Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Our chemical weapons and equality of culpability and accountability

During the war the US waged on Vietnam, some 20 million gallons of chemicals poisonous to life (biocides) were sprayed onto more than 8,000,000 acres of forest/jungle and an additional 3,800,000 acres of cropland in that poor country and neighboring Laos and Cambodia (Shifferd, 2011, p. 89). Approximately 400,000 Vietnamese were killed in this chemical attack campaign over several years, first ordered by President Kennedy and continued by Johnson and Nixon. Approximately 90 percent of the victims of that campaign were civilians.
Those leaders are all dead now, but should they be regarded by the world in much the same light as we now regard Bashar al-Assad? Are those who order chemical attacks into civilian areas war criminals? Or is that only the case if our enemies engage in such loathsome behavior, but we excuse it when our great leaders do so? What about Fallujah, when US forces shot chemical weapons directly into civilian neighborhoods, causing horrific death and subsequent illness and birth defects? A study led by researchers from the University of Ulster revealed that white phosphorus, possible depleted uranium, and other toxic munitions were at the root of a 1200 percent increase in childhood cancers and an overall 400 percent increase in all cancers. Where was the UN Security Council for that debacle?

Justice should be blind--but not deaf and lame. Let's bring our own leaders to the bar when they commit crimes against humanity or let's be quiet about the likes of dictator and mass murderer Bashar al-Assad. We can't have it both ways and be seen as consistent by the world. As someone who has served prison time for nonviolently dismantling a command center for bombing, I'd support sending all war criminals to prison until they are rehabilitated. Let Dick Cheney share a cell with Chelsea Manning.


Toxic legacy of US assault on Fallujah 'worse than Hiroshima': The shocking rates of infant mortality and cancer in Iraqi city raise new questions about battle. BY PATRICK COCKBURN. SATURDAY 24 JULY 2010. UK Independent. 

Shifferd, Kent D. (2011). From war to peace: A guide to the next hundred years. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

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