In his book, War Crimes in Vietnam, published in 1967 Russell several times calls the United States a Nazi State:
The United States government is conducting a war of annihilation in the Vietnam. The sole purpose of this war is to retain a brutal and feudal regime in the South and to exterminate all those who resist the dictatorship of the South ... the real concern which brings the United States to pursue the brutal policy abandoned by France in Indo-China is the protection of economic interests and the prevention of far-reaching social reforms in that region of the world ... I raise my voice because the war that is being conducted is an atrocity ... the American government has suppressed the truth about this war, the fact that it violates the Geneva Conventions ... and that it is being conducted in a manner reminiscent of warfare as practised by the Germans in Eastern Europe.
He quotes the Dallas Morning News, January 1st, 1963 in support:
Supposedly the fortified villages is to keep the Vietcong out. But barbed wire denies entrance and exit. Vietnamese farmers are forced at gun-point into these virtual concentration camps. Their homes, possessions, crops are burnt ... In the province of Kien-Tuong, seven villagers were led to the town square. Their stomachs were slashed and their livers extracted and put on display. These victims were women and children. In another village, a dozen mothers were decapitated before the eyes of compatriots. In still another village, expectant mothers were invited to the square by government forces to be honoured. Their stomachs wrere ripped, and their unborn babies removed ...
This was the regime of Bai Dai and Ngo Dinh Diem that the US attempted to keep in power under their protection which might absolve them of culpability, but to which Russell acidly replies:
I am reminded of the argument by an eminent Nazi, he did not kill a single jew, he just provided the lorries.
And he goes on to say:
In the course of history there have been many cruel and rapacious empires and systems of imperialist exploitation, but none before have at their disposal the power of the US imperialists. This constitutes a world system of oppression and represents the true threat to peace ... it is now painfully clear that US imperialism cannot be persuaded to end its aggression, its exploitation and its cruelty. In every part of the world the source of war and suffering lies at the door of US imperialism. Wherever there is hunger, wherever there is exploitative tyranny, wherever people are tortured and the masses left to rot under the weight of disease and starvation, the force that holds the people down stems from Washington.
Hence he goes on to point out:
The battle-front for freedom is in Washington, in the struggle against war criminals - Johnson, Rusk & McNamara - who have degraded the US and its citizens. Indeed, they have stolen the United States from its people and made the name of a great country stink in the nostrils of people the world over. This is a harsh truth, and it is a truth that is affecting the daily lives of Americans irrevocably and increasingly. There is no looking the other way. There is no use pretending that war crimes are not occurring ... there is no dignity without the courage to examine this evil and oppose it. There is no solution for the American crisis short of the emancipation of the American people themselves from these barbarous men who speak in their name and defile a great people by doing so.
Given the role of the Nazis in the Western world as the epitome of evil, perhaps Russell is making this comparison to emphasise his outrage. Yet he insists that:
The United States is obliged to act as the ... Nazis behaved in Eastern Germany. This is literally true. The concentration camps to which I have referred, and which held nearly sixty percent of the total population of South Vietnam, were scenes of brutal tortures, massacres and mass burial. The special experimental weapons, like the gas and the chemicals ... were as bad as anything the Nazis used during the second world war. It is true that the Nazis systematically exterminated the jews and the United States has not done anything comparble in Vietnam. With the exception of the extermination of the Jews, however, everything that the Germans did in Eastern Europe has been repeated by the United States in Vietnam on a scale which is larger and with an efficiency that is even more terrible and complete.
These things were the reasons for hatred the world had for the Nazis. These things led to the trials at Nuremberg, in which the Nazi leaders were hung as war criminals.
It's worth pointing out that once one adds the support for apartheid regimes like Rhodesia and South Africa, the Atlantic slave trade and the holocaust visited upon the Native Americans on the colonisation of the Americas by the Europeans the difference that Russell points out appears to completely vanish, except of course that these crimes were committed over a far longer time-scale.
Moreover, recalling in this context that both Hannah Arendt, a theorist of totalitarism in Europe and Franz Fanon, a theorist of colonialism have both written that Nazi Germany imposed on Europe a system of domination, oppression and exploitation that had been perfected in the colonies of Europe to be imposed on the native. This is why Aime Cesaire said:
the supreme barbarism, the crowning barbarism. That it is Nazism, yes, but before they were its victims, they were its accomplices; that they tolerated Nazism before it was inflicted upon them, that they absolved it, shut their eyes to it, legitimised it, because, until then, it had only been applied to non-European peoples, that they have cultivated that Nazism, that they are responsible for it, and before engulfing the whole of Western, Christian civilisation in its reddened waters, it oozes, trickles and seeps from every crack.
This leads me on to my question:
Q. Can it be said that the United States by adopting the policies of colonisation abandoned by the Europe in Indo-China have followed a trajectory that led to Nazism?
Q. Is then Bertrand Russell correct in characterising the then United States as a Nazi state?
Given the criticisms of using the term 'nazi' with respect to the USA in its then pursuit of colonialist policies in Vietnam (despite the fact the Russell could see no option but to use it), a footnote in Arendts book, The Origins of Totalitarianism is pertinent:
No doubt, the fact that totalitarian government, its open criminality notwithstanding, rests on mass support is very disquieting. It is therefore hardly surprising that scholars as well as statesmen often refuse to recognize it, the former by believing in the magic of propaganda and brainwashing