Mass Death in the History of the
United States Empire
By David Michael Smith
506 pages / 29$ / 978-1-58367-9890
Reviewed by Ron Jacobs
It’s a relatively familiar recitation to those who study an honest history of the United States. It begins with the first encampment of British colonists in what became Plymouth, MA and Jamestown, VA.; the failure of the latter colony and the success of the former thanks to the Pequot peoples in the region in a tale remade as the Thanksgiving legend. The expansion westward and the bloody heroism of men like Davy Crockett, the blessings of men like John Winthrop and the false military prowess of killers like Custer. Then there’s the politicians with their fancy words writing and talking about freedom, justice and governance; all while they profit from the trade in human beings and the theft and sale of lands that were never theirs to take or sell.
Yes, it’s a familiar litany to those who acknowledge the genocidal history of this nation under its murdering god. Even those who try to eliminate this history from that taught in schools and shared by the real and figurative descendants of those who conquered know the nature of it. That is why they fight so hard to keep it from their children and those who immigrate here now. After all, knowledge of such truth could mean the end of their assumed domination of the nation and its riches. So, instead, the brutal truth is either eliminated or diluted, as if there can be some justification for the legacy of death and destruction celebrated every Fourth of July in these United States.
This is why a new book from author David Michael Smith is so important. Titled Endless Holocausts: Mass Death in the History of the United States Empire, this book is a history book like no other. It is harsh. It is relentless. It cannot be any other way. The endless death described in its pages does not allow another interpretation. The only other text that comes close to this effort in its scope of crimes against humanity undertaken in the name of the American Way is Richard Drinnon’s iconoclastic 1980 classic Facing West: The Metaphysics of Indian-Hating and Empire-Building, wherein the author draws the ever-so-straight line from the slaughter of northern America’s indigenous people to the slaughter of Koreans and Vietnamese in Washington’s wars in Asia.
Smith’s book, while not as evocatively narrated as Drinnon’s, is more expansive in terms of what he labels holocausts (and it’s a fair terminology) while also quite clear in the numbers of deaths involved. In addition, given the January 2023 publication date of Smith’s Endless Holocausts, the line drawn by both authors that begins in the seventeenth century is updated by forty years to the current bloodletting in the name of expanding Washington’s empire. After all, Facing West was last reprinted in 1997. For those paying attention, that year was a few years before the second US invasion of Iraq, the invasion of Afghanistan, the numerous other military operations in the name of the war on terror, and the imperial expansion of NATO up to the current conflict in Ukraine. In addition, Smith includes a section that enumerates and discusses the ongoing war on the Black people in the US, immigrants, working people and political dissidents, especially those on the left.
After reading this book, there is no way to pretend that those who call the United States the world’s most violent, most genocidal nation are telling anything but the truth. The numbers of deaths in the name of whatever it is Washington claims to kill for–freedom, democracy, the rules-based order, free enterprise, ad infinitum–is more than mind boggling; it’s unfathomable. That in itself is the danger of these types of enumerations. Like a multi-trillion dollar national debt, the millions killed in the name of truth, freedom and the American way is a challenge to get a hold of. When one considers that much of that debt is directly related to the warrior mission the United States wears proudly while denying its murderous past, it remains essential that each individual number in these morbid statistics is a life taken, a family broken and a home destroyed. And, somewhere, a dollar made by a war profiteer masquerading as a defender of freedom.
David Michael Smith and Monthly Review Press have done us a favor by publishing this book. Not only is it honestly refreshing, it is perhaps the most important history of the United States published in recent years. There are no excuses here, no rationales; just an accounting of the essential truth in the making and maintenance of the US empire. Millions dead with little to no mercy. Patriotism and its false glories are removed from the telling, leaving the reader with nothing but facts shorn of myth and history minus embellishment too often disguised as truth. It should be near the top of the list for anyone who claims US history as the reason they fly their stars and stripes and cheer the wars fought in its name.
Read the full review at Counterpunch