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Journal rickymoz's Journal: US Warcrimes in Korean war 13

The war US-GB vs Iraq is coming closer and closer. It looks like nothing will stop Bush and Blair. A very good opportunity to look 50 years back and analyze what happened during the Korean War.

Warning: I don't mean to tell how great my country is (Switzerland), that it never made any mistakes (collaborated with Nazi Germany by sending them Jewish refugees), but I think that any country has to face its past even if it's hard to admit the truth.

The first time I've heard of this topic was on Swiss public radio (the French speaking one) and if you understand some French, go ahead and listen to the stuff. It starts around Minute 4 of the audio feed and lasts roughly 30 minutes. The last one contains some comments (in English) by the producer of a documentary film, Tom Roberts (US citizen).

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday (I don't know how long the files will be available)

I'm going to try to quote Tom Roberts here. I say "try" because there's a simultanous translation over his voice.

My name is Tom Roberts and I'm the director of a BBC Timewatch film "Kill them all", it's the story about war crimes during the Korean war. I'm also an American citizen, and have been living for almost 30 years in Great Britain as a producer of documentary films. Making this film, as an American, was a personal challenge and an exploration of the history of my country.

The main reason I felt that this film had to be done, even though there are a lot of things I love about my country, is that there's a big culture of isolationism, due probably of the Oceans on both sides, which make a big gap to the rest of the world. And I think, America sometimes has some difficulty to understand the impact of its own actions in the rest of the world. That's a big problem.

As an American I felt that it was important to not only watch the successes, but also face that every country is capable of committing atrocities. No matter what democracity it has, no matter what are its intentions. No matter what goals of their actions are. There's always a possibility of ugly errors. (...)

And unfortunately, American people don't realize that, while they are motivated to do the Good(TM), they are also able to do the Bad(TM). The isolationism can produce a kind of arrogance, a feeling of superiority, a complex of superiority even, which is absolutely inappropriate.

And he goes on like that. I won't quote the problems he had with the Pentagon and the CIA, that's obviously what you are faced to whenever you have another point of view than the government.

So... My point - and I keep on telling this to my American friends - is that the Good and the Bad is not like white and black. And that to be against some actions of the US does not mean we are on the dark side.

For all those who cannot understand why many countries are against the war in Iraq please understand that this does not mean that we are for Saddam Hussein. I for one care about the civilian people who are being manipulated by the regime, who are suffering because of that, who are suffering because of the UN embargo, and who definitely will suffer from the bombs. And it would be sad to have to find in 50 years some de-classified records proving the warcrimes of the USA in Iraq.

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US Warcrimes in Korean war

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  • Let me repeat:


    Horrendous acts take place during wars. No society in History that has pursued a war an not seen its own soldiers commit barbaric acts.

    Yes, the United States did not publish accounts of these acts immediately after they took place during the 1950s. Please point me to a country that DID publicly announce its own war crimes during the 1950s. If anything, the US is more open about its past war crimes than any other country. Contrast with China in Tibet, France in Vietnam, Russia in Chechnya, the Serbs in former Yugoslavia, and so on.

    In fact, the North Koreans, too, perpetrated their own crimes, such as the gruesome execution and mutilation of US/UN prisoners. Of course, I suppose 1950s North Korea cannot be held to the standard of the United States, being an oppresive dictatorship instead of a Free Democracy.

    Similarly, many who oppose a war with Iraq focus on the "potential" loss of life, rather than the many and varied attrocities already commited by Saddam's regime against his own people. Not to mention his own plans [theatlantic.com] for victory against the US: strapping captured US soldiers to the front of his tanks.

    The United States has taken great strides to teach its soldiers ethics. They are trained how to save civilians, how to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants. I know this from reading articles such as William Langewiesche's "Peace is Hell [theatlantic.com]" in the October 2001 Atlantic Monthly [theatlantic.com]. Readers might dismiss these primary sources and journalism as mere "propaganda." But I hope they are more open minded than that.

    All that all said, it is a solemn truth that war is a necessary evil in the context of self defense. Societies have a Right to defend themselves from outside threats. The UN Charter allows for a country to make a pre-emptive strike if it feels a legitiment threat. Whether or not Saddam/Iraq constitutes a legitiment threat is definitely a matter for debate, but the right of the United States (or any other country) to take military action to defend itself should not be questioned.

    When it comes to self-defense, a free society cannot and should not take a stance other than one which is "Black and White." I suppose the United States could take the "we deserve it" stance (which seems to be the prefered attitude of many Europeans - "the US had it coming").

    But this, again, raises the rhetorical question: Why is the United States held to a different standard, apart from the rest of the World? Is our country so evil that we should simply accept our inevitable fate? Should we merely sit back and await the next 9/11 style "sucker punch?"

    No. No other country in the world follows - or would ever follow - such a suicidal policy. There is no sane reason why the US should be an exception.
    • An excellent post. I'd like to add my own flavor.

      Interesting that you mentioned the ethics classes that US soldiers are getting now. I was just flipping through The Savage Wars of Peace which shows that the idea the US only recently (in the last 50 years or so) got into small level conflicts of interest is false. The US has, almost from its conception, taken active aims at following even the smallest policy instead of shrinking away. The key is when they talk about the Marines in Somalia versus the Army: the Army was trying to walk lightly, not trying to upset the population, to not be "occupationists". What happened? Well, Blackhawk Down. They were severely undermanned and overwhelmed. The Marines instead went in with a show of force, bristling with arms and were barely preturbed. This has a corellary with the UN Weapon Inspectors in Iraq: unarmed, non-combatant nonpartisan inspectors were time and again stopped by the Iraqi armed forces. And what was to stop them? What would stop them from doing it again? Sanctions? Oh wait...

      And US war crimes are nothing new: I suggest reading Becoming Evil: How ordinary people commit Mass-murder and Genocide. Read about Sand Creek in 1864. A posse of US troops took it upon themselves to slaughter women and children in a Cheyenne and Arapaho camp. Both a US and white flag flew over it. The troops attacked and killed whoever they could. A child was sent out with a white flag and was shot through the chest. The soldiers mutilated the bodies of the dead. One soldier was reported to have taken the vagina of an indian woman and took to wearing it on his cap. 150 non-combatants were killed in just 7 hours. A trial was convened and all parties were found guilty. Yet none were punished.

      Of course this isn't that odd from what any of the other Euros did in the New World in the name of the White Man's Burden. In just a few hundred years a Native American population of 15 million was reduced by 98 percent to just over 250000 in 1890. Christopher Columbus liquidated most of the native population on Haiti. His soldiers were known to roast the savages on spits.

      So pointing to the past is a moot point for those who wag their finger at the US. And how many of the genocide events in the 20th century was the US involved in?

      And consider this: The English are still occupating foreign territory in Northern Ireland and show no signs of leaving (after what? several hundred years?).

      The French have a strong shadow imperial presence throughout Africa. Look at the current problems among their "children" in the Ivory Coast. And ask an Algerian what they think about their Gallic masters.

      Everyone seems to be throwing stones in a glass house and I wonder what their point is. I mean if they want to look like hypocrites then all they are doing is just harding the US to their opinions. Soon it will all just be ignored buzzing in the ears.
      • In just a few hundred years a Native American population of 15 million was reduced by 98 percent to just over 250000 in 1890. Christopher Columbus liquidated most of the native population on Haiti. His soldiers were known to roast the savages on spits.

        While its true the Columbus and the European colonials that followed - most notably the Spanish - engaged in horrific acts of slaughter, they did NOT personally kill all those millions. The vast majority succumbed to diseases brought from Europe such as typhoid and small pox (before you get too angry about this, remember the havoc malaria and influenza wreaked on Europe!)

        Furthermore, the exact population of the Americas pre-Columbus is hardly a closed case. Some scholars place the numbers as low as 2 million, while others as high as 120 million (!). Read this article titled "1491" from the Atlantic Monthly [theatlantic.com] (sorry I have a subscription) for more information. It is a real eye-opener on the debate around this topic.
      • So pointing to the past is a moot point for those who wag their finger at the US. And how many of the genocide events in the 20th century was the US involved in?

        Again this chronical need to try to show how other countries did at least as much harm as the USA did. But I find it quite sad if a democratic country has to be compared to nationalist dictatatorships like you saw and still see in: Yugoslavia, Tchechnya, Romania... to name a few. Really sad, don't you think?

        And consider this: The English are still occupating foreign territory in Northern Ireland and show no signs of leaving (after what? several hundred years?).

        ... and consider this: the USA still have military bases in many countries: Germany, Italy, and, yes, Korea too. While we are not talking of occupation here, there are sometimes some very weird things going on, that really look like occupation to me: crimes commited by US soldiers in these countries (that go from simple robbery to rapes and homicide) are ruled by what? a US military court. And what's the sentence? oh, these soldiers have just been moved to another place. If it had not been an occupation-like situation, the civilian courts of the respective country would have found them guilty and punished them like they deserve. Ok, true, that's a minority. But a minority who make a very bad impression.

        • Fine. Then compare the US's atrocities to those of other democracies. What about the White Man's Burden undertaking in Africa done by countries like Belgium? Ever read Heart of Darkness? Yes the great and nobel Europeans, free and righteous, come in and brutalized the native populations.

          And then you completely side-step the pervasive European imperialism that still exists with your argument of "it looks like" but no direct evidence to what "is" occupation.

          Ok, US troops commit crimes in foreign country and get tried by US Army. So? Consider the actions of almost any other diplomatic group in any other country: they are considered under jurisdiction of their native state. That's how diplomats can park anywhere they want and do all sorts of other things with out worry of recourse. Have any committed any homicides? Why yes [rice.edu]. Georgian diplomat gets drunk and runs over some Americans in D.C. Of course are is he being tried by a US court? No. Just like US troops. It is a common state of modern international politics.

          And then you talk about about "punished them like they deserve." Um, what is that? Your own subjective opinion? The opinion of the US? The opinion of the offending nation? You seem to be adhering to a simple ethical dualism where there is a Right and a Wrong without any consideration of subjectivity or sovereignty. How do you know you are Right? You just know?

          The world is not as simple as you want it to be. And to court such thoughts invites dehumanization of very real people, just like what you are condeming the US for.
          • "Punish them like they deserve" is not only my opinion, but it's especially the opinion of the offended nation. Your comparison with diplomats is too far taken. You have diplomats in every country, but you don't have foreign military in every country. Plus, diplomats are only a handfull, while soldiers are thousands.

            And I don't side-step anything at all. I just said that the US is not facing the war crimes they commited and don't want to be held responsible for them, that's my point! What other countries have done is OT here because what I meant is tho highlight that there's nothing such as a "short clean preventive war". It's always a "dirty long war".

            • By international law there is no difference between foreign soldiers and foreign diplomats: they are their as proxies of their state. The numbers don't mean anything. You seem to be assuming that since they carry guns they are held to a different standard than men who carry pens. They don't. They have no jurisdiction in the state (thus they are not an occupying force) and are protected by emmissary law. The states have sanctioned them being there. Shit, it's not like the troops showed up in England in 1942 and after the war said "We ain't leavin!"

              Specifically what I ment by sidestepping was how you mentioned the Brits in Ireland and then justified it with a completely unrelated statement.

              Fine. Your point. No short wars. Nope, never have been, never will be. Read The Savage Wars of Peace. It talks about how the US has had to, for over its 200 year history, gone to other countries and done punitive actions and had to occupy ground for a long time. Vietnam was the exception and not the rule. And that brings up something else. Watch Little Dieter Needs to Fly. See how humane the Viet Cong were. I know, you'll say "But we are the US! We should be held to a higher standard!" My response is, why? Are we any less human than they are? You are right, we are no better. The point I am making is that we are no worse.

              That is the hypocracy of many of these folks who wag fingers at the US while completely ignoring their own past (say the Turks and their complete denial of the Armenian massacre [armenian-genocide.org]. Considered the first genocide of the 20th century over 75% of a 2 million Turkish Armenian population was liquidated by the Turks. To this day they deny it has ever happened. Oh and it still is going on although much more covertly now).

              To think that every crime will be rectified is untrue. All soldiers under a flag that has signed the Geneva Conventions has probably broken them several times over. Want them to be punished? Fine. But don't just limit it to those that live South of Canada and North of Mexico.
    • Yes, the United States did not publish accounts of these acts immediately after they took place during the 1950s.

      Worse, they (the Pentagone that is) are denying that American soldiers acted this way, even when they are shown documents proving that, even when survivors of the massacre (Korean) are all telling the same story, even when US veterans are telling the same story. This is the real problem.

      According to the documentary, the Korean survivors don't ask anything but that the USA recognizes their faults (no money involved! this is a mere psychological thing) and US veterans are also waiting for this "mea culpa", because their life has been a real nightmare, they are still having nightmares because of what they were forced to do 50 years ago. And forced to do means that there were orders given: "kill them all, women, children and old people, you never know if they are disguised North Koreans".

      Please point me to a country...

      Obviously you didn't read my preamble. I said I'm not trying to say that any country is better, but my point is to show that the USA does make mistakes and doesn't assume them (up to now) and doesn't gauge the impact of their mistakes, even among their own citizens.

      All that all said, it is a solemn truth that war is a necessary evil in the context of self defense.

      It is not. The USA is a bigger threat to many countries than is Iraq to the world. As a matter of fact, George W. Bush is considered a very dangerous man among many people I know. Just compare the weapons of the USA vs. the weapons of Iraq (or any other country). Don't you think there's a big difference? Talking of self defense is very risky for your argumentation. The "self" of the USA is its own territory. I said, it's own. Not Israel's territory for example. So if the USA territory is attacked by Iraq, then I would consider that a case of self-defense. It's a fact that Iraq as a country is not the cause of the attack on 9/11 so talking of a self-defense is just a void argument. If this is a self-defense situation, then the world would be a constant battle-field, as any action could be considered as a "potential threat".

      But this, again, raises the rhetorical question: Why is the United States held to a different standard, apart from the rest of the World? Is our country so evil that we should simply accept our inevitable fate?

      That's funny. Everyone (at least here in Europe) thinks that the USA considers itself to a different standard than all other countries. There's nothing such as an "inevitable fate". We are now coming closer to my initial post again. What I meant to show is that the actions of the USA, outside of its own territory, have implications on people, on how they view the USA and on how they like or dislike the country's policy. A poll recently held in Switzerland states that:

      • 63% have a negative view on USA actions in the world
      • 79% have a negative impression of George W. Bush
      • 87% are against a military action in Iraq
      • 81% think that the image of George W. Bush gets worse and worse
      • 64% have still a positive view on the American people

      Ok, it's just a poll and we can discuss on the exact figures. But one thing seems clear to me: the actions of the USA, especially of George W. Bush, have a negative impact on Swiss people, who are not directly concerned by what's going to happen in Iraq. So imagine what Iraqi people will think? Imagine what Iraq's neighbors will think? So again, the fate of the USA is in their own hands.

      And just to make the point clear. 64% have still a positive view on the American people. So we are definitely making a difference between political actions and people. So the suicidal policy you are talking of is going on in this "we want war" policy. This is suicide. Not anything else.

      • I don't like Bush either, he's an idiot, but I live in New York City and sure as hell don't want our government to sit around waiting for the Bad Guys to "attack US territory." Shit, if you know the other guy is planning something, you hit them first. That includes Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea and possibly France.

        Furthermore, I've heard all about these euro "documentaries" on the Evil History of the USA. Meh. If you do not think that the US has engaged in sufficient self-flagllation of the past 30 odd years, I can only guess that you haven't had to endure all the "evils of Vietnam" movies/books/PBS specials etc. etc. that I had to sit through my entire childhood. Ugh. Whatever.

        I guess you want an official apology. Well, don't hold your breath. I wonder if the French have apologized to Vietnam, the Italians to Ethiopia, the British to Ireland, the Japanese to China, etc etc etc. A few probably have but you'll find they are in the minority.

        That said, let's return to the Bottom Line: We got attacked on September 11 and should be allowed to kick some ass to keep it from happening again. If you can't deal with that, tough shit.
        • So a scud which can fly 200 miles can go from Baghdad to the USA? right.

          I think you really didn't get it. The 9/11 attack was not a military attack and is not one that can be prevented with billions of dollars waisted in the army. The US has to invest in the CIA and FBI and have these guys work nicely together. It has been proven that they had enough information in order to prevent 9/11. I sure can understand that 9/11 was a deep shock for you and you don't want to just sit there and watch, but the military is definitely the wrong way to go. Don't you all see you are being manipulated by Busch and his falcons? They are using the same means like did the USSR at times.

          It's funny you mention the euro documentaries by putting them in quotation marks, as if you were laughing at them. Or are you actually laughing at them? Don't you get it why they cannot be made in the USA? Because of the political censure. And did I mention this documentary was made by an American? So far, "Kill them All" has not yet been able to be broadcast in the USA, and the authors have won the Pulitzer prize... So it's just another of those bad documentaries you had to watch about Vietnam.

          Vietnam: true but sad, it's not the only country where the US soldiers have made bad things. Every country has documentaries about their bad things in the past, just to inform the current population what their ancestors did. You say you had Vietnam documentaries and that's enough I'll tell you no. That is not enough. If they don't show everything (you already get a plenty of all the Good the US does, and that's OK), if they are not also showing the dark sides, then I call this disinformation. And I'm not proud of any government acting like this.

          No, I probably didn't have to face all the documentaries about Vietnam you faced, but I guess you didn't have to face all the documentaries about the Nazi gold in Swiss banks and the Jews sent out of your country. I'm not proud that this happened in my country, but I'm happy I faced that, and I thank my government that they didn't close their eyes on a crude reality. I didn't say "Look at Vichy France, they have done worse". I just faced the history, I faced Ed Fagan with his class actions, and I'm a happy man to know all of my country, even the darkest side. I don't always counter, when somebody says my country has done something bad, that we have done a major good thing by creating the Red Cross and that frees us from any mistake in the next 2000 years. That's what the US are doing and I'm sad for all the people like you who get manipulated, misinformed by their own government. That's really sad.

          And again, you cannot seem to be able to just focus on the US. You always start with "and look at this country, look at that one" and turn your look away from what the USA did.

          Just face it!

          P.S. If you think that you can live in a 100% safe world, then you are completely mistaken. Life is more complex than that and with all respect I have for the dead of 9/11, there are more dead civilians in any war than have died on this day. The only difference is that 9/11 was just one day, and a war is usually several years. But the final toll in wars is higher than 9/11. And I wouldn't be that proud of my tax money, that it is responsible of these deaths.

          • And again, you cannot seem to be able to just focus on the US. You always start with "and look at this country, look at that one" and turn your look away from what the USA did.

            No I am saying that you Euros are always singling out the US and trying to emasculate us based on attocities that happened during war of which every other country is guilty. For some reason you guys have a fixation on the US war crimes, with an undercurrent of "the US had it coming." I am saying that the accusations may or may not be true, but either way the US has a right to defend itself (including pre-emptive strikes).

            Let me reiterate: frankly, I don't care if the war crimes happened or not because War is Hell, ordinary people do horrible things during war, and every country that has engaged in war is guilty. "Documentaries" on war crimes are just stating and re-stating the obvious.

            How about your docu-buddies do an investigation on Taliban war crimes during our action to liberate Afghanistan? I think you'll find they didn't reciprocate our country's mercy - *they* never took any American soldiers prisoner...they killed them.
        • We got attacked on September 11 and should be allowed to kick some ass to keep it from happening again. If you can't deal with that, tough shit.

          Yep right, you don't want to be attacked again. According to a very interesting article [nytimes.com] in the New York Times [nytimes.com], it's more likely Saddam will attack the USA in a forseeable future if he gets attacked by the USA than if he's left in peace. If you have no registration to NYT, here's the quote (bold by me):

          Senator Levin: . . . If (Saddam) didn't feel threatened, did not feel threatened, is it likely that he would initiate an attack using a weapon of mass destruction?

          Senior Intelligence Witness: . . . My judgment would be that the probability of him initiating an attack -- let me put a time frame on it -- in the foreseeable future, given the conditions we understand now, the likelihood I think would be low.

          Senator Levin: Now if he did initiate an attack you've . . . indicated he would probably attempt clandestine attacks against us . . . But what about his use of weapons of mass destruction? If we initiate an attack and he thought he was in extremis or otherwise, what's the likelihood in response to our attack that he would use chemical or biological weapons?

          Senior Intelligence Witness: Pretty high, in my view.

          • Blah blah...your ranting bores me. Time for some ranting of my own:

            Saddam's scuds can't reach us...whatever. Last time I checked, our fear was that he is going to provide terrorists with weapons to attack america...and seeing as he has overtly stated his hatred for America and desire for our "destruction" it is a very credible fear. You probably have doubts because you live in your safe little mountain home, but my city is attacked so I am inclined to take the Enemy's words at face value.

            But on to your points

            Apparently the US is such a strong country that it can't attack any one in self-defense because it is so strong that no attack could "hurt" it. Rather circular logic, don't you think?

            Likewise for the NYTimes article. Don't attack Saddam in self defense, because he will be more likely to attack us. But the reason for the attack is that our government has evidence that he is funding attacks on the US! Incidentally, "they" said the same thing about attacking (liberating, really) Afghanistan...whatever, that argument is circular and therefore irrelvant.

            And yeah, I do laugh at your euro "documentaries." You guys spend a lot of time investigating US attrocities...meanwhile *actual* genocide is happening in your own backyard (YUGOSLAVIA)...and who comes to put an end to it? The UNITED STATES! And what does this get us? More accusations of "war crimes." Pulitzer-shmulitzer, you euros should spend less time making absurdly slanted documentaries and more time trying to right the world's wrongs like we have (Chilean dictators aside *yawn*).

            I won't get into detail on the fact that most of the world's wrongs are EUROPE'S FAULT due to its imperialism during the last half of the 19th century (read up on your WWI and WWII history if you have any doubts).

            In the end, you have to face the reality the United States is the strongest country in the world, the sole "superpower," but that doesn't mean that all our Enemies get a "free punch." No, we are going to use that power (like any other country would in our place) to teach our enemies not to mess with us. Protecting our own citizens from harm is our sacred Right, the reason every society has a military, in fact, and you and the rest of Euroland needs to learn to deal.

The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable. -- John Kenneth Galbraith