SPGB Socialist Opposition To War - I love the smell of Napalm in the morning

In Ford Coppola’s film, Apocalypse Now, a deranged US colonel remarks to a soldier in his platoon:

" You smell that? Do you smell that? Napalm, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for twelve hours. When it was all over I walked up. We didn't find one of 'em, not one stinkin' dink body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill. Smelled like... victory. Someday this war's gonna end... "

Well, the Vietnam War ended thirty years ago. But not the pain and suffering of the Vietnamese scarred by napalm.

Kim Phuc was nine years old on June 8, 1972, when her village, Trang Bang, in South Vietnam was bombed. Burned by napalm, she ran down the road screaming in fear and pain. The photograph of a little girl burnt with napalm was one of the enduring images of the Vietnam War. She still carries the scars of napalm.

Dow produced the napalm used against soldiers, civilians and landscape in Vietnam in the 1960’s. First developed for the US Army during World War II by scientists at Harvard, napalm turns the flame into a jellylike substance that can be shot a considerable distance under pressure. As it burns with intent heat, it sticks to the target, whether vegetable or human.

The US used a new generation of napalm during the recent Iraq war. It is now known as MK77. The military use of political correctness consigns methods of mass destruction to meaningless letters and numerals. White phosphorous is similar in effect to napalm in that it sticks to and burns its victims.

The only weapons of mass destruction to be found in Iraq were those used by the US and its allies. It is alleged that the bodies found in Fallujah bear all the hall marks of the use of napalm.War in capitalism is unpleasant. It dehumanises, alienates and brutalises those who take part. The soldiers doing the killing, just as the insurgents they kill, are desperate and confused. Some of the current deaths of US soldiers in Iraq are self-inflicted or are a result of killing officers (known as “fragging”).

Scraping up body parts is not fun. Killing is not a game. But members of the working class are sent by capitalist politicians to kill as quickly and efficiently as possible. They are given weapons which when used often kill indiscriminately. The minds of the soldiers and insurgents are filled with the poison of nationalism and patriotism, spun out with soothing rhetoric about fighting for “freedom and democracy” or spending an eternity with “seventy compliant virgins and Allah”.

Moral indignation will not end war. Religion and nationalism fuel it but war is caused by capitalism and national rivalry. War can only be ended with the establishment of World Socialism, and the abolition of classes and nation states.

What of the reformers? Trendy leftie Peter Tatchell believes the US should leave Iraq because it has all been a terrible mistake (BBC RADIO LONDON, 17 June 2005). He forgets why the US forces are there in the first place - national interest: the interest of the US capitalist class in its need for oil, strategic interests and protection of trade routes. Like other opponents of this war, Peter Tatchell asks what the US has achieved through the mounting death and destruction in Iraq. He is unable to give an answer. The US wants to control, through a compliant Iraqi government, oil production, the future development of Iraqi oil reserves and world oil prices, and is busy privatising key industries for its own interest. In short, the US has secured a strategic sphere of influence. But, in doing so, it has rained down indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction onto innocent civilian men, women and children - weapons bearing all the hallmarks of State terrorism.

Let us not Forget: My Lai and US Genocide

On March 16 the 23rd Infantry Division, the so-called Americal Division, was fighting in Central Vietnam along the murky brown South China Sea in the village of Son. My, where they slaughtered close to five hundred unarmed civilians that day. Much of the killing was in one hamlet called My Lai, but the action took place throughout the area. Elderly people, women, young boys and girls, and babies were systematically shot while some of the troops refused to participate. One soldier missed a baby on the ground in front of him two times with a .45-caliber pistol before he finally hit his target, while his comrades laughed at what a bad shot he was. Women were beaten with rifle butts, some raped, some sodomized. The Americans killed the livestock and threw it in the wells to poison the water. They threw explosives into the bomb shelters under the houses where villagers had tried to escape. Those who ran to avoid the explosives were shot. The houses were all burned
Mark Kurlansky, 1968:THE YEAR THAT ROCKED THE WORLD, 2005, p106

And the Torture never stops

TIME magazine (June 2005) set out in graphic detail the torture of prisoners kept at the concentration camp in Guantanamo Bay (Cuba). One suspect endured a “sissy slap” with an inflated latex glove, the prisoner was ordered to “bark to elevate his social status up to that of a dog”, water was poured on his head and loud music was played to keep him awake in midnight interrogation sessions. All with the blessing of Mr Bush and Mr Rumsfeld.

The US also dispatches terrorist “suspects” to “third world countries where they will be stripped, wired up, electrocuted, ripped open and tortured until they wish they had never been born”. (Robert Fisk, THE INDEPENDENT, 18 June 2005).

More evidence surfaced in Italy where an Egyptian cleric, Abu Omar, was seized by the CIA on the streets of Milan, bundled into the back of a van, driven to a US airbase in the north of Italy, and secretly flown to Egypt where he was interrogated and tortured.

While the US’s allies busily torture victims on their behalf, the US Government and military torture the English language by referring to this violent process as a “rendition programme”, in which terrorists are forcibly removed to their home country or to a third nation, where they can be tortured, a practice still largely prohibited in the US (THE OBSERVER, 26 June 2005).

In effect, it is torture by proxy.

Here is John Radsan, the former CIA lawyer:

As a society, we haven’t figured out what the rough rules are yet,” he said. “There are hardly any rules for illegal enemy combatants. It’s the law of the jungle. And right now we happen to be the strongest animal.” (J. Mayer, Outsourcing Torture, THE NEW YORKER, 14 February 2005).

So, who are the terrorists? Look no further than the White House, the home of torture and torture by proxy,. the home of State Terrorism.

The so-called peace-dividend.

We were told by capitalist politicians and the media that with the end of the Cold War the arms race would be turned into a “peace dividend”. Oh, how they shouted for joy! Church bells rang out, and the reformers and charities began to queue up at government departments to gather in the dividend for this or that worthy cause.

But there was no dividend forthcoming. In 2004 capitalism’s arms bill came to $1 trillion - the highest figure since the 1980’s (Stockholm Peace Research Institute, June 2005).

The problem is that you cannot have peace under capitalism. Capitalist states have to be prepared for war. At times, capitalist states are forced into war to protect spheres of influence, trade routes and raw resources like oil. It is costly and is something the capitalist class have to pay for.

The working class has no country. It has nothing to sell but its ability to work. The working class has no interest in capitalism or the interest of the class that exploits them. If you want peace then you have to first get rid of capitalism; the cause of war, death and destruction.

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Object and Declaration of Principles


The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.

Declaration of Principles


1. That society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of living (ie land, factories, railways, etc.) by the capitalist or master class, and the consequent enslavement of the working class, by whose labour alone wealth is produced.

2. That in society, therefore, there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle, between those who possess but do not produce and those who produce but do not possess.

3.That this antagonism can be abolished only by the emancipation of the working class from the domination of the master class, by the conversion into common property of society of the means of production and distribution, and their democratic control by the whole people.

4. That as in the order of social evolution the working class is the last class to achieve its freedom, the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race or sex.

5. That this emancipation must be the work of the working class itself.

6. That as the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers, the working class must organise consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government, national and local, in order that this machinery, including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic.

7. That as all political parties are but the expression of class interests, and as the interest of the working class is diametrically opposed to the interests of all sections of the master class, the party seeking working class emancipation must be hostile to every other party.

8. The Socialist Party of Great Britain, therefore, enters the field of political action determined to wage war against all other political parties, whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist, and calls upon the members of the working class of this country to muster under its banner to the end that a speedy termination may be wrought to the system which deprives them of the fruits of their labour, and that poverty may give place to comfort, privilege to equality, and slavery to freedom.