The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

The Policy of the United States:
A Long Tradition of State Terrorism

Oct 8, 2001

The United States has long had recourse to a terrorist policy, whether it be in the course of World War II, in the wars it led in Asia or in its interventions in its private hunting ground of Latin America.

Toward the end of World War II, U.S. leaders and their British allies feared that the defeat of Germany and Japan would unleash mass popular movements among peoples in many areas of the world–similar to what happened at the end of the first world war. They continued their military operations which were designed to crush the enemy armies, but they added to them terrorist bombing, in the full meaning of the term, that is to say, with the object of terrorizing and of dispersing the urban population and of totally breaking its morale. The aim of these attacks was to prevent all organization and revolt, including even revolt against the Nazis and the Japanese dictatorship. Such movements might not have stopped at driving out the Nazis or the Japanese imperial army–but might have pushed to change society as a whole.

Starting in 1943, the great urban areas in northwest Germany were submitted to massive aerial raids. In Hamburg, for example, at the end of July 1943, bombing raids carried out in one week killed 50,000 people and left 800,000 without shelter. In May 1944, Berlin suffered the same fate. The most dramatic was the bombing of Dresden, on February 13-14, 1945. This city had no military objective–not even much industry–and for this reason it was a center where refugees came together, thinking it a safe haven. It was completely razed by three waves of 1,500 planes each, spaced some hours apart, killing 135,000 people. It was the civilian population that was aimed at, not military or industrial installations.

In the Pacific war, air squadrons weren’t within reach of the Japanese cities until the end of 1944. But the cities were then submitted to the same conscious terrorism. In Tokyo in particular, on March 9, 1945 between midnight and 3 AM, bombing killed 200,000 people. This was slightly less than the 250,000 victims of the atomic bomb of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and more than the 120,000 of Nagasaki three days later. The use of atomic weapons, dropped by a single plane, represented a sort of perfection in terror, but it was only the continuation of the conventional terrorist raids carried out over two years by Allied planes.

Some years after the end of the World War, U.S. imperialism was engaged in the so-called "cold" war, having as its professed objective containing the expansionist aims attributed to the Soviet Union. That led U.S. imperialism to mount two wars, first against Korea, and then against Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos. The human losses in Korea approached three million people, both civilian and military.

The destruction carried out by bombs, shells, defoliants and napalm at the time of the Viet Nam war, both in the North and in the South, remains in the memory of those who lived through this period, including the young Americans of that time who paid a heavy price in this war. As for the Vietnamese, there were almost a million and a half people who died in the course of the conflict: the vast majority were civilians, women, children and men. They were the ones who suffered the destruction of forests and crops, and they are the ones who still continue to die today as a result of their exposure to Agent Orange, a chemical defoliant, and who continue to be blown apart by mines which are heavily scattered around the country.

Even after the turn toward U.S. disengagement, the bombing of cities and dikes in North Viet Nam continued, and was particularly violent at the end of 1971 and the end of 1972. Through these open terrorist actions, carried out on civilians, the U.S. hoped to win what it could not win on the battlefield.

The terrorist interventions of the U.S. government in Latin America have no doubt been less murderous, but more numerous and cynical. From Guatemala in June 1954 to Grenada in October 1983, or in Panama in December 1989, each time it was the civilian population that the U.S. aimed at. In Panama, for example, the U.S. supposedly wanted to arrest and extradite Noriega, an old favorite of the United States, who was accused of drug sales. But the attack was made with bombs dropped on the working class and poor neighborhoods of Panama City, which killed perhaps 7,000 people, before the landing of 28,000 soldiers. Noriega himself had taken refuge in the Vatican embassy!

And let’s not forget all the repression and coups carried out or aided by the U.S. government, in Indonesia, Chile, Nicaragua, Honduras, Turkey, Iran or elsewhere, each of which ended with horrifying numbers of civilians killed by the new U.S.-backed government, trying to impose itself on a population which didn’t want it.

Nor should we forget wars encouraged, supported and in part paid for by the U.S. government–like the Iran-Iraq war which left a million dead. Finally, there is the Gulf War, whose casualties–mostly children–now total over one million killed.

U.S. imperialism has a long history of carrying out terrorism against civilian populations. Bush makes it clear, by his declarations, that the U.S., the most powerful state in the world, isn’t about to stop killing civilians in pursuit of its aim to control the world.