No Mercy: Bush Refugee Treatment an Echo of Brutal Bi-Partisan Policies

Take counsel, execute judgment;
Make your shadow like the night in the middle of the day:
Hide the outcasts,
Do not betray him who escapes. – Isaiah 16:3.

We wrote here yesterday of the Bush Administration's policy toward refugees fleeing the "Terror War" invasion of Somalia: to bomb them indiscriminately, capture them at gunpoint and "render" them to the torture chambers of Bush's close ally, the dictatorship in Ethiopia. These are heinous acts, indeed -- war crimes by any measure -- but it would be wrong to think that the repugnant Bush Faction was somehow uniquely evil in this regard. As AP's release of long-suppressed Pentagon documents this week shows, mercilessness toward refugees is a venerable tradition in American military policy, reaching back in this case to the Korean War, when hundreds, perhaps thousands of innocent people were slaughtered at the order of the nation's top government officials.

Indeed, if anything, the Bushists have showed relative tenderness toward the tens of thousands of people fleeing the bloody invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia's U.S.-trained troops and their Somali warlord allies, when compared to the treatment meted out to villagers in Korea by American officials.

The Associated Press, using Freedom of Information Act requests, archival research and the work of Harvard historian Sahr Conway-Lanz, has shredded the Pentagon's whitewash "investigation" of
the killing of hundreds of Korean refugees at No Gun Ri in 1950. That atrocity, long suppressed by both the Pentagon and the brutal military dictatorships the United States empowered in South Korea for decades, first became public in 1999, sparking a long, obfuscating probe by the Pentagon. Not surprisingly, the Bush-era Pentagon finally absolved its forbears of any blame in the incident, and denied that there had ever been an official policy or orders to shoot refugees as they approached American lines. But Professor Conway-Lanz found a letter directly refuting the Pentagon's assertion; what's more, the Pentagon itself had the letter in hand when they published their findings. AP has subsequently found much more material deliberately omitted by the Pentagon investigation, confirming the testimony not only of survivors of the multiple massacres, but also of American veterans of the Korean War who took part in the killings.

And although the scale of the Bush atrocities in Somalia have not -- yet -- reached the level reached by the bipartisan U.S. administrations overseeing the Korean War, they do share one common element: a panicky racism. In Korea, U.S. troops were ordered by officers -- acting with the direct knowledge of the State Department -- to gun down approaching refugees on the off-chance that North Korean agents might be hiding among them. Similarly, in Somalia, U.S. planes bombed refugees and locals on the off-chance that "al Qaeda" agents might be hiding among them. This is the same "justification" offered for capturing many Somali refugees at gunpoint and rendering them to Bush's proxy torturers in Ethiopia. The basic premise seems to be that used by the Catholic crusaders against Cathar heretics in the 13th century, when they slaughtered the entire city of Beziers -- "good" Catholics and heretics alike -- under the battle cry of Papal legate Arnaud-Amaury: "Kill them all! God will know His own!"

After all, who could hope to sort out enemy agents from a bunch of funny-looking foreigners? Koreans, Africans, Arabs, Vietnamese -- they all look alike, and you can't trust any of them. Best to sweep them all up -- or gun them all down. It's not like they're real human beings anyway, right?

And so, in Korea, hundreds of innocent women, children and men were riddled by machine guns, strafed and bombed by aircraft and shelled from warships, due to the merest possibility that an ene
my agent might be among their number. The case of No Gun Ri is staggering, not only in the killings themselves but also in the sinister, sickening echoes of the kind of "ethnic cleansing" operations carried about by those upstanding defenders of Western civilization in Germany, just a few years before. As AP reports:

No Gun Ri survivors said U.S. soldiers first forced them from nearby villages on July 25, 1950, and then stopped them in front of U.S. lines the next day, when they were attacked without warning by aircraft as hundreds sat atop a railroad embankment near No Gun Ri, a village in central South Korea. Troops of the 7th U.S. Cavalry Regiment followed with ground fire as survivors took shelter in twin underpasses of a concrete railroad bridge.

Forced them from their villages. Set them out in the open. Attacked them with airpower, then machine-gunned the survivors. All of this on orders from on high. This exact scene could have been lifted from the Russian steppes or the Ukrainian countryside during the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. Yet it was directed and countenanced by officers and officials who had only five years before been fighting the Nazis.

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.

The Army veterans' estimates of dead ranged from under 100 to "hundreds." Korean survivors say they believe about 400 were killed. Korean authorities have certified the identities of at least 163 dead or missing. No Gun Ri, where no evidence emerged of enemy infiltrators, was not the only such incident. As 1950 wore on, U.S. commanders repeatedly ordered refugees shot, according to declassified documents obtained by the AP.

One incident, on Sept. 1, 1950, has been confirmed by the declassified official diary of the USS DeHaven, which says that the Navy destroyer, at Army insistence, fired on a seaside refugee encampment at Pohang, South Korea. Survivors say 100 to 200 people were killed. South Korean officials announced in February they would investigate.

More than a dozen documents — in which high-ranking U.S. officers tell troops that refugees are "fair game," for example, and order them to "shoot all refugees coming across river" — were found by the AP in the investigators' own archived files after the 2001 inquiry. None of those documents was disclosed in the Army's 300-page public report.

South Koreans have filed reports with their government of more than 60 such episodes during the 1950-53 war.

Earlier, Professor Conway-Lanz found this smoking gun in the archives, a letter from John Muccio, U.S. ambassador in South Korea, to Dean Rusk, then the assistant Secretary of State, and later the head honcho at State during the Vietnam War. Conway-Lanz discovered the letter in 2006, after the Pentagon whitewash. This prompted calls from South Korean officials for further explanation:

After South Korea asked for more information, however, the Pentagon acknowledged to the Seoul government that it examined Muccio's letter in 2000 [after first denying that it had been seen] but dismissed it. It did so because the letter "outlined a proposed policy," not an approved one, Army spokesman Paul Boyce argues in a recent e-mail to the AP.

But Muccio's message to Assistant Secretary of State Dean Rusk states unambiguously that "decisions made" at a high-level U.S.-South Korean meeting in Taegu, South Korea, on July 25, 1950, included a policy to shoot approaching refugees. The reason: American commanders feared that disguised North Korean enemy troops were infiltrating their lines via refugee groups.

"If refugees do appear from north of US lines they will receive warning shots, and if they then persist in advancing they will be shot," the ambassador told Rusk, cautioning that these shootings might cause "repercussions in the United States." Deliberately attacking noncombatants is a war crime.

These orders were confirmed by the testimony of many American soldiers:

Other ex-soldier eyewitnesses, including headquarters radiomen, told the AP that orders came down to the 7th Cavalry's 2nd Battalion command post, and were relayed through front-line companies at No Gun Ri, to open fire on the mass of village families, baggage and farm animals.

Such communications would have been recorded in the 7th Cavalry Regiment's journal, but that log is missing without explanation from the National Archives. Without disclosing this crucial gap, the Army's 2001 report asserted there were no such orders. It suggested soldiers shot the refugees in a panic, questioned estimates of hundreds of dead, and absolved the U.S. military of liability.

The Army report didn't disclose that veterans told Army investigators of "kill" orders, of seeing stacks of dead at No Gun Ri, and of earlier documentation of the killings. Such interview transcripts have been obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests. Examples:

_Ex-Air Force pilot Clyde Good, 87, of Melbourne, Fla., told investigators his four-plane mission, under orders, attacked 300-400 refugees in mid-1950 on suspicion the group harbored infiltrators. "I didn't like the idea," he said. "They had some young ones, too. ... kids on the road." A South Korean government report in 2001 said five ex-pilots told Pentagon interviewers of such orders. The U.S. report claimed "all pilots interviewed" knew nothing about such orders.

_The U.S. report said the No Gun Ri shootings weren't documented at the time. It didn't disclose that ex-Army clerk Mac W. Hilliard, 78, of Weed, Calif., testified he remembered typing into the now-missing regimental journal an officer's handwritten report that 300 refugees had been fired on. "If you see 'em, kill 'em" was the general attitude toward civilians, Hilliard told the AP in reaffirming his testimony...

In a transcript obtained by the AP, ex-soldier Homer Garza told a Pentagon interrogator he was sent on patrol through one underpass and saw heaps of bodies. "There were probably 200 or 300 civilians there — babies, old papa-sans," Garza, 73, of Hurst, Texas, said in a subsequent AP interview. Most may have been dead, but it was hard to tell because "they were stacked on top of one another," said Garza, who retired as a command sergeant major, the Army's highest enlisted rank.

In a separate story, AP also detailed other reported assaults on refugees. These include:

KOKAN-RI SHRINE: On Aug. 10, 1950, survivors say, U.S. troops and aircraft fired on villagers who had sought shelter from fighting in a large family shrine in Kokan-ri in southernmost South Korea. They say 83 were killed, including many children. Declassified documents show that commanders of the U.S. 25th Infantry Division, operating in that area, had issued orders two weeks earlier to shoot civilians found in the war zone.

YOUNGCHOON CAVE: As many as 300 refugees were killed, many suffocated, on Jan. 20, 1951, when U.S. warplanes dropped apparent napalm firebombs at the entrance to a cavern where the South Koreans were sheltering 90 miles southeast of Seoul, survivors say. An observer plane had flown overhead beforehand. Declassified documents show U.S. pilots were sometimes directed to attack large civilian groups on suspicion they harbored infiltrators.

DOON-PO STOREHOUSE: Also in January 1951, south of Seoul, U.S. warplanes killed 300 South Korean refugees as they jammed into a storehouse at the village of Doon-po, survivors say. They say the planes attacked without warning after the refugees set a fire outside to keep warm.

SANSONG VILLAGE: In another napalm attack that month, U.S. warplanes struck Sansong village, 125 miles southeast of Seoul, killing 34 villagers, a declassified U.S. military document said. It quoted U.S. officials saying Sansong villagers had helped North Korean troops, who kept supplies there, but it also reported "no enemy casualties" in the strike. Survivors denied they had aided the enemy and said they had no warning to evacuate.

Note that two of those attacks involved the use of chemical weapons: napalm bombs, gruesome devices that sear their targets with unquenchable fire. These incidents were of course minor precursors to the tens of thousands of innocent people who would fall victim to napalm and other aerial scourges during the Vietnam War -- and to the more than 600,000 innocent people killed by the Bushists in Iraq. Although, to be fair, most of the latter have been killed with good, old-fashioned ordnance like mother used to make, albeit with a sprinkling of chemical weapons like white phosphorous and depleted uranium.

At least, that's what we can say for sure right now. But who knows how many hidden horrors, how many No Gun Ris, will be dredged up from the Iraqi sands in the decades to come, as historians and journalists slowly work through the mountainous slag-heap of lies and false alibis that encrust every war?