If you're a Noam Chomsky fan, then you've probably heard this provocative statement plenty of times: "if the standards of the Nuremberg Trials were applied, then every post World War II American president would have been hanged as a war criminal." Here are some of each president's war crimes, according to Chomsky, from Truman to Clinton (this is taken from a 1996 interview with Tom Morello) :
Well, with Truman you could start with, shortly after he entered office there was the bombing of Hiroshima, which maybe one could give an argument for -- well, I don't think so -- but it is almost impossible to give an argument for the bombing of Nagasaki. That was mostly just trying out a new weapon to see if it would work. Then there was an utterly gratuitous bombing, a one thousand plane raid at the end of the war -- right in fact after Japan surrendered -- called the "finale," the grand finale. Then comes, for example, the support for the brutal counter-insurgency campaign in Greece, which killed about 150,000 people to basically restore Nazi collaborators and demolish the resistance. And then we could go on from there.
Eisenhower. The Eisenhower administration, the Truman and Eisenhower administration, the bombings -- whatever you think about the Korean War, and there is a pretty complicated story when you really look at it, but nevertheless the bombings in North Korea in 1951 and 1952 was just an outright war crime. You can read in the Air Force history about how in the Eisenhower years they had nothing left to bomb, everything was flat, so they just bomb dams, which they exalt how wonderful it was to see the water flooding down and killing people and wiping out the crops and so on. Well people were hanged for that, for less than that. They were hanged for opening dikes in Nuremberg. And then again we can proceed with what happened in Guatemala and elsewhere where it was a terrible crime in the Eisenhower years.
Kennedy is not even worth discussing. The invasion in South Vietnam -- Kennedy attacked South Vietnam, outright. In 1961-1962 he sent Air Force to start bombing villages, authorized napalm. Also laid the basis for the huge wave of repression that spread over Latin America with the installation of Neo-Nazi gangsters that were always supported directly by the United States. That went on and in fact picked up under Johnson.
In the Nixon years, for example, the bombing of inner Cambodia in 1973 was a monstrous crime. It was just massacring peasants in inner Cambodia. It isn't much reported here because nobody paid attention, but it was quite a part in helping create the basis for the Khmer Rouge. Well, the CIA estimate is that 600,000 people were killed in the course of those US actions, either directed or actually carried out by the United States.
In the Carter years there were major crimes, for example the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, which happened to start under Ford and led to the nearest thing to genocide since the holocaust, maybe 1/3 or 1/4 of the population has been slaughtered. That was using 90% US arms. In the Carter years, when the Indonesians were actually running out of arms in their attack on this country, Carter actually increased the flow of arms in 1978, which was the worst peak of the slaughter. Carter was backing Somoza and his national guard, openly and with direct military and diplomatic support at a time when they had killed about 40,000 people in the terror of the last days of their regime. Again, that's a sample.
Going on to the Reagan years, its not even a question. In fact the US was condemned by the World Court during the Reagan years for its "unlawful use of force," meaning aggression in Nicaragua. In Central America alone, maybe 200,000 people or so were slaughtered in a very brutal fashion by US run programs. In southern Africa about 1.5 million people were killed and over $60 billion of damage were done according to the UN commission which reviewed it later from 1980 to 1988. That's from South African atrocities that the US was directly supporting. Then, again we could go on. Well Bush, we've already talked about him, but the invasion of Panama for example was simply outright aggression. It was condemned internationally -- the US was able to veto the security counsel condemnations, that doesn't change the fact that they were there.
When we move on to the Clinton years, one of his first acts within a few months was to send missiles to bomb Baghdad. Well, he didn't kill a huge amount of people, only I think 8 or so. But there was absolutely no pretext, there wasn't even a pretext. I mean it was to show what a tough guy he is. In fact the pretext was so ludicrous, it's embarrassing to repeat it. The pretext was that this was self defense against armed attack, because two months earlier there had been a failed attempt by someone who might or might not have been Iraqi, no one knew at the time, to kill Bush or something like that. I mean, it's just ridiculous. About half of military aid and training to Latin America under Clinton was going to Columbia, which has absolutely the worst human rights record in the hemisphere, killing thousands of people in a horrifying fashion. These are all crimes. I don't think it's hard to set up a bill of indictment if somebody wants to.
Now, for post-1996 foreign policy, here are just some war crimes:
Clinton armed and funded vicious dictators in Israel and Turkey. Turkish citizens, particularly suffered through some of the worst tortures known to man.
Well, Bush pretty much goes without saying. I'll just make this simple: the entire War on Terrorism.
So, do I think these rich, white guys should be hanged? No, I don't believe in the death penalty. But, I do believe in social justice, so they should be brought to trial for their crimes, as any other citizen would.