what at first was) a terrifyingly mysterious disease that left people wasted away, unable to eat, covered with cancerous sores and—in every case—dead. Read more

Case #91: School of the Americas—Training Ground for Mass Murderers and Torturers, 1946-Present

THE CRIME: Since 1946, the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas (SOA) has trained military officers from countries all over Latin America. The school’s curriculum includes sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence, and interrogation tactics—including the use of torture, rape, disappearances, assassinations, and mass killings.

Victims of death squad in El Salvador

CIA and U.S. Army manuals used at the SOA have detailed torture techniques and advocated extortion, blackmail, and the targeting of civilian populations. A former political prisoner in Paraguay described how a section of these manuals gives “interrogators” instructions on “how to keep electric shock victims alive and responsive” and “recommends dousing the victims’ heads and bodies with salt water, and includes a sketch showing how this ‘treatment’ should be carried out.” Hundreds of thousands of people in Latin America have been tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared,” massacred, and forced to flee their homes and become refugees by armies and death squads led by military officers trained at the SOA. Read more

Case #90: The Sullivan Expedition, 1779—Genocide of Native Peoples and Scorched Earth in Upstate New York

Destruction of Indian villages

THE CRIME: In June 1779, heavily armed caravans of more than 6,200 American soldiers headed north from Pennsylvania and west from a town near Albany, New York. These forces, under the command of General John Sullivan, comprised about 25 percent of the Continental Army, which had been formed by the Continental Congress of former colonies that were in a war for independence from England.

Their target: Native American tribes who lived in western New York—the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Tuscarora, Cayuga, and Seneca peoples. These peoples called themselves the Haudenosaunee, and are known to historians as the Iroquois League or Iroquois Confederacy. The mission of Sullivan’s troops: the “total destruction and devastation of their settlements, and the capture of as many prisoners of every age and sex as possible,” in the words of the commander in chief of the Continental Army. Read more

People of Japnese descent lined up at a train that will take them to the concentration camp at Gila River, Ariz., 1942.

Case #89: 120,000 People of Japanese Descent Put in U.S. Concentration Camps During World War 2

THE CRIME: During World War 2, 120,000 people of Japanese descent, nearly the entire Japanese population living in the continental U.S., were rounded up and imprisoned in concentration camps throughout the western states within months of Japan’s December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. naval base in Hawai‘i. Sixty-two percent of those imprisoned were U.S. citizens; and more than half were children. They were never charged with a crime; never given a hearing; but summarily rounded up and held for more than two years in remote locations, solely on the basis of their nationality. Read more

Case #88: Nuclear Testing in the Pacific

AP Photo

THE CRIME: Between 1946 and 1962, the U.S. government conducted nuclear tests in the Pacific Ocean, contaminating thousands of Pacific Islands. Entire peoples suffered and continue to suffer from the effects of this nuclear testing up to today.

In 1946, a year after the end of World War 2 and the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (see American Crime #97), the U.S. launched its first nuclear test on Bikini Atoll, in the Marshall Islands. Between 1947 and 1962 the U.S. conducted 102 atmospheric and underwater tests in the Pacific Proving Ground—comprising 80 percent of all nuclear contamination in the U.S. history of nuclear testing. This is roughly equivalent to 1.7 Hiroshima explosions every single day for the 12 years between 1946 and 1958. Of these tests, 67 were atomic bombs. Read more

Case #87: Operation Condor 1968-1980s
U.S.-Directed Campaign of Political Assassination and State Terror in Latin America

Mariana Zaffaroni Islas, front left, holds a picture of her mother during a protest in Montevideo, Uruguay in 2009. AP Photo

THE CRIME: From the late 1960s well into the 1980s, documents show that the U.S. secretly organized, financed, and directed a campaign of political repression, torture, disappearances, and assassinations code-named Operation Condor.

Starting in 1975, this multinational U.S.-led conspiracy was implemented by pro-U.S. right-wing military dictatorships in the Southern Cone of Latin America—Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Brazil (later joined by Ecuador and Peru). Operation Condor coordinated the intelligence operations between these countries; organized cross-border operations to detain and “disappear” dissidents and political opponents forced into exile; and, in its most secret “Phase III,” provided for the formation of special teams of assassins from member countries to travel anywhere in the world to carry out assassinations of “subversive enemies.” Read more

Case #86: 1964 Brazil Coup and Rise of Brutal Military Dictatorship

A protestor against the 1964 coup in Brazil is pursued by police.

THE CRIME: In 1964, a section of the Brazilian military carried out a coup that overthrew Brazilian President João Goulart. The coup gave rise to two decades of a murderous and brutal military dictatorship and atrocities that led to the disappearance and death of close to 1,000 political opponents, and the systematic torture of over 30,000 more.

The coup had been anticipated—and worked for—by the U.S. for two years or more. And the U.S. provided supplies and funding for the coup. Just before the coup, the U.S. ambassador to Brazil received a secret telegram from Secretary of State Dean Rusk stating that the administration had decided to immediately mobilize a naval task force to take up position off the coast of Brazil including U.S. Navy tankers, along with an airlift of 110 tons of ammunition and other equipment including “CS agent”—a special gas used against street protests. President Lyndon Johnson was briefed on and signed off on that. Goulart was unable and unwilling to mobilize armed resistance, and within days of the coup he fled to neighboring Uruguay. The U.S. immediately recognized the new regime, and declared that the coup by the “democratic forces” had staved off the hand of international communism. Read more

 

Case #85: December 1984, Bhopal, India: Union Carbide’s Poison Gas Massacre

Some of the thousands who were killed by the poison gas from the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India on December 3, 1984.
AP photo

THE CRIME: Shortly after midnight, early Monday morning on December 3, 1984, an explosion took place at the Bhopal, India, plant of the Union Carbide Corporation, a U.S.-based multinational. A tank containing methyl isocyanate (MIC), used to manufacture pesticides, exploded, blowing 40 tons of deadly chemicals into the air. Within moments, a poison cloud enveloped much of this city of 900,000.

In the densely-packed shanty settlements around the plant, thousands were awakened by the suffocating, burning effects of the gas, or by the howls of dying animals. The toxic cloud stayed close to the ground, so thick people were nearly blinded as they rushed to escape. Some vomited uncontrollably, violently seized, and fell dead. Gas spread over 40 square kilometers (15.4 square miles). Over 200,000 people were immediately impacted; half the city was driven from their homes. Read more

Case #84: Medical Racism and Homicide—the Tuskegee Syphilis “Study”

Even after penicillin was discovered as a cure for syphilis, the men in the study were denied it as a treatment. Above, blood being drawn in the early 1950s.

The Crime: Between 1932 and 1972, the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) and the Centers for Disease Control studied the progression of untreated syphilis in a group of rural African-American men in Alabama under the guise of giving them free health care. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the men were told they were being treated for having “bad blood.”

A total of 600 African-American sharecroppers from Macon County, Alabama, were enrolled in the study. Of them, 399 had contracted syphilis before the study began, while the remaining 201 did not have the disease. These impoverished and often illiterate subjects were recruited with misleading promises of “special free treatment,” which were actually spinal taps done without anesthesia to study the neurological effects of syphilis, and they were enrolled without their informed consent (the men were never told the name of the study). Read more

Case #83: The U.S.-Mexico War of 1846-1848

A massacre of Mexican civilians in a cave at Agua Nueva by American cavalry.

The Crime: In the spring of 1846, U.S. President James Polk sent General Zachary Taylor and several thousand U.S. troops into what had been—before slave-holding settlers from the U.S. declared it an independent "Republic of Texas" in 1836—Mexican territory between the Nueces and Rio Grande Rivers, near the Gulf of Mexico, with the goal of provoking a war. When Taylor's troops arrived at the Mexican town of Matamoros on the Rio Grande and began menacing maneuvers, they were attacked by a force of Mexicans, just as Polk and his cabinet believed they would be. President Polk wasted no time in declaring Mexico guilty of aggression against the U.S. Read more

Case #82: Murderous Neglect and Repression After Hurricane Katrina

SWAT team drives past flood victims waiting at the Convention Center in New Orleans, Sept. 1, 2005

The Crime: On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the city of New Orleans, bringing terrible destruction. But the human suffering and death that followed was not, overwhelmingly, a result of the storm itself. It was a crime of this system.

Days before Katrina hit, meteorologists predicted a serious hurricane, saying the city, about half of which is between one and seven feet below sea level, should be evacuated. But the government did nothing to evacuate the city, stranding close to 100,000 people—people of all walks of life, but especially poor and Black people who did not have any means to leave.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to ensure that the city’s levees could adequately hold in such a storm, and when they collapsed, floodwaters rose 20 feet in parts of New Orleans, and 80 percent of the city went under water. Neighborhoods below sea level, many of them poor and Black areas, were the most vulnerable to flooding. Nearly 2,000 died in the days after Hurricane Katrina hit, about 1,500 of them in New Orleans. Read more

 

Case #81: September 13, 1971—Massacre of Heroic Attica Prisoners

On September 9, 1971, the most powerful and significant prison rebellion in U.S. history erupted at Attica state prison in New York.
AP photo

The Crime: On September 13, 1971, police, sheriffs, park police, and the National Guard launched a murderous assault at Attica in upstate New York, killing 39 unarmed people.

Four days earlier, on September 9, the most powerful and significant prison rebellion in U.S. history had erupted at Attica. Over half of Attica’s 2,200 inmates, mainly Black but also white and Puerto Rican prisoners, seized control of large parts of the prison, taking 38 guards hostage.

The uprising was fueled by the guards’ routine abuse, horrific living conditions, the state’s refusal to address their grievances, and the racism and national oppression permeating Attica and U.S. society. Many Attica prisoners had been radicalized by the upheavals of the 1960s, and the August 21 murder of the revolutionary prisoner and leader George Jackson, by guards at California’s San Quentin prison, hit them very hard, sparking a silent fast in protest.

The spirit of the Attica Brothers, as they came to be called, was captured by their 21-year-old spokesman L.D. Barkley: “We are men. We are not beasts, and we do not intend to be beaten and driven as such... What has happened here is but the sound before the fury of those who are oppressed...” Read more

 

Case #80: 1915-1934: The U.S. Invasion, Occupation and Domination of Haiti

Haitian rebels are enslaved in ropes, 1915.

THE CRIME: On July 28, 1915, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson ordered 330 U.S. Marines to invade Haiti’s capital city of Port-au-Prince. This was the beginning of a 19-year U.S. occupation that didn’t end until 1934. At the time of the invasion the political situation in Haiti and the government itself were extremely unstable. U.S. troops landed after Haitian President Vilbrun Guillaume Sam was killed by people in the streets. And Sam himself had come to power after leading a revolt to topple the president a year earlier.

Haiti, a Caribbean country that shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, had been France’s most lucrative colony until the Haitian people rose up in the largest successful slave rebellion in history, led by Toussaint L'Ouverture in 1791. At the time of the U.S. invasion, Haiti was a poor, mainly rural country that different foreign imperialist powers were trying to dominate. Read more

 

U.S. and Honduran military in a joint exercise, 1988

Case #79: Ronald Reagan’s Honduras—The Atrocities of “Battalion 316”

THE CRIME: The U.S. military and CIA trained, financed, and covered up the crimes of “Battalion 316”—a Honduran military death squad which carried out a campaign of torture, murder, and state-sponsored terror against the Honduran people during the 1980s. At least 184 Hondurans—including labor leaders, students, religious activists, and others the Honduran military considered political opponents—were stalked, kidnapped, brutally tortured, disappeared, and murdered by Battalion 316. Countless others were captured and tortured before ultimately being let go. Read more

 

Case #78: "Operation Wetback"—1954-56

'Operation Wetback' was a U.S. government program of mass deportations of Mexican workers in the early 1950s. Above, Mexican officers guarding deportees awaiting train into Mexico at the Mexican side of the border.

THE CRIME: Beginning in June 1954 and proceeding throughout that summer, the U.S. government carried out a military-style campaign of round-ups and deportations of Mexicans living in the United States. They called it “Operation Wetback,” after the openly racist term for Mexicans and Mexican immigrants—”wetback”—first invoked to slander immigrants who crossed the Rio Grande River.“Operation Wetback” drove 1.3 million immigrants from the U.S., tearing apart immigrant families and terrorizing and decimating entire communities, especially in California, Arizona, and Texas. It intensified racial divisions and stoked the fires of hatred against Mexicans and immigrants for years to come. Read more

 

Case #77: Christopher Columbus Brought Genocide and Slavery to the "New World," and America Celebrates Him for It

THE CRIME: On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus, an Italian sailing for Spain, landed on what is now the Bermuda Islands. Columbus is celebrated in the U.S. as the person who first “discovered” the “New World,” making it possible for those who came after him, through hard work, to create the greatest global power in the world today, as the official declaration of “Columbus Day” as a national holiday states.

Columbus did not “discover” the Americas—they had been inhabited by many different indigenous peoples for some 13,000 years. But he did bring conquest and enslavement, and launched one of the most massive, horrific genocides in human history. Read more

 

Case #76: U.S.-UN Sanctions on Iraq—“A Legitimized Act of Mass Slaughter”

1991–in a Baghdad hospital, one of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi infants suffering from diarrhea as a result of the destruction of the country's water and sanitation system.

The Crime: From 1990 until 2003, the U.S. and the United Nations imposed crippling economic sanctions on Iraq, then ruled by Saddam Hussein. These sanctions began even before the U.S. destroyed much of Iraq’s infrastructure, including its electrical, water, and sewage treatment systems, during the January-March 1991 Persian Gulf War, and continued for more than a decade after the war ended. The results were catastrophic for millions of Iraqis, especially for the young, the sick, and the elderly.

Iraq depended on selling oil to buy needed imports of food and equipment for its industry and infrastructure. But U.S.-UN sanctions prevented this—both by preventing Iraq from selling enough oil and by blocking needed imports, often under the claim that they could be used by the military. Iraq’s economy was crippled, and it couldn’t fully repair its shattered electrical and water systems, or buy needed food and medicines. Even chemicals needed for treating water were being blocked. Read more

Case #75: Obama, Clinton and the 2009 Military Coup in Honduras

2009 coup in Honduras
Photo: rbreve/flickr

THE CRIME: On June 28, 2009, the Honduran military carried out a coup d’etat against the elected president, Manuel Zelaya, a liberal-leaning populist. The coup had crucial backing from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the U.S. State Department. The generals and politicians behind the coup brought to power a more openly fascistic and pro-U.S. regime that plunged the Honduran people even more deeply into the hell of U.S. domination, state-sponsored political assassinations and terrorism, and intensified violence, poverty, and oppression. These horrors remain in effect to this day, with U.S. backing. Read more

Case #74: The FBI-Chicago Police Assassination of Fred Hampton

Fred Hampton's bed, after his murder by Chicago police
Photo: Paul Sequeiros

THE CRIME: At 4:45 am on December 4, 1969, a special operations team of 14 Chicago police stormed into the apartment of Fred Hampton, the 21-year-old chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party. They were being directed by Cook County Prosecutor Edward Hanrahan and acting in close coordination with the FBI Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO). Armed with shotguns, handguns, and a .45-caliber machine gun, and guided by a floor plan of the apartment provided by an informant, the police shot anyone they saw and sprayed the apartment with machine-gun fire.

Moving to the back of the apartment, they entered Fred Hampton’s bedroom. Hampton, already wounded, was still in bed, having been drugged earlier by the FBI’s informant. Alongside him was Deborah Johnson, his girlfriend who was eight-and-a-half months pregnant with their child. As they lay there, the cops stood over Hampton and put two bullets in his brain. One cop reportedly said, “He’s good and dead now.” Read more

In one of the last photos taken of him while still alive, Patrice Lumumba is shown captive on December 2, 1960.
AP photo

Case #73: The CIA-Directed Murder of Patrice Lumumba

THE CRIME: On January 17, 1961, a firing squad shot to death the Congolese anti-colonialist fighter and leader Patrice Lumumba. His body was buried, but then dug up and dismembered with saws and axes. Then Lumumba’s body was burned and dissolved in acid so there would not even be a corpse around which his supporters could rally. This brutal murder was carried out by some of Lumumba’s Congolese enemies, but it was the U.S. imperialists who called for and orchestrated it. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was in the forefront, aided by imperialist Belgium, which had ruled over and tormented the people of the Congo for the previous 75 years. Read more

Victims of the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee, where the U.S. Seventh Cavalry killed as many as 300 Lakota Indians, including children.
Photo: Library of Congress

Case #72: Wounded Knee Massacre, 1890

THE CRIME: On December 29, 1890, U.S. government soldiers massacred nearly 300 of the 350 Lakota men, women, and children on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The massacre took place near Wounded Knee Creek. Some of the women murdered were already widows whose husbands had previously been killed by U.S. troops. The Lakota Chief Spotted Elk (Big Foot), who was dying of pneumonia, was among those massacred. Read more

Colfax Massacre of 1873

Case #71: The Colfax Massacre of 1873... and the Supreme Court Stamp of Approval for Racist Terror

On April 13, 1873, Easter Sunday, a mass slaughter of Black people occurred in Colfax, Louisiana. Over 300 heavily armed white men, most of them former officers and soldiers in the Confederate Army, shot, stabbed, burned, and maimed Black people seeking shelter in a courthouse. Many were killed as they tried to surrender. Historian Eric Foner described the Colfax massacre as the "bloodiest single instance of racial carnage in the Reconstruction era." Read more

 

Case #70: "Operation Iraqi Freedom," 2003


AP Photo

THE CRIME: At 10:15 pm on March 19, 2003, George W. Bush announced to the world: "At this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger."

As Bush spoke, U.S. bombs and missiles were raining on Iraq. Some 160,000 troops—overwhelmingly American—were poised to storm the country by land. Twenty-one days later, after a blitzkrieg-like invasion and some 27,000 bombs, the U.S. had seized control of Iraq's major cities. Baghdad, Iraq's capital, had fallen on April 9. Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist regime had been deposed and the U.S. took control of the country. On May 1, standing on the deck of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln in front of a giant "Mission Accomplished" banner, Bush declared "major combat operations" were over. Read more

 

Case #69: Legalized Forced Sterilization in the U.S.

Carrie and Emma Buck
Carrie and Emma Buck

THE CRIME: On December 11, 1939, 18-year-old Andrea Garcia and her mother Sara appeared before Judge W. Turney Fox of the Los Angeles Superior Court for a hearing. Andrea’s probation officer, Karl Holton, had filed a petition to have her removed from her home and legally committed to a state institution. Judge Fox ruled that Andrea was indeed “a feeble-minded person” and from an “unfit home.” By the end of the week Andrea was committed to the Pacific Colony “Home for the Feeble-Minded” in Pomona, California—and a request was made by the superintendent to have her sterilized.

Sara strongly disagreed with both the commitment and the sterilization of her daughter. Within a week, with legal assistance from attorney David C. Marcus, Sara filed for a writ of prohibition against the sterilization of her eldest daughter, indicating that this procedure would be “performed ... upon the body and person of said minor child,” “against [their] wishes and desires,” and “without their permission or consent,” and there would be no remedy thus causing “great and irreparable damage.” Read more

Case #68: The 1965 U.S. Invasion of the Dominican Republic

On April 28, 1965, the U.S. sent thousands of troops to invade the Dominican Republic in order to brutally crush the mass armed rebellion that arose on April 24.

THE CRIME: On April 28, 1965, the U.S. sent its Marines to invade the Dominican Republic in an assault they dubbed “Operation Power Pack.” Within 10 days, the U.S. landed over 22,000 troops made up of Marines and the elite counter insurgency 82nd Airborne unit, Special Forces, psychological operations units, and a fleet of 41 vessels to blockade the island. Ultimately, 40,000 U.S. troops took part in this military onslaught. The U.S. also cobbled together another 2,000 to 3,000 troops from their Latin American allies, which they dubbed the “Inter-American Peace Force.”

The objective of the 1965 U.S. invasion was to brutally crush the mass armed rebellion that arose on April 24, 1965 in the Dominican Republic. Read more

 

Anti-Chinese mob in Denver, 1880

Case #67 - 1848-1900: Brutal Exploitation and Ruthless Oppression of Chinese Immigrants

THE CRIME: Between 1850 and 1900, Chinese immigrants were super-exploited in the mines, fields, and railways, and were subjected to savage discrimination and repression, including lynch-mob pogroms.

Beginning in 1848, immediately after invading and seizing over half of Mexico’s land, including the entire state of California, American capitalists began to lure Chinese immigrants to fill their huge thirst for cheap labor for their westward expansion into the California gold rush and to build transcontinental railroad. These (nearly all male) immigrants were worked like pack animals in horrific conditions from dusk to dawn, crammed into tiny tents, fed and slept on wooden cots, and in extreme weather. In one incident, when the workers went on strike, the company cut off all food supplies to the remote work camps and starved them for a week. Read more

 

Raid in Washington, DC in 1989

Case #66: The “War on Drugs,” 1970 to Today

The Crime: The “War on Drugs” was first called for in 1971 by then President Nixon, launched in earnest by President Ronald Reagan in 1982, and stepped up or continued by every U.S. president since. This “war” has been justified in the name of combating “rising crime,” protecting people from “drug lords” and “drug gangs,” and/or ending the “scourge” of drugs and drug addiction.

In 1982, Reagan officially launched this “war,” and made it a central focus of his administration (1981-89). Police, DEA, and other law enforcement budgets soared. Between 1981-91, for example, the DEA budget soared from $86 million to $1,026 million, while the FBI’s rose from $38 million to $181 million. Meanwhile, budgets for drug treatment, education and prevention were drastically reduced. Read more

 

“Attack on Derna” by Charles Waterhouse

Case #65: The First Barbary War, 1801-1805

THE CRIME: In 1801, President Thomas Jefferson dispatched the Navy and Marines to blockade and then invade Tripoli (then part of the Ottoman empire, now known as Libya), launching the First Barbary War that culminated in 1805 in the brutal Battle of Derne. Jefferson did so in the name of combating “piracy” and “free commerce,” after Tripoli’s Muslim ruler, Yusuf Karamanli, renounced his 1797 treaty with the U.S. and demanded a lump-sum payment of $225,000 plus $20,000 each year for allowing U.S. ships to transit waters off the coast and deliver and pick up cargo at Tripoli’s port.

Jefferson declared America’s response to Tripoli’s ruler was “sent by squadron,” dispatching war ships to the Northern coast of Africa to blockade the port of Tripoli, where naval battles between U.S. and Tripolitan ships ensued. In 1803, after the U.S. frigate Philadelphia ran aground while chasing a Tripolitan ship and the crew of 307 was taken hostage, Jefferson sent five frigates, including the USS Constitution along with the Marines to “subdue, seize and make prize of all vessels, goods, and effects” in Tripoli. Read more

 

Marines marched from the USS Boston to I'olani Palace as part of taking over the Hawai’ian government.

Case #64: The U.S. Conquest of Hawai`i

THE CRIME:

The Overthrow: On January 17, 1893, 162 armed U.S. sailors and Marines marched from the USS Boston, harbored in Honolulu Harbor, to Iolani Palace, the center of Hawai’i’s government, and set up camp. This act of war against a nation struggling for independence from foreign domination put the U.S. firmly in control.

Lorrin Thurston, the grandson of an American missionary who had the support of Hawai`i’s white business class, had organized a coup d’etat. And the U.S. had agreed to provide military back up. Thurston’s core conspiracy group, which included Hawai`i’s powerful sugar barons, joined the “Honolulu Rifles” a heavily armed militia of 1,500 largely white businessmen, who patrolled the streets to put down any Native Hawaiians who might rebel. Read more

 

Case #63: April 20, 2010, BP Deepwater Horizon Gulf Oil Disaster

THE CRIME: On April 20, 2010, some 50 miles off the Louisiana coast, methane gas burst from the Macondo well being drilled a mile under the surface of the Gulf of Mexico by the global oil giant BP. The gas surged up the piping into the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform and exploded, creating an inferno of flame and smoke. Eleven of the rig’s 126 workers were killed and 17 more injured. The platform was destroyed, the well’s piping ripped apart, and a toxic gusher let loose from the sea floor. It poured 210 million gallons of crude oil into the waters of the gulf before it was capped 87 days later. Satellite images showed the spill impacted 68,000 square miles of ocean—roughly the size of Oklahoma. Oil washed up on shores and into estuaries and wetlands in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.

The BP oil disaster was the largest marine oil spill in history, and perhaps the U.S.’s worst environmental catastrophe ever. Read more

 

April 1941. Apartments in Chicago’s segregated South Side, known as the “black belt.” Photographer: Russell Lee/Library of Congress

Case #62: How Capitalism + White Supremacy Created Chicago’s Black Ghetto

Part 1: Great Migration and the Brutal Reality of the “Promised Land”

THE CRIME: For decades in the 20th century, the deliberate policies of the U.S. government and actions of the courts, local political and law enforcement forces, racists white residents, and—driving it all forward—predatory real estate interests and blood-sucking banks and other financial institutions forced millions of Black people in Chicago into confinement in ghettos under extremely oppressive living conditions. This played a key role in cementing in place a system of white supremacy that has super-exploited and suppressed the African American people since the Great Migration not only to the North but to cities more generally, beginning in the 20th century.

Part 1 of this two-part American Crime installment covers the period up to the 1960s.

 

Confederate statue pulled down in Durham, NC

August 14, 2017. A Confederate statue is pulled down in Durham, NC. Credit: twitter/@DerrickQLewis

Case #61: Monuments to the Confederacy Across the United States

THE CRIME: Today there are over 1,500 monuments, statues, buildings, roads, schools, parks, and military bases across the U.S. honoring the leaders, generals, and soldiers of the Confederate states that waged the Civil War (1861-65) to defend slavery.

The biggest wave of Confederate monument construction took place from 1890 to 1920, after Reconstruction was ended. Hundreds of monuments and statues were built, at least 189 of them on courthouse grounds, and almost all of them in the South. A smaller construction spike took place from the mid-1950s to the late 1960s, when over 45 were dedicated or rededicated nationally. Read more

 

 

African-American soldiers of the 24th Infantry at Camp Logan, Houston, Texas in 1917. Credit: YouTube

Case #60: The 1917 Camp Logan Rebellion and the Mass Legal Lynching of 19 Black Soldiers

THE CRIME: December 11, 1917: At five in the morning, 13 Black soldiers are taken from the barracks at a military camp near San Antonio, Texas, and marched to the gallows. Each is placed on a chair, noose slipped over his head. Simultaneously, the chairs are kicked out and the soldiers drop to their death. Buried in graves nearby, the markers are not their names, just numbers 1 through 13. Each, to the end, proclaimed his innocence.

The court martial of 64 members of the all-Black 24th Infantry was the largest murder trial in U.S. history. Read more

 

An execution carried out by a firing squad under U.S. strongman Fulgencio Batista.

With U.S. help, Fulgencio Batista became the new head of the Cuban military and assumed the role of a U.S. strongman, ruling Cuba from 1940 until the revolution in 1959. Batista relied on repression, racism, torture and public executions, shown here, to stay in power.

Case #59: The U.S. Invasion, Occupation, Domination, and Plunder of Cuba: 1898 to 1959

THE CRIME: The seizure of Cuba (and other Spanish colonies—Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines) in the Spanish-American War in order to gorge on the exploited wealth but also to prevent rivals from moving in. The U.S. was very explicit about this. The Platt Amendment specifically prohibited any power, other than the U.S., from establishing bases on Cuba. The U.S. also feared that the revolutionaries in Cuba—hundreds of thousands of poor working people, small farmers, the majority of them Black people who had been slaves until the 1880s, and some middle class professionals, and members of the Cuban elite—would defeat Spain and set up an independent country that would be unfavorable to U.S. interests.

The invasion of Cuba and other Spanish territories at the end of the 19th century signaled the emergence of the United States as an imperialist world power. Its successful invasion, domination, and plunder of Cuba was but a glimpse of the immense crimes to come. Read more.

 

The bodies of Moro insurgents and civilians killed by U.S. troops during the Battle of Bud Dajo in the Philippines, March 7, 1906.

The bodies of Moro insurgents and civilians killed by U.S. troops during the Battle of Bud Dajo in the Philippines, March 7, 1906.

Case #58: U.S. Conquest of the Philippines 1899-1902

THE CRIME: In April 1898, the United States declared war against Spain, launching the Spanish-American war. In August, Spain, facing defeat, allowed U.S. forces to take control of Manila. By the end of 1898, Spain was forced to cede its colonies of Cuba, Guam and Puerto Rico to the U.S., and for $20 million, the Philippines. 

In early 1899, when it became clear the U.S. had no intention of allowing the Philippines to be independent, Emilio Aguinaldo, who led the Filipino people’s revolt against the Spanish colonialists, launched a new war of independence against the U.S. imperialists. The U.S. war on and occupation of the Philippines lasted from 1899 to 1902. Over 126,000 U.S. troops were sent to crush the Filipino people’s mass uprising, and they waged war on wide swaths of the Philippine population as a whole. According to one account: “it became commonplace for entire villages to be burned and whole populations to be imprisoned in concentration camps. No mercy was accorded to Filipino prisoner, a large number of whom were shot.” Read more.

 

In the weeks that followed the coup, tens of thousands of people were rounded up and emprisoned in institutions and concentration camps.

In the weeks that followed the coup, tens of thousands of officials of Allende’s government and the Unidad Popular governing coalition, along with workers, union leaders, activists, students, progressive intellectuals, artists and people who just happened to be on the streets on the morning of September 11, were rounded up and emprisoned in institutions and concentration camps.

Case #57: The 1973 CIA Coup In Chile

The Crime: Beginning in the early morning hours of September 11, 1973, the Chilean military, with political guidance and secret backing from the U.S., carried out a military coup against the government of Chilean president Salvador Allende. With U.S. Navy ships offshore and U.S. spy planes overhead as backup, the Chilean Air Force and tanks and soldiers from the Chilean Army dropped bombs and launched artillery and small-arms fire in a furious, coordinated assault on La Moneda palace, the central government building in Chile’s capital, Santiago. Allende, a social democrat elected on a platform of social reform three years previously, was killed along with a small group of defenders.

The CIA had collected “arrest lists” and “key government installations which need to be taken over,” according to a 1975 U.S. Senate investigation. In the hours, days and weeks that followed the coup, tens of thousands of officials of Allende’s government and the Unidad Popular governing coalition, along with workers, union leaders, activists, students, progressive intellectuals, artists and people who just happened to be on the streets on the morning of September 11, were rounded up, then held in Santiago’s National and Chile stadiums and in military installations and facilities converted to concentration camps in locations around the country. They were subjected to brutal physical and psychological torture, or just outright murdered. Read more.

 

The site of the Sand Creek Massacre.

The site of the Sand Creek Massacre. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Case #56: The 1864 Sand Creek Massacre

THE CRIME: They came at dawn, November 29, 1864, 700 heavily armed soldiers of the 3rd Colorado Cavalry, led by Colonel John Chivington. They rode rapidly toward their target, a Cheyenne village near Sand Creek, where the people were caught by surprise because months earlier, representatives of the U.S. government had met with their chief, encouraged him to settle near the creek, and had promised him and his people peace and safety. As the soldiers approached, the chief, Black Kettle, raced to raise the American flag over his lodge in a show of solidarity; others raised white flags of surrender. It didn’t matter.

The soldiers opened fire with carbines and cannons, killing at least 130, almost two-thirds women, children, and the elderly. Most of the young men were out hunting when the attack occurred; otherwise, the death toll would have been considerably higher. Before leaving, the soldiers burned the village and mutilated the dead. Read more.

 

Mexican protest against NAFTA.

Mexican farmers protest the end of import protections implemented under NAFTA for their country's corn and bean crops. Mexico City, 2008.

Case # 55: The 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement—NAFTA

THE CRIME: A “free trade” agreement between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, known as NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), was implemented in 1994 with much fanfare. The secretly negotiated 2,000-page treaty was touted as a measure to bring increased prosperity to the people of the three countries. In fact, NAFTA was a predatory treaty whose effect was to ratchet up the cruel and reckless plunder of Mexico and its people.

Under NAFTA, maquiladora factory “sweatshops” along the U.S.-Mexico border expanded dramatically. Within a short time after NAFTA’s ratification, more than 1,000 maquila factories employed a million workers, 75 percent of them women, in oppressive conditions producing cheap goods for U.S. manufacturers at a fraction of the wages paid to U.S. workers.

But the most damaging effects of NAFTA in Mexico lay in the changes it brought to Mexico’s countryside. There it inflicted vulture-like destruction to millions of small and medium peasant farmers, especially its corn farmers. Read more.

 

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