[Highly recommended for today’s reading, the Anderson Valley Advertiser blog (here): Includes an update on Will Parrish (above) and Sara Grusky of Save Little Lake Valley; “Marijuana’s March Toward Mainstream Confounds Feds”; and a superb article revealing the horror that our Executive Branch has visited on the rest of the world over the past 50 years, soon to be exercised on our own country trying to save itself from the repercussions of its own deeds… -DS]
America’s Secret Shame: Executive Branch leaders have killed, wounded and made homeless well over 20 million human beings in the last 50 years, mostly civilians.
America has a secret. It is not discussed in polite company or at the dinner tables of the powerful, rich and famous. Parents do not teach it to their children. Best-selling authors do not write about it. Politicians and government officials ignore it. Intellectuals avoid it. High school and college textbooks do not refer to it. TV pundits do not comment on it. Teachers do not teach it. Journalists from the nation’s most highly regarded TV news shows, newspapers and magazines, do not report it. Columnists do not opine about it. Editorial writers do not editorialize about it. Religious leaders do not sermonize about it. Think tanks and professors do not study it. Lawyers do not litigate it and judges do not rule on it.
The few who do not keep this secret, who try to break through to their fellow citizens about it, are marginalized and ignored by society at large…
It is a matter of indisputable fact that the U.S. Executive Branch has over the past 50 years been responsible for bombing, shooting, burning alive with napalm, blowing up with cluster bombs, burying alive with 500 pound bombs, torturing, assassinating, and incarcerating without evidence, and destroying the homes and villages of, more innocent civilians in more nations over a longer period of time than any other government on earth today.
And its crimes against humanity have continued since Vietnam. Thirty years later, a Nuremberg prosecutor speaking of the U.S. invasion of Iraq stated that a
“prima facie case can be made that the United States is guilty of the supreme crime against humanity, that being an illegal war of aggression against a sovereign nation.”…
As I began to research the bombing, visiting U.S. airbases in Thailand and South Vietnam, talking with U.S. Embassy officials, interviewing a former U.S. Air Force captain over a period of months, I learned it was but a handful of top U.S. Executive Branch leaders, Republicans and Democrats alike, who were solely responsible for the bombing. Neither Congress nor the American people had even been informed, let alone offered their consent. The U.S. Executive, I learned, was a power unto its own that could not legitimately claim to represent the American people.
Realizing that a handful of U.S. Executive Branch leaders had the power, all by themselves, to level the Plain of Jars shook me to my core. Every belief I had about America was upended. If a handful of Executive leaders could unilaterally and secretly destroy the 700-year-old civilization on the Plain of Jars, it meant that America was not a democracy, that the U.S. was a government of men, not laws. And it meant that these men were not good and decent human beings, but rather cold-blooded killers who showed neither pity nor mercy to those whose lives they so carelessly destroyed…
On a deeper level, it meant that even core beliefs I took for granted were untrue. Might did make right. Crime did pay. Suffering is not redemptive. Life looks very different in a Lao refugee camp looking up than in Washington, D.C. looking down. In those camps I realized that U.S. Executive Branch leaders lacked even a shred of simple human decency toward the people of the Plain…
I remember once laying in my bed late at night after returning from an interview with Thao Vong, a 38-year old Lao farmer who had been blinded in a U.S. bombing raid. Vong was a gentle soul, displayed no anger to those who had turned him from a provider of four into a helpless dependent.
I contrasted him and the other Lao farmers who had been burned and buried alive by bombers dispatched by LBJ, McNamara, Nixon and Kissinger. The latter were ruthless, often angry and violent men, indifferent to non-American life—precisely the qualities threatening all life on earth. Thao Vong was gentle, kind and loving, and he and his fellow Lao wanted nothing more than to be left alone to raise their families, enjoy nature and practice Buddhism — precisely the qualities needed for humanity to survive.
I also thought of sweet-faced Sao Doumma, whose wedding photo had so struck me, and who was killed in a bombing raid executed by Henry Kissinger seven years later. (12)
And I found myself wondering: by what right does a Henry Kissinger live and a Sao Doumma die? Who gave Richard Nixon and he the right to murder her? Who gave Lyndon Johnson the right to blind Thao Vong? I found myself asking, what just law or morality can justify these “killers in high places” who burned and buried alive countless Lao rice farmers who posed no threat whatsoever to their nation, solely because they could?
I was also troubled by another thought: if even a Thao Vong and his fellow subsistence-level farmers were not safe from this kind of brutal savagery, who was? If I believed that a society is judged by how it treats the weakest among us, what did this say about my nation?
And I found myself particularly reflecting on the question I found most troubling of all: beyond the issue of lawless and heartless American leaders, what does it say about my species as a whole that the most powerful could so torment the weakest for so long with virtually no one else knowing or caring? I was anguished not only about this extreme form of mass murder, but what it implied about humanity…
One particular fact puzzled me during my investigations of the air war. All the refugees said the worst bombing occurred from the end of 1968 until the summer of 1969. They were bombed daily, every village was leveled, thousands were murdered and maimed. But I knew from U.S. Embassy friends that there were no more than a few thousand North Vietnamese troops in Laos at the time, and that there was no military reason for the sudden and brutal increase in U.S. bombing. Why, then, had this aerial holocaust occurred?
And then, to my everlasting horror, I found out. At Senator Fulbright’s hearing, he asked Deputy Chief of Mission Monteagle Stearns why the bombing of northern Laos had so intensified after Lyndon Johnson’s bombing halt over North Vietnam. Stearns answered simply:
“Well, we had all those planes sitting around and couldn’t just let them stay there with nothing to do.” (13)
Yes, there it was, in black and white. U.S. officials had exterminated thousands of people of the Plain of Jars, destroying their entire civilization, because the U.S. Executive just couldn’t let its planes sit around with nothing to do. The fact that innocent human beings were living there was irrelevant. No one hated the Lao. For Executive policy-makers in Washington, they just didn’t exist, had no more importance than cockroaches or mosquitoes…