The Tip of the Iceberg

I would appreciate Mr. Turse’s comments on the role played by Colin Powell in covering up the horrible series of atrocities which he recounts. Many thanks.

~ Robert Clarke, Chicago, Illinois

Nick Turse replies:

I have no knowledge of Powell’s involvement in any “cover-ups” while he was the assistant chief of staff (operations) for the 23d (“Americal”) Infantry Division.

However you might be interested in the following quote from a memorandum prepared by Powell, in December 1968 (8 months after men of the Americal Division had massacred 500+ civilians at My Lai, but before the atrocities were made public), that reads: “Although there may be isolated cases of mistreatment of civilians and POWs this by no means reflects the general attitude throughout the division.”

During my my tour of duty with the 82d Airborne and 101st Divisions respectively in Vietnam, there was a practice especially in the 82d that if you brought in the ears of a dead Vietnamese you went on R&R for 3 days. They also would take prisoners up in helicopters and torture them, and if they could not get information from them they were thrown out to their deaths.

I am a 62-year-old veteran of the Vietnam war. I am ashamed of having participated in the genocide committed by this country against the noble people of Vietnam under the false pretense that we were fighting for democracy and freedom. The only reason why we were in Vietnam was for the welfare of the US corporations that are part of the military industrial complex. The genocide in Vietnam continues to this day. The Agent Orange that was sprayed is still taking its toll on the Vietnamese people. …

Citizens of this country wonder why the rest of the world hate us. They hate us because of the atrocities committed against other nations by our evil foreign policies, but what really is a shame is that Americans are in a state of denial of the atrocities committed by our country.

~ Victor L.

Nick Turse replies:

Yes, in-country R&Rs for confirmed KIAs were all too real and commonplace and stories concerning the interrogation practice you mention (often callously referred to in-country as “the long step” method) are also, sadly, in no short supply. These practices, along with the chemical defoliation you also mention, and many other practices that negatively impacted Vietnam and its people have been increasingly marginalized in much the literature on the war published over the last two decades. I think it is so important that veterans, like yourself, speak out and make Americans aware of what they did and saw in Vietnam.

Those interested in hearing what veterans of the war (and the Vietnam era, writ large) have to say about the conflict in Southeast Asia should also definitely take a look at Christian Appy’s Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered From All Sides (Viking, 2003). Appy, the author of the seminal history of America’s “grunts” (Working-Class War), recently put together this powerful and often heart-rending oral history of both America’s and Vietnam’s soldiers and civilians and it truly should not be missed!

It’s safe to say that similar events have happened recently in Iraq. Some friends of friends have admitted to doing so.

~ Chad Ivey, former U.S. Marine

Nick Turse replies:

Yes, it looks that way. I’ve written a bit about this elsewhere, “Marine Corps Atrocities in Iraq War provide link to Brutal Past” if you’re at all interested.

As a combat veteran of WWII, I can attest to the inhumanity of the American GI. While they may have represented a small minority of those of us who believed that we were fighting for just cause, they have brought disgrace upon us and our country. I have heard Parisian girls say that they felt safer under German occupation than liberation by American GIs, who’s behavior was abhorrent.

Behavior of this kind is the result of ignorance and lack of empathy which is so prevalent in our “get what you can while you can” society. The proper response is to acknowledge that we are not above such behavior and to proclaim our desire to rise above it. Only in this way can we hope to become the leader of a new world order instead of a conqueror of the world imposing our will on a reluctant adversary. Can’t we ever learn?

~ Harold O’Leary

Nick Turse replies:

Yes, its terrible but all too true. In post-liberation France, rapes by military personnel of French women rose to 260% of the US civilian rape rate (in US occupied Germany, it was 366%!).

Nick, great article. I was told that Colin Powell was a high officer in the Division that committed the My Lai massacre with Lt. Calley. Is that true?

~ Albert C. Mezzetti

Nick Turse replies:

High” is a relative term, but yes, Major Colin Luther Powell was the assistant chief of staff (operations) for the 23d (“Americal”) Infantry Division and the massacre at My Lai was carried out by soldiers of Company C, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry, 11th Infantry Brigade (Light), of the 23d Infantry Division.

Ran HaCohen’s reply to John Kalter’s backtalk

Ran HaCohen wrote an article criticizing Israel’s security barrier. What provoked me to write, however, was his last line, “But if you ever wondered what the world would have looked like if Hitler had won the War, I think this could give you a pretty good idea.” Before this the article contained no reference to Hitler or Nazism.

I was wrong to question Mr. HaCohen’s allegiance to Israel, especially because, as he says, “How easy must it be to sit safely in the US and preach ‘allegiance with anything Jewish’ to someone who takes a bus in Tel-Aviv twice a day.” I can’t know his motivations and he’s entitled to his feelings as he described them: “But I admit: my first loyalty is to truth, humanistic values, and my well-being – not to my ethnicity, Volk, race, state or to a government that gives me neither security, nor peace, nor hope.” But again, why include the word “Volk,” which seems to smear Jews who feel an allegiance to their Jewish nationality by associating them with the German Nazism of an earlier era. He describes the hardships that Arabs will endure who live between the wall and the green line. But in his response to my earlier letter he says security is “the eternal lie.” This plus his Nazi references implies that Israel’s goals are sinister and not protection of its citizens, and it denies the provocations Israel has suffered. Even if he finds everything about Israel’s laws and actions totally abhorrent is it realistic to compare it to a regime that murdered six million innocent people (plus many others)? It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve descended to a place where I’m debating this issue, and I won’t do it again. …

~ John Kalter

Ran HaCohen replies:

Neither will I.

An Edifice of Lies

Your vocabulary, analyses and comments are astonishing by its hard-hit frankness. There are few, I guess, who wouldn’t acknowledge the fact. Yet the more you follow the way you’ve chosen, the more it obliges for carefully selected word and attributes.

“Unjust occupation of Kosovo” is an attribute that unfortunately has missed the mark. An array of attributes stands on display, ‘to tell the truth, and nothing but the truth’: “barbarous, unchristian, uncivilized, unconscionable, ungodly, unholy, wicked” and”abominable, awful, beastly, dreadful, ghastly, horrible, horrid, impossible, intolerable, terrible, unreasonable, scandalous, shocking.”

And in case of Kosovo it appeared that the weakest, and to myself the worst, attribute, has been used to depict the Kosovo tragedy into the minds of conscious and respectable public.

~ DJGB Popadich

Nebojsa Malic replies:

Thank you. Since the occupation has been unjust, by its very definition as well as its conduct, I don’t think I missed the mark as much as perhaps failed to strike it hard enough. However, few call it an occupation to begin with, and fewer yet bother with its iniquities. Under such circumstances, I doubt my linguistic restraint really causes any harm.

General sees ‘urgency’ in Iraq

I‘m confused – the CIA reports that there are 50,000 insurgents in Iraq, yet Gen. Abzaid who operates out of Flori-duh says the number is “only” 5,000 insurgents – do they count troops now the same way they count votes in Flori-duh?

After spending some time trying to reconcile the wide difference between these two estimates, I ran across the reference to 5,000 “dangerous ” insurgents, indicating, it would seem, that the other 45,000 reported by the CIA are there, but are not dangerous – maybe even safe. Who knows?

Could you, possibly, shed some light on what would appear to be glaring discrepancies?

~ Richard E. Walrath

Eric Garris replies:

You think you’re confused, that is nothing compared to the Bush Administration.

This is just another example of where CIA assessments completely conflict with PR-mandated statements coming out of the Pentagon.

Why Not Billboards?

Why don’t you erect billboards across the nation advertising this fact? Bush, the hero of the religious right for his stand against abortion, is a murderer.

~ Lloyd P.

Eric Garris replies:

I wish we could afford it. The entire annual budget of would buy us about 200 billboards.

Letters That Predicted This Mess Were Right

Reading the alarming statistics of the number of our troops being killed each day in Iraq reminds me that Backtalk often printed many letters which forecast this happening. Is there any chance of republishing some of the most prescient contributions?

~ SB

Previous Backtalk letters can be accessed by clicking the Previous Backtalk link at the bottom of each page. And, sure, if readers feeling like sending in their favorite prescient letter or letters we could have a most-prescient letters contest.

Charity: Iraq War Killed 21,000-55,000 Iraqis” (the article previously know as “Iraq War Killed 21,000-55,000 Iraqi Civilians”)

The headline refers to 21,000-55,000 civilians; the article, however, suggests that the figure is civilian plus military casualties.

~ John Allgood

Sam Koritz replies:

Our error. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We corrected the headline.

Letters From Iraq

The last eight months have been a grueling experience for all of America, but particularly so for our soldiers who are in Iraq and their friends and family back in the United States. Each day we are greeted with news of more loss of life, and stories of tremendous heroism and sacrifice. Yet, as civilians, few of us can begin to understand what it must be like to be an American soldier in Iraq. Because news reports have been brief and lacking in detail and even those who have lost their lives thus far have not been publicly identified, the conflict in Iraq presents more as a tallying of numbers and statistics than a place of combat in which real lives of people who are loved and missed, American lives, are lost daily.

I feel strongly that these men and women need a voice, need acknowledgment of their humanness, their thoughts and feelings, and their experiences, that the rest of us are so challenged to understand. Whether their experiences are positive or negative, whether their morale is high or low, we wish to hear from them all so that we can best represent their experience. We make no judgments. To this end, I am proposing a new book titled Letters from Iraq, that will be composed of letters written home to family and friends by soldiers who are or have been in Iraq.

These letters will offer readers an important and authentic window into the life of a soldier faced with enormous responsibility in a hostile and unpredictable environment. Veterans and their families, as well as those in uniform today, will find this book of tremendous value as it brings forth the genuine experiences of our enlisted men and women, and their responses.

We would also like to receive letters that have been sent by soldiers’ families and spouses. It is important for the American people to understand how difficult it is to be the mother, father, wife, husband or sibling of a soldier who is engaged in war. This is an aspect of war that has been largely overlooked by the media.

We invite you to submit any and all letters that you feel would make an important contribution to this book project. Feel free to include a photograph of the author, as well as any biographical details you are comfortable sharing, such as name, age, rank, hometown, special interests, marital status, number of children, expertise and any other information that would help us to fully convey the character and individuality of the soldier. Letters that are chosen need the permission of the author and so we will provide you with an authorization form which we will need returned in order to proceed.

My publishing house is known in the industry for its impeccable standards.

This book project will be produced with the highest standards of integrity and will provide millions of readers with a better understanding and appreciation o f the men and women who serve this country with honor.

The book will be in stores no later than February. If you have a son, daughter, or spouse who is currently or was previously stationed in Iraq, and would like to submit a letter for consideration, please use either the email, fax number (415-945-9962), or street address – Parissound Publishing, 30 Tamalpais Drive, Corte Madera CA, 94925 – to submit the letter to us. Please include a signed and dated permission form so that we can be certain we have you permission to include your letter in this important book project.

Finally, it is our intention that a percentage of any and all proceeds from the sale of this book will be contributed directly to the veterans associations selected by those families and individuals who participate. …

~ Joe Keon, Publisher

Patriots for Peace

I have used your site as a source of casualty information as I continue to build a “wall of remembrance,” mourning the loss of lives in this war. I accidentally came by a very long roll of plastic foam packaging material from a playground building project at my son’s elementary school. It is 4 ft. wide and I cut it into 12 ft. lengths, each supported by three light wooden ribs, tied with yellow and black ribbons.

Each panel contains 126 “plaques,” 5″ by 10″, listing name, home, position in service and date /place of death. Each entry is a meditation on the optimism and invincibility of youth, the duplicity and greed of leadership and the fragility of “civilization,” (if there is such a thing).

I have just begun the fourth panel. It gives the viewer a slightly better understanding of the number. Recall being told how many stars are in the sky. A picture of a small fraction of the universe is more impressive than a huge number on a page.

Without saying a word, the public presence of this memorial speaks eloquently, “We were young, we were alive, we believed, we are no more.” As a member of WV Patriots for Peace, I have the honor of keeping this vigil, with your help.

By way of comparison, the memorial already far exceeds the number of casualties of our early days in Vietnam. If it were to continue and the war takes as many lives as Vietnam did, it will consist of 452 panels, 5424 feet long (over a mile), four feet high, containing memorials to 57,000 troops. I only wish I could include all the casualties on all sides and the vast number caught in the middle.

I work with recycled materials, old leftover paint and “majic markers.” I wish I was sending you money instead of a note, but at least I am reporting on the dividend your investment is earning.

As the season of light and peace unfolds before us, maybe someone will get the message as we stand in the cold, displaying our work.

Maybe the dead will speak to the living, for the sake of peace and justice.

~ John Doyle

Brave Face Belies Administration’s Panic

Look Iraq is an artificial country invented by a very tiny but all controlling British ruling class after World War I. Led by “Lawrence of Arabia,” a wacko terrorist and Churchill they made up Iraq to give to their friends who promised to protect the oil supplies to refuel the Royal Navy as it continued its ruthless rule over their stolen Empire of more than a quarter of the earth.

It never had any right to exist. Its going to blow up. What’s holding it together are the continued hope for oil revenues spread out among the different clans (5 language groups) and religious myths.

Before the war almost all the people who had an income (only about 50%) got free checks from Saddam. In fact 50% can’t even read or write despite the hundreds of billions the world gave them for their oil. They did no work for it. The British even found it and sunk the first wells. Do the simple arithmetic – only 25 million people, at least a trillion dollars (inflation adjusted maybe a lot more) given to them over the last generation. Where is it? It’s obviously gone from the country. Anyone who bothers to look will find it in things like Parisian apartments, that’s why they can cost 10’s of millions. That’s why there’s a waiting list for nearly million dollar new Rolls Royce’s and the new 16 cylinder Mercedes. It’s at the heart of much EU prosperity.

The whole point in Iraq is how will the oil revenues be split up – obviously the Kurds want most of it but Shias figure they should get 60 or 70 percent – after the split is announced will come the civil war….

~ John Puttre

When America lost 2000-3000 in the WTC attack by bin Laden, we: spent billions in Afghanistan, started a war in Iraq, ran around in massive fear, spent our Social Security money, closed airports, spend $200 Billion.

Though WE are not keeping count of Iraqi fighters and civilians killed and wounded – I am certain numbers in the 10,000s is not far off. What then do we expect them to feel and do? Why are we surprised that the survivors of our shock and awe go to ground and attack our troops? We are hardly shown the wounded Iraqi, less since the joyjoy media blackout filters have been put in place and the Arab papers shut down. In a country the size of Texas, with a smaller population than the USA, 10,000 dead and 10,000 wounded, probably means that EVERY person in Iraq has had a relative (civilian bystander) killed or wounded.

Under what circumstances would the “average” American have a friend or family member killed or wounded and then “forgive and throw flowers”?

~ Mark Claire, Ohio

George Woodrow Carter

Once again, Mr. Buchanan, whom I have had a love/hate, follower-of-the-media type, relationship with for a few years, makes more sense than any politician I’ve heard to date. Your genuine concern for the people of this country, coupled with the sound reasoning I find in your articles, gives me, a registered Scepticrate (just coined that by the way) a ray of hope in such troubled times. Keep up the great work.

~ John Valdez, Antioch, California

Thank you, Pat Buchanan, for explaining so clearly the far-reaching mess into which Bush has blindly led us. As an American, I grew up in the Middle East and can remember how the Americans were admired and respected for so many years. There is no question that our uneven alignment with Israel versus the Palestinians is certainly one of the main issues that has contributed to a deterioration of our reputation in the Middle East, but Bush’s invasion into Iraq put the icing on a very foul-smelling cake. God help us – I hope the damage he has done not is not yet irreparable.

~ Elizabeth A. Saghi

When is Pat Buchanan running for President?! I’m an ex-Democrat, 100% behind P. Buchanan.

~ Nancy Haiduck

New Songs for Peace

I am a volunteer web manager for the nonprofit “New Songs for Peace” Project at:

A little info about our project:

“This UNESCO-endorsed project is intended to encourage people to think about peace, talk about peace, and write a new song that we will collect and self-publish in a book. These songs will promote peace, cultural acceptance and understanding for those who work towards peace throughout the world.”

We have MP3s for our visitors to download and we encourage songwriters to submit their peace songs.

We encourage your members and site visitors to check us out. We have dozens of peace songs to share with you and hopefully, they will help to inspire peace on Earth!

Thank you for helping us spread the word. Peace!

~ Jerry Chong, Web Manager for the “New Songs for Peace” Project

Getting Tired of Getting Tired

Congratulations on your excellent and crucial work!

Since its become obvious to me that the mass media is about herding the public rather than informing it, I find no value anymore in televised news and now get 99% of my news from alternative sources ( being #1).

Of course the problem with this is that you get angrier and angrier without mass media there to give comforting rationale for the mass murder, forced disease and starvation, nuclear war baiting, and catastrophic spending carried out by our own country for the sole benefit of a few special interest groups. (By the way, I was formerly a lifetime Republican and zealous Reaganite).

At some point, for the people like myself getting rabidly angry in front of our computers every day while feeling completely helpless is not healthy or productive. But so far the activist options are to march in the occasional antiwar event that’s guaranteed to be under or unreported in the media while risking unknown clandestine reprisals to yourself or your family; or talk to a few close friends that you trust not to rat you out to homeland security. Still pretty hopeless. …

We’re not as powerless or isolated as we think. But we have to go past easy-to-ignore rallies and marches and into legal ways we can use our rage, numbers, and economic power to hit ’em where it hurts.

I’m not at all suggesting that you change your focus from reporting to activism – that would be a big mistake. But I am suggesting that you be on the lookout for a document that gives us practical activist tips for maximum effect that you could have on your site, and the rest of us could email around to friends and family.

Hopelessness is a terrible thing. And with the increasing number of people “waking up” thanks to sites like yours and others, it’s almost criminal.

~ Larry B.

Rumsfeld Takes More Friendly Fire

You talk about Democratic presidential candidates as though they all thought alike. Can I refer you to the Kucinich campaign website?

Please read his platform and realize you misspoke.

And please, also, give some support to the only candidate offering a different way of doing business in the world!

~ Ken Slusher

Mistreating Soldiers and Veterans

I am a 1964 length of service military retiree who served during in and over three major engagements, and a dozen minor scrimmages and in combat. This time was performed under the “low” draft-era pay system.

I, and, 431,999 of my cohorts, had done our time for retirement when the U.S. Government changed a 170-year old law regarding how retired pay would be paid in the future. They told us, “There will never be a noticeable difference in retired pay.”

The month I left was the largest exodus of ‘career NCOs’ to ever leave the service. At age 41, a high school graduate, top enlisted man, wife and three children, no civilian skill, and “no pay raise in over five year” I had to “take a walk” and “get a life.” The following month congress came through with a substantial pay raise and there have been “45” pay raises since.

These pay raises have not helped my cohorts and me of which there are something less than 30,000 still living. We have endured at least 1/4 less in pay for over 39 years in the 25 military pay grades. …

All of today’s troopers enjoy the high military pay and “allowances” which we did not draw. …

Medical services are much improved today compared to my time. In injury I spent time in a converted dairy barn in Italy for days. Stateside hospital stay wasn’t much better.

What is the gripe of the people today? Or what is new?

They have never discussed the pay discrimination affecting their predecessors where the law was changed regarding us after we had done our time.

~ Willard D. Gray

George W. Bush, Trotskyite

Thank you for the superb article on the origin of the NED and George W. Bush’s “Leninist Line.” It’s unfortunate so many Americans are ignorant of what the Soviet Union advocated and its rhetoric so they could understand today how the US is heading down that path.

I wanted to ask you about one point you made in the article. You stated that, “Perhaps it is religion, and the willful pull of tradition, that holds that whole region of the world back.” Why would religion (Islam) hold that part of the world back when it hasn’t held back Indonesia (the most populous Muslim nation in the world) or Malaysia? Moreover, historically when Europe was in the Dark Ages the Islamic world was the center of modernity in the world, studying new sciences and inventions that would later spread to the rest of the world. The first word ever revealed from the Qur’an was “Iqra” which means “Read” so pursuit of knowledge and advancement is central to the faith.

That region in the world only fell back recently (150 years or so) and that was due to political developments, not religious ones. The cutting up of the Middle East into small factions of warring states (divide and conquer at its best) from the original unity exhibited under the Ottoman Empire support this notion. …

~ Ray Norris

“The conservative economist and columnist Paul Craig Roberts, an assistant secretary of the treasury in the early years of the Reagan administration, calls our neocon policymakers “neo-Jacobins,” and he is entirely right to compare the neocons to that ruthless and notoriously bloodthirsty faction of the French Revolution. The name has become a synonym for revolutionary tyranny, a dangerous perversion of the libertarian ideal into its complete opposite. That is precisely the nature of the enemy we now face.”

Let’s not forget that the same Jacobins organized a state cult of the “Supreme Being” and were the founders of the modern terrorist state, implementing the murderous policy known as La Terreur. The radical segment which took over the network of Jacobin political clubs, initially open to moderate and middle-class figures, went on to control the Convention as the radically republican Montagnards. Tom Paine, as a naturalized French citizen sitting in that assembly with the opposing Girondin party, literally risked his life in voting against executing the hapless King and soon ended up in jail.

Arguably the greatest American along with Ben Franklin, who had previously got the French to save the American insurgents with a massive infusion of treasure, soldiers and ships, Paine narrowly escaped execution while Washington ignored his plight. If this tale of radical republicans terrorizing their fellow-countrymen, imposing a state religion and embarking on endless foreign wars sounds familiar in these troubled times, it is surely no accident. As J. W. Skelton notes in “Tom Paine: The Founding Father America Disowned“:

“Furthermore, Paine is not only given casual treatment but, in Irving Kristol’s lecture, ‘The American Revolution as a Successful Revolution,’ is summarily dismissed in these terms: ‘Tom Paine, an English radical who never really understood America, is especially worth ignoring.'”

How the dots connect, once more, to the modern American Jacobins, who, by an interesting coincidence, never fail to show signs of extreme agitation whenever France is mentioned. Maybe they dread the coming of their Thermidor.

~ Philippe Dambournet

Previous Backtalk