We've Been Here Before: The Tiger Cages of Vietnam

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Mr. Luce worked in Vietnam with International Voluntary Services and the World Council of Churches from 1958 to 1971. In 1970 he disclosed the Tiger Cages on Con Son Island to a congressional group. He presently works in Niagara Falls with the mentally ill, a soup kitchen, and a home for persons living with Aids. He can be contacted at 716-285-3403 x 2226.

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My best friend was tortured to death in 1970. Nguyen Ngoc Phuong was a gentle person. But he hated the war and the destruction of his country. He was arrested by the U.S.- sponsored Saigon police in one of his many anti-government demonstrations. After three days of continuous interrogation and torture, he died."He was tortured by the (Saigon) police but Americans stood by and offered suggestions," said one of the men who was in prison with him.

Perhaps this is the biggest single difference between Viet Nam and Abu Ghraib. In Viet Nam, the U.S. primarily taught and paid the Saigon police and military to do their bidding. In Abu Ghraib and Iraq, the U.S. military is carrying out the torture themselves. There were, however, many Vietnamese who were tortured by Americans before being turned over to their Saigon allies and put into jail. Reports of suspected Viet Cong being thrown out of helicopters, peasant farm people tied to stakes in the hot sun, and young men led off to execution by U.S. soldiers are well-documented by U.S. soldiers and journalists.

The U.S. paid the salaries of the torturers, taught them new methods, and turned suspects over to the police. The U.S. authorities were all aware of the torture.

The Tiger Cages

In 1970, President Nixon sent a delegation of ten Congressmen to Viet Nam to investigate pacification. A part of their mandate included a visit to a prison in South Viet Nam as a way to be allowed to visit a prison where U.S. POWs were held in the North.

Tom Harkin, then an aide to the congressional group, convinced two of the Congressmen to investigate stories of torture in the Tiger Cages off the coast of Viet Nam (the French built them in 1939 to hold political opponents; similar ones in French Guinea became famous in the movie Papillion, starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman). The congressman requisitioned a plane for the 200-mile trip to Con Son Island. I was asked to go as an interpreter and specialist in Vietnamese prisons. At that time I was working for the World Council of Churches.

On the way out Frank Walton, the U.S. prison advisor, described Con Son as being like"a Boy Scout Recreational Camp." It was, he said,"the largest prison in the Free World."

We saw a very different scene when we got to the prison. Using maps drawn by a former Tiger Cage prisoner, we diverted from the planned tour and hurried down an alleyway between two prison buildings. We found the tiny door that led to the cages between the prison walls. A guard inside heard the commotion outside and opened the door. We walked in.

The faces of the prisoners in the cages below are still etched indelibly in my mind: the man with three fingers cut off; the man (soon to die) from Quang Tri province whose skull was split open; and the Buddhist monk form Hue who spoke intensely about the repression of the Buddhists. I remember clearly the terrible stench from diarrhea and the open sores where shackles cut into the prisoners' ankles."Donnez-moi de l'eau" (Give me water), they begged. They sent us scurrying between cells to check on other prisoners' health and continued to ask for water.

The photos that Harkin, today a U.S. Senator from Iowa, took were printed in Life Magazine (July 17, 1970). The international protest which resulted brought about the transfer of the 180 men and 300 women from the Cages. Some were sent to other prisons. Some were sent to mental institutions.

Grace Paley described the prison life of one of the 300 women who were incarcerated in the Tiger Cages in her 1998 book, Just As I Thought:

In prison, Thieu Thi Tao was beaten on the head with truncheons. Her head was locked between two steel bars. Water was forced down her throat. She was suspended above the ground. Then, on November 20, 1968, she was transferred to national police headquarters. The Vietnamese Catholic priest, Father Chan Tin, in a plea for international concern about her case, wrote that she was"further beaten and subjected to electric shock.""She's become insane," Father Tin wrote,"unable to sleep for fifteen days, believing herself to be a pampered dog that could only eat bread and milk. Not being given these, she refused to eat and became so weak she couldn't talk. When the wind blew she wanted to fly.

Late in 1969 Tao was transferred to the Tiger Cages of Con Son. She was there for a year and transferred to the Bien Hoa Insane Asylum. For several days, she was hung from an iron hook. Her spine was damaged by this torture and she still wears a neck brace.

"You saved our lives," Tao later wrote."I still remember the strange foreign voices when you came. In the cages, we wondered what new indignities were to be visited upon us. But a foreigner [myself] who spoke Vietnamese with a heavy accent told us it was a U.S. congressional investigation. We had prayed for such an inquiry and took the chance to speak of the tortures. We begged for water and food. We were dying you know."

Tao was a 16-year high school student then. She was put in cages because she would not salute the flag. She was obstinate, the prison director said at the time. The oldest prisoner in the Cages was Ba Sau. She was blinded by the caustic lime that was thrown onto prisoners as a disciplinary measure."I was a Communist," she says."But the others were only student protestors, Buddhists and writers."

Today, behind the five foot by nine-foot cages is a cemetery for the 20,000 people who died in Con Son prison. Most graves are unmarked. The prisoners at Con Son didn't even have numbers. When the survivors return, they bring flowers, pray and softly sing the songs that were whispered in the cages some 35 years ago.

Soon after the expose in Life, Congressman Philip Crane (R, Illinois) visited Con Son and declared"the Tiger Cages are cleaner than the average Vietnamese home." He could not understand afterward why even the most pro-American of Vietnamese newspapers condemned him strongly and even hinted that his remarks were racist.

Similar to contemporary events in Iraq and the so-called War on Terror, in 1971 the Department of Navy gave a contract to the company Raymond, Morrison, Knutson-Brown Root and Jones to build new cages even smaller than the original ones. The money for the new cages came from the U.S. Food for Peace program. Ironically, part of the construction consortium, Brown and Root, is today the Halliburton subsidiary that built the"isolation cells" in Guantánamo, Cuba for imprisonment of Afghan and Iraqi suspects. (For a copy of the contract, see Hostages of War by Holmes Brown and Don Luce.)

U.S. Policy in Viet Nam and Iraq

Torture was certainly an integral part of U.S. policy in the Viet Nam war. We paid for it through our"Public Safety" program. Our advisors taught"better methods" and were often present helping with"suggestions" during the torture. But as a general policy, our soldiers turned their prisoners over to the Vietnamese police for torture. Just as with U.S. policy-makers on Iraq, the U.S. developed rationale to claim that the prisoners we took were not covered by the Geneva Convention (the U.S. authorities claimed they were all" criminal prisoners").

Where Are They Now?

For 35 years I have followed the lives of the Tiger Cage inmates who are still alive. Many are doing very well. Loi runs an embroidery business. Tao is an agricultural engineer and runs a large shrimp farm. Lap is a high official in the Tourist Bureau. Tan runs an interior design business and Thieu is a prominent lawyer. They are all reminders that the people imprisoned for political reasons during a war are most often the leaders of a country after the war. The people who were in the Tiger Cages also have a have a special attachment to the Americans who worked so hard for their freedom.

Final Note:

"I read the books about the survivors of Auschwitz and Dachau," one of the former Tiger Cage inmates told me."They are like us. Each has a special memory of someone who was there for them at a crucial moment. Someone who gave them a crust of bread or a few drops of water. Moments of kindness are seared in our minds. There is no way we can forget Mr. Harkin and his group."

This article was first published by Historians Against the War.

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More Comments:

Shawn McHale - 4/13/2005

That's a good one. . . Come on, Bill, you can admit, can't you, that what Don Luce discussed were atrocities, can't you ?? You don't have to like the guy, just admit that perhaps the Tiger Cages were a slight problem.

"Overblown" story of the Tiger cages . . . what, pray tell, do you think is so "overblown" about them?

I think your rhetoric is getting away from you.

Arnold Shcherban - 4/13/2005

<Remember the free elections in Nicaragua and El Salvador where the people threw out the Communists by wide margins?>
I do remember, and I commented on those two "victories" many times. However, you have not commented even once on the argument that the mentioned elections happened after 15 years of devastating terror and war and the unambigious
"advises" coming from the US officials and mass-media to the Nicaraguans and El-Salvadorians to get the right(no pun intended) people on the goverment.
That's how the result of those elections was understood
and commented on all over Central America and Latin America, albeit not by the US clients' official propaganda.

On top of that let me remind you, that all pro-US brutal and/or totally corrupted dictatorships (like Batista, Truhilio, Somosa, Duvalie, Argentinian Nazis, Brazilian military junta) were overthrown by the masses of people, while all left goverments were overthrown by either the US terror by proxy (like in Chili and Nicaragua), or by the CIA covert operation (like in Guatemala) or by the direct US invasion (like in Grenada, Panama, in the latter with the stipulation that Noriega was former CIA operative gone "astray" - not the Leftist). To me it is the best and undeniable EVIDENCE of me being right and you being wrong, the historical facts that eclipse all of your purported attempts to apologize US imperialism.
Many Americans strongly disagree with the actions of Bush administration. However, if any foreign country would
interfere for the purpose of forceful overthrow of the Bush goverment, on top of that using terrorist/guerilla tactics through American radical elements, I'm sure the same American dissidents would be among the first to fight them by all menas, and ("war is war", right?) cruelty, as well. So, no doubts, all nations, including, this one, did commit acts of atrocity, especially at the time of war or in response to the terror and sabotage perpetrated by the opposite side, but it doesn't negate
their cause, if it was just.
End of discussion, Bill.

I also acknowledge that you are legally right, so far, about my misuse of the term 'murder' in the ongoing case of the US interrogation centers.
However, you used the same term many times without any
court decisions on the respective cases just based on common knowledge.
So, why not to go more lenient on your opponent... who
happens to be correct in about 90% of his social and political judgements.

Bill Heuisler - 4/12/2005

Mr. Shcherban,
Four quick points:

Had Mr. Luce served in the military, we could call his smears of US soldiers "displeasure with the misdeeds committed by his compatriots". He volunteered to Left Wing organizations and posed as a journalist. He damaged our VN war effort and cost American lives by encouraging the NVA and the Viet Cong.

If Luce did care about the Killing Fields in Cambodia, Boat People fleeing Vietnam, imprisoned Buddhists or concentration camps, then why hasn't he ever written about these Communist atrocities?

You wrote, "recently reported murders of at least 26 foreign prisoners in American interrogation "centers".
Wrong. Deaths are not murders until a presentation of proof and a finding of guilty. Do you have special information or do you rush to judgement?

The spectacle of an intelligent man proposing that the Communists in Nicaragua were deserving of sympathy is sad.
Remember the slaughter of Moskito Indians by Sandanistas?
Remember the free elections in Nicaragua and El Salvador where the people threw out the Communists by wide margins?

Lastly, notice the frequency you misuse terms like murder.
Your normally persuasive dialectic unravels when you throw words like bombs and exhibit ignorance of fact.
Bill Heuisler

Arnold Shcherban - 4/12/2005

Mr. Heiusler,

Your wholesale accusations against the author of the discussed article of the type: "Luce didn't care about the Killing Fields in Cambodia, Boat People fleeing Vietnam, imprisoned Buddhists or concentration camps."
are clearly went overboard.

No argument, as I once already mentioned, Abu-Ghraib or even recently reported murders of at least 26 foreign prisoners in American interrogation "centers" is
not even remotely close to the crimes of Red Chmers in
Cambodia or other gross violations of human rights in other countries of South-East Asia.

No American or any other historian, Leftist or Rightist,
has ever tried to equalize the extent of criminality or the scale of those two clearly different misdeeds.
If they have, they are just idiots, regardless the side
they dwell - Left or Right.

However, I remember, one episode from the long story
of the US "struggle" for human rights, that throws an illuminating light on the Big Politics that, despite all
rhetoric to the contrary, has always been the driving force behind all large scale human rights campaigns directed by this country.

When Reagan and his White House was conducting one of most
furious campaigns in protection of the human rights of "Solidarity" leaders in Poland, who weren't tortured
not mentioning killed, the Nicaragua contras sponsored and trained by the US were MURDERING hundreds of not just leaders, but common local unions members, peasants and any Nicaraguan goverment's sympathizers.
When John Valesa was delivering his magnanimous speech -ode to the triumph of the Western freedoms and democracy,
damning the human rights violations perpetrated in his native Poland by the "evil" communists against people's
union - "Solidarity", the real terror was going on in full swing, not nearly as far as his Poland was from
teh place he spoke at, actually quite near - in
Nicaragua (and in El-Salvador) under the full and careful guidance of Valesa's noble hosts.

As a side note, I would like to remind you Bill, that
it was Vietnamese who fought and finally "purged" Red Chmers, and it was the US who started to support Pol Pot
and his mass murderers, as soon as Vietnamese invaded.
And it was the US who did not move a finger in favor of the international efforts to catch Pol Pot (moreover, essentially, torpedoed them).
Further, it was Chinese, not Vietnamese, who morally and materially supported Red Chmers while the genocide was taken place.
And don't you think that by devastating the South-Eastern region the US together with France (earlier) carry, at least, some responsibility for the Red Chmers' and Vietnamese' brutality "blowback" (the concept born not in the "treacherous" minds of Noam Chomsky and Luce, but "invented" by such Leftists, as CIA analysts were)?

I don't wish for that, but I'm pretty sure that you, "altruistic" sir, would have been among the first to murder any communist sympathesizer with you bare hands, if the communists would perpetrate even nearly the same, as the US forces and their local clients in Vietnam and Cambodia.

Therefore, Prof. Luce has some minimal right to express
his displeasure with the misdeeds committed by his compatriots, regardless how insignificant they might seem to some of his other compatriots.

Bill Heuisler - 4/10/2005

Mr. Shcherban,
You are correct, I did ask about Jews who believed in and supported Communism in communist and capitalist countries.

Your responses have been very edifying, but perhaps my questions are not well worded because I'm not really sure where my confusion is rooted. You list the travails of Jews under Soviet Communism and explain how they were largely anti-semitism, but you include the carrot and stick approach of NEP which should have taught most Jews a harsh lesson in 1930. But it didn't.

Apparently it didn't, at least not to Jewish observers in the US, like Julius and Ethel, whose passionate adherance to Soviet Communism was carried right to their deaths. These were not stupid people. Which part of the great International Dream captured their hearts and minds? Why? We've already discussed the economic. It was a failure on the individual level. Could the attraction have been an (certainly suicidal) almost religious altruistic world-view? Could the deep-seated Messiah-imagery in their heritage have convinced them that the greater good might be better - on the whole - than the individual good since we're all going to be judged on motives and little else?

Could it be as simple as: Jews perceive Communism as a particularly Jewish world philosophy? Marx was Jewish, as were Trotsky and many of the original Bolsheviks. Some have stated Lenin was half Jewish (as though there was such a thing) and that this fact/rumor of a Jewish political faith of sorts may have influenced some of the more naive American Jews to embrace it in spite of their new-found homeland? This paradoxical lemming-like attraction of Jews to the Left has puzzled me for all my adult life. But asking questions of my Jewish friends usually leaves me feeling as though I'd broached a forbidden - maybe an anti-semitic-seeming - subject.

Thanks for your patience. Maybe our Jewish friends on HNN like Mr. Friedman can cast some light on a question I'm sure many non-Jews think about, but few discuss for fear of being thought bigoted.
Bill Heuisler

Peter N. Kirstein - 4/10/2005

I think the writer meant that the president was the object of boos as opposed to a practitioner. It was all over the news as pilgrims booed and whistled when the president's picture appeared at the Holy Father's funeral.

Peter N. Kirstein - 4/10/2005

One of the great achievements of communism, rarely recognised in the west, is its relatively successful containment of American power from the early 1950s through the demise of the Soviet state in 1991. In the aftermath of that event, one can see the results of unfettered, uncontained American power: multiple wars and general rejection of international norms and comity.

Arnold Shcherban - 4/9/2005


I thought you asked me about primarily those Jews who
believed in and supported Communism in the communist countries and in the capitalist ones.
It is possible that I did not get you correctly first time, or may be you have just reformulated the issue in question, since then.

The wealthy (compatively) Jews of Russia either fled
abroad, or stayed giving up their private capital to the new authorities voluntarily, or were expropriated by
the Soviets; those who resisted were just thrown to prison, and many of the latter who survived the prison and returned to "normal" Soviet life were later on, in 30s, "repressed" again: either sent to Gulag or shot to death.
Enterpreneurship, as the capitalist phenomenon was
fundamentally banned, at least in the Soviet Russia (though the rare exceptional kind of enterpreneural opportunites would come up at different period of the
Soviet development) though did exist, without being suppressed to nearly such extent in some Eastern European countries of "Peoples' Democracy'.
By the way, up to 1930, over so-called NEP (New Economic Policy, introduced at Lenin's initiative) period, the small private businesses (many owned by Jews) temporarily thrived, especially in the big cities.
But then Bolsheviks rolled NEP up.
Many of the Soviet Jews with the enterpreneural spirit
would show it at times, only to be sent to the labor camps
when (and if) being caught.
So, the most of them gave up, since it was definitely better to live at large following the imposed rules/laws, than rot in jail.
But everything, they say, is recognized in comparison.
And economically, the Soviet Jews lived, on average,
better than the Russian majority itself.
The sharply disproportionate percentage of the Soviet Jews
(though, certainly deservedly so) not only had higher education, but also comparingly good paying and prestigious jobs, such as medical doctors, dentists, scientists, leading engineers, architects, etc., not mentioning the great number of them successfully working in such creative areas as TV, cinematography, theatrical production, music, writing, visual arts, you name it.
(Don't get me wrong, I'm not mentioning anti-Semitism, not because it wasn't non-existent in the Soviet Union, but just because we don't discuss it in this particular exchange.)
It is not coincidental that the most of them relying on the education, experience and skills they received there are doing pretty good in this country, as well (certainly
getting much 'more return on their investment', but the latter was the major reason, at least for the young ones, why they immigrated here on the first place).

As you might see now, perhaps clearer than before, I don't and never did sugar-coat the bitter realities
of Soviet life (the same concerns the policies whether internal or external).
However, I object the notion that communists, in general, and the Soviet communists in particular, "got it all wrong", never did anything significantly good for the people or did something so "evil" (in principle, though may be not on the same scale) that no capitalist country/ party has done, the notion that is so widespread, and wrong, especially among the less educated or fooled by the official double standards Americans, that it just asks for response.

Bill Heuisler - 4/9/2005

Mr. Hildering,
Perhaps you're initiating a literary chaos-theory. Good.

The non-sequitors are absolutly stunning. Two questions. Why do Saddam's crimes pale in comparison to those of servants and maids? Further, do you know who it was that President Bush booed while he was attending the Pope's funeral? That's pretty rude behavior for a visiting head of State to be booing someone during a formal ceremony - actually it's rude for anyone to boo at a funeral. Think of the poor family. But, like many, I'm unable to keep up.
In any case, your powers of observation are astounding.

And you are right to state that Americans are killers. All your evidence certainly supports the statement.
Bill Heuisler

Bill Heuisler - 4/9/2005

Professor Kirstein,
When you endorse Mr. Luce without bothering to comment on his ludicrous connection of Abu Ghraib to Con Son, you reinforce my position. The article is merely a clumsy attempt to smear Americans for political purposes.

Luce is a Leftist anti-American. You probably don't need proof, but I'll give some anyhow. Remember in 1977, that crowd of triumphal Leftists, including Ramsey Clark and Sam Brown, met in Beacon Theater in New York to welcome Vietnam's new post-war delegation to the United Nations? Don Luce was there. Cora Weiss organized the reception.

David Dellinger, master of ceremonies, bragged that, when he'd visited Ho Chi Minh City, a NVA officer told him the American peace movement had inspired his troops when they had almost given up. When the Vietnamese were introduced, they were greeted with tumultuous applause. The people at the Beacon that night reveled in the triumph of Communist totalitarianism in Indochina. Don Luce of Clergy and Laity Concerned was rubbing congratulatory elbows with Gareth Porter, defender of Pol Pot; Noam Chomsky, defender of Pol Pot; Marcus Raskin, Institute for Policy Studies; Richard Falk, David Dellinger, Barry Commoner, Bishop James Armstrong, Henry Foner, of the Fur, Leather and Machine Workers Union, and Peter Weiss.

Keynote speaker was, Dinh Ba Thi, Vietnamese ambassador to the United Nations. He said Vietnamese "are determined to struggle for full human rights which are fundamentally the right to independence of all nations" and Vietnamese are "determined not to be deceived by wreckers and rumor-mongers who shout about human rights."

Meanwhile Killing Fields were being filled in Cambodia, Buddhist monks arrested in Viet Nam, forced migration to New Economic Zones, mass removals to Re-Education camps, and the death of thousands of boat people all taking place in Viet Nam as they celebrated.

Cora Weiss said, "the legitimate struggle for independence and freedom from colonial rule waged by the people of Vietnam would not have proceeded so quickly without support from Americans who rejected the criminality of the White House and the Pentagon."
Could she have been referring to her friend, Don Luce?

Nobody was bothered by Cambodia. Not even Don Luce.
Dinh Ba Thi said, "Kampuchea's a special problem in that their own interests in having the kind of relationships, in inviting Americans to visit, and so on, has not been the same" as the Vietnamese. it the "responsibility to counter the political propaganda in the media about Cambodia," but tactically we would prefer to "separate Cambodia and Vietnam."

These celebrants - Luce included - were allies of the Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodian Communists and were apologists engaged in the systematic cover-up of genocide and gross violations of human rights. Luce didn't care about the Killing Fields in Cambodia, Boat People fleeing Vietnam, imprisoned Buddhists or concentration camps.

But Luce cares about humiliation in Abu Ghraib?
Professor, I don't believe that and neither do you.
Bill Heuisler

Peter N. Kirstein - 4/9/2005

Mr McHale is correct. Mr Luce is a pivotal figure. He was expelled from South Vietnam for his role in tiger-cage revelations and as director of International Voluntary Services. A testimony to the quality of nations that we support as leader of the Free World and exemplar of international morality and liberal enlightenment.

I am grateful for this article and intend to use it in my work.

Les Hildering - 4/9/2005

What I find remarkable is the comfort and luxury that our national leadership enjoys. Public housing in Washington, free travel, no financial worries, servants and maids at their beck and call. And Saddam, whose crimes pale in comparison sits in a prison cell. If the US were defeated in war its leaders would be tried for war criminals. Maybe that is why Bush booed at Pope's funeral. Americans are killers.

Hagbard Celine - 4/9/2005

Well, you'd think that ACTUAL IRAQIS who did time in Abu Garib under Uncle Saddam would have the last word... Since they're really the only ones in a position to KNOW...

Ah, no such luck. If something like that ever happens here (on any subject), I'm springing for that lottery ticket!

Bill Heuisler - 4/8/2005

Mr. Shcherban,
Thank you for your trenchant and comprehensive treatise. I appreciate the time and effort. Your version of events is accurate historically, but, in my opinion, greatly underestimates Jews in general because it treats them as a class or a collective mind-set rather than as the independent individuals (merchants, bankers, shopkeepers, skilled artisans, etc.) they have been since some of the wealthier merchant-bankers loaned money to the Hanseatic League and a few kings. In short, since economic freedom and political freedom go hand-in-hand, and one without the other is nearly impossible, that descendants of these early Capitalists did an about-face and allowed a central authority to make their economic decisions seems counter intuitive to say the least.

And pre-WWI Russia? Jews living beyond the Pale weren't particularly poverty-stricken as a group or individuals - self supporting farms and villages filled with large interacting families. Poor, maybe, and preyed upon by bandits and bureaucrats, but they were self-sufficient in economic terms. So, take away the nationalism and the pacifism and you are left with a class-wide series of purely economic decisions made by a rather insular ethnic group of traditional entrepreneurs... to stop being entrepreneurs and turn over their economic welfare to the bureaucrats. It just doesn't make sense.

Thanks for your thoughts and your time.
Bill Heuisler

Arnold Shcherban - 4/8/2005


I have to agree with you: Abu-Ghraib is not quite fair
comparison to immesurably worse practices of torture
perpetrated in the world throughout its history.
I would go even further and completely side with you
on this one: I consider that Abu-Ghraib scandal just
an insignificant incident (that perhaps should not have been turned into sensation), comparing with the other
concurrent world events.
And it has never been the sole goal of my comments to smear this country, the US, that in many respects is a great country.

I don't and can't reproach you for being patriotic American, the same way I can't reproach my father (who by the way called Stalin "political gangster", in the times when almost everybody worship him) for bleeding for
the Soviet Russia, while defending it from the Nazi agression and occupation, though, as you might realized
from our previous exchange I'm less than fond of any type of totalitarian regime.
And I would be damned, if I dare to compare, say, Soviet or Nazi totalitarian regime with the US democracy, regardless of how much wrong I might see in the latter.
Bus that's for "internal" use.
However, for "external" -foreign one, ... let me stop right here to prevent the new tsunami of mutual accusations.

Well, Bill - good question about the Jews...
And very intricate to answer one-dimensionally, or in full.
I have an opinion in this regard, though I'm pretty sure you won't like it. You still can appreciate it, if trying
hard to remain objective and unbiased.
Your idea about one religion filling void of another is
the right one, but it is just a part of the story.
Jews as the carriers of the certain nationality, religion, and traditions were persecuted throughout the entire 2 last millenium of mankind's history, regardless of the socio-economic system, religious and cultural traditions of the hosting countries.
Many pundits, mostly Jewish, had been contemplating on
the most damning questions of Jewish existense:
why "they" i.e., practically the rest of the world,
hate us so much, and what can be done to stop it.
No rational answers were found, except well-known mythical, religious ones.
Then, one more Jew, together with a German, came up with the revolutionary idea of applying the dialectical methods of analysis recently created by the philosophical genius of Hegel along with the materialism of another famous Jewish/German philosopher - Feiurbach to the investigation of human history and the societal development.
Those were, of course, K. Marx and F. Engels.
The results of their investigation, whether some disagree
with it or nor, were plenty.
A couple of those results appeared quite relevant to my explanation of "the Jews and Marxism" phenomenon.
Feiurbach, had already showed that idealistic philosophy based on religion, ANY religion, had to be abandoned in
analysis of material world.
Our couple further proved that only real, material categories has to be applied to the analysis of the real world, i.e. human relations within a society.
Therefore, the historical development of a society cannot be explained based either on the will of separate, even strong personalities, or on religious providence.
Something, much more fundamental, and powerful served as the driving force of the societal development.
Analysing societies from primitive to the modern to them, our couple arrived to the following conclusion: that force is the drive to change the paradigm (expressing it
in contemporary terms) of socio-economic relations that govern human life in the most advanced (to respective era)
That's why slavery was replaced by feudalism, just centuries later being replaced by capitalism.
Since the contemporary to us capitalism is far from the ideal societal structure, and is guilty basically of the same deadly sin of majority exploitaiton by the minority, as the previous systems, Marx and Engels rationalized, it cannot be the final destination of mankind either, and has to be replaced (most likely through social revolution) by yet another system that would abandon the exploitation of one group/class of people by another, and will distribute nation's wealth most equally among all its citizens.
As a collorary of their results was a characterization of religion as an social institution supported by the exploitators with the two-forked purpose: to preserve the "divine" order, in this case - socio-economic one, and secondly - to prevent common people from the secular view on the world, that might led them to all "wrong" ideas.
Regarding the Jews: Marxists would tell them that they were persecuted not for being Jews, per se, not for their religion, per se, but by the societies where the ideological power (along with the other mechanisms) was the tool of exploitation and social control with the monopoly on it usurped by the exploitators, and so when it was needed the populace was instigated against the Jews in the egotistic interests of the economic elite.
Thus, Marx and Engels preached, it was not coincidental that historically the persecution of the Jewish people most hard hit the poor and weak, not the rich and powerful among them with the same being true in regard to any other ethnic group's tragedies.
That is, the social division in any society goes first and foremost along material line, and only then along ideological, idealistic one.
Only in non-exploitational society, they continued, the Jews (religious or not) can enjoy the true freedom and real equality.
So, there is no suprise that for many Jews, on one end of the spectre - the working class and on another - Jewish intellectuals, who followed the contemporary to them development of social and economic thought, but, at the same time, were not given the full rights of the national
majority or being abused in some other sense at those times, Marxist theories looked very attractive.
Moreover, all attempts of the critics of his theories, were just that: critique; noone was able to come up with any theory even close to Marxist, covering practically the entire historical and social domain with the similar unification power and logical consistency.
When the social unrest and working class movements enflamed European capitalist countries and later after
the victory and miraclious survival of the Bolsheviks(?)
in Russia, the Marx predictions seemed started to materialise. What could have been more convincing argument in favor of the validity of his theories?
And so, even some of the Jews who earlier were not particular fond of Marxism began to review their opinion about it, mostly becoming its sympathizers.
Besides, they looked at the Bolsheviks's crimes as the
counter ones to the crimes of their social and ideological
adversaries, which were as real as the former ones.
Historians should not discount the fact that the first
"decret" (decree) of the Soviets was Peace decree about
the exit from the WWI, which Lenin labeled "imperialistic" one, therefore, having nothing to do with the interests of Russian new economic and political system.
That Jews, along with other ethnical minorities of Russian empire immediately received absolutely equal rights, in every aspect, with Russians, and, especially, the fact that many of the leaders of Russian revolution were Jews, which remained at leading positions after the revolution, up until the peak of Stalin's repressions.
Moreover, many of NKVD (the main apparatus of repressions) officers happened to be Jews, only later to be sent to Gulag or shot to death themselves by their replacement. (Which, by the way, created additonal and stronger cause for the later evolvement of Russian anti-semitic "intellectualism.)
The Civil war that was more an invasion of the Monarchist,
so-called White forces, armed by the West, along with the
France and Britain's Navy in Black Sea, the US in Murmansk region, and Japan's in Far East than the internal rebellion against the Soviet goverment, presented
Bolsheviks one more time as the victims of Western agression, based more on ideological (to squash dangerous
precedent abroad, facing serious domestic social unrest) than any other reason, and therefore invoked even more Jewish sympathy to Marxists, as the persecuted just for their beliefs and attempts to create better, non-antagonistic world.
It looks like Lenin sincerely believed in Marxist and his own ideas and in the reality of Communist goals, which
was at this time - world socialist revolution.
Stalin, on the other hand, disillusioned by the unexpected developments in the major capitalist countries
(the failure or absense of socialist revolutions) either ceased to be the believer, or never been the one, instead evolved into the populist dictator of the worst type, at the same time - great master of disinformation and convincing lies.
He, helped by the servient mass propaganda and NKVD operatives managed to fool some of great liberal Western figures, politicians, writers, etc., along with Communists all over the world.
Though WWII was a disaster of gigantic proportions to the Soviet Union, more than to any other country in the world, Germany inclusive, ideologically it helped to tremendously lift up the image of the USSR and Marxist ideas around the world, in general and among the Jews, in particular.
The communist, socialist and other parties of Left orientation were spreading and growing like the mushrooms after wind and rain.
Though many of them later became aware of the crimes of Russian communists, they ascribed those mostly to Stalin's
dictatorship, perhaps, because in late 60s-70s, the Soviet regime, though remaining totalitarian, actually became much more open and democratic, in comparison with
even Khrushev's era.
One have not to forget that the Western powers and the US did not behave well enough either, to say the least, (especially in supporting all kinds of ultra-right, anti-democratic, corrupted, and murderous regimes throughout the Third World), which did not help at all to anti-communist propaganda in the eyes of knowlegable Jewish secular folks, creating a sort of justification for the respective misdeeds of the international Left.

Bill Heuisler - 4/6/2005

Mr. Shcherban,
Let's clear the air.
First: You know very well there were 8 soldiers being Court Martialed months before the press saw those photos and decided it was a story. If you don't know, look it up.
There was no cover-up. Human Rights organizations and reporters like Hersh just jumped on an old story they had ignored when the Army publicized it months earlier.

Second: Let's stop throwing the word torture around.
To somehow compare chopping off limbs (Saddam) starving AIDS patients to death (Castro) breaking arms and legs and allowing no treatement (NVA, Hanoi Hilton) slow death in the Gulag (Stalin) to sexual humiliation is ludicrous.

Third: My comparisons of Communist countries' treatment of prisoners with the US's is to show the idiocy of Luce whining about the mote in our eye while ignoring the Redwood tree in others'.

Fourth: Luce's motive must be questioned when he hangs Abu Ghraib like a three-or-four-sentence fifth leg on the only big story in his life. Pathetic and badly argued.
Read "Hostages of War" written by Holmes Brown and then read "Tiger Cage: an Untold Story by S.A. Bordenkircher to see just how flimsy Luce's story with Harken was.

Last: Don't reproach me for being a patriotic American. I've bled for this country and so has my son. Obviously, we believe the US is worth dying for. Can you profess the same devotion to any country or cause?

Your comment about Jews in the formation of the Soviet Union caught my eye. There were many Jews in the American Communist Party also. How could a people so persecuted by governments have been passionate about creating another governmental master/monster. And mostly secular Jews. Could one religion have filled the void of another?
Do you have an opinion?
Bill Heuisler

Bill Heuisler - 4/6/2005

Mr. McHale,
It's difficult for me to believe you can't comprehend the argument involved in this scurrilous article. When Luce says "We've been here before" he is directly comparing a so-called American atrocity in Vietnam with an absolutely dissimilar situation in Abu Ghraib.

You wrote, "Libya and China don't show up in the article, Luce does not mention them." Asking why I brought it up.

I brought them up to illustrate the article's deceit and hypocrisy in trying to connect two dissimilar incidents involving the United States while ignoring much worse in other countries that fit his Leftist world-view. Get it?

His connection in the two stories? American soldiers.
The intent of his connection. To smear American soldiers.
But you say you don't understand. Let me help you.

Do you understand how, in Abu Ghraib and VN, Americans were prosecuted and convicted for crimes committed? How in each case Americans brought these incidents to the attention of authorities? Do you understand how no atrocity (by the NVA (3000 bound and shot at Hue in '68, Hanoi Hilton torture and murder, the millions killed in Chinese reeducation prisons and the many thousands killed in Castro's, Saddam's and Khadafi's concentration camps) has ever been properly adjudicated or punished?

Do you see the difference? Luce apparently does not.

Luce brought up Abu Ghraib while discussing French-built, South Vietnamese-run Tiger cages - to associate the evil of one with the other and to draw conclusions of American guilt. His comparison is duplicitous and reveals the same anti-American agenda that accompanied the overblown Tiger Cage story in Viet Nam.

Repeating four times you don't understand is quite sufficient. Actually it's excessive. But don't berate yourself. In the future, make a good act of contrition and say a few Hail Marys - much less embarrassing.
Bill Heuisler

Arnold Shcherban - 4/6/2005

<...is that our sons and daughters are not serial killers.>

That is exactly the kind of indignation always put forward by almost all parents of proven serial killers.
Those folks just can't believe what a culture of violence and war can do to their beloved children.
Secondly, the same kind of disbelief and denial is widely
spread over today's Germans, many of whom ascribe the
terror and genocide imposed by their Nazi predecessors
on the world as fabricated by Jews and secret Communist sympathizers.
Thirdly, the torture practice in the cases similar to those that finally surfaced were well known to the highest US authorities for at least a year, but no investigation followed, UNTIL they became the public knowledge through the persistance of some courageous reporters and the human rights organizations.
It also allows the unbiased observers to suggest that
the reported cases is just a tip of an iceberg...
So, it had very little to do (if any) with the accountability integrated into the social frame of the American society, but everything to do with
the unfortunate for the US goverment broken secrecy of the executive orders that led to that illegal practice, the orders made in the outright violation of not only American, but also - international laws.

This is the first part of my answer to your false notion that I somehow avoid answering your too controversial (for my weak brain) argument about the accountability
of the US Army for the war crimes.

The second part is that your notion of non-existence of
the corresponding accountability in the communist or considered by you communist countries (which, by the way
I never apologized for the real crimes they commited, and you know that). It wasn't part of my argument (I guess,
you conjured it up to deviate fromn the topic at hand),
but I'm ready to answer even this.
You are quite right stating that, in general, in the former communist countries the law was mostly subservient to the ideology and the corresponding socio-economic structures much more than in this country. (This is by itself is a huge issue that I have something to tell you might not be aware of).
However, on particular issue of the accountability for the crimes against humanity, such as torture, I have to say that though most of the crimes committed in this
area of law went unpunished in those countries, many
were reported and the perpetrators were not only prosecuted, but some, especially high-ranking ones, executed (which, by the way, since you initiated the comparison, never happened in the 20th-21st century history of this country; I certainly mean the high-ranking ones).

For example, you should have known, that after Stalin's
death almost all of the heads of the Soviet Republic's NKVD and of its Moscow headquarters along with their
deputies and other "prominent" murderers, rapists and torturers among their ranks were prosecuted for the crimes
they committed with most of them were sentenced to death,
the rest - to long prison stay.
Also, during infamous Soviet-Afgan campaign, some soldiers
and officers were prosecuted by the Soviet military court-marshals for the war crimes and given long prison camp
sentences. The Soviet authorities were acting in the latter case-scenario very much alike to the US authorities
of today: hiding the crimes commited by the Soviet Army in Afghanistan, as long as they could.
The only difference was that the Soviet mass-media at the time (before era of 'glasnost') was state-owned and so the cases like those went unreported to the general public until after 1989.

The point was and always is that there are no crimes, at least, on international arena, committed by the Left extremists or Right extremists, that have not been committed by the US citizens, US goverments, or US private
But you and the ones like you Bill stubbornly insist (in every single particular case using all legitimate and non-legitimate technicalities, more often - ridiculous contradictory excuses) that the US and its closest
allies exempt themselves from the general perception/interpretation of such crimes.
And this cynical double-standard approach, much more than the accusations against other countries, which are often factual, makes the American goverments the most hated goverments in the world, especially the Third World.

Since we are ALL deadly sinners, perhaps because we are humans, I have a divine right to bring up International Law.

Marx and Lenin did believe in international law that in their opinion was based on the conclusions of their revolutionary theory, i.e. on the democratic principles of the power of majority, and, since the majority in all industrialized countries was/is the working class, they quite logically demanded that it was the one that should be primarily responsible for the determination of that law.
Whether their conclusion was practically valid or not, theoretically/logically noone has been able to demonstrate
its invalidity, since it was stated.
That is one fact, among others, that greatly contributes to the popularity and vitality of their ideas, despite the horrible, genocidal persecutions the carriers of these ideas have been and are subjected to by their enemies and alleged friends all over the world.
And it is not at all coincidental that many, many of those people were/are Jews, as the most persecuted and abused by the capitalist regimes nationality in the world.

Shawn McHale - 4/6/2005

First of all, some people should be respected for bearing witness to gross violations of human freedom. Don Luce is one of those individuals. If I remember correctly, he paid a pivotal role in uncovering the Tiger Cages scandal.

Second, that Americans committed atrocities in Vietnam is not the issue. They did. Over 200 cases went through the military court-martial process. So the question is really over the extent to which an indictment of soldiers who committed atrocities should reflect on all soliders who served in Vietnam. It shouldn't.

Finally, what Libya or China have to do with Luce's article is beyond me. Libya and China don't show up in the article, Luce does not mention them. You complain about smears, and then you drag in extraneous material that has no relevance to the case at hand except to cast aspersions on the writer. Perhaps you could show why you brought it up.

Finally: some of us know survivors of torture. Don't minimize its significance.

Bill Heuisler - 4/5/2005

...is that our sons and daughters are not serial killers. The other point you avoided is there was accountability for the Abu Ghraib crimes (before the media publicity)but there is little accountability any where else in the world - particularly in those nests of Communism you admire so much like Cuba, China and Burma.

So why does Luce smear our troops? Because he can. And because he can't in all the Marxist countries where murder and torture are government policy.

US Law has done just fine in the Abu Ghraib case. In fact, mentioning international law in this context exhibits your ultimate self-delusion. International Law like Marxist Libya sitting on the UN Human Rights Commission? International Law like Communist Castro imprisoning dissidents and homosexuals? Like Communist China imprisoning dissidents and killing girl-babies?
Common denominator? Marxism. Certainly not freedom and the rule of law as exists in my country, the US.

Marx and Lenin believed in International Law as long as it fit their dogma and was written by them. For a Marxist sympathiser, to bring up International Law is comical.
Bill Heuisler

Arnold Shcherban - 4/5/2005

<Well said, Mr. Heuisler?>

So, if serial killer murdered just 10 folks against the other's 50, his offense does not amount to murder anymore, but just - to the unfortunate, though not commendable consequence of his attacks on people?

And, do you just love that "war" apology for torture and murder, when the war itself is criminal and its White House designers MUST be prosecuted in no less measure
than Saddam and Milosevich for war crimes, according to the spirit and letter of the international law?
Alas, the latter has been habitually trampled by this country managers, who refer to it with all seriousness and rigor only when it can further their "national interests". That's Mr Heuisler's ultimate interpretation
of the international law and order.

Edward Siegler - 4/5/2005

Well said, Mr. Heuisler. As your statistics and facts prove, comparing Abu Ghraib to Con Son Island is like comparing Alcatraz to Mayberry's drunk tank.

Voices of Iraq is documentary film that demolishes many of our preconceived ideas about our "51st state." In one scene, a group of Iraqis is discussing the scandal of Abu Ghraib. Many of these men were held in Abu Ghraib when it was run by Saddam. They find the comparison between what they went through then and what the prisoners held by the coalition experienced as literally a laughing matter. They consider the scandal to be a joke. On a more serious note, one says that when America apologized for what took place there it was the first time in his live he had heard a powerful government apologize for anything. This scandal was nowhere near as important to Iraqis as we imagine.

Bill Heuisler - 4/4/2005

Mr. Luce,
For comparisons to have any utility at all, they should liken only similar circumstances or situations lest they look like purposeful defamation and damage the user more than the target. The Tiger Cages were awful, but your use of those images to damage our troops' reputations is just as awful in a much larger - and more personal - sense.

It is alleged that more than 5000 people died in Saddam's prisons each year and ten times that were tortured. It is fairly well documented that more than 50,000 people were killed by the NVA after we left Vietnam. Do these numbers matter to you? Will you soon write an article comparing Castro's prison system to China's, or is the US Military a better, softer mark for you?

By percent, fewer prisoners have died in Abu Ghraib since we invaded in 2003 than died in all New York's prisons since then. Deaths in all US corrections systems amount to around 3.3% of prisoners. In Iraq - with the majority of prisoners suspected of killing or plotting to kill American soldiers - the death rate doesn't even reach 1%.

Mistreatment at Abu Ghraib (detainees frightened, beaten and forced into humiliating sexual positions) can't begin to compare with the horrors you describe in Viet Nam. Further, justice was being done to most of the offenders even before the photos became public. Courts Martials had been announced in December 2003/January 2004 (I'm not exactly sure on dates) to very little press attention.

Eight soldiers were being charged with abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib, all but one from the Army's 372nd Military Police Company. Two ringleaders, Staff Sgt. Frederick and Spec. Graner, were given 8 and 10 years in prison.
Was anyone ever charged/imprisoned for the Tiger Cages?

According to Amnesty International:
300 – approximate number of recorded cases of alleged abuse in Afghanistan, Guantánamo and Iraq.
More than 100 – criminal, military and administrative inquiries into improper or unlawful US practices related to detention and interrogation.
54 – number of personnel with a degree of responsibility for torture at Abu Ghraib according the Fay report.
16 – number of alleged torture cases at Abu Ghraib with military intelligence involvement.
11 – number of cases of alleged torture at Abu Ghraib the Fay report finds where military intelligence officers directed torture or ill treatment
37 - number of deaths in US custody under investigation. 10 - number of deaths ruled homicide in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo.

In 2003 there were over 7000 prisoners in Abu Ghraib, most of them active combatants. Do the math Mr. Luce.
Unfortunately, prisoners get mistreated and killed in all wars. Some countries like China, Burma and Cuba torture and kill prisoners as a matter of policy. The United States has a fine record for sincere attempts to avoid and to prosecute such behavior.

The purpose of your article is obviously to defame with poor (and badly researched) comparisons. I believe you are deliberately trying to harm our war effort against the terrorists in Iraq, but that's just me. Suffice to say, smearing the US Military in such clumsy fashion reflects badly on you and your agenda.
Bill Heuisler

Arnold Shcherban - 4/4/2005

I'm just waiting for the ultra-patriotic mob to jump on Don Luce to tear him apart with the "arguments" a-la-Veitkong-did-it-too.