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April 15, 2007

Better 50 Years Late Than Never

You have to give the U.S. media this: they can be ABSOLUTELY TENACIOUS in investigating misbehavior by the U.S. government. As long as it happened fifty years ago:

Six years after declaring the U.S. killing of Korean War refugees at No Gun Ri was "not deliberate," the Army has acknowledged it found but did not divulge that a high-level document said the U.S. military had a policy of shooting approaching civilians in South Korea.

The document, a letter from the U.S. ambassador in South Korea to the State Department in Washington, is dated the day in 1950 when U.S. troops began the No Gun Ri shootings, in which survivors said hundreds, mostly women and children, were killed...

The killings remained hidden from history until an AP report in 1999 cited a dozen ex-soldiers who corroborated the Korean survivors' accounts, prompting the Pentagon to open its inquiry after years of dismissing the allegations.

I'm not joking at all here. Fifty years seems to be the minimum time before the U.S. media can deliver a dispassionate, uncompromised, thorough report on government actions. Thus, we're only now allowed to hear in detail about No Gun Ri, the 1953 overthrow of the Iranian government, the 1954 overthrow of the Guatemalan government, etc.

So watch out, Bush administration—the U.S. media is going to TAKE YOU DOWN! Starting circa 2051!

(Thanks to Donald Johnson for the encouragement)

Posted at April 15, 2007 08:40 PM | TrackBack

Absolutely, I read Donald’s link when he posted it and I said to myself thank God for the press and the fine job they have been doing for keeping us so well informed. As I said before these reports are likely only the tip of the iceberg. But do not forget we are the good guys.

Posted by: rob payne at April 15, 2007 09:38 PM

I think Junior will be 105 in 2051. On the other hand, he'll be 84 in 2030, when we learn if Gary Sick was just blowing smoke regarding Senior and the 1980 election, so at least GWB might have some egg on his face. Well,if he develops a conscience in the interim.

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at April 15, 2007 10:46 PM

Here in Guatemala, we remember it was '54... cheers from the land of the eternal springtime.

Posted by: homunq at April 15, 2007 11:31 PM

In case y'all have forgotten the rest of the details - Arbenz had 2 years left on a 6 year non-renewable term and no relation with the Soviets; if they'd just assassinated all the good candidates for the next election they'd have sent the message that Communism is Bad without collapsing a democracy and setting in place a series of dictatorships that eventually slaughtered 300,000 people. Even the hardest-core Kissinger types admit that they probably overdid it, there would be more profit to be made here if they'd held back, and besides they tipped their (weak) hand for the Bay of Pigs.

Posted by: homunq at April 15, 2007 11:51 PM

Yes--it was Iran in '53, Guatemala in '54. Also, to be fair (I guess), "our" government keeps lots of this stuff classified for decades, so it shouldn't be too surprising to see "new" stories about very old news.

Posted by: Bob at April 15, 2007 11:52 PM

With luck and lengthening life expectancy...maybe we'll still be able to hunt down the 110-year old cyborg that is Dick Cheney then...maybe that's not such a bad thing.

Posted by: En Ming Hee at April 16, 2007 02:08 AM

I agree about the 50 year wait, but like Bob I'd give the AP credit for pursuing this story--you'll notice the US government is still trying to lie its way out of what happened.

The rule might be you have to wait until everyone involved in the original story is dead to find out the full story (to the extent possible) and even then there will be conservatives and others fighting tooth and nail to deny what happened.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at April 16, 2007 10:31 AM


Thanks for the reminder—now corrected. I'm embarrassed to have made that mistake, given that I see it being made all the time by others and always silently grit my teeth.

Donald Johnson,

I certainly agree AP deserves credit. But...let's not go overboard here.

Also, it certainly is interesting the way denial never really dies out in any society that commits any atrocity. It's clearly a universal cultural trait.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at April 16, 2007 11:13 AM

this is why pressure on the judiciary is so dangerous. ideologues, charlatans, and other visionaries detest being restrained from choosing which ends justify which means. but denialism shows that that choosing process is neither fully informed nor entirely honest. a system of open courts reminds everyone that obliviously misguided cliquery is common, contagious, and consequential. in other words, judges and juries are enemies who must be crushed to achieve a final victory over relative truth.

Posted by: hibiscus at April 16, 2007 11:47 AM

In the summer of 1999 or 2000, I visited a nurseryman in central North Carolina to buy some trees. We spent a couple of hours walking through his plantings lost in tree talk. After I'd placed an order, we sat down in his house with iced tea and talked a little more.

Then he told me something he said he'd never told anyone -- it came out of the blue, as all of our previous conversation was gardening: He recounted being present at a massacre of North Korean prisoners by U.S. troops. He said it was ordered by commanders, was very methodical, not in reaction to any kind of resistance, etc. It shook me, needless to say. I can't remember if the AP revelations about refugee killings had come out by then or not.

The story was so overwhelming and out of nowhere that I've never told anyone else who might be in a position to confirm or disconfirm it. I'm not sure if the man is still alive. But today I feel as if I should try not to let that account just sit with me. I wonder if the AP stories have generated any letters with similar kinds of accounts from vets.

Posted by: Nell at April 16, 2007 01:01 PM

Bruce Cumings in various books about Korea has said that massacres were common on all sides--North Korean, South Korean, and American.

And the American bombing campaign puts all this into the shade--Curtis LeMay once said the US Air Force flattened virtually every town in Korea and killed over a million people. Other estimates run from hundreds of thousands up to 2 million.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at April 16, 2007 03:10 PM

I'd read that trolley example before in the link provided by hibiscus, but hadn't thought about it much. This might partly explain why Americans are so blase about killing massive numbers of people with bombs, but are more upset if Americans are accused of killing people face-to-face (as at My Lai or Haditha).

I was going to say it might also explain why Americans think terrorism is worse than aerial bombing, but that's not so. Terrorism can be done by remote control and nobody seems to think that's better than wearing an explosive vest and seeing the people you are going to kill. So there's still plenty of room for old-fashioned hypocrisy to play a role--this new fangled brain science notwithstanding.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at April 16, 2007 04:49 PM