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 ()...]

Howard Zinn, introduction to “Bomb after Bomb”

December 19th, 2007

This is an introductory essay that social critic and historian Howard Zinn wrote for Bomb after Bomb, by elin o’Hara slavick, a collection of cartographic drawings–based on military surveillance imagery, aerial photographs, battle plans, maps, and mass media sources–of American aerial bombing campaigns. Zinn’s essay was reprinted in the December 15–16, 2007 issue of CounterPunch. It was brought to our attention by Mark Brady at Liberty & Power.

Perhaps it is fitting that elin o’Hara slavick’s extraordinary evocation of bombings by the United States government be preceded by some words from a bombardier who flew bombing missions for the U.S. Air Corps in the second World War. At least one of her drawings is based on a bombing I participated in near the very end of the war–the destruction of the French seaside resort of Royan, on the Atlantic coast.

As I look at her drawings, I become painfully aware of how ignorant I was, when I dropped those bombs on France and on cities in Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, of the effects of those bombings on human beings. Not because she shows us bloody corpses, amputated limbs, skin shredded by napalm. She does not do that. But her drawings, in ways that I cannot comprehend, compel me to envision such scenes.

I am stunned by the thought that we, the civilized nations, have bombed cities and countrysides and islands for a hundred years. Yet, here in the United States, which is responsible for most of that, the public, as was true of me, does not understand–I mean really understand–what bombs do to people. That failure of imagination, I believe, is critical to explaining why we still have wars, why we accept bombing as a common accompaniment to our foreign policies, without horror or disgust.

We in this country, unlike people in Europe or Japan or Africa or the Middle East, or the Caribbean, have not had the experience of being bombed. That is why, when the Twin Towers in New York exploded on September 11, there was such shock and disbelief. This turned quickly, under the impact of government propaganda, into a callous approval of bombing Afghanistan, and a failure to see that the corpses of Afghans were the counterparts of those in Manhattan.

We might think that at least those individuals in the U.S. Air Force who dropped bombs on civilian populations were aware of what terror they were inflicting, but as one of those I can testify that this is not so. Bombing from five miles high, I and my fellow crew members could not see what was happening on the ground. We could not hear screams or see blood, could not see torn bodies, crushed limbs. Is it any wonder we see fliers going out on mission after mission, apparently unmoved by thoughts of what they have wrought.

It was not until after the war, when I read John Hersey’s interviews with Japanese survivors of Hiroshima, who described what they had endured, that I became aware, in excruciating detail, of what my bombs had done. I then looked further. I learned of the firebombing of Tokyo in March of 1945, in which perhaps a hundred thousand people died. I learned about the bombing of Dresden, and the creation of a firestorm which cost the lives of 80,000 to 100,000 residents of that city. I learned of the bombing of Hamburg and Frankfurt and other cities in Europe.

We know now that perhaps 600,000 civilians–men, women, and children-died in the bombings of Europe. And an equal number died in the bombings of Japan. What could possibly justify such carnage? Winning the war against Fascism? Yes, we won. But what did we win? Was it a new world? Had we done away with Fascism in the world, with racism, with militarism, with hunger and disease? Despite the noble words of the United Nations charter about ending the scourge of war — had we done away with war?

As horrifying as the loss of life was, the acceptance of justifications for the killing of innocent people continued after World War II. The United States bombed Korea, with at least a million civilian deaths, and then Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, with another million or two million lives taken. Communism was the justification. But what did those millions of victims know of communism or capitalism or any of the abstractions which cover up mass murder?

We have had enough experience, with the Nuremberg trials of the Nazi leaders, with the bombings carried out by the Allies, with the torture stories coming out of Iraq, to know that ordinary people with ordinary consciences will allow their instincts for decency to be overcome by the compulsion to obey authority. It is time therefore, to educate the coming generation in disobedience to authority, to help them understand that institutions like governments and corporations are cold to anything but self-interest, that the interests of powerful entities run counter to the interests of most people.

This clash of interest between governments and citizens is camouflaged by phrases that pretend that everyone in the nation has a common interest, and so wars are waged and bombs dropped for national security, national defense, and national interest.

Patriotism is defined as obedience to government, obscuring the difference between the government and the people. Thus, soldiers are led to believe that we are fighting for our country when in fact they are fighting for the government — an artificial entity different from the people of the country — and indeed are following policies dangerous to its own people.

My own reflections on my experiences as a bombardier, and my research on the wars of the United States have led me to certain conclusions about war and the dropping of bombs that accompany modern warfare.

One: The means of waging war (demolition bombs, cluster bombs, white phosphorus, nuclear weapons, napalm) have become so horrendous in their effects on human beings that no political end– however laudable, the existence of no enemy — however vicious, can justify war.

Two: The horrors of the means are certain, the achievement of the ends always uncertain.

Three: When you bomb a country ruled by a tyrant, you kill the victims of the tyrant.

Four: War poisons the soul of everyone who engages in it, so that the most ordinary of people become capable of terrible acts.

Five: Since the ratio of civilian deaths to military deaths in war has risen sharply with each subsequent war of the past century (10% civilian deaths in World War I, 50% in World War II, 70% in Vietnam, 80-90% in Afghanistan and Iraq) and since a significant percentage of these civilians are children, then war is inevitably a war against children.

Six: We cannot claim that there is a moral distinction between a government which bombs and kills innocent people and a terrorist organization which does the same. The argument is made that deaths in the first case are accidental, while in the second case they are deliberate. However, it does not matter that the pilot dropping the bombs does not intend to kill innocent people — that he does so is inevitable, for it is the nature of bombing to be indiscriminate. Even if the bombing equipment is so sophisticated that the pilot can target a house, a vehicle, there is never certainty about who is in the house or who is in the vehicle.

Seven: War, and the bombing that accompanies war, are the ultimate terrorism, for governments can command means of destruction on a far greater scale than any terrorist group.

These considerations lead me to conclude that if we care about human life, about justice, about the equal right of all children to exist, we must, in defiance of whatever we are told by those in authority, pledge ourselves to oppose all wars.

If the drawings of elin o’Hara slavick and the words that accompany them cause us to think about war, perhaps in ways we never did before, they will have made a powerful contribution towards a peaceful world.

Howard Zinn

“How Could I Ever Forget That Flash,” by Mitsuyoshi Toge

November 29th, 2007

How could I ever forget that flash of light!
In a moment, thirty thousand people ceased to be,
The cries of fifty thousand killed
At the bottom of crushing darkness;

Through yellow smoke whirling into light,
Buildings split, bridges collapsed,
Crowded trams burnt as they rolled about
Hiroshima, all full of boundless heaps of embers.
Soon after, skin dangling like rags;
With hands on breasts;
Treading upon the broken brains;
Wearing shreds of burn cloth round their loins;
There came numberless lines of the naked,
all crying.
Bodies on the parade ground, scattered like
jumbled stone images of Jizo;
Crowds in piles by the river banks,
loaded upon rafts fastened to the shore,
Turned by and by into corpses
under the scorching sun;
in the midst of flame
tossing against the evening sky,
Round about the street where mother and
brother were trapped alive under the fallen house
The fire-flood shifted on.
On beds of filth along the Armory floor,
Heaps, and God knew who they were …
Heaps of schoolgirls lying in refuse
Pot-bellied, one-eyed, with half their skin peeled
off bald.
The sun shone, and nothing moved
But the buzzing flies in the metal basins
Reeking with stagnant ordure.
How can I forget that stillness
Prevailing over the city of three hundred thousands?
Amidst that calm,
How can I forget the entreaties
Of departed wife and child
Through their orbs of eyes,
Cutting through our minds and souls?

—Mitsuyoshi Toge

Mitsuyoshi Toge (February 1917–March 1953) was a Japanese Catholic poet, born in Osaka in 1917 to a successful brick manufacturer. He began writing poetry as an adolescent; by 1945 he composed three thousand tanka and even more haiku. A mistaken diagnosis of tuberculosis in 1938 kept him mostly bed-ridden throughout World War II. Toge was living in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, when, at 8:15 in the morning, Thomas Ferebee, the bombadier for the American B-29 bomber Enola Gay, dropped an atomic bomb over the city center, under orders from his commanding officer, Paul Tibbets, and at the behest of the General Curtis LeMay, U.S. Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, and ultimately Harry S. Truman, the President of the United States of America. The bomb burned alive over one third of the population of the city, and its effects killed a total of about 140,000 people — over half of Hiroshima’s population — by the end of 1945. In addition to the unspeakable mass death, Hiroshima was shattered and decimated, with nine-tenths of all the buildings in the city reduced to ruins by the combination of the heat, the shockwave, and the outbreak of fires throughout the city. Toge witnessed the explosion and its effects on his home first hand. After the war was over, Toge began to write new poetry that was strikingly different his earlier lyric poetry, haiku, and tanka. His first collection of poems about the atomic bomb, Genbaku shishu (Poems of the Atomic Bomb), was published in 1951. He died young–only 36 years old–in 1953. This poem is reprinted from a 1978 anthology, Hiroshima-Nagasaki: A Pictorial Record of the Atomic Destruction.

Napoleon’s massacre at Alexandria

November 8th, 2007

This is an excerpt from a long letter home by Boyer, a soldier in Napoleon’s army during the campaign to conquer Egypt. Here, in his own words, is what happened when the French army reached Alexandria:

Admiral Nelson had been off the city on the noon of this very day; and proposed to the Turks to anchor in the port, by way of securing it against us; but as his proposal was not accepted, he stood on for Cyprus; while we, profiting by his errors, and turning even his stupidity to our own advantage, made good our landing on the 2d of July, at Marabou. The whole army was on shore by break of day, and Bonaparte putting himself at their head, marched straight to Alexandria, across a desert of three leagues, which did not even afford a drop of water, in a climate where the heat is insupportable.

Notwithstanding all these difficulties, we reached the town, which was defended by a garrison of near 500 Janizaries. Of the rest of the inhabitants, some had thrown themselves into the forts, and others got on the tops of their houses. In this situation they waited our attack. The charge is sounded—our soldiers fly to the ramparts, which they scale, in spite of the obstinate defence of the besieged: many Generals are wounded, amongst the rest Kleber—we lose near 150 men, but courage, at length, subdues the obstinacy of the Turks! Repulsed on every side, they betake themselves to God and their Prophet, and fill their mosques—men, women, old, young, children at the breast, ALL are massacred. At the end of four hours, the fury of our troops ceases—tranquility revives in the city—several forts capitulate—I myself reduce one into which 700 Turks had fled—confidence springs up—and, by the next day, all is quiet.

Later in the same letter, Boyer explains the considerations that, in Bonaparte’s mind, made it necessary to put Egypt’s innocent men, women, and children to the sword:

France, by the different events of the war and the Revolution, having lost her colonies and her factories, must inevitably see her commerce decline, and her industrious inhabitants compelled to procure at second hand the most essential articles of their trade. Many weighty reasons must compel her to look upon the recovery of those colonies, if not impossible, yet altogether unlikely to produce any of the advantages which were derived from them before they became a scene of devastation and horror; especially, if we may add to this, the decree for abolishing the slave trade.

To indemnify itself, therefore, for this loss, which may be considered as realized, the Government turned its views towards Egypt and Syria; countries which, by their climate and their fertility, are capable of being made the storehouses of France, and, in process of time, the mart of her commerce with India. It is certain, that by seizing and organizing these countries, we shall be enabled to extend our views still further; to annihilate, by degrees, the English East India trade, enter into it with advantage ourselves; and, finally, get into our hands the whole commerce of Africa and of Asia.

These, I think, are the considerations which have induced the Government to undertake the present expedition against Egypt.

This part of the Ottoman dominion has been for many ages governed by a species of men called Mameloucs, who, having a number of Beys at their head, disavow the authority of the Grand Seignior, and rule despotically and tyrannically, a people and a country, which, in the hands of a civilized nation, would become a mine of wealth.

An Iraqi boy peered Tuesday inside a car that was towed to a Baghdad police station after two women inside were killed.

October 11th, 2007

Here is a photo of an Iraqi boy peering through the windows of a white Oldsmobile at a Baghdad police station. The driver-side door is streaked with blood.

BAGHDAD, Oct. 9 — Two women died here on Tuesday when their white Oldsmobile was riddled by automatic gunfire from guards for a private security company, just weeks after a shooting by another company strained relations between the United States and Iraq.

The guards involved in the Tuesday shooting were working for an Australian-run security company. But the people they were assigned to protect work under the same United States government agency whose security guards sprayed bullets across a crowded Baghdad square on Sept. 16, an episode that caused an uproar among Iraqi officials and is still being investigated by the United States.

In the Tuesday shooting, as many as 40 bullets struck the car, killing the driver and the woman in the front seat on the passenger side. A woman and a boy in the back seat survived, according to witnesses and local police officials in the Karada neighborhood, where the shooting took place on a boulevard lined with appliance stores, tea shops and money changers.

American government officials said the guards had been hired to protect financial and policy experts working for an organization under contract with the United States Agency for International Development, a quasi-independent State Department agency that does extensive aid work in Iraq.

The organization, RTI International, is in Iraq to carry out what is ultimately a State Department effort to improve local government and democratic institutions. But a Bush administration official said the State Department bore no responsibility for overseeing RTI’s security operations.

… The guards who were in the convoy work for Unity Resources Group, an Australian-run company that has its headquarters in Dubai and is registered in Singapore, according to a statement by the company. Unity Resources was hired by RTI to provide security in Iraq.

Andrew E. Kramer and James Glanz, New York Times (2007-10-09): U.S. Guards Kill 2 Iraqi Women in New Shooting

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

An Appeal to Conscience to Those Who Would Bomb Iran, by Ann Wright

May 2nd, 2007

This was printed in Truthout in February 2007, and also reported in Feminist Daily News (2007-02-26). Emphasis has been added.

Bombing Iranian facilities by the US military will cause the cycle of violence to begin again. If the US attacks Iran, by international law Iran has the legal right to defend itself from aggressive action by another country. The world will be watching carefully to see if the US provokes an incident whereby the Iranian military is forced into action against US forces. The Gulf is filled with US military ships which may, by the actions of the Bush administration, become legitimate targets.

While we are on the topic of history and aggression, after World War II, the United States executed German and Japanese military officers who were convicted of crimes against peace (wars of aggression) and for violations of the Geneva Conventions and the Nuremberg Principles.

The Nuremberg Principles provide for accountability for war crimes committed by military and civilian officials.

Principle IV of the Nuremberg Principles states: The fact that a person acted pursuant to an order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.

Principle VI of the Nuremberg Principles: The following crimes are punishable as crimes under international law:

a. Crimes against peace: i. Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances; ii. Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).

b. War Crimes: Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave-labor or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war, of persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.

c. Crimes against humanity: Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhuman acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, when such acts are done, or such persecutions are carried on in execution of, or in connection with any crime against peace, or any war crime.

Attacking Iran will be a crime against peace, a war crime. Those conducting military operations will be violating the Nuremberg Principles, the Geneva Conventions and the Laws of Land Warfare. Prosecution for commission of war crimes is possible.

I appeal to the conscience of US Air Force and US Navy pilots and military personnel who command cruise missiles and pilot bombers and those who plan the missions for the pilots and missile commanders. I ask that they refuse what I believe will be unlawful orders to attack Iran.

Accountability for one’s actions is finally becoming possible under the new Congress. While refusal to drop bombs may initially draw punishment and the loss of one’s military career, those who refuse will save their soul, their conscience and will prevent another criminal action in the name of our country by the Bush administration.

US Army Reserves Colonel (retired) Ann Wright, (2007-02-13): An Appeal to Conscience to Those Who Would Bomb Iran

Further reading: