Pentagon and politicians who continue to back George Bush’s disastrously
failed Iraq policy are falling all over themselves in their frantic attempt
to portray the Haditha massacre as an “anomaly” perpetrated either by “a few
bad apples” or otherwise exemplary Marines who “snapped” under extreme,
What’s clear, they piously contend, is that
such atrocious behavior is never sanctioned or condoned by the U.S.
But there are countless ghosts of 19th Century native Americans -- and up to
600,000 Filipinos who perished in a genocidal anti-insurrection conducted by
our imperialist troops after Spain’s Pacific defeat -- who would beg to
The dead from Hiroshima and Nagasaki wish to object, too.
It wasn’t individual soldiers, in abstract isolation, who murdered them. It
was this nation’s racist propensity for genocide.
Ironically, as the Haditha story percolated to the top of our news, an
atrocity account from more than fifty years ago was finally verified,
pointing a bloody finger at the very military establishment that
sanctimoniously professes its purity and innocence today.
What happened in Korea, back then, is absolutely chilling.
On July 26, 1950, the 7th U.S. Cavalry mowed down what survivors say were
about 400 civilian refugees, mostly women and children, at No Gun Ri, a
rural village southeast of Seoul. Hundreds more were shot in similar
killings elsewhere, according to those who escaped the murderous volleys.
The No Gun Ri slayings were documented in a Pulitzer Prize-winning
Associated Press story in 1999 that precipitated a 16-month Pentagon inquiry
into the matter.
It concluded that the barbarism, which lasted three days, was simply "an
unfortunate tragedy,” and entirely unplanned. Jittery soldiers, acting on
their own, supposedly opened fire because they feared that refugees, with
their worldly possessions and livestock, were a human shield for enemy
troops following behind.
But a damning letter, written by the former U.S. ambassador to Seoul, John
J. Muccio, strongly suggests that top-level policy was involved.
Communicating with Assistant Secretary of State Dean Rusk, he noted: "If
refugees do appear from north of U.S. lines they will receive warning shots,
and if they then persist in advancing they will be shot."
Muccio’s missive was declassified two decades ago, and was located at the
U.S. National Archives by historian Sahr Conway-Lanz, author of the book,
"With this additional piece of evidence, the Pentagon report's
interpretation (of No Gun Ri) becomes difficult to sustain," Conway-Lanz
The letter indicates that the 7th Cavalry’s grisly commission of a
horrendous war crime was undertaken to thwart North Koreans thought to be
infiltrating within refugee ranks. Documents show that U.S. officers
routinely ordered refugees shot during ensuing months.
Army researchers examined microfilm that included Muccio’s words during
their 1999-2001 investigation but made no mention of them in their official
Most Americans know next to nothing about the Korean War. It’s been cloaked
in the thickest possible propaganda fog ever since it ended in stalemate.
But U.S. conduct there -- driven by racism and anti-communist hysteria --
was soul-numbingly barbaric.
Veterans for Peace member S. Brian Willson, who served in Vietnam, compiled
a list of gruesome abuses in Korea:
General Douglas MacArthur ordered the U.S. Air Force to “destroy every
means of communication, every installation, factory, city, and
village” south of the Yalu River boundary with China. Massive saturation
bombings alone, especially with napalm and other incendiaries, murdered
perhaps 2.5 million civilians. Major General William B. Kean of the 25th
Infantry Division ordered “civilians in the combat zone” to be considered
A July 25, 1950 Fifth Air Force memorandum to General Timberlake declared
that adherence to Army orders to “strafe all civilian refugees (have been)
USA Today (Oct. 1, 1999) and the New York Times (Dec. 29,
1999) reported from declassified U.S. Air Force documents the “deliberate”
strafings and bombings of Korean “civilians” and “people in white.” In the
August 21, 1950 issue of Life, John Osborne reported that U.S.
officers ordered troops to fire into clusters of civilians.
The multi-national Korea Truth Commission has written: “The Washington
Post reported on June 13, 2000, that more than 2.5 million out of 5
million overall casualties during the three-year Korean War were civilians.
“According to currently available materials, Koreans have identified more
than 60 locations in the south and more than 100 locations in the north
where massacres and wanton violence against innocent civilians were
committed by U.S. soldiers, as well as south Korean army, police and
paramilitary right wing youth squads under the U.S. military command.”
Had any of these crimes against humanity been revealed at the time, they’d
probably have been rationalized exactly the same way as Haditha. Low-ranking
soldiers would have gotten the blame, and the Pentagon hierarchy would have
From horse-borne saber charges into peaceful encampments of “Indians” to
devastating B-52 raids ranging from the population centers of North Vietnam
to the Afghan countryside, America has a terrible record of mass-murdering
civilians. In places like Laos, the killing continues decades after it
began, as unexploded anti-personnel weapons strewn indiscriminately by the
tens of thousands are regularly detonated by hapless farmers' plows. Or by
laughing children playing in the fields.
Haditha? An accident? Or an isolated occurrence?
History is completely at odds with such naive suppositions.
Dennis Rahkonen, from Superior,
Wisconsin, has been writing progressive commentary for various outlets since
the Sixties. He can be reached at: