Warning: this article contains descriptions of brutal acts of violence.
As the Russian invasion of Ukraine intensifies and it becomes clearer that Putin and the Russian elite have little regard for the lives of the Ukrainian people, phrases like “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” have begun to be used by some U.S. officials to describe Russian actions there. While it’s obvious that Russia’s inhumane invasion and bombardment of civilians are crimes against humanity, let’s not forget the utter hypocrisy of any U.S. official accusing foreign powers of war crimes.
For starters, the specific weapons the U.S. is criticizing Russia of using in this invasion are cluster bombs, which explode in the air and release many smaller shards or bombs, causing damage and death over a much wider area. The U.S. government itself has refused to sign a treaty to ban their use, and in fact has dropped cluster bombs in many countries from Vietnam to Iraq.
In 1945, the U.S. became the first and only nation to actually use nuclear weapons on the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. U.S. government personnel were sent in afterwards to collect data on the horrific effects the radiation had on those who initially survived the attack, effectively treating the whole act as a military experiment.
During the U.S. war on Vietnam, U.S. forces carried out a torture and death program called Operation Phoenix that killed at least 40,000 people and tortured many more. People were thrown from airplanes, had bamboo sticks hammered into their ears, were allowed to starve to death in cages, and shocked with electrical wires. In 1968, the infamous Mỹ Lai Massacre occurred, in which a platoon of U.S. troops killed hundreds of villagers, mostly women and children. U.S. planes, in a program mockingly called Operation Ranch Hand, used Agent Orange, made from dioxin, to destroy millions of acres of forest, destroying plant, animal and human life for decades to come. The U.S. dropped napalm on entire villages, setting them aflame in petroleum fires that stuck to the skin of peasant villagers as it burned.
Soldiers throughout Latin America were trained in counterinsurgency warfare at Fort Benning, Georgia. Some of them went on to become brutal dictators, and others, like those of the Atlactl Battalion of El Salvador, went on to commit heinous crimes like the infamous 1981 El Mozote Massacre, where at least 800 peasants were executed in an orgy of violence.
During the U.S. occupation of Iraq from 2003 to 2011, U.S. forces regularly used cluster bombs, flechettes (hundreds of tiny dart-like projectiles from a single shot or container) and white phosporous (which explodes and burns on contact with air). They bombed schools, hospitals, bridges, water treatment facilities, and at least one wedding.
Between 2004 and 2020, the U.S. murdered thousands of civilians in drone strikes across Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia.
Since 2015, the U.S. has directly supported the ongoing Saudi-led war on Yemen, both in terms of selling weapons and providing logistical support, such as refueling jets between air strikes. The list of war crimes committed by the U.S.-backed Saudi and UAE militaries against the people of Yemen is staggering – it includes the bombing of hospitals and refugee camps, torture, the recruitment of child soldiers (which the U.S. tried to cover up), and using mass starvation as a weapon against the population. Thousands of civilians have been killed or injured and over 3 million have been displaced, while the mass destruction has led to one of the deadliest cholera outbreaks in modern history and a famine that has claimed over 230,000 lives. Joe Biden, the third president to oversee U.S. involvement in the war, has broken his promise to end U.S. participation in this ongoing calamity.
The U.S. accusing Russia, or any other nation of war crimes or crimes against humanity, is the utmost hypocrisy.