War Crimes

Sepp Blatter has recommended Henry Kissinger to lead a “solution committee” that will clean up football. Some might view this as absurd. Kissinger, after all, has no acquintance with the game. Well, I’m not so sure. The doctor is, after all, experienced in marking men, devastating in the air and known for giving an attack the opportunity to shoot. The only problem, of course, is that he’s a murdering scoundrel. Should be more concerned with gaol than goals.

Dear r’s, indulge me while I moan. I have no startling theories or wondrous facts to offer you. No bold argumentation; nor a vein of joyous humour. O’, dear r’s, I can’t even produce a photo of some cats. Pretty much the average fare at the Hôtel de Locus, then. Just with a spot more whine.

There is no justice in this country. Oh, sure, it’s acknowledged here and there but there’s no overall notion of principles to unite our state and selves. It’s absurd, perhaps, to think there ever could be, yet no less disgusting to see how much powermongers favour their own kind. In terms of fitting gravity, the shit runs downhill. Last week the Guardian reported that Britain is teeming with war criminals: literally hundreds of the bastards have drifted through our lands. Now, the Conservatives passed laws ensuring it was far more difficult to move to prosecute such knaves. An observant commenter at Liberal Conspiracy has found the press release with which those rulings sailed forth…

…the system is open to possible abuse by people trying to obtain arrest warrants for grave crimes on the basis of flimsy evidence to make a political statement or to cause embarrassment.

In the past, attempts have been made to obtain warrants to arrest visiting foreign dignitaries such as Henry Kissinger, Chinese Trade Minister Bo Xilai and Tzipi Livni, former Foreign Minister and now leader of the Opposition in Israel.

One can’t help but marvel at the big blue balls on these people. Kissinger, for one, is man that top Conservatives invited to this sceptred isle to lavish with their admiration. Yet the trouble is that he’s a bonafide war criminal whose bloody prints have stained nations across the globe. Worse, some impudent rascals persist in exposing it. So, to save his blushes – and his arse – they pronounce the truth off-limits. They can’t have us disrespecing a made man.

The media are no help, of course. The BBC – which commentators seem to think is our final bastion against the threat of Murdoch and his brood – produced an item on the News of the World‘s phone-hacking. It’s a vile case that shows, as if we didn’t know, a disregard for principle amongst the grasping wretches of our press. But what gimlet-eyed truthseeker did the Beeb choose to present it? Why, Alistair Campbell! A man whose lies, arrogance and bullying made him the equal of his one-time capofamiglia Robert Maxwell.

In pro-wrestling there are “faces” and “heels”. The former are the good guys and the latter their depraved opponents. Heels will get up to all manner of colourful wickedness before faces emerge to beat justice into their skulls. Once the fans are bored of that they often just swop places; past deeds are forgiven and swiftly forgotten. It’s hard to spot the difference here. Andy Coulson is a lowly hack compared with Campbell yet as the media ponders absolution for its brothers’ sins it’s considered proper for this guileful thug to be his judge. What’s going on here? Elitism? Naturally. Cynicism? Well, of course. Tribalism? Too obvious. The Ndani might be vicious warriors but – hey – they’ve got standards.


I’m not sure if this report is true – it seems like too appropriate an allegory…

According to the recollection of elderly witnesses, Toyama Park is the site of mass graves, the improvised burial place of the victims of one of Japan’s most notorious war crimes.

Historians and local activists believe that in this ground lie prisoners of war, mostly Chinese, who died in [the Unit 731] program of experiment and dissection by army doctors, sometimes carried out on living human subjects. The mutilated bones of scores of human bodies were uncovered by construction workers here 21 years ago.

Now, after the demolition of the old apartment block and with the planned sale of the children’s playground, the Japanese government is planning excavations of further sites suspected of containing more butchered bodies.

There’s also a recent piece on Japanese people coming to terms with the atrocities it’s thought their parents carried out. I wrote on Unit 731 here and here.

Is there a good reason to value historical truth? I think a decent case could be propounded that suggests there isn’t. After all, plenty of us see no reason to think acknowledging the truth needs to be either right or useful and it’s evident that countries get along without doing so. From the U.S. to Japan and England to Russia lots of citizenries fail to grasp the magnitude of their ancestor’s – or even their parent’s – crimes and tribulations. Who could blame them? Life is easier without that burden of knowledge. After all, most of our history is pretty bleak: we spent millenia engaged in brutal and perplexing conflict before civilization started to emerge – through conquest! Maintaining a rosy view of past events allows one to feel more cheerful about one’s nation and species and therefore more invested in a shared enterprise.

Still, I’m plumping for the orthodox  if rarely followed view. No, I’m not sure one needs to embrace the truth (while granting I could be mistaken) but that doesn’t legitimise withholding it from others. Our ability to make autonomous decisions is contingent on our access to the facts that might inform them. Or, as a sophistication, you’ve got to know your shit if you want to do your shit. I am hostile to the notion of denying that freedom.

Even if we were to ditch deontological concerns – which sounds like (and possibly is!) a bit of a dodge: in my defence it is 3 in the morning – there are concrete benefits to accepting past events. An opinion or indeed a social consensus on a philosophic or political dilemma is informed by one’s own or a shared perception of its history. Future pain could be avoided if its past was understood. There would have been less support for British and American pre-emptive war if the bloody catastrophes from Transvaal to the Philippines to Biafra and Vietnam had been acknowledged. It’s tempting to think that nations or indeed the whole damn species could just rip it up and start again but one thing we’ve always shown is a remarkable ability to blithely replicate mistakes. After weathering lyme disease it’d be dumb to celebrate by rolling through long grass.

Bombing Coot                     Bombed Cot

It’s ironic that that gross old fraudster Henry Kissinger has felt the need to apologise after people were offended by words he spoke decades ago while no penance, punishment or even pique is following the men, women and children that his acts helped to ensure would die. It’s like denouncing someone as a sexist bastard for calling a woman fat after kicking her to death. Or a thief as inconsiderate for not wiping his shoes. The U.S. – and, indeed, U.K. – political culture ensures a certain level of anger can bubble merrily away. When it’s focussed on unpleasant views rather than vile acts it’s easy to contain and won’t spill out to scorch the ruling class.

Linda Norgrove, a Scottish aid worker in Afghanistan, was reported to have been kidnapped by the Taliban on 26th of September, 2010. She died on the 8th of October, with newspapers and networks filing uncritical reports that claimed that she was killed by the exploding “bomb vest” of her captors even as U.S. special forces tried to rescue her. Several days after she died, however, it was revealed that the cause of death may well have been a grenade thrown by her supposed rescuers; a report that was later officially acknowledged. The Foreign Secretary William Hague claimed that misinformation was the result of U.S. soldiers “failing to provide a complete…account of their actions”. He reported that the troops involved had been “disciplined” and said this fact showed “how seriously the US…regard[s] this matter”.

An essay in the Wall Street Journal tried to explain how such mix-ups can occur. The U.S. command rushed out a statement fearing that “news of the incident would spread before they had a chance to go public“, it claimed. A Pentagon spokesperson acknowledged the case wasn’t unique and claimed that false or differing accounts are the result of disorientation: “you have [the]  fog of war, lots of firing, lots of things going on“. What that essay and, indeed, the whole media didn’t say, however, is that these “failures” to provide accurate accounts are miserably common.

In August 2009 NATO’s force in Afghanistan, the ISAF, claimed that four “insurgents” had been bombed in Kandahar. The next day the Associated Press revealed the dead were mostly children of the ages ten to thirteen. NATO grudgingly admitted there were “allegations” that the four had been civilians, and that their reports “may have been inaccurate“. Why does it take widespread press reports to make the military recognise that pre-teen boys are not insurgents?

In December that same year the ISAF claimed that nine “individuals” had been shot after NATO troops “came under fire from several buildings“. They stated that assault rifles, ammo and bomb-making equipment had been found in the village. Multiple accounts, however, from Afghan investigators and UN officials alleged that ten youths had been killed, eight of them schoolchildren. The local headmaster claimed that many of the boys were handcuffed before being executed. The ISAF promised to investigate the claims but only gave a quiet, bland admission that the dead were innocent and fobbed their loves ones off with two thousand dollars each. (See here for my write-up of the vile affair.) How much “fog” does it take to fool you into thinking twelve to eighteen-year-old boys are fighters? How much “confusion” to make you think you’re coming under fire even when you are not? How much disorientation to make one imagine that an arsenal has been discovered even when, considering that nothing more was heard of it, there is no good reason to presume it ever existed?

This February NATO claimed their forces had engaged several insurgents in a firefight in Paktiya and promptly gunned them down. In a room nearby, they said, their troops found the bodies of two women, “tied up, gagged and killed“. An investigation by the Times reporter Jerome Starkey found that once again there had been no firing on NATO’s soldiers. The dead were civilians and, in fact, the women had been killed by NATO troops. He wrote that survivors were then forced to stand outside with their feet bare against the cold while their injured loved ones were denied medical treatment. The ISAF claimed that the idea they had been dishonest was “categorically false” but admitted that the dead had been blameless civilians. How did they merely imagine being fired upon? How did they mistake two women – pregnant women – that they had killed for bodies that may have been dead for hours? How did they innocently regard the corpses of the local police chief, his brother, a district-attorney, and a teenage girl and come away thinking that they had been insurgents?

The propagation of these fictions cannot be reduced to incompetence. Once a bread knife has made one too many unfortunate slips from a loaf towards your heart it is time to recognise that your beloved offspring is not just clumsy but after your savings. The multiplicity of lurid, phantasmagoric narratives are evidence of systematic deception, either tolerated or encouraged by authorities. After another such case, when the ISAF claimed that dead insurgents had been  identified on a biometric database, only to admit that they had all been civilians, a Reuters journalist dropped them a line

Reporter: When you say you were wrong to call the two as known insurgents are you saying they were civilians?

Spokesman: Uh, yes sir.

Reporter: So why were they referred to as such simply for turning up on a database which thousands of people are entered into for a number of reasons?

Spokesman: I can’t get into that.

There have been aggressive institutional attempts to stop the grisly truth from being revealed. In an article for Harvard’s Neiman Watchdog Jerome Starkey wrote that if you “challenge [NATO]…they will challenge you“. After he had revealed their cover-up of slayings in Paktiya they tried to discredit him, alleging that he was dishonest…

They claimed to have a recording of my conversation which contradicted my shorthand record. When I asked to hear it, they ignored me. When I pressed them, they said there had been a misunderstanding. When they said recording, they meant someone had taken notes. The tapes, they said, do not exist.

Starkey wrote that other journalists weren’t as intrepid as he and his more fearless colleagues. Greedy for access to NATO officials and troops they “accept…spin-laden press releases churned out of Kabul headquarters”. As Medialens have documented, the British press all too often ignores killings or accepts the NATO lies. It is quite plausible that these lies have caused yet further deaths. The careless attitude that must have spawned such tragedies could have been chastened if previous killings had been recognised.
Indeed, we might ask if the murders that a U.S.’s “kill team” are alleged to have obscured simply went unreported or were given a bravura retelling. In Kunar, at the least, it seems that the ISAF’s men escaped with murder. The killers of ten helpless men and boys roam free and the lies keep appearing. That is how seriously they regard this matter.

Churchill once said that if Hitler invaded hell he’d praise the Devil in the House of Commons. If Lucifer had claimed to be a staunch opponent of Marxism you can bet that post-war he’d have been on the Allies’ payroll. After the release of thousands of World War Two documents Professors Richard Breitman and Norman Goda have written a study(pdf) on the curious shenanigans that followed. One chapter discusses the U.S. and U.K.’s employment of Ukrainian collaborationists and murderers.

Mykola Lebed and Stephan Bandera were Ukrainian partisans who’d long fought for their nation’s ethnic purity. After the Nazis occupied Europe their guerrilla force, the OUN, began on-off relations with the Third Reich. They received funding and Lebed was trained by the Gestapo but they were too independent to maintain a firm alliance. “On the one hand, [they] fought German rule,” Breitman and Goda report, “On the other, [they] pursued [their] own ethnic cleansing policies complementing German aims.” “You welcomed Stalin with flowers,” they warned local Jews, “We will lay your heads at Hitler’s feet.” Bandera was arrested in 1941 but under Lebed the OUN only grew more fearsome: many Jews were killed while hundreds of Poles were massacred.

After the war Bandera was employed by MI6, who began to train his agents and transport them to Ukraine. They saw him as a “bandit type” with a “terrorist background“; “no better or worse than others of his kind“. How encouraging. Lebed, meanwhile, was aligned with the U.S.. They described him as a “well-known sadist and collaborator of the Germans“, responsible for “wholesale murders of Ukrainians, Poles and Jew[s]“. This, apparently, did not preclude him from being a fine employee and they signed him up to fight against the Soviets. He was shielded from demands for justice and flown New York where he worked in intelligence for nearly thirty years. “As late as 1991 the CIA tried to dissuade [investigators] from approaching the German, Polish, and Soviet governments for war-related records [pertaining] to the OUN.” In 1992 they claimed they had no files on the man, which suggests that they were buried very deep or the agency was still quite embarrassed. It’s the soulless realpolitik of the playground. “Him? No, don’t know ‘im mate. Not my type.”

More on this theme…

Operation Gladio and the Nazis

The U.S. cover-up of Unit 731

Mobsters? War Criminals? Just call ‘em anti-Communists

Below I copy in a fascinating memo from General Charles Willoughby[*] – Doug MacArthur’s Chief of Intelligence – which shows the U.S. military’s eagerness to get their hands on Unit 731’s “invaluable” research into “BW” – biological warfare. He reveals the Japanese were sweetened with “direct payments” and “payments in kind” (“food, miscellanious gift items“) and boasts that it was a “mere pittance“. At 150 to 200,ooo yen it was indeed a snip for the U.S., but one might feel that justice for the thousands of Chinese, Manchurian, Russian and, perhaps, British and American victims should be factored somewhere amongst the expenditure. Willoughby goes on to claim that since their pampered captives have revealed so much they might go on to offer findings related to “chemical warfare” and “death rays“.

Bert Roling, a Judge at Asia’s Nuremburg, later said it was “a bitter experience for [him] that centrally ordered Japanese war criminality of the most disgusting kind was kept secret from the Court by the U.S. government“. At the expense of truth and justice the atrocities of one war were forgotten in the cause of those assumed to follow it.


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