Unearthed in South Korea

June 2nd, 2008

This is a syndicated post, originally from Rad Geek People's Daily » Dulce Et Decorum Est.

(Via Lew Rockwell 2008-05-19: Cold War Murder and Roderick Long 2008-05-25: Anarchocide in South Korea.)

Charles J. Hanley, The Huffington Post (2008-05-18): Mass Killings In South Korea In 1950 Kept Hidden From History:

SEOUL, South Korea — One journalist’s bid to report mass murder in South Korea in 1950 was blocked by his British publisher. Another correspondent was denounced as a possibly treasonous fabricator when he did report it. In South Korea, down the generations, fear silenced those who knew.

Fifty-eight years ago, at the outbreak of the Korean War, South Korean authorities secretively executed, usually without legal process, tens of thousands of southern leftists and others rightly or wrongly identified as sympathizers. Today a government Truth and Reconciliation Commission is working to dig up the facts, and the remains of victims.

How could such a bloodbath have been hidden from history?

Among the Koreans who witnessed, took part in or lost family members to the mass killings, the events were hardly hidden, but they became a public secret, barely whispered about through four decades of right-wing dictatorship here.

The family couldn’t talk about it, or we’d be stigmatized as leftists, said Kim Chong-hyun, 70, leader of an organization of families seeking redress for their loved ones’ deaths in 1950.

Kim, whose father was shot and buried in a mass grave outside the central city of Daejeon, noted that in 1960-61, a one-year democratic interlude in South Korea, family groups began investigating wartime atrocities. But a military coup closed that window, and the leaders of those organizations were arrested and punished.

Then, from 1961 to 1988, nobody could challenge the regime, to try again to reveal these hidden truths, said Park Myung-lim of Seoul’s Yonsei University, a leading Korean War historian. As a doctoral student in the late 1980s, when South Korea was moving toward democracy, Park was among the few scholars to begin researching the mass killings. He was regularly harassed by the police.

Scattered reports of the killings did emerge in 1950 — and some did not.

British journalist James Cameron wrote about mass prisoner shootings in the South Korean port city of Busan — then spelled Pusan — for London’s Picture Post magazine in the fall of 1950, but publisher Edward Hulton ordered the story removed at the last minute.

Earlier, correspondent Alan Winnington reported on the shooting of thousands of prisoners at Daejeon in the British communist newspaper The Daily Worker, only to have his reporting denounced by the U.S. Embassy in London as an atrocity fabrication. The British Cabinet then briefly considered laying treason charges against Winnington, historian Jon Halliday has written.

Associated Press correspondent O.H.P. King reported on the shooting of 60 political prisoners in Suwon, south of Seoul, and wrote in a later memoir he was shocked that American officers were unconcerned by questions he raised about due process for the detainees.

Some U.S. officers — and U.S. diplomats — were among others who reported on the killings. But their classified reports were kept secret for decades.

— Charles J. Hanley, The Huffington Post (2008-05-18): Mass Killings In South Korea In 1950 Kept Hidden From History

William Gillis, Human Iterations (2008-05-22): Mass Graves:

The commission estimates at least 100,000 people were executed, in a South Korean population of 20 million. That estimate is based on projections from local surveys and is very conservative, said Kim. The true toll may be twice that or more, he told The Associated Press.

In 1945, as the Japanese Empire finally went into retreat, the Korean people were left without an occupational authority for the first time in decades. In that brief moment something amazing happened. The Korean Anarchists, long the champions of the resistance struggle, came out of the woodwork and formed a nationwide federation of village and workers councils to oversee a massive project of land reform. Korea graduated from feudalism overnight. Aside from some struggles with the Socialists and Nationalists, the peninsula was at peace.

When WWII concluded, however, the responsibility of securing peace and order in Korea was assigned to the Americans and Soviets. By all accounts in this instance the US actually had no imperialist intentions. While the Soviets moved quickly to deploy their forces and occupy the North, the Americans took their time showing up, and were largely content to let the South Koreans manage themselves.

The Koreans, culturally steeped with anti-authoritarian values, were fond of America and openly despised the Soviets. While a few socialists fled North hoping that the Soviets would give them a hand against the Anarchists, they were overwhelmed in numbers by a mass migration south. Everyone assumed the Americans would assist or at least respect their autonomy.

This did not last.

The Americans Military commanders who eventually arrived had trouble understanding or dealing with the anarchy they found. They had no protocol for dealing with regional federations and autonomous communes. So they helped the dispossessed aristocracy form a military government. In order to make the map simple. In order to get things under hand.

Most importantly they did not understand that the Korean Anarchists and Anti-Authoritarian activists that saturated the countryside were different than—and in fact vehemently opposed to—the Communists, going so far as to organized and launch insurrectionary attacks on the Soviet Occupation before the Americans arrived.

The Americans couldn’t understand anarchists. But leftists, they knew, meant Soviets. And they had the gall to ignore or resist their puppet military government. So they started killing them.

By the start of the Korean War, the slaughter was in full swing. Having arrested every anarchist organizer or sympathetic peasant they could get their hands on, they started executing them en masse.

The Korean Anarchist movement was, historically, one of the strongest in the world. It survived half a century of brutal occupation and economic exploitation. It survived a three way assault by the Chinese, Japanese and Soviets. It has survived many, many massacres and exterminations. It is even still around today. So strong that in the last few years they’ve been known to evict the police from the streets. But the worst injury it ever suffered was initiated and orchestrated by the United States military. In a single campaign so horrific it borders on genocide.

This was truly, objectively, one of the worst things the US has ever done. And there are some big fucking contenders.

Most north american papers ran front-page stories this Monday about the latest mass graves being uncovered while I was riding the Empire Builder from St. Paul to Portland. I found a copy wedged between Amtrak seat cushions. And there was an ancient photo of piled corpses as far as the eye could see. The papers euphemistically used the term leftists. But I know the history, I did the research.

They were almost all anarchists.

However lovely America may be. Remember, the US government is not our friend. It will never be. It can never be.

— William Gillis, Human Iterations (2008-05-22): Mass Graves

[Read the original at Rad Geek People's Daily » Dulce Et Decorum Est (2008-06-02)...]

Unearthed in South Korea

June 2nd, 2008

This is a syndicated post, originally from Rad Geek People's Daily » Dulce Et Decorum Est.

(Via Lew Rockwell 2008-05-19: Cold War Murder and Roderick Long 2008-05-25: Anarchocide in South Korea.)

Charles J. Hanley, The Huffington Post (2008-05-18): Mass Killings In South Korea In 1950 Kept Hidden From History:

SEOUL, South Korea — One journalist’s bid to report mass murder in South Korea in 1950 was blocked by his British publisher. Another correspondent was denounced as a possibly treasonous fabricator when he did report it. In South Korea, down the generations, fear silenced those who knew.

Fifty-eight years ago, at the outbreak of the Korean War, South Korean authorities secretively executed, usually without legal process, tens of thousands of southern leftists and others rightly or wrongly identified as sympathizers. Today a government Truth and Reconciliation Commission is working to dig up the facts, and the remains of victims.

How could such a bloodbath have been hidden from history?

Among the Koreans who witnessed, took part in or lost family members to the mass killings, the events were hardly hidden, but they became a public secret, barely whispered about through four decades of right-wing dictatorship here.

The family couldn’t talk about it, or we’d be stigmatized as leftists, said Kim Chong-hyun, 70, leader of an organization of families seeking redress for their loved ones’ deaths in 1950.

Kim, whose father was shot and buried in a mass grave outside the central city of Daejeon, noted that in 1960-61, a one-year democratic interlude in South Korea, family groups began investigating wartime atrocities. But a military coup closed that window, and the leaders of those organizations were arrested and punished.

Then, from 1961 to 1988, nobody could challenge the regime, to try again to reveal these hidden truths, said Park Myung-lim of Seoul’s Yonsei University, a leading Korean War historian. As a doctoral student in the late 1980s, when South Korea was moving toward democracy, Park was among the few scholars to begin researching the mass killings. He was regularly harassed by the police.

Scattered reports of the killings did emerge in 1950 — and some did not.

British journalist James Cameron wrote about mass prisoner shootings in the South Korean port city of Busan — then spelled Pusan — for London’s Picture Post magazine in the fall of 1950, but publisher Edward Hulton ordered the story removed at the last minute.

Earlier, correspondent Alan Winnington reported on the shooting of thousands of prisoners at Daejeon in the British communist newspaper The Daily Worker, only to have his reporting denounced by the U.S. Embassy in London as an atrocity fabrication. The British Cabinet then briefly considered laying treason charges against Winnington, historian Jon Halliday has written.

Associated Press correspondent O.H.P. King reported on the shooting of 60 political prisoners in Suwon, south of Seoul, and wrote in a later memoir he was shocked that American officers were unconcerned by questions he raised about due process for the detainees.

Some U.S. officers — and U.S. diplomats — were among others who reported on the killings. But their classified reports were kept secret for decades.

Charles J. Hanley, The Huffington Post (2008-05-18): Mass Killings In South Korea In 1950 Kept Hidden From History

William Gillis, Human Iterations (2008-05-22): Mass Graves:

The commission estimates at least 100,000 people were executed, in a South Korean population of 20 million. That estimate is based on projections from local surveys and is very conservative, said Kim. The true toll may be twice that or more, he told The Associated Press.

In 1945, as the Japanese Empire finally went into retreat, the Korean people were left without an occupational authority for the first time in decades. In that brief moment something amazing happened. The Korean Anarchists, long the champions of the resistance struggle, came out of the woodwork and formed a nationwide federation of village and workers councils to oversee a massive project of land reform. Korea graduated from feudalism overnight. Aside from some struggles with the Socialists and Nationalists, the peninsula was at peace.

When WWII concluded, however, the responsibility of securing peace and order in Korea was assigned to the Americans and Soviets. By all accounts in this instance the US actually had no imperialist intentions. While the Soviets moved quickly to deploy their forces and occupy the North, the Americans took their time showing up, and were largely content to let the South Koreans manage themselves.

The Koreans, culturally steeped with anti-authoritarian values, were fond of America and openly despised the Soviets. While a few socialists fled North hoping that the Soviets would give them a hand against the Anarchists, they were overwhelmed in numbers by a mass migration south. Everyone assumed the Americans would assist or at least respect their autonomy.

This did not last.

The Americans Military commanders who eventually arrived had trouble understanding or dealing with the anarchy they found. They had no protocol for dealing with regional federations and autonomous communes. So they helped the dispossessed aristocracy form a military government. In order to make the map simple. In order to get things under hand.

Most importantly they did not understand that the Korean Anarchists and Anti-Authoritarian activists that saturated the countryside were different than—and in fact vehemently opposed to—the Communists, going so far as to organized and launch insurrectionary attacks on the Soviet Occupation before the Americans arrived.

The Americans couldn’t understand anarchists. But leftists, they knew, meant Soviets. And they had the gall to ignore or resist their puppet military government. So they started killing them.

By the start of the Korean War, the slaughter was in full swing. Having arrested every anarchist organizer or sympathetic peasant they could get their hands on, they started executing them en masse.

The Korean Anarchist movement was, historically, one of the strongest in the world. It survived half a century of brutal occupation and economic exploitation. It survived a three way assault by the Chinese, Japanese and Soviets. It has survived many, many massacres and exterminations. It is even still around today. So strong that in the last few years they’ve been known to evict the police from the streets. But the worst injury it ever suffered was initiated and orchestrated by the United States military. In a single campaign so horrific it borders on genocide.

This was truly, objectively, one of the worst things the US has ever done. And there are some big fucking contenders.

Most north american papers ran front-page stories this Monday about the latest mass graves being uncovered while I was riding the Empire Builder from St. Paul to Portland. I found a copy wedged between Amtrak seat cushions. And there was an ancient photo of piled corpses as far as the eye could see. The papers euphemistically used the term leftists. But I know the history, I did the research.

They were almost all anarchists.

However lovely America may be. Remember, the US government is not our friend. It will never be. It can never be.

William Gillis, Human Iterations (2008-05-22): Mass Graves

[Read the original at Rad Geek People's Daily » Dulce Et Decorum Est ()...]

Unearthed in South Korea

June 2nd, 2008

This is a syndicated post, originally from Rad Geek People's Daily » Dulce Et Decorum Est.

(Via Lew Rockwell 2008-05-19: Cold War Murder and Roderick Long 2008-05-25: Anarchocide in South Korea.)

Charles J. Hanley, The Huffington Post (2008-05-18): Mass Killings In South Korea In 1950 Kept Hidden From History:

SEOUL, South Korea — One journalist’s bid to report mass murder in South Korea in 1950 was blocked by his British publisher. Another correspondent was denounced as a possibly treasonous fabricator when he did report it. In South Korea, down the generations, fear silenced those who knew.

Fifty-eight years ago, at the outbreak of the Korean War, South Korean authorities secretively executed, usually without legal process, tens of thousands of southern leftists and others rightly or wrongly identified as sympathizers. Today a government Truth and Reconciliation Commission is working to dig up the facts, and the remains of victims.

How could such a bloodbath have been hidden from history?

Among the Koreans who witnessed, took part in or lost family members to the mass killings, the events were hardly hidden, but they became a public secret, barely whispered about through four decades of right-wing dictatorship here.

The family couldn’t talk about it, or we’d be stigmatized as leftists, said Kim Chong-hyun, 70, leader of an organization of families seeking redress for their loved ones’ deaths in 1950.

Kim, whose father was shot and buried in a mass grave outside the central city of Daejeon, noted that in 1960-61, a one-year democratic interlude in South Korea, family groups began investigating wartime atrocities. But a military coup closed that window, and the leaders of those organizations were arrested and punished.

Then, from 1961 to 1988, nobody could challenge the regime, to try again to reveal these hidden truths, said Park Myung-lim of Seoul’s Yonsei University, a leading Korean War historian. As a doctoral student in the late 1980s, when South Korea was moving toward democracy, Park was among the few scholars to begin researching the mass killings. He was regularly harassed by the police.

Scattered reports of the killings did emerge in 1950 — and some did not.

British journalist James Cameron wrote about mass prisoner shootings in the South Korean port city of Busan — then spelled Pusan — for London’s Picture Post magazine in the fall of 1950, but publisher Edward Hulton ordered the story removed at the last minute.

Earlier, correspondent Alan Winnington reported on the shooting of thousands of prisoners at Daejeon in the British communist newspaper The Daily Worker, only to have his reporting denounced by the U.S. Embassy in London as an atrocity fabrication. The British Cabinet then briefly considered laying treason charges against Winnington, historian Jon Halliday has written.

Associated Press correspondent O.H.P. King reported on the shooting of 60 political prisoners in Suwon, south of Seoul, and wrote in a later memoir he was shocked that American officers were unconcerned by questions he raised about due process for the detainees.

Some U.S. officers — and U.S. diplomats — were among others who reported on the killings. But their classified reports were kept secret for decades.

— Charles J. Hanley, The Huffington Post (2008-05-18): Mass Killings In South Korea In 1950 Kept Hidden From History

William Gillis, Human Iterations (2008-05-22): Mass Graves:

The commission estimates at least 100,000 people were executed, in a South Korean population of 20 million. That estimate is based on projections from local surveys and is very conservative, said Kim. The true toll may be twice that or more, he told The Associated Press.

In 1945, as the Japanese Empire finally went into retreat, the Korean people were left without an occupational authority for the first time in decades. In that brief moment something amazing happened. The Korean Anarchists, long the champions of the resistance struggle, came out of the woodwork and formed a nationwide federation of village and workers councils to oversee a massive project of land reform. Korea graduated from feudalism overnight. Aside from some struggles with the Socialists and Nationalists, the peninsula was at peace.

When WWII concluded, however, the responsibility of securing peace and order in Korea was assigned to the Americans and Soviets. By all accounts in this instance the US actually had no imperialist intentions. While the Soviets moved quickly to deploy their forces and occupy the North, the Americans took their time showing up, and were largely content to let the South Koreans manage themselves.

The Koreans, culturally steeped with anti-authoritarian values, were fond of America and openly despised the Soviets. While a few socialists fled North hoping that the Soviets would give them a hand against the Anarchists, they were overwhelmed in numbers by a mass migration south. Everyone assumed the Americans would assist or at least respect their autonomy.

This did not last.

The Americans Military commanders who eventually arrived had trouble understanding or dealing with the anarchy they found. They had no protocol for dealing with regional federations and autonomous communes. So they helped the dispossessed aristocracy form a military government. In order to make the map simple. In order to get things under hand.

Most importantly they did not understand that the Korean Anarchists and Anti-Authoritarian activists that saturated the countryside were different than—and in fact vehemently opposed to—the Communists, going so far as to organized and launch insurrectionary attacks on the Soviet Occupation before the Americans arrived.

The Americans couldn’t understand anarchists. But leftists, they knew, meant Soviets. And they had the gall to ignore or resist their puppet military government. So they started killing them.

By the start of the Korean War, the slaughter was in full swing. Having arrested every anarchist organizer or sympathetic peasant they could get their hands on, they started executing them en masse.

The Korean Anarchist movement was, historically, one of the strongest in the world. It survived half a century of brutal occupation and economic exploitation. It survived a three way assault by the Chinese, Japanese and Soviets. It has survived many, many massacres and exterminations. It is even still around today. So strong that in the last few years they’ve been known to evict the police from the streets. But the worst injury it ever suffered was initiated and orchestrated by the United States military. In a single campaign so horrific it borders on genocide.

This was truly, objectively, one of the worst things the US has ever done. And there are some big fucking contenders.

Most north american papers ran front-page stories this Monday about the latest mass graves being uncovered while I was riding the Empire Builder from St. Paul to Portland. I found a copy wedged between Amtrak seat cushions. And there was an ancient photo of piled corpses as far as the eye could see. The papers euphemistically used the term leftists. But I know the history, I did the research.

They were almost all anarchists.

However lovely America may be. Remember, the US government is not our friend. It will never be. It can never be.

— William Gillis, Human Iterations (2008-05-22): Mass Graves

[Read the original at Rad Geek People's Daily » Dulce Et Decorum Est ()...]

State-funded gang war brings “peace” to Baghdad, from “Shotgun Wedding: The Saint, the Insurgent and the Surge’s ‘Success’” by Chris Floyd

November 21st, 2007

Although 2007 will have seen the largest number of American military deaths in Iraq and the passing of the one million mark in Iraqi civilians killed, there has been much triumphant harrumphing of late about a slight drop in the horrific death count in Iraq — proof, we are told, for the umpteenth time, that the war of aggression has finally turned the corner (i.e., the conquered people have finally been beaten into submission).

To the extent that there has been any lessening of the ongoing slaughter for a short period, much of that can be put down to a factor little discussed in the American media-political bubble (at least not in terms of stark reality): the fact that the White House and St. Gen. David Petraeus have simply legitimized what used to be recorded as terrorist acitivity by paying the former killers of Americans to kill and repress other Iraqis. Thus, in some areas of Baghdad now controlled by American-paid, American-armed Sunni extremist militias, executions, mass killings, horrific torture, kidnapping and rampant extortion still go on — but these are no longer counted as insurgent violence. These horrors are now regarded as legitimate police actions by concerned citizens groups — almost all of them former close allies of the most savage sectarian bands (now loosely called al Qaeda by everyone, regardless of any actual relationship, however tenuous, to the gang of one-time CIA ally Osama bin Laden).

In other words, Bush and St. David are now giving American taxpayer money — and copious amounts of arms, equipment and flash vehicles — to those responsible for some of the most sickening assaults on innocent life since Bush destroyed Iraqi society and plunged it into sectarian warfare, which the Administration has encouraged and exacerbated at every step.

This is one way of keeping the American death count down: you just turn over various walled enclaves in Baghdad to a band of thugs in your pay, lard them with guns and money, then get the hell out of Dodge, letting the thugs do what they will. It is absolutely vital for the Washington warmongers to keep the American death count low. As long as only two or three Americans are being killed every day or so, they can keep a lid on the rising but still very manageable popular discontent with the war back home. The increased use of airpower — blunderbuss assaults on civilian areas with bombs and attack helicopters — also helps toward this goal. And, as noted, it also helps lower the official numbers on terrorist violence, following the age-old tradition of U.S. foreign policy: if somebody is killing, raping and torturing with our money, in our name, why then, it can’t be terrorism. It’s just a grassroots initiative to restore law and order, and bring freedom to benighted peoples.

… In Saturday’s Guardian, the paper’s remarkably courageous man in Baghdad, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, gives us a vivid portrait of one of these American-paid gangs in action. It is the tale of Abu Abed, a violent, neurotic, vainglorious killer of Americans (and former intelligence officer for Saddam Hussein) who has been crowned by none other than St. David himself to rule as undisputed king over the walled Baghdad ghetto of Ameriya:

Abu Abed, a member of the insurgent Islamic Army, has recently become the commander of the US-sponsored Ameriya Knights. He is one of the new breed of Sunni warlords who are being paid by the US to fight al-Qaida in Iraq. The Americans call their new allies Concerned Citizens…A former intelligence officer and a pious Sunni, Hajji Abu Abed has the aura of a mafia don. And for Abu Abed, like a don, connections are everything. His office is decorated with pictures of him hugging US officers, including the senior commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus…On Abu Abed’s desk stands a glass box containing a black suede cavalry hat and a letter proclaiming him an honorary US cavalryman.

The Americans pay him $400 (£200) a month for each fighter he provides, he said, and he had 600 registered. His men are awed by his courage, his piety and his neurotic rages…

Abu Abed began hugging St. David — and taking the Saint’s payoffs — after falling out with al Qaeda in a dispute over loot. The Qaedas were demanding a 25 percent cut of all swag to fund their self-proclaimed Islamic Republic of Iraq; Abu Abed balked at the demand, and decided to eliminate his rivals. But he was outgunned his fellow sectarians, so he turned to the Americans.

… And how is the huggable Abu Abed bringing the blessing of freedom to his fiefdom? Like so:

When we arrived at the house where [an] alleged al-Qaida commander was hiding, Bakr [Abu Abed's head of intelligence] was already in action. He was dragging a plump man into a car, grabbing his neck with one hand and his BKC machine gun with the other. The horrified man begged them not to take him. By Allah, I didn’t say Qaida is better than you, you are our brothers, just let me go! A gunman kicked the man and pushed him into a car.

The suspect’s brother, still in his pyjamas, pleaded, and women in nightgowns stood in the street wailing and begging the gunmen to release him. The gunmen pointed their guns at the people and pushed them back. A young fighter carrying an old British sub-machine gun fired a burst into the air.

Abu Abed walked into the scuffle. The detained man was not the [alleged al Qaeda] target. Someone had overheard him saying Abu Abed’s men were worse than al-Qaida after Bakr’s men raided the house. Furious at the insult, Abu Abed aimed his gun at the brother. Al-Qaida is better than us, huh? Did you forget when the bodies were piled in the streets?

Some neighbours intervened, and the man was released. His brother grabbed him by the arm and pushed him inside. Abu Abed, shaking his head and waving his gun, walked back to his car, murmuring Al-Qaida, better than us…

He stopped in mid-stride and turned to charge with his men back into the house. They pushed the gate open and ran inside firing their weapons in the air. In the dark kitchen, they grabbed the man again, pushed him to the floor and kicked him. The women were screaming and crying. One of them pulled away her headscarf and wailed, holding on to the man’s ripped shirt as Abu Abed and the gunmen dragged him out, kicking and slapping him. Other fighters fired their Kalashnikovs in the air. The man was shoved into a car, as was his brother.

Abu Abed, screaming and pointing his gun, charged at the crowd. Qaida is better than me? I will show you! He held his gun high and quoted al-Hajjaj, a 7th-century ruler of Iraq, in a hoarse voice: Oh, people of Iraq, I had come to you with two swords, one is for mercy which I have left back in the desert, and this one — he pointed his gun at the crowd –is the sword of oppression, which I kept in my hand.

The convoy drove off, sirens blaring, fighters hanging out of the car windows.

Al Qaeda is not Abu Abed’s only enemy, of course. In addition to constantly threatening to renege on his deal with his new best friends — the Americans he used to kill — if they don’t properly acknowledge his authority, Abu Abed is also violently attacking forces aligned with the Iraqi government:

That night, Abu Abed decided to attack another group of Ameriya Knights under his general command. He suspected their commander, Abu Omar, was allied with the vice-president’s Islamic party, which has been trying to control the Sunni area.

I have to show them there is one commander. If the Americans don’t like it, I will withdraw my men, he told me. Let’s see if they can fight al-Qaida alone. By sunset, his men were gathered in front of the house again. He distributed extra guns and he carried an extra shotgun with his machine gun.

… Abu Omar’s men were rounded up. Some were put in pick-up trucks, others were squeezed in car boots. By the light of headlamps, Abu Abed’s men looted weapons, ammunition boxes and radios.

One terrified child was brought for questioning. Where are Abu Omar’s sniper rifles? Abu Abed asked him.

I don’t know, replied the boy.

Look, this head of yours, I will cut it off and put it on your chest if you don’t tell where the guns are by tomorrow. He tried to put his shotgun in the boy’s mouth but his men restrained him.

–From Chris Floyd at Empire Burlesque (2007-11-10): Shotgun Wedding: The Saint, the Insurgent and the Surge’s Success.

Surging towards Baghdad (or: lies, damn lies, and military press conferences, part 2)

August 29th, 2007

BAGHDAD — Despite U.S. claims that violence is down in the Iraqi capital, U.S. military officers are offering a bleak picture of Iraq’s future, saying they’ve yet to see any signs of reconciliation between Sunni and Shiite Muslims despite the drop in violence.

Without reconciliation, the military officers say, any decline in violence will be temporary and bloodshed could return to previous levels as soon as the U.S. military cuts back its campaign against insurgent attacks.

That downbeat assessment comes despite a buildup of U.S. troops that began five months ago Wednesday and has seen U.S. casualties reach the highest sustained levels since the United States invaded Iraq nearly four and a half years ago.

Violence remains endemic, with truck bombs in two northern Iraqi villages claiming the largest single death toll of the war — more than 300 confirmed dead and counting. North of Baghdad, another truck bomb destroyed a key bridge on the road linking the capital to Mosul, the first successful bridge attack since June.

And while top U.S. officials insist that 50 percent of the capital is now under effective U.S. or government control, compared with 8 percent in February, statistics indicate that the improvement in violence is at best mixed.

U.S. officials say the number of civilian casualties in the Iraqi capital is down 50 percent. But U.S. officials declined to provide specific numbers, and statistics gathered by McClatchy Newspapers don’t support the claim.

The number of car bombings in July actually was 5 percent higher than the number recorded last December, according to the McClatchy statistics, and the number of civilians killed in explosions is about the same.

U.S. officials have said that the new security plan needs time to work. But many have expressed disappointment at the continued sectarian violence.

The military has been trying to stanch that violence by building walls between neighborhoods and around potential bombing targets. But bombings and sectarian violence still take place.

The number of Iraqis killed in attacks changed only marginally in July when compared with December — down seven, from 361 to 354, according to McClatchy statistics.

No pattern of improvement is discernible for violence during the five months of the surge. In January, the last full month before the surge began, 438 people were killed in the capital in bombings. In February, that number jumped to 520. It declined in March to 323, but jumped again in April, to 414.

Violence remained virtually unchanged in May, when 404 were killed. The lowest total came in June, the first month U.S. officials said all the new American troops were in place, with just 190 dead, but then swung back up in July, with 354 dead.

One bright spot has been the reduction in the number of bodies found on the streets, considered a sign of sectarian violence. That number was 44 percent lower in July, compared to December. In July, the average body count per day was 18.6, compared with 33.2 in December, two months before the surge.

But the reason for that decline isn’t clear. Some military officers believe that it may be an indication that ethnic cleansing has been completed in many neighborhoods and that there aren’t as many people to kill.

One officer noted that U.S. officials believe Baghdad once had a population that was 65 percent Sunni. The current U.S. estimate is that Shiites now make up 75 percent to 80 percent of the city.

Leila Fadel, McClatchy Washington Bureau (2007-08-15): Despite violence drop, officers see bleak future for Iraq

Unearthed in Colombia

May 6th, 2007

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) – Forensic teams have unearthed 211 bodies buried in dozens of mass graves near a single town in southern Colombia in the past 10 months, a legacy of fierce fighting in this coca-rich land.

Chief prosecutor Mario Iguaran told a news conference Saturday that investigators exhumed 105 bodies alone on Friday near La Hormiga, 340 miles (540 kilometers) south of Bogota in the province of Putumayo. Most of the victims, who investigators believe were killed between 1999 and 2001, had been dismembered before burial.

Historically a key region for growing the coca plant that is used to make cocaine, the Putumayo jungles near the border with Ecuador are the scene of almost daily fighting between leftist rebels, far-right paramilitaries and state security forces.

Iguaran said that based on information from local residents, authorities suspect both the paramilitaries and the rebels were responsible for the killings. Both sides regularly kill civilians they believe to be aiding their enemies.

Investigators have been digging for the mass graves in Putumayo since August of last year.

Forensic teams have found hundreds more shallow graves in recent months, as demobilized paramilitaries confess their crimes as part of a peace deal with the government.

Iguaran’s office estimates 10,000 murdered Colombians lie in unmarked graves across this South American country, now in its fifth decade of civil conflict.

Toby Muse, Associated Press (2007-05-06): Colombia Finds 211 Bodies in Mass Graves

Press reports have only told a little bit of the story behind the mass graves discovered in Putumayo. They mostly do not mention that it has become increasingly clear that the paramilitaries have been covertly sponsored and encouraged by powerful men within the Colombian government–possibly including President Alvaro Uribe himself–as a clandestine part of the military and drug war projects heavily underwritten by the United States government’s Plan Colombia.

The long, cozy relationship between Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and the US Congress is over. Washington has spent billions on the Plan Colombia policy to combat terror, increase security and economic development, and stymie the drug trade with little to show for it. Ongoing investigations into links between Colombian leaders and former paramilitary commanders have revealed close ties. For the Democratic leaders in Congress this has become hard to ignore, especially when discussing a possible free trade agreement (FTA) or continuing the financing of Plan Colombia.

… Beyond perceptions of human rights atrocities and the killings of union leaders, the reality is that paramilitary forces for many years have been the law of the land in rural areas where the Colombian state had little to no presence. Before Plan Colombia took flight, the 1990s was a decade when paramilitarism was seen as a viable solution to confront the spread of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

The shady nature of the relationship between Colombian leaders and paramilitary commanders allowed the latter to operate beyond the law with impunity. Such latitude, combined with profits from selling cocaine to the US market, allowed the paramilitaries to quickly grow beyond the control of their rural landowner masters. And one of them, it seems, might have been Alvaro Uribe himself.

Yet through his connections, Uribe sparked a process of disarmament that has led Colombia down a path that, among other unintended destinations, has taken Colombia into a phase of truth telling whereby Colombian leaders from the military, Congress and the president’s office, have been forced to reckon with their past.

While the so-called para-politico scandal continues and Uribe has managed to avoid direct scrutiny in Bogota, leaders in Washington don’t want to be seen as having supported the Colombian president when the scope of his past involvement with the paramilitaries is in question, despite the argument that such ties were necessary.

Sensing a climate change, Uribe hired a lobbying firm with known close ties to Democrats, The Glover Park Group, at US$40,000 a month to help improve his image in Congress.

His first stop in Washington was the White House, where US President George W Bush showed open-ended support for Uribe’s US$700 million request for Plan Colombia.

It is very important for this nation to stand with democracies that protect human rights and human dignity, democracies based up the rule of law, Bush said.

Uribe’s next meeting took him to the offices of Senator Patrick Leahy, who chairs the subcommittee that oversees congressional spending on Plan Colombia. In April, the subcommittee froze US$55.2 million in military aid to Colombia, citing accusations that paramilitary groups had infiltrated the Colombian government and military.

Leahy and Uribe likely discussed this as well as the fallout after the mid-April speech Colombian Senator Gustavo Petro gave his country’s Congress during which he presented a list of some 2,000 names of individuals closely tied to paramilitaries. One of those names was Santiago Uribe, the president’s brother.

Sam Logan, Spero News (2007-05-05): Uribe’s reality check

It is also increasingly clear that paramilitary groups, which have repeatedly murdered peasant activists and union organizers, have been backed by United States corporations.

Colombia’s President Alvaro Uribe headed to Washington this week, hoping to contain the fallout from an ever-widening scandal linking some of his closest allies to right-wing paramilitaries — a scandal that is threatening a key free-trade agreeement and future military aid from the U.S.

The trip puts Uribe under the spotlight of a Democratic-controlled Congress, some of whose legislators have expressed concern over the light sentences awaiting confessed paramilitary leaders under a deal negotiated by the Colombian government.

But Washington has made its own deal with at least one backer of the Colombian paramilitaries: Under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice in March, banana giant Chiquita Brands International acknowledged it had paid $1.7 million to Colombia’s paramilitary groups. The company said it had made the payments to protect its employees, but about half of the money was paid after the paramilitary federation in question, the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, had been placed on Washington’s list of foreign terrorist organizations in September of 2001.

… Still, Chiquita continued to make monthly payments to the AUC until February 2004, even after disclosing the situation to the Justice Department.

… Chiquita spokesman Michael Mitchell said that the company had felt obliged to make the payments to protect its employees. “We believe they saved people’s lives,” he said. However, during the time Chiquita was making the payments, thousands of people across Colombia died at the hands of the AUC, which expanded its power. In the banana belt alone between 1997 and 2004, right-wing paramilitaries are blamed for 22 massacres in which 137 people were killed, according to government figures.

Sibylla Brodzinsky, TIME (2007-05-02): Terrorism and bananas in Colombia

Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism: mass murders met with martial law and shoot-on-sight orders in Assam, India

January 7th, 2007

Hundreds of soldiers on Sunday patrolled parts of violence-torn Assam in the wake of an indefinite curfew and shoot-on-sight orders issued after a wave of militant killings left 48 Hindi-speaking people dead.

The outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) went on a rampage for two straight days beginning from Friday killing 48 people and wounding 30 in separate raids in the three eastern districts of Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, and Dhemaji, targeting Hindi-speaking migrant workers.

Security forces have fanned out across the region with the army, police, and paramilitary troopers engaged in a systematic anti-insurgency offensive, Tinsukia district magistrate Absar Hazarika said.

Authorities in eastern Assam have formed several peace committees involving leaders of all communities to instill confidence among the Hindi-speaking minorities, many of whom are reported to be fleeing their homes in panic.

These peace committees are working as vigilantes, helping the affected people come to terms with reality and trying to heal the wounds, a police official said.

Most of the victims were from Bihar and had made Assam their home for decades, doing odd jobs as brick kiln workers, fishermen and daily wage earners.

In 2000, ULFA militants killed at least 100 Hindi-speaking people in Assam in a series of well-planned attacks after the rebel group vowed to free the state of all non-Assamese migrant workers. The ULFA is yet to claim responsibility for the recent attacks.

There is no doubt that the killings are the handiwork of the ULFA, said Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi.

Minister of State for Home Sriprakash Jaiswal is likely to visit Assam for an on-the-spot assessment of the situation and review demands by the local government for additional paramilitary forces to deal with the rebel flare-up.

… Witnesses said hundreds of migrant workers have fled their homes in eastern Assam.

People are leaving eastern Assam in all modes of vehicles and trains, moving to safer areas out of fear, said Bimal Tiwari, a businessman.

Hindustan Times (2007-01-07): Shoot-on-sight orders in Assam, no overnight violence

“Kill Every One Over Ten:” The Burning of Samar and the Balangiga Massacre

January 5th, 2007

Kill Every One Over Ten — Gen. Jacob H. Smith

Here is an editorial cartoon with a line of American soldiers preparing to execute blind-folded young boys.

Criminals Because They Were Born Ten Years Before We Took the Philippines.

New York Evening Journal, May 5, 1902

This editorial cartoon, from the May 5, 1902 New York Evening Journal, was drawn in protest of the burning of Samar, in late 1901, during the American occupation of the Philippines. News of the campaign eventually reached the United States, and the commander, General Jake Howling Smith, faced a court martial in May 1902, on charges of conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline. During the trial it was revealed that Smith had ordered his soldiers to shoot anyone over the age of ten who had not surrendered, as potential enemy combatants. Smith, found guilty, was given a verbal reprimand and retired without further punishment.

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Rules of Engagement: The Fallujah Legacy

November 2nd, 2006

On March 31, 2004, precisely two years before Captain McConnell and his Kilo Company came home from their momentous tour in Haditha, four American employees of a security firm called Blackwater were ambushed and killed in Fallujah. Their corpses were hacked apart and burned, and two of them were hung from a bridge amid celebrations on the street. Images were beamed around the world. Judging correctly that it could not leave the insult unanswered, the Bush administration, after brief consideration of the options, decided on an all-out assault against the city. That decision continues to stand as one of the worst of the war, ranking only below the decision to disband the Iraqi Army and the initial decision to invade. At the time, for those of us living independently in Iraq outside of the American security zones, and with some sense therefore of the mood on the streets, it demonstrated once again the inability of officials to imagine the trouble that the United States was in, and the astonishing insularity of Washington, D.C.

The Marines knew better. They wanted to respond to the Blackwater ambush by going after the individual killers, and then following through with a well-crafted counter-insurgency campaign to stabilize and mollify the city. But when they were overruled and ordered to do the opposite—to mount an immediate full-frontal offensive—they set aside their theories, and as professional soldiers they dutifully complied. It was a disaster. Backed up by tanks and combat aircraft, the Marines went into Fallujah dealing destruction, and quickly bogged down in house-to-house fighting against a competent and determined foe. To make matters worse, the showcase battalion of the new Iraqi Army mutinied and refused to join the fight. The battle cost several dozen American dead and many more wounded, and did immeasurable damage to the prospects for American success. It turned into a humiliation for the United States when, after four days of struggle, the Marines were ordered by a nervous Washington to withdraw. Again they dutifully complied. Afterward, the jubilant insurgents took full public control of the city, and with the help of the foreign fighters turned it into a fortified haven which U.S. forces did not dare to enter.

To get a feeling for Kilo Company and the killings in Haditha, it is necessary to remember this. After the spring battle was lost, Fallujah became an open challenge to the American presence in Iraq. There were plenty of other challenges, and to speak only of Fallujah is grossly to simplify the war. Still, Fallujah was the most obvious one, and the United States, unless it was to quit and go home, had no choice but to take the city back. Everyone knew it, on all sides, and for months the antagonists prepared. Because of the fortifications and the expectation of active resistance, there was no question this time of a patient counter-insurgency campaign: the Marines were going to have to go in and simply smash the city down. In November of 2004, they did just that, with a force about 10,000 strong. Before attacking they gave the city warning, and allowed an exodus to occur. Nearly the entire population fled, including most of the insurgents, who spread into Baghdad or up the Euphrates to carry on the rebellion, leaving behind, however, a rear guard of perhaps 1,000 gunmen who, exceptionally, wanted to make a stand. This was their mistake. The Marines attacked with high explosives and heavy weapons. Over the 10 days it took to move through Fallujah, and the following weeks of methodical house-to-house clearing, they wrecked the city’s infrastructure, damaged or destroyed 20,000 houses or more, and did the same to dozens of schools and mosques. They were not crusaders. They did not Christianize the place. They turned Fallujah into Stalingrad.

Many insurgents survived the initial assaults and emerged to contest the Marines at close quarters, room to room and in the rubble. It is said to have been the most intense battle by American forces since Vietnam. The insurgents were trapped inside cordon upon cordon of American troops, and they fought until death. For the Marines the rules of engagement were necessarily loose. Rules of engagement are standing orders that limit the targets of soldiers, defining the difference between appropriate and inappropriate killing according to strategic and tactical goals, and between legal and illegal killing according to interpretations of international law. In Fallujah the rules allowed Marines to kill anyone they believed to be dangerous, and others who got in the way. In addition to those seen carrying weapons, in practice this meant everyone in every structure from which hostile fire came, and any military-age male seen moving toward the Marines or running away. Obviously, the Marines were not allowed to kill wounded prisoners, but in a televised case one of them did, and Marine Corps justice averted its gaze.

The men of Kilo Company fought through the thick of Fallujah. Lance Corporals Terrazas and Crossan, and most of the other men of future Haditha note, ran the course from start to finish. Kilo Company lost four Marines killed and at least 20 seriously wounded, and was involved in the best-known close-quarters combat of the battle—a desperate attempt to clear insurgents from the rooms of a house, which came to be known as the Hell House fight. Toward the end of it, a New York–based photographer named Lucian Read snapped an iconic picture of a blood-drenched sergeant who had been shot seven times and blasted with an enemy grenade, but who nonetheless was emerging on foot from the house, holding a pistol in one hand, supported by a Marine on each side. The photograph showed the Marines as they like to be seen, and as some like to see themselves. There’s a lot to be said for going to war with a photographer in tow, until something happens that you would rather forget.

Fallujah was a victory for the Marine Corps, but a victory narrowly defined. The reality is that a quarter-million people were forced from their homes and, when they returned, were faced with a city in ruins, surrounded by concertina wire and watched over by armed men in towers. Marine general John Sattler, who had led the assault, claimed that the insurgency had been broken. But as the seasons slid by in 2005, guerrillas slipped back into Fallujah, or sprang up from its ruins, and they surged forward through all the other towns of Anbar, including Haditha. Sattler was wrong, and embarrassingly so. Within more contemplative circles of Marines, the battle of Fallujah became less of a triumph than a warning. The consequences were not difficult to discern. A hard-pressed combat officer once put it this way to me: Yeah, we won Fallujah. But before that we made Fallujah. And we definitely can’t afford to make another.

Rules of Engagement, in Vanity Fair (November 2006)

No Se Convienen

July 20th, 2006

No Se Convienen

Francisco de Goya (ca. 1812)

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