I don’t know what the people of Barcelona think about Trump’s demented and repulsive tale of bullets and pig’s blood – but I know what Mark Twain would have said. He was the finest American political writer of his time – perhaps of all time – and he wrote with bitterness, sarcasm and disgust about the US military’s war crimes in the Philippines in 1906. No doubt Trump would have approved of them.As so often, there’s no proof – and thus no truth – to the story that General Pershing ever told his soldiers to execute Filipino fighters with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood. Besides, Pershing had left the islands and the Philippine-US war was officially over when the Americans slaughtered the Moro Muslims in their hundreds – men, women and children – in what became known as the Battle of Bud Dajo. With Trump-like enthusiasm, Republican President Theodore Roosevelt congratulated the US commanders on their “brilliant feat of arms”.
Tag Archives: History
Trump’s claim that a general dipped bullets in pigs’ blood is fake news – but the US massacre of Moro Muslims isn’t
In 1951 I left the US for Europe. I was working as a translator and interpreter in the new postwar world of international organisations: UN agencies, trade-union bodies, student and youth associations. My plan was to visit France briefly, but I stayed nearly ten years. For anyone living in Paris, the Algerian war was inescapable. Where did your sympathies lie? Which side were you on? In 1960 at an international youth conference in Accra, I struck up a friendship with the two Algerian representatives: Frantz Fanon, a roving ambassador for the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic, and Mohamed Sahnoun of the exiled Algerian student movement. After the conference, I flew to New York, where I met Abdelkader Chanderli, the head of the Algerian Office, as the unofficial Algerian mission at the UN was known. Chanderli invited me to join his team, lobbying UN member states to support Algerian independence.
Strange structures start to appear all around as one drives toward the Korean Demilitarized Zone from either side of the border. There are overhead signs and what appear to be bridges connecting nothing at either end, roadside concrete blocks stacked like Brutalist totem poles, beach ball-sized steel orbs rusting on stumpy pedestals and other odd varieties. Some look like old ruins. Others could be mistaken for art.
The main Nuremberg war crimes trials began in November 1945 and continued until October 1946. Rebecca West, who reported on the painfully slow proceedings for The New Yorker, described the courtroom as a “citadel of boredom.” But there were moments of drama: Hermann Göring under cross-examination running rings around the chief US prosecutor Robert H. Jackson, for example. Jackson’s opening statement, however, provided the trial’s most famous words: We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants today is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well. We must summon such detachment and intellectual integrity to our task that this Trial will commend itself to posterity as fulfilling humanity’s aspirations to do justice. How well humanity lived up to these words, after a good number of bloody conflicts involving some of the same powers that sat in judgment on the Nazi leaders, is the subject of The Memory of Justice, the four-and-a-half-hour documentary that has rarely been seen since 1976 but is considered by its director, Marcel Ophuls, to be his best—even better, perhaps, than his more famous The Sorrow and the Pity (1969), about the Nazi occupation of France, the Vichy government, and the French Resistance.
The destruction of the al-Nuri mosque in Mosul is another example of the ‘culturecide’ we’ve become so used to
Over the years, I’ve almost lost count of the priceless treasures of art and antiquity which I’ve seen with my own eyes – and which now lie in pieces. Fourteen years ago, racing across Mosul to see the building where US forces had just shot dead the sons of Saddam Hussein, I glimpsed the “hunchback” minaret of the 12th century al-Nuri mosque looming over the old city, built by Nur al-Din Mahmoud Zangi, an Arab hero who united the Arabs against the Crusaders. Gone, my lords and ladies, in just a few seconds, scarcely a week ago. We blamed Isis. Isis blamed a US air strike. Back in 2012, I ran past the 12th century minaret of the Umayyad mosque in Aleppo, pounding down the road towards the ancient Citadel as bullets buzzed up the streets. Within a year, the minaret was dust. We blamed the Syrian government for shelling it. The Syrians blamed al-Nusrah/al-Qaeda “terrorists”. All over Aleppo, they felt the ground tremble as the minaret fell.
A puncture can change your life. In Louis Malle’s film Lacombe, Lucien (1974), the young peasant Lucien is rejected by his former schoolteacher who runs the local resistance organisation he wishes to join and then, returning home by bicycle, gets a flat tire. Seeking help in a nearby farmhouse, he finds himself among a band of carousing militiamen, collaborators sworn to eradicate La Résistance. He denounces the teacher, becomes a local boss of the militia, and is finally shot by resistance fighters.This much-quoted moment of chance is the starting point for the book Aurais-je été resistant ou bourreau? (2013) by literature professor and psychoanalyst Pierre Bayard, which translates as ‘Would I have been a resister or a collaborator?’ As historians, and indeed as citizens, we assume that we would have made the right decision during the Second World War, given what we know about its horrors. The myth developed by General Charles de Gaulle in 1944 – that the French overwhelmingly behaved patriotically, rallied behind his leadership, and liberated the country themselves – persuades us that we would most likely have resisted Nazi Germany. A myth, however, is designed to unify a people and legitimate its rulers, not to tell the truth. As a young lecturer at Oxford 35 years ago, I remember looking round my college’s governing body, composed overwhelmingly of conservative middle-aged men, and wondering what they would have done if Britain had been occupied by the Germans. I concluded that most of them would have collaborated.
After the Manchester massacre… yes, and after Nice and Paris, Mosul and Abu Ghraib and 7/7 and the Haditha massacre – remember those 28 civilians, including children, killed by US Marines, four more than Manchester but no minute’s silence for them? And of course 9/11…Counterbalancing cruelty is no response, of course. Just a reminder. As long as we bomb the Middle East instead of seeking justice there, we too will be attacked. But what we must concentrate upon, according to the monstrous Trump, is terror, terror, terror, terror, terror. And fear. And security. Which we will not have while we are promoting death in the Muslim world and selling weapons to its dictators. Believe in “terror” and Isis wins. Believe in justice and Isis is defeated.
Over five centuries after the Age of Discovery, we all know a long historical cycle is ending. The Decline of the West is shorthand for a tangle of immense complexity – directly proportional to the ascent of the century of Eurasia integration, driven by China’s New Silk Roads.
Every time I dig deeper into the Decline of the West, I have to go back to the roots. And that means – echoes of Stendhal, Keats, Nietzsche — a Journey to Italy. I had recently engaged in an extended dialogue with Machiavelli in Florence. This time, the French presidential election was looming – widely billed as the “civilized” West facing a crucial crossroads.
After its titanic civil war, can Syria remain a united state? And if it does – if Syria can be put back together again – how do you repair its people?
These are not idle words when, across the border, the people of Lebanon have again been marking the mournful anniversary of the start of their own civil war in 1975. The dead of Lebanon, like the dead of Syria, have been buried and resurrected by journalists and politicians. At the end of the Lebanese Civil War we reckoned 150,000 had died. Two months ago, a young Beirut activist suddenly came up with a figure of 200,000. What happened to the extra 50,000? And then last month, the figure rose again in a local newspaper to 250,000. What happened to the extra 100,000?
“WHY DO THEY hate us?”
It’s a question that has bewildered Americans again and again in the wake of 9/11, in reference to the Arab and Muslim worlds. These days, however, it’s a question increasingly asked about the reclusive North Koreans.
Let’s be clear: There is no doubt that the citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea both fear and loathe the United States. Paranoia, resentment, and a crude anti-Americanism have been nurtured inside the Hermit Kingdom for decades. Children are taught to hate Americans in school while adults mark a “Struggle Against U.S. Imperialism Month” every year (it’s in June, in case you were wondering).