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  • Originally published 10/11/2013

    For America, Life Was Cheap in Vietnam

    Obits of General Giap have implied we lost in Vietnam because of North Vietnamese callousness to casualties. That's a half-truth at best.

  • Originally published 08/14/2013

    Evil is Alive and Well (And Right Off Our Coast)

    Raul Castro and Che Guevara in 1959. Via Wiki Commons.Foreign reporters -- preferably American -- were much more valuable to us at that time (1957-59) than any military victory. Much more valuable than recruits for our guerrilla force, were American media recruits to export our propaganda." (Che Guevara 1959)“Reporters in Havana are either insensitive to the pain of the opposition 'or in clear complicity' with the government.” (Cuban dissident and torture-victim Jorge Luis García Pérez, known as Antunez, in the Miami Herald, August 7, 2013)

  • Originally published 08/14/2013

    James Dawes: Why Do People Commit Atrocities? (INTERVIEW)

    A Japanese soldier poses with the head of a Chinese prisoner.The human capacity to injure other people is very great precisely because our capacity to imagine other people is very small.--Elizabeth Scarry, For Love of Country?Most Americans know little of Japanese war crimes perpetrated in China during the Second World War. In the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), Japanese troops tortured, raped and murdered Chinese men, women and children, as Japanese scientists conducted horrific medical procedures on living human subjects at facilities such as the notorious Unit 731, a covert research center for biological and chemical experimentation in northeast China.

  • Originally published 08/14/2013

    Ex-Korean war criminal seeking compensation, apology from Japanese government

    Once sentenced to death for war crimes against POWs, Lee Hak-lae was later spared the gallows and is now on a mission of passing on the sorrow of his colleagues who died as war criminals after being forced to work for Japan during World War II.Lee recently braved the withering summer heat, despite his advanced age, to continue spreading their message as organizer of a Korean POW guards' group seeking an apology and compensation from the Japanese government."I do not want the money," Lee, 88, said. "When the people of my homeland were celebrating their liberation from Japanese colonial rule, my colleagues died in execution chambers in a foreign land. Why did they have to die? Who did they die for? It is my mission, as someone who just happened to survive, to clear away the chagrin felt by my friends."...

  • Originally published 08/13/2013

    Oliver Stone to Japan: Apologize for WWII war crimes

    Film director Oliver Stone, who is no stranger to controversy, turned from his sharp attacks on the U.S. for the atomic bombings of Japan to criticize his hosts over their attitude to China and other Asian neighbors.In a speech to foreign correspondents in Tokyo, Mr. Stone said that Japan needs to more completely apologize for its wartime acts, and said it should also resist a shift to relying on military might to deal with security challenges posed by its neighbors such as China and North Korea.Japan’s leaders have expressed “deep remorse” over the physical damage and psychological pain the country has inflicted on other Asian countries, but repeated visits by cabinet ministers to a controversial war shrine in Tokyo and growing talk of revising the nation’s peace constitution have made other countries skeptical about the intention of these remarks....

  • Originally published 07/22/2013

    Amy Kaslow: Will Khmer Rouge Officials Ever Face Justice?

    Amy Kaslow is a longtime journalist covering international economics and postwar reconstruction....Despite years of prodding from Cambodian survivors and international pressure, the tribunal only began hearing testimony in 2007. By that time, Pol Pot—Khmer Rouge architect and lead executioner—had been dead for nearly a decade. A royal pardon allowed his brother-in-law, Ieng Sary—co-founder of the Khmer Rouge and mastermind of torture and mass murder—to travel on a diplomatic passport and enjoy both a homestead in Pailin, the former bastion of Khmer Rouge leaders, and his lavish villa in Phnom Penh. Sary, the man Pol Pot called Brother No. 3, was apprehended in 2007 and died this past March while standing trial in Case 002 for crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide.

  • Originally published 07/01/2013

    James Dawes: Understanding Why People Commit War Crimes

    James Dawes is a professor of English at Macalester College and director of its Program in Human Rights and Humanitarianism. He is the author, most recently, of Evil Men, just published by Harvard University Press.The man sitting in front of me is a mass murderer. He is a serial rapist and a torturer. We are chatting about the weather, his family, his childhood. We are sharing drinks and exchanging gifts. The man is in his 80s now, frail and harmless, even charming. Instinctively I like him. It is hard for me to connect him to the monster he was so many decades ago. I think it must be hard for him, too.I am visiting with him now because I have spent too many years interviewing survivors of war crimes and human-rights workers and wondering: What kind of person could have committed those heinous acts? I want to know. So I am internally preparing myself, during the smiling pleasantries of our introduction, to ask.When we start talking about his war crimes, we might as well be talking about a figure from a history textbook, for all the emotion we show. If we were on a television program and you were watching us with the mute button pressed, you would imagine I was asking about his grandchildren. Instead I am asking about how he murdered other people's grandchildren.

  • Originally published 06/21/2013

    Richard Rashke: Karkoc Among Many Nazis Who Slipped Through U.S. Net

    Richard Rashke is the author of "Useful Enemies: John Demjanjuk and America's Open-Door Policy for Nazi War Criminals."This month, the Associated Press exposed yet another alleged Nazi collaborator, Michael Karkoc, a carpenter who had been living quietly in Minnesota for decades. During World War II, the news service reported, he was "the top commander of a Nazi SS-led unit accused of burning villages filled with women and children."Karkoc's son has vehemently denied his father had such Nazi connections, but even if it turns out Karkoc, now 94, was a collaborator, it would not be all that surprising that he managed to immigrate to the United States. Despite stated policies aimed at keeping Nazis and those who worked with them out of the country in the years after World War II, many slipped through.Estimates of the number of former Nazi war criminals and their collaborators who entered the U.S. during the hectic postwar years range widely from 1,000 to 10,000. Based on my own research, I would put the number at somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000....

  • Originally published 06/18/2013

    Hungarian indicted for Nazi-era war crimes

    BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungarian prosecutors indicted a 98-year-old former police officer Tuesday for abusing Jews and assisting in their deportation to Nazi death camps during World War II.They said Laszlo Csatary was the chief of an internment camp for 12,000 Jews at a brick factory in Kosice – a Slovak city then part of Hungary – in May 1944, and that he beat them with his bare hands and a dog whip.He also allegedly refused to allow ventilation holes to be cut into the walls of a railcar crammed with 80 Jews being deported.With his actions, Csatary "willfully assisted in the unlawful execution and torture of the Jews deported from (Kosice) to concentration camps in territories occupied by the Germans," the prosecution said in a statement....

  • Originally published 06/13/2013

    David M. Anderson: Atoning for the Sins of Empire

    David M. Anderson, a professor of African history at the University of Warwick, is the author of “Histories of the Hanged: The Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire.”WARWICK, England — THE British do not torture. At least, that is what we in Britain have always liked to think. But not anymore. In a historic decision last week, the British government agreed to compensate 5,228 Kenyans who were tortured and abused while detained during the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s. Each claimant will receive around £2,670 (about $4,000).

  • Originally published 06/06/2013

    Britain "sincerely regrets" Mau Mau-era abuses

    Britain announced compensation for thousands of Mau Mau veterans, saying that it “sincerely regretted” years of “suffering and injustice” carried out under its imperial rule of Kenya, but stopped short of a full apology.The brutal suppression of an independence rebellion led to torture, internment without trial and excessive numbers of executions, William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, said in a statement to Parliament.He confirmed that more than 5,200 claimants would share compensation from the Government of £13.9 million, but said that the out-of-court settlement did not mean Britain was legally liable for the abuses, although he said the settlement was about a “process of reconciliation.”“I would like to make clear now and for the first time … that we understand the pain and grievance felt by those who were involved,” Mr Hague said....

  • Originally published 06/06/2013

    Mary Louise Roberts documents GI conduct in WWII France

    On June 6, 1944, a massive military force arrived on the beaches of Normandy in a surprise invasion intended to overthrow Nazi Germany. The story of brave Allied forces splashing ashore under heavy fire has been immortalized in novels, memoirs, documentary films, and blockbuster movies — with American GIs cast as the unequivocal heroes of the day.A famous photo circulating the globe at the time summed things up: a happy GI embraced by ecstatic French girls.But that photo also illuminates a darker side of the story, according to University of Wisconsin-Madison History Professor Mary Louise Roberts. In her new book, "What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American GI in World War II France," Roberts writes that while heroism abounded during liberation, for some Allied troops, command of geographical territory meant command of sexual territory, as well. As they entered and occupied the port towns of Le Havre, Reims, Cherbourg and Marseilles, many soldiers took what they wanted — when and where they wanted — from the French female population....

  • Originally published 05/30/2013

    Washington Times slams Mary Louise Roberts for book on WWII GI rape

    A controversial new book about American soldiers fighting in France in WWII charges that many civilians viewed them as rapists and thieves, rather than liberators, The Daily Mail reports.History professor Mary Louise Roberts claims in her book, titled “What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American GI in World War II France,” that when the first soldiers swarmed ashore in Normandy, it was “a veritable tsunami of male lust” that French civilians came to fear as much as the Nazis, The Mail reports.The book is set to release next month and is likely to stir significant outrage in the United States, where veterans are highly revered as heroes....

  • Originally published 05/27/2013

    The Brutal War on Vietnamese Civilians: Interview with Nick Turse

    U.S. commanders wasted ammunition like millionaires and hoarded American lives like misers, and often treated Vietnamese lives as if they were worth nothing at all.--Nick Turse, Kill Anything That MovesIn March 1968 U.S. infantry troops of the Army’s Americal Division massacred five hundredVietnamese civilians, mostly women and children, in the village of My Lai. The military described the massacre as an anomaly, an aberration, the result of a few bad apples in the ranks, and the mainstream media embraced that explanation.In 1971, decorated Navy veteran (now Secretary of State) John Kerry testified before the Senate that such atrocities in Vietnam were not “isolated incidents, but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.” Kerry told of U.S. veterans who “relived the absolute horror” of what their country made them do.

  • Originally published 05/09/2013

    S. Korean president urges Japan to face history honestly

    WASHINGTON, May 8 (Xinhua) -- Visiting South Korean President Park Geun-hye Wednesday urged Japan to face history honestly for the good of Northeast Asia."Those who are blind to the past cannot see the future," Park said in an address to the U.S. Congress, a day after meeting with President Barack Obama."This is obviously a problem for here and now. But the larger issue is about tomorrow," she said, adding "for where there is failure to acknowledge honestly what happened yesterday, there can be no tomorrow."...

  • Originally published 05/09/2013

    Japan says it will abide by apologies over actions in World War II

    TOKYO — Japan’s conservative government will abide by official apologies that the country’s leaders made two decades ago to the victims of World War II in Asia, top officials said Tuesday, backing away from earlier suggestions that the government might try to revise or even repudiate the apologies.Japan formally apologized in 1993 to the women who were forced into wartime brothels for Japanese soldiers, and in 1995 to nations that suffered from Japanese aggression during the war. Both apologies rankled Japanese ultranationalists, and there were concerns that the hawkish current prime minister, Shinzo Abe, would try to appeal to them by whitewashing Japan’s wartime atrocities, a step that would probably infuriate Japan’s neighbors.The United States shared those concerns, and it urged the Abe government to show restraint on historical issues so that Japan would not further isolate itself diplomatically in the region....

  • Originally published 05/08/2013

    Japan says it will honor apologies for WWII

    TOKYO — Japan does not plan to revise past apologies to neighboring countries for atrocities committed by its Imperial Army before and during World War II, top government officials said Wednesday.The comments by the chief government spokesman and the foreign minister appear intended to allay criticisms of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s earlier vows to revise the apologies, including an acknowledgement of sexual slavery during the war.Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that Japan recognizes the harm it caused during its invasion and occupation of much of Asia, and that it has repeatedly and clearly stated that position.“The Abe government has expressed sincere condolences to all victims of the war, in and out of the country, and there is no change in that,” Suga told reporters. “We have repeatedly said we have no intention of making this a diplomatic and political issue, but I’m afraid this may not be fully understood.”...

  • Originally published 04/18/2013

    Gary Kulik: Double Standards about Vietnam

    Gary Kulik, who served in Vietnam as a medic, is the author of War Stories: False Atrocity Tales, Swift Boaters, and Winter Soldiers.Nick Turse wants us to know that the killing of civilians during the war in Vietnam was “widespread, routine, and directly attributable to U.S. command policies,” that “gang rapes were a .  .  . common occurrence,” that the running-over of civilians by American vehicle drivers was “commonplace,” and that the American military visited upon South Vietnam an “endless slaughter .  .  . day after day, month after month .  .  . [that] was neither accidental nor unforeseeable.” It was “A Litany of Atrocities,” as one of his chapter headings has it—a litany recited by Turse with the fevered prosecutorial zeal of an ideologue....

  • Originally published 03/21/2013

    Team on the way to collect Congo war crimes suspect

    NAIROBI, Kenya — American officials on Wednesday said that a team from the International Criminal Court was on its way to Rwanda to collect a war crimes suspect who had turned himself in to the American Embassy and that they were hoping Rwanda would cooperate.Rwanda has indicated that it would not interfere with the transfer of the suspect, Bosco Ntaganda, a rebel commander nicknamed the Terminator, to the International Criminal Court at The Hague, where he has been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

  • Originally published 03/19/2013

    The Story of a Rape in Wartime

    Originally posted on TomDispatch.com On August 31, 1969, a rape was committed in Vietnam. Maybe numerous rapes were committed there that day, but this was a rare one involving American GIs that actually made its way into the military justice system. And that wasn’t the only thing that set it apart.War is obscene. I mean that in every sense of the word. Some veterans will tell you that you can’t know war if you haven’t served in one, if you haven’t seen combat. These are often the same guys who won’t tell you the truths that they know about war and who never think to blame themselves in any way for our collective ignorance. 

  • Originally published 02/26/2013

    As atrocities mount, Syrians collect evidence of war crimes with an eye toward future trials

    BEIRUT — Syrian activist Yashar hopes the security agents who tormented him during five months of detention will one day be put on trial. In detention, he says, he was locked naked in a tiny box for a week, beaten daily during marathon interrogations and blindfolded for 45 days.A whole range of groups have accelerated a campaign to gather evidence of war crimes including torture, massacres and indiscriminate killings in the Syrian regime’s war against rebels, hoping to find justice if President Bashar Assad falls. Some talk about referring the cases to the International Criminal Court or forming a special tribunal, but many in Syria hope that it’s all laid out in the country’s own courtrooms.“I want to take my case to a Syrian court and a Syrian judge who will put my torturers in the same jail where I was held,” Yashar, 28, told The Associated Press. He declined to give his full name for security reasons....

  • Originally published 02/08/2013

    Confronting the Ugly Truth about America's Dirty War in Vietnam

    Victims of the My Lai massacre. Photo credit: Ronald L. Haeberle/U.S. Army.When I was on active duty in the Air Force, I visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.  I was moved to tears as I encountered the names of more than 58,000 of my fellow Americans etched in stone. "What a waste," I thought, "but at least they died for their country, and at least we didn’t forget their sacrifice."To be honest, I don’t recall thinking about the Vietnamese dead. The memorial, famously designed by Maya Lin, captures an American tragedy, not a Vietnamese one. But imagine, for a moment, if we could bridge the empathy gap that separates us from the Vietnamese and our war with them and against them. How might their suffering compare to ours?

  • Originally published 01/17/2013

    How Did the Gates of Hell Open in Vietnam?

    American soldier burning a dwelling during the My Lai massacre on March 16, 1968. Credit: U.S. Army.For half a century we have been arguing about “the Vietnam War.” Is it possible that we didn’t know what we were talking about? After all that has been written (some 30,000 books and counting), it scarcely seems possible, but such, it turns out, has literally been the case.