U.S., France Slammed for Murder in Historical Inquiries
Posted on Aug 7, 2008
“Democracy Now!” reported Thursday on two separate stories that show being a Western democracy hardly makes you immune to serious allegations of war crimes. In one, the radio/TV show reports the conclusion by South Korea’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission that the U.S. military indiscriminately killed large groups of South Korean civilians during the Korean War. The other reviews the detailed new report by the Rwandan government that says the French military trained the murderous Interahamwe militia, key to the country’s 1994 genocide. [Transcripts & A/V]
Also covered in the South Korea report are fascinating new details about the massacre of leftists by the U.S.-backed Syngman Rhee dictatorship in 1950.
ANJALI KAMAT: Can you talk about the mass execution of political prisoners and leftists in 1950 and the US role in that? How did that come up at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission?
CHARLES HANLEY: This is a remarkable chapter of twentieth century history that has been hidden largely for decades. Of course, it was whispered about. South Koreans—older South Koreans know about these things, including even No Gun Ri, but they dared not talk about them publicly during the dictatorships of Syngman Rhee and Park Chung-hee and others until the 1980s, 1990s. And now, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission finally has sort of a government imprimatur that it can apply to these investigations and stories, and people can finally face up to what happened.
And what happened was that, in a matter of a few weeks in mid-1950, as the North Koreans pushed down the peninsula, Syngman Rhee’s right-wing government rounded up tens of thousands of suspected leftists, including tens of thousands of political prisoners being held already, and simply took them out into the countryside and shot them in the head and dumped them into mass graves. The commission believes that a very conservative estimate of the number killed is 100,000. They think it may have been more like 200,000 or even 300,000 people killed, and they are now—for the second summer season, they are excavating mass graves at several sites around South Korea.