Post-WWII American War Crimes

Compiled by Dr. Eric T. Karlstrom, CSUS, ca. 2002

ETK Introduction

I am now including these notes that I compiled shortly after Sept. 11, 2001. Even though they are far from complete and definitive they do provide important information.


The issue of war crimes first emerged after WWI at the Versailles Conference. After WWII, a more comprehensive definition was developed.

1950 Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal. Here war crimes were thought o include ill-treatment of prisoners of war, killing hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages.

Crimes against humanity included murder, extermination, deportation, and prosecution based on political, racial, or religious grounds.

1949 Geneva Convention- recognized new technologies exposing civilian life to greater threats of destruction. Article II addressed the issue of genocide, defined as killing or causing serious bodily harm to individuals based on their nationality, ethnic, racial or religious group with the intent to destroy that group.

1977 addendum- emphasized the rights of civilians to be protected against military operations.

A number of significant other international treaties have been drafted since the Geneva Convention but the US has rejected almost all of them. Among those the US has refused to sign:

1) Declaration on the Prohibition of the Use of Thermo-Nuclear Weapons (1961)
2) The Resolution on the Non-Use of Force in International Relations and Permanent Ban on the Use of Nuclear Weapons (1972)
3) The Resolution on the Definition of Aggression (1974)
4) Protocols Additional to the 1949 Geneva Convention (1977)
5) Declaration on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (1989)
6) Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN Gen. Assembly, 1989, ratified by 191 countries)


1) First use of atomic weapons against humans – August 6-9, 1945- incinerated Hirshima and Nagasaki, Japan, killing an estimated 110,000 Japanese civilians and injuring another 130,000. By 1950, another 230,000 died from injuries and radiation. Also, earlier in 1945, two fire bombing raids on Tokyo killed 140,000 citizens and injured a million more.

2) Since WWII, the US has bombed 23 countries- now the preferred targets of war are clearly civilians. Combination of US air power and occupation ground forces has resulted in massive civilian casualties around the world.

3) Korea- 1943-1953. After WWII, Koreans were devastated and impoverished by years of brutal Japanese occupation. They were preparting to form an autonomous democratic state, with the Committee for the Preparation of Korean Independence (CPKI) and Korean People’s Republic (KPR). Days of the creation of the KPR, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, proclaimed that his forces would occupy the Territory of Korea south of 38 ˚ N. Within weeks there were 25,000 American troops in the country. Eventually, there were 72,000. The defeated Japanese, who had been the illegal aggressors, now served as allies in the occupation of Korea.

In 1948, Syngman Rhee was elected President of South Korea. In an election boycotted by nearly all Koreans. This provoked the Cheju massacre in which up to 70,000 Koreans were murdered in one year by Rhee’s paramilitary forces under US officers. In 1950, saturation bombing by the US included napalm, incendiary and fragmentation bombs, bringing devastation to villages and extremely heavy civilian casualties. (In violation of the Nuremburg Charter). The US still occupies S. Korea- milititarily – a 56 year presence, supporting de facto US role over the South, and preventing re-unification of Korea.

4) Indonesia (1958-65). After 350 years of colonial by Portugal- President Sukarno- with the PKI (communist party) wanted to make Indonesia independent social democracy. CIA armed rebels in Indonesian armies for military coup. This brought Suharto to power in 1966. Under his rule, teachers, students, civil servants and peasants were systematically executed. 60,000 were killed in Central and East Java alone. In Bali, some 50,000 were executed and thousands more died elsewhere. Military killed thousands of communists on a list supplied by the US. In 1975, 30,000 Indonesian troops landed in East Timor, used napalm, phosphorous bombs and chemical defoliants delivered by US supply planes and killed about 200,000 of a population of 600 or 700,000.

5) Vietnam (1954-65) Unilateral U.S. military intervention began in 1954, when the French army was defeated. Prior to this the US was underwriting the French military operations. The 1954 Geneva Agreement promised the Vietnamese a unifying election in 1956. In 1954, US set up puppet government of Diem (brought to Vietnam from the US). No elections were held.

The US dropped 8 million tons of bombs (four times the amount used by the US in all of WWII), 80% dropped on rural areas rather than military targets, leaving 10 million craters. Nearly 40,000 tons napalm on Vietnamese villages. The CIA’s Phoenix Program killed as many as 70,000 civilians. Indiscriminate spraying of nearly 20 million gallons of defoliants on 1/7 the area of S. Vietnam. Even today dioxin levels are dangerously elevated in water, soil, food and body fat. Total killed in Vietnam during war years = about 3 million. With 300,000 additional missing in action and presumed dead. US lost nearly 59,000 with an additional 2000 missing. S. Vietnamese military accounted for nearly 225,000 dead. All this carnage was justified in order to destroy the basic rights and capacity of the Vietnamese to construct their own independent, sovereign society. US politicians and along with profit hungry arms makers desired to assure the destruction of people’s democratic movements in East Asia that threatened virtually unlimited American hegemony over markets, resources, and the profits to be derived therefrom.

Vietnamese officials today estimate presence of 3.5 million landmines left from the war and 300,000 tons of unexploded ordnance. They report 40,000 civilians killed since 1975 by landmines and buried bombs. Each day 4 or 5 are killed by US ordnance.

U.S. and allies killed as many as 5 million SE Asians during active war years. Over a million Laotians were killed, wounded, or made into refugees and over 2 million Cambodians were killed, wounded, or made into refugees.

Laos- over 1/2 million secret bombing missions began in late 1964. Over 230,000 tons of bombs were dropped over N. Laos in 1968 and 69 alone. Total tonnage of bombs dropped exceeded 2 million.

“Secret” bombing of Cambodia began in 1969 and an outright land invasion of Cambodia was conducted from late April through June of 1970- causing thousands of casualties. Over 260,000 tons of bombs were rained down on Cambodia.

Iraq: 1991-2001

The Gulf War was waged not to protect Kuwait- but rather to establish permanent US dominion over the Gulf region. For 42 days US sent 2000 bombing sorties/day. Red Crescent Society of Jordan announced at the end of the war that 113,000 civilians were dead and 60% of these were women and children. Use of Depleted Uranium (DU) left a legacy of radioactive debris and environmental contamination and health problems. Child mortality rates have risen 380%. Between Aug. 1990 and Aug. 1997 some 1.2 children died due to environmental devastation and harsh economic sanctions imposed in 1991. Use of DU has caused frequency of cancer to triple.


In the 1980s, the US and Germany prepared plans to dismember Yugoslavia and reconfigure it into mini-states, with only Serbia and Montenegro remaining in Yugoslav federations, a situation which now leads to “re-colonization of the Balkans.

In 1991, the European Community, with US involvement, had a conference on Yugoslavia that called for separation, sovereignty and independence of the republics of Yugoslavia. George Bush I passed the Foreign Operations Act, which provided aid to the individual republics but cut off all aid to Belgrade, the capitol of Yugoslavia. This stimulated the secession of the individual republics of Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. And succession stimulated civil wars.

Ethnic Serbs living in Croatia were forced to defend their region in Croatia known as Krajina. The US covertly supplied arms, training, advisors, and air power to the Croats in “Operation Storm” directed against the helpless Serbs. When bombing began the Krajina Serbs- about 250,000- fled to Belgrade and Bosnia, thus contributing to the “ethnic cleansing” of Croatia- all evidence of Serb habitation was systematically destroyed. Civilians were executed, livestock were slaughtered and houses burnt down.

In Bosnia/Herzegovina, Bosnian Serbs tried to avoid this fate by consolidating Serb-owned lands, an area of about 2/3 of Bosnia/Herzegovina. The US and Germany quickly aided the Muslims and Croats against the Serbs, and supported by American bombing and regular Croatian army forces, the Serbs were swept from most of Bosnia/ Herzegovina. This created another hundred thousand Serb refugees.

Under US-brokered Dayton Agreement, Bosnia/Herzegovina was divided into two parts, a Muslim-Croat Federation and Republica Srpska. The central govt. is controlled today by US/NATO forces, the IMF and international NGOs. Thus Bosnia/Herzegovina’s economic assets have been taken over by foreign investors- who know own the energy facilities, the water, telecommunications, media and transportation.

Kosovo, an autonomous region of Serbia, is where US military intervention was most disastrous. On March 16, 1999, 23,000 missiles and bombs were dropped on a country of 11 million. 35,000 cluster bombs, graphite bombs, and 31,000 rounds of depleted uranium weapons were used. 78 days of bombing targeted schools, hospitals, farms, bridges, roads, communication centers, and waterways, as well as chemical plants and oil refineries.
Environmental damage done to soil, water and air spread to Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia, Greece and Italy, as well as Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia. Due to use of DU, frequency of cancer tripled.

Afghanistan 1979-2001.

Merciless bombing of Afghanistan after 9-11 has included using chemical, biological and depleted uranium weapons. Use of DU will spread radiation throughout the country and will affect tens of thousands of people in generations to come, causing lung cancer, leukemia, and birth defects. Thousands of Afghans were forced to flee to Pakistan and Iran. Once again the Americans destroyed the town in order to save it.

American conduct of its undeclared wars since WWII is clearly in violation of the Nuremburg Principles, the 1949 Geneva Convention and the amended Nuremburg Principles as formulated by the International Law Commission of 1950.

War without Borders- the US phony “war on terrorism”

The US is now considering the same sort of intervention- massive US air-power, high technology, high civilian casualties, negligible American casualties, total victory- in other countries- such as Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, and Iraq.

We will now see the government proclaiming that many “developing societies” in Africa and the Middle East are “failed societies” which have descended into anarchy. And they will call for revival of the old League of Nation Mandate System, a “respectable” for m of colonialism.

The US model is to be unilateral in military action but multilateral in political engineering- thus getting others to take the blame if the political structure collapses.

The war against terror knows no borders, so it must be pursued with equal vigor at home as well. Bush tells us that we are now in the midst of total war that will take many, many years.


Rammed through Congress shortly after 9-11 without debate- even before most Congressmen had a chance to read the bill! Laws and executive orders which restrict the rights to privacy and free movement. Only 9 weeks after 9-11, legislation was passed and executive orders signed that:

1) establish secret military tribunals to try non-US citizens
2) impose guilt by association on immigrants
3) authorize the Attorney General to indefinitely lock up aliens on mere suspicion
4) expand the use of wiretaps and secret searches
5) allow the use of secret evidence in immigration proceedings that aliens cannot confront or rebut
6) destroy the secrecy of client-lawyer relationship by allowing the government to listen in;
7) institutionalize racial and ethnic profiling
8) permit torture in interrogating immigrants.

De Facto World government

Key institutions of global economic governance – World Trade Organization (WTO), Inter-Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB), have been met with increasingly strong demonstrations at meetings in Seattle, Washington DC, Chiang Mai, Prague, Nice, Porto Alegre, Honolulu, Gothenburg. In Genoa, some 300,000 people had marched in the biggest show of the anti-corporate globalization movement yet.

The Washington Consensus- doctrine of neo-liberal reforms, deregulation, and privatization.

However, major strains in the system include not only protests but the Asian financial crisis, the ongoing disaster of structural adjustment programs in Africa and Latin America, and the spread of financial crises in Russia, Brazil, and Argentina, and the U.S. (2007-2008).