Account of an Iraq War veteran:
On March 11, at least one U.S. Army Staff Sergeant walked off his base, entered three separate homes and killed 16 unarmed Afghan civilians in cold blood before returning to his base and turning himself in. Some witnesses report they heard multiple troops. However, the U.S. military insists it was only one soldier. Until now, the U.S. military has not released any details about the intent behind the killings. But from my experience in the U.S. military, I’m sure that racist indoctrination by U.S. imperialism is at the heart of it.
When I deployed to Iraq in 2004, the instructors taught my unit to call the local workers “Hajji.” The word is actually a religious title for Muslims who completed their pilgrimage to Mecca. But, the military used it as a racist slur to breed hostility between coalition troops and civilians. It is comparable to the racist term “gook” the U.S. military used during the Vietnam War.
Our trainers told us it was okay to run over children on the roads or to shoot someone throwing an object, even if it was a rock. These Iraqis, my instructors explained, would use kids strapped with bombs to attack convoys. Since “you never know what hajji may do,” you should use lethal force if you feel threatened.
An Army friend of mine, James, was on a Small Kill Team (SKT) that followed orders to shoot and kill anyone outside after the U.S.-imposed curfew. Many people in his unit believed that the SKT would help the Iraqis “remember” not to plant anti-U.S. roadside bombs.
Most troops in James’ unit had lost buddies to insurgent attacks. Almost every anti-U.S. attack fed the rage-filled racist lie that all of the Iraqis were responsible because they knew who the anti-U.S. forces are. But James understood racist lies because he knew lots of people in PLP and actively fought against putting the racist blame on the working class in Iraq.
Like myself, James avoided using the term “hajji.” Instead we spoke to our fellow troops about how imperialist rivalry is to blame for all the bloodshed on all sides. In one instance James, a medic, actively worked on an Iraqi National Guard soldier that his fellow medics refused to work on because he was an Iraqi. Keens, one of James non-medic friends pitched in to try to save the Iraqi soldier’s life even though Keens generally followed the Army’s racist script.
The Iraqi soldier died of his injuries. But what shook Keens the most was the racist behavior of the other medics. James’ anti-racist actions showed Keens there was beter way to respond to the Army’s racism and Keens apologized profusely for days to the troops in the Iraqi National Guard unit attached to the U.S. unit. It’s action around communist ideas like these that can one day transform a racist imperialist army into an anti-racist communist one.
It may turn out that the Army Staff Sergeant who committed this latest racist rampage was a long-time Nazi and has had mental problems. Early reports indicate that his current deployment in Afghanistan was his fourth, following three in Iraq. The Staff Sergeant suffered from traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, revealing that imperialism injures working-class military occupiers as well as the civilian occupied.
One soldier’s individual rampage is just a symptom of the larger rampage of imperialist rivalry. The generals, politicians, corporate bosses, mullahs, imams, emirs and sheiks ON ALL SIDES push workers — including lower-ranked enlisted coalition troops and the rank-and-file insurgents — to kill and die for the rulers’ profit. Each boss uses racism to blanket each and every one of the opposing forces’ populations as the enemy, including fellow workers.
The imperialists’ fight to dominate energy-rich areas has launched “small wars” that have killed millions of workers over the past several decades. Workers only hope for justice in war is to organize class war for communism, especially among working-class troops. It will take troops with communist ideas like anti-racism to win working-class troops, insurgents and civilians in the front lines to unite as a class against the bosses.
The Staff Sergeant responsible for these racist deaths hurt U.S. imperialism’s goal of cutting a deal to keep a large U.S. presence in Afghanistan past 2014. More and more Afghans now want the U.S. out. U.S. imperialism’s racist ideas helped nurture the attacks in the first place. Inter-imperialist rivalry for energy resources in the region means the occupation will continue.
Drone strikes have killed uncounted thousands in Afghanistan, mostly civilians. But instead of prosecutions against drone commanders and ending the use of inaccurate technology like aerial strikes, U.S. bosses chalk up civilian deaths to “collateral damage.” Last month the U.S. Army admitted to burning Korans in Afghanistan, a symbol of U.S.’s racism to many workers in Afghanistan.
Obama simply responded with an apology, not action to rid the U.S. military of racist anti-Muslim ideas. The architects of racist mass murders like the 2004 U.S. military attacks on Falluhja, Iraq, where thousands of civilians were systematically murdered, are celebrated as military leaders. But when these same imperialists face unauthorized slayings of dozens by mini-racists they put on show trials to save face.
The U.S. Army is likely to push for a harsh punishment against this soldier to limit Afghan protests to a minimum and to strike a U.S.-friendly deal with the Afghan government to maintain a long-term military presence. However one low-ranking Marine was the only troop convicted for the largest U.S. military atrocity against civilians to go to court, the killing of 24 civilians in the city of Haditha, Iraq in 2005. The convicted Marine’s punishment was a demotion and a pay cut! In the prison torture scandal of Abu Gharib, not one officer was convicted of any criminal wrongdoing.
While the perpetrator of this most recent atrocity will face some punishment, only workers’ revolution against capitalism can smash the imperialist masters that make these relatively small atrocities possible.