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  • How Unalienable Is Life?

    David Swanson

    By David Swanson. This article was first published on War is a Crime.

    Meet the new boss who, upon his inauguration, declared that the right to life is unalienable.  Let me be clear, that doesn't mean he can't take yours.

    In fact, he runs through a list of men, women, and children on Tuesdays, hung over from inaugurations or not, and picks whom to murder and murders them.

    We're not supposed to call it murder, of course, because it's properly assassination.  Except that no public figures are being assassinated; 98% of those killed are not targeted at all; some are targeted for suspicious behavior without knowing their names; one type of suspicious behavior is the act of retrieving the dead and wounded from a previous strike; and those targeted are not targeted for politics but for resisting illegal occupations.  Moreover, an assassination is a type of murder.

    We're not supposed to call it murder, nonetheless, because it sounds more Objective to call it killing.  But murder is a type of killing, specifically unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought.  Killing by accident is not murder and not what the president is doing.  Killing legally is not murder and not what the president is doing -- at least not as far as anyone knows or according to any interpretation of law put forward.  Killing indirectly by encouraging poverty or environmental destruction or denial of healthcare may be things the president is doing, but they are not murder and not drone wars.

    Imagine if a non-president went through a list of everyone in your local elementary school, picked out whom to kill, and ordered them killed.  You would call it murder.  You would call it mass-murder.  You would call it conspiracy to commit mass murder.  Why would electing that mass murderer president change anything?  Why would moving the victims abroad change anything?

    KILL ANYTHING THAT MOVES

    "Kill Anything That Moves" is the title of an important new book from Nick Turse, covering the mass-murdering enterprise known in Vietnam as the American War, and in the United States as the Vietnam War.  Turse documents that policy decisions handed down from the top led consistently, over a period of years, to the ongoing slaughter of millions of civilians in Vietnam.  Much of the killing was done by hand or with guns or artillery, but the lion's share came in the form of 3.4 million combat sorties flown by U.S. and South Vietnamese aircraft between 1965 and 1972.  Air strikes are President Obama's primary instrument of foreign relations as well; he ordered 20,000 air strikes in his first term.

    The well-known Mylai massacre in Vietnam was not an aberration, but an almost typical incident and by no means the worst of them.  Turse documents a pattern of ongoing atrocities so pervasive that one is compelled to begin viewing the war itself as one large atrocity.  Something similar could be done for the endless war on everywhere that we are currently living through.  Scattered atrocities and scandals in Afghanistan and Iraq are interpreted as freak occurrences having nothing to do with the general thrust of the war.  And yet they are its essence.

    "Kill anything that moves," was an order given to U.S. troops in Vietnam indoctrinated with racist hatred for the Vietnamese.  "360 degree rotational fire" was a command on the streets of Iraq given to U.S. troops similarly conditioned to hate, and similarly worn down with physical exhaustion.

    Dead children in Vietnam resulted in comments like "Tough shit, they grow up to be VC."  One of the U.S. helicopter killers in Iraq heard in the Collateral Murder video says of dead children, "Well it's their fault for bringing their kids into a battle."

    In Vietnam anyone dead was the enemy, and sometimes weapons would be planted on them.  In drone wars, any dead males are militants, and in Iraq and Afghanistan weapons have often been planted on victims.

    The U.S. military during the Vietnam War shifted from keeping prisoners toward murdering prisoners, just as the Endless War on Everywhere has shifted from incarceration toward murder with the change in president from Bush to Obama.

    In Vietnam, as in Iraq, rules of engagement were broadened until the rules allowed shooting at anything that moved.  In Vietnam, as in Iraq, the U.S. military sought to win people over by terrorizing them.  In  Vietnam, as in Afghanistan, whole villages were eliminated.

    In Vietnam, refugees suffered in horrible camps, while in Afghanistan children are rapidly freezing to death in a refugee camp near Kabul.

    Torture was common in Vietnam, including water-boarding.  But it wasn't at that time yet depicted in a Hollywood movie as a positive occurrence.

    Napalm, white phosphorus, cluster bombs, and other widely despised and banned weapons were used in Vietnam as in the current war.

    Vast environmental destruction was part of both wars.

    Gang rape was a part of both wars.

    The mutilation of corpses was common in both wars.

    Bulldozers flattened people's villages in Vietnam, not unlike what U.S.-made bulldozers do now to Palestine.

    Mass murders of civilians in Vietnam, as in Afghanistan, tended to be driven by a desire for revenge.

    New weaponry allowed U.S. troops in Vietnam to shoot long distances, resulting in a habit of shooting first and investigating later, a habit now developed for drone strikes.

    Self-appointed teams on the ground and in helicopters went "hunting" for natives to kill in Vietnam as in Afghanistan.

    And of course, Vietnamese leaders were targeted for assassination.

    Then, as now, the atrocities and "war crimes" were committed with impunity as part of the crime that was the war itself.  Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say: because there was impunity then, it remains today.

    Turse discovered that the military investigated numerous accusations, documented incidents, and then buried the reports.  So did others in the government.  So did the media, includingNewsweek which buried a major investigation.  Those who engaged in that coverup don't have on their hands the blood that had already been spilled, but do have on their hands the blood that has been spilled since in similar wars that might have been prevented.

    Vietnamese victims who saw their loved ones tortured, murdered, and mutilated are -- in some cases -- still furious with rage decades later.  It's not hard to calculate how long such rage will last in the nations now being "liberated."

    The crowd that turns out and shuts down Washington, D.C., for Obama inaugurations imagines that it is advancing peace and justice.  But it does so by cheering for one of two teams regardless of that team's performance.  Were that size crowd to turn out just once for a substantive demand, for peace or justice or any of the good causes favored by the people involved, a real victory would be obtainable.

    If the crowd learned this week that Obama is murdering people, and returned next week to demand an end to the murders, the resulting movement would indeed end them.  Not only am I sure of that, but I hold it to be self-evident.

    David Swanson's books include "War Is A Lie." He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works as Campaign Coordinator for the online activist organization http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.


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