How Should Americans Respond to Leaders Who Are War Criminals?

The news has recently described an astonishing number of war crimes being committed by the U.S. throughout the world:

1) The use of unmanned drones on civilian populations in Pakistan, Yemen, and Afghanistan.

2) The ongoing murder of civilians in Iraq.

3) Support for U.S.-installed dictators in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain, as well as torture and renditions in Saudi Arabia.

4) Indiscriminate bombing in Libya designed to kill one of the few dictators we don’t embrace in the Middle East.

5) Declaring Iran Air Lines to be a “terrorist group” and threatening to prosecute anyone who flies on that airline for “Patriot Act” violations.

6) Support for Israel’s illegal blockade and opposition to a peace flotilla to the concentration camp known as Gaza.

7) U.S. complicity with the Mexican government in its murder of over 25,000 supposed drug dealers and their supporters — all to prevent North Americans from feeding their addictions.

8) Destabilization programs throughout South and Central America, designed to overthrow governments that won’t comply with U.S. demands to give us their natural resources and financial support.

9) The use of the CIA, FBI and their affiliates in international clandestine operations, including assassinations and disappearances.

The list goes on and on, and only gets worse as each week passes. The tally of our savagery throughout the world numbers in the hundreds of thousands each year, and yet the only casualties we read about refer to “American lives lost” – and, even those number in the thousands. All the government has to do is characterize its victims as terrorists, or anti-U.S., and the public sits back and condones the killing.

As “loyal” Americans, are we to applaud these unconscionable actions, support them with our taxes and remain committed to Pentagon-style “democracy?” Do we advocate obedience to the U.S. leadership and the oligarchs that finance them or do we root for our “enemies” – or neither?

Speaking out, marching, signing petitions and screaming “We’re not going to take it anymore” has never stopped any despot, and it is certainly not going to stop the billionaire CEOs who profit and benefit from the use of Homeland Security to silence dissent and opposition at home and abroad.

Given the virtual police state Americans live under, it is obvious that picking up guns or responding violently to these atrocities is suicidal, at best. Civil disobedience barely rises to the level of symbolic opposition given the certain imprisonment imposed on activists by our right-wing judiciary. Do we plead for mercy from these killers? Do we pray (now there is something the Republicans can get behind) for relief from this relentless slaughter?

Most Americans read the news and shake their heads in disbelief that we could have sunk so low as a nation. Then we resume going about our business, leaving the wars to those who hold the monopoly of power and wealth in this country.

Silence in the face these crimes is unacceptable. Resistance is the only honorable response. But how and what will stop this juggernaut of senseless wars and mayhem remains to be seen. In the meantime, we are like the good Germans of the 30’s and 40’s, who stood by while their government destroyed everything of value that it touched.

Throughout history, oppressed people have been overwhelmed and immobilized by the seeming indestructibility of the military establishment in power. Whether it be a Hitler, an Attila, or the powerful Ozymandias of old, the mighty call upon the weak to “look on my works … and despair.” But whether these tyrants are defeated by their enemies, or, like an uncontrolled forest fire that burns itself out as a result of its own self-destructing flames, all such empires fade and fall. The hubris and inhumanity of our leaders and owners result in their own annihilation – the only question is how many will have died while they wreaked their havoc on the people and resources of the planet.

Luke Hiken is an attorney who has engaged in the practice of criminal, immigration, and appellate law. Read other articles by Luke, or visit Luke's website.