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Joined: 25 Apr 2006

PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2012 7:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Is Our Military Addicted to 'War Porn'?
Matthis Chiroux
15th Jan 2012

The recent images in the media of uniformed U.S. Marines urinating on dead bodies in Afghanistan rightfully invokes nearly universal condemnation. Besides respect for the dead being somewhat of a universal human value at this point, it is a supreme law of war for every single nation on the planet.

These images should prompt a lot of questions here in America, about our military, our wars, our culture and our role in global affairs. To some, mostly the weavers and backers of war policy, it seems again that 'a few bad apples' have acted on their own within the military, and will be brought to justice in accordance with domestic military law.

To others, such as myself and the majority of veterans I associate with, the barbarity of these images is synonymous with our experiences within a military at war. No crime our brothers and sisters commit really surprises us anymore, but confirms to us our nation's brutal history, of which for a time we became a part, and offers us a reminder that nothing's really changed.

But while our military's mission of 'engage and destroy' remains essentially the same in Afghanistan as it has been in every other conflict, the modes of documentation have changed, as now nearly every troop carries his own camera into combat. From this fact flows a cinematic phenomenon that troops and veterans recognize as 'war porn.'

War porn means different things to different people, similar to the 'adult material' from which it draws its name. Generally, in military and veteran circles, war porn is recognized as any image or video produced in a combat zone depicting death, violence, gore, brutality, depravity, lewd behavior or any other shocking act that would be perceived unacceptable or even criminal if committed on American soil.

War porn, like pornography, is traded mostly in secret. It is consumed mostly in private, and those who possess it may often feel hesitant to share it with anyone outside of the military or veteran communities. However, during the past decade, the American people and the world have witnessed several stark examples of war porn leaking to the surface. Perhaps the most famous incident to date are the images of bound and naked prisoners being abused in Abu Ghraib Prison, in Iraq, that leaked in 2004.

However, not every piece of war porn that bubbles to the surface ever generates public outcry on the level of the Abu Ghraib photos or the latest disgusting iteration. Several websites have risen to prominence during the War on Terror, solely for the purpose of trafficking war porn. claims that it is "countering the cyber-jihad one video at a time," by uploading examples of, "the devastating force we bring to bear on our enemies." Videos can be browsed according to the type of weapon used, the type of violence committed and the location where the violence occurred. regularly displays user-uploaded video, referring to most of their content as having been "leaked."

But is not the first website to help soldiers traffic their war porn., which now directs to the Polk County, Flor., Sheriff's Office, was removed from the web in 2006, after its proprietor, Chris Wilson, was charged with misdemeanor obscenity. The site, which began as an amateur pornographic hub where users could share images of their partners for a fee, became a central depository for war porn after Wilson began allowing site users from the U.S. Military to forgo the membership fee in exchange for posting an image proving they served overseas. According to a Nation magazine article from 2004, the uploaded photos began as "benign images of troops leaning against their tanks, but graphic combat images also began to appear."

These images, while horrifying to most, serve a purpose for the soldier, and further, have broader public appeal in the U.S. More than simply being in-demand for their shock value, images like these, "constitute a field report on the production and reproduction of U.S. global dominance," according to Prof. Mary Ann Tetreault of Trinity University in her 2006 piece entitled, "The Sexual Politics of Abu Gharib."

"The Abu Ghraib images and documents describe violations of the captives' bodily integrity, masculine self-image, and religious rules about cleanliness," writes Tetreault. "Photos show naked victims arranged in piles, smeared with filth, and forced to simulate sexual acts. Their manhood is disparaged in many ways. Indeed, they are feminized--unmanned--by the gaze of their captors who strip them, scrutinize and manipulate their bodies, taunt them, and create pornography out of their humiliation by taking pictures of them."

To me, the images of the Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters share a similar cultural significance with the images from Abu Ghraib. Again, we see depicted not just random degenerate acts carried out purely for shock value, but instead, we see an image structured in a very specific way; one that acts as a metaphor for U.S. domination. The image is of not just a physically defeated enemy, but of an enemy that has also been stripped of his dignity, customs and masculinity.

Regardless of the face that soldiers are trained to show the world, these types of dominance narratives are highly in-demand in military communities, especially after a decade of relative combat-defeat in which few, if any, of the U.S.'s larger goals for occupation have been accomplished. Historically, defeated or nearly defeated armies have been guilty of some of the most serious atrocities. Indeed, combat journalists throughout history have reported retreating troops to be some of the most dangerous individuals on the battle-field.

It has been my experience within and without the military that soldiers covet nothing greater than power over others. Be it expressed internally through the military rank structure, or externally through the destruction of an enemy, family or coercion of a sexual partner, soldiers generally believe themselves superior human beings to someone, and the affirmation of this desire can take on many brutal forms. Further, when the superiority of a soldier is questioned by a force outside the chain of command, brawls tend to erupt, barracks rumbles ensue and bitter rivalries take shape. What this generates is a 'wild west' atmosphere on and around many bases in the world. What this translates to for local communities is violence in nearly every form.

Statistically speaking, military communities are among the more violent U.S. communities, with military bases reporting significantly higher rates of incidents such as rape, domestic assault and suicide. U.S. military bases, both in the U.S. and abroad, have reputations for drunkenness, prostitution and general 'vice,' as if each installation were its own little 'Vegas,' promising the men within riches of whiskey, wealth, women and weapons.

Not surprisingly, addiction in the military is also something that runs rampant world-wide. But while we're all used to hearing about the alcoholism and the drugs, pornography addiction is reaping increasingly devastating havoc on military families, according to a recent Army Times story. In the story, Navy Lt. Michael Howard, a licensed therapist and military chaplain who councils soldiers for sex addiction, suggests that as many as twenty percent of our troops are addicted to online porn. "That would be a conservative estimate," he says, while others in the story corroborate his statements.

But war porn is something in a category of its own. Soldiers don't just download it, they are the primary manufacturers, and its existence doesn't just destroy American families. War porn, by definition, documents the destruction of someone else's family. Furthermore, if it can be argued that pornography normalizes violence against women, it certainly cannot be disputed that war porn normalizes violence against everyone!

We've only started as a society to be exposed to the bottomless archives of war porn that exist on hard-drives throughout the country. While particularly blood-thirsty participants in prior wars were forced to either keep simple snapshots or body parts of the people they killed to use as war trophies, troops of today have very different options. While an actual finger or an ear, which still are taken as war trophies, may not make it back across the boarder, a JPEG or an MOV file can be effortlessly concealed; even sent back ahead of the group with the simple click of a mouse.

While I have never heard an official estimate of how much war porn may exist from the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, I have spoken to fellow soldiers and veterans around the country and have been exposed to many individual collections. Given what I've seen myself, and knowing how many soldiers today carry cameras into combat, I'd estimate that there are many hundreds of thousands of terabytes of data in existence that could be classified as war porn.

While it is true that soldiers have gotten a lot more shrewd about who they'll share their war porn with, certainly as the result of various related scandals, I do not believe this has led many of them to destroy their individual collections. If anything, the war porn has simply been archived, and may be released at a later time. Many soldiers and veterans are yet to realize the true weight and consequence of what they carry with them. Hopefully, as their consciouses continue to recover, some of the more courageous ones may feel compelled to share publicly what they possess.

But even for those who will never share publicly, the evidence of their acts will continue to exist. It's the nature of digital information to stick around and be inconveniently discovered later on. It's only a matter of time until the flood gates open. Perhaps, as I said, it will be the veterans themselves who feel so moved by conscious. More likely, it will be hacked free by information anarchists or recovered by tech-savy garbage pickers in electronics landfills and recycling plants somewhere south of the equator. When that begins happening on a regular basis, we're going to have a lot to account for as Americans, after having blindly supported our troops through two bloody and unjust military occupations.

Yes America, our military is addicted to war porn, and this fact may ultimately usurp any legacy of honor or glory the military may cling to. No longer can the world be duped by the government-controlled facade of the U.S. soldier as a liberating force for good. Our image is that of an armed, drunken fiend in a public square with his pants down pissing into the wind. Sure, we may be an affront to those around us, but we're only really soiling ourselves.


I don't like the way they've got an ex-soldier to write this (because of the obvious implication that "they're not all bad"), but it's an interesting article all the same.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2012 10:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't know about you but I was terrified by the barefoot ragged skinny terrorists running at our brave sniper squads only dressed from head to foot in armour with helicopter gunships and fighter jets to call in, with an evil islamist terrorist attack wheelbarrow!
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 17, 2012 7:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Up to 20 US troops behind Kandahar bloodbath – Afghan probe
16 March, 2012

An Afghan parliamentary investigation team has implicated up to 20 US troops in the massacre of 16 civilians in Kandahar early on Sunday morning. It contradicts NATO's account that insists one rogue soldier was behind the slaughter. ­The team of Afghan lawmakers has spent two days collating reports from witnesses, survivors and inhabitants of the villages where the tragedy took place.

“We are convinced that one soldier cannot kill so many people in two villages within one hour at the same time, and the 16 civilians, most of them children and women, have been killed by the two groups,” investigator Hamizai Lali told Afghan News.

Lali also said their investigations led them to believe 15 to 20 US soldiers had been involved in the killings. He appealed to the international community to ensure that the responsible parties were brought to justice, stressing the Afghan parliament would not rest until the killers were prosecuted. "If the international community does not play its role in punishing the perpetrators, the Wolesi Jirga [parliament] would declare foreign troops as occupying forces,” he said.

The head of the Afghan parliamentary investigation, Sayed Ishaq Gillani, told the BBC that witnesses report seeing helicopters dropping chaff during the attack, a measure used to hide targets from ground attack. Gillani added that locals suspect the massacre was revenge for attacks carried out last week on US forces that left several injured.

In response to the massacre Afghan PM Hamid Karzai called for US troops to quit Afghan villages and confine themselves to their military bases across the country. Furthermore, the Taliban announced that talks with US forces would be suspended. Meanwhile the US military has detained one soldier in connection with the massacre and transferred him to Kuwait amid outcry for a public trial in Afghanistan. Currently, the soldier is being flown to Kansas base, AFP reported.

US authorities are currently conducting an investigation into the motives behind the attack, but maintain that the soldier’s trial must be dealt with by the US legal system. It is believed that the soldier may have had alcohol problems and been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2012 2:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Afghanistan: A Gathering Menace
Traveling with U.S. troops gives insights into the recent massacre
Neil Shea

The soldiers around me were barely visible, but I could smell them. They had not washed for days, and a sharp musk of sweat and sleeplessness, tobacco and chemically mummified food, wove through the fields and orchards. It was after midnight, moonless, the stars brilliant but unhelpful. The soldiers wore night-vision goggles, but I did not, so I stumbled after their scent along the remote edge of a fading war, envisioning things I could not see.

Up ahead, in the stream of black shapes, were the American soldiers I had come to fear. They were men who enjoyed demolishing Afghan houses, men who shot dogs in the face. The pair who had embraced like lovers, one tenderly drawing the blade of his knife along the pale, smooth skin of his friend’s throat. There was a guy who’d let the others tie his legs open and mock-rape him, and there were several men who had boasted of plans to murder their ex-wives and former girlfriends.

We paused in the darkness. A line of Afghan soldiers shuffled past, also nearly blind without night-vision equipment. They moved into position for the coming raid, clumsy as boxcars, trailing their own earthy stink. I thought back to what an American Army sergeant had told me hours earlier. “This is where I come to do fucked-up things.”

His face had been clear and smooth, his smile almost shy. It was a statement of happy expectation, as though Afghanistan were a playground. He was the de facto leader of a platoon I will call Destroyer, and although he is a real person, not a composite, I have heard his words in many variations, from many American combat troops. But he and some of his men were the first I had met who seemed very near to committing the dumb and vicious acts that we call war crimes. We marched on, toward houses the soldiers planned to raid and doors that would soon be blasted open, toward men who would be ripped awake, blindfolded, and hauled away. The sergeant’s words rattled in my head. I hoped the men would not do anything terrible.

Since 2006 I have written off and on about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Nearly all of my work in those countries has been done embedded with NATO, mostly American military units. Many times I have watched soldiers or Marines, driven by boredom or fear, behave selfishly and meanly, even illegally, in minor ways. In a few searing moments I have wondered what would come next, what the men would do to prisoners or civilians or suspected insurgents. And I have wondered how to describe these moments without reporting melodramatic minutiae or betraying the men who allowed me in.

Most soldierly stupidity does not amount to crime; most soldiers never commit atrocities. U.S. soldiers shooting at goats, for example, or pilots getting drunk on base, or guards threatening the lives of prisoners, all things I have seen, defy military rules and erode efforts to win hearts and minds. But how bad is it, really? Do we care? What is my responsibility when I see it? I have never found good ways to write about the subhuman wash of aggression and the small episodes of violence military men and women cycle through daily, or the choices they make in the midst of this.

We tend to ignore such problems unless they are connected to a crime. An editor at a major magazine once dismissed such unsteady subjects by saying, “Yes, but bad things happen everywhere.” Perhaps she was telling me to lighten up. She was also summarizing a national attitude toward the wars. I write about it now because what I witnessed with Destroyer, and other units, routinely and unquietly returns to me.

I joined the platoon last summer at the end of a weeklong mission designed to clear insurgents from a series of towns and valleys in central Afghanistan. In 10 years of war, I was told, NATO troops had never visited the region. Intelligence reports called it a Taliban stronghold, and commanders expected heavy fighting. Going in, many soldiers told me they believed they would die.

Destroyer and several other units had dropped into the valleys by helicopter at night. During the day, they pushed through a sun-killed landscape of rock and withered grasses, where it was Destroyer’s job to search for weapons caches and battle insurgents alongside a wobbly unit of Afghan National Army (ANA) troops.

Each night, the men slept in abandoned qalats (fortified residential compounds), or they moved into occupied ones, handed the residents some cash, and kicked them out. I met the soldiers at a qalat they had temporarily confiscated, a large, newly painted house. Tall walls enclosed a courtyard containing a small orchard, a garden, and a well. Several rooms ran along one wall, and the soldiers had moved into them, sleeping head to foot on floors littered with cigarette packs, candy wrappers, and food scraps. The place was heavy with a scent I would later follow through the night.

I first met Staff Sergeant James Givens, as I will call him, outside one of these rooms. I had been asking about a dog that lay on the far side of the courtyard beside a heap of garbage. Like many soldiers, I sought out dogs whenever possible in Afghanistan, hoping to pet them or play with them, searching for a reminder of home. No one was paying this dog any attention. A soldier told me with a laugh that it was sleeping, so I walked over and found the animal leashed and dead, killed by a gunshot. “What dead dog?” Givens said, grinning. “He’s just takin’ a nap.” A captain standing nearby asked rhetorically and perhaps for my benefit if it had really been necessary to shoot a pet. Givens laughed. “Sir, we’ve left plenty of animals alive in this area.”

One of those bits of violence. I shifted gears and began doing my job, hanging out with Givens and his men, hearing their stories while we waited for dark and that night’s raid. The dog continued napping for another day until Afghan soldiers, preparing their dinner a few feet away, wearied of the odor and moved the carcass.

The men of Destroyer said that so far the worst-case scenarios had not unfolded. They had searched houses and outbuildings and found little evidence of insurgents. Fighting in the valleys and towns was relatively light; mortars now and then, some rifle fire. Across the entire operation only one soldier, an Afghan, had been killed. The Taliban had not mined the region with IEDs or dug into the hillsides in anticipation of a grand battle. Most Taliban, if ever they had been in the area, slipped away while the Americans and the ANA flooded in.

We sat on the patio in the late, hot afternoon, airing our foul, boot-pruned feet. The soldiers of Destroyer talked about how their house searches had become demolition parties. They shattered windows and china, broke furniture, hurled civilians to the ground. Earlier that day, they had blown up a building. They tornadoed through Afghan houses and left such destruction that their ANA allies at first tried to stop them, then grew angry, sullen. “They were so pissed they wouldn’t hang out with us anymore,” Givens remembered. “They kept saying ‘No good, mistah. No, mistah.’ And I was like, ‘Yes, fucking good. Plate? Smash. Is this a drum? Smash.’ ” He laughed. “ ‘Oh, mistah, no.’ ”

I imagined the Afghan soldiers standing by, helpless, while Destroyer destroyed. I thought of attacks over the past several years in which Afghan policemen or soldiers had suddenly turned on their NATO allies and opened fire. Such betrayals have been increasing. Sometimes the Taliban claim responsibility for them, but often it seems the assailants have been taking revenge on foreign soldiers for some perceived insult to their honor. It was not hard to envision the seeds of such an attack sown in the ruts of Destroyer’s visit.

Slowly, the soldiers began adding more stories, and tales of the past week blended with memories of killing and destruction during other missions and battles, in Afghanistan and Iraq, during many tours of duty. The men’s voices fell over each other in a clatter of brutality and homoerotic jokes.

So I grabbed the chain and dragged it out and shot it again with the shotgun and, uhhhh, brains all over me …

Shut up, faggot. You never did that …

Man, even if you actually got to see some Afghan chick and she was hot, I still wouldn’t fuck her cause she’d still be from here, which means she’d still be covered with shit.
My last deployment, my platoon sergeant, he’d say, “Make sure nothing lives. Cows: Taliban food. Sheep: Taliban food. Donkeys: Taliban transportation. Kill everything.”

You know what? Fuck these people.

Spend time around soldiers and you realize a lot of this is part of the game, part of being a young man in war. Still, I sensed more anger and hatred than I had encountered before. Givens spun at its center like a black hole. He was in his mid-20s, charismatic and quick, a combat veteran. He threw down declarations like a hip-hop star—respect yourself and no one else; fuck bitches, get money—and the younger infantrymen revered him. Even officers appeared to defer to his humor, efficiency, and rage.

Platoons are often structured like high school cliques, and Givens stood at the apex of his, setting the tone and example. A list of characteristics scrolled through my mind as I listened to the men, traits I probably learned from episodes of Law & Order, or Lord of the Flies. Pop-culture sociopathy. Sexualized aggression. The displays of wolves.

“This is where I come to do fucked-up things,” Givens said. “So I don’t do them at home.”

Sometime after midnight, Destroyer and its ANA partners left the qalat to raid houses in another village. They had cleared it earlier in the week but believed some Taliban might have returned. The air was cool and clear, the landscape washed in blue-black silence. The soldiers gathered in a cloud of whispers and scraping boots at the edge of the village, then pushed in.

A loud and bright discord of explosions, shouts as soldiers took a few prisoners. But the raid was otherwise uneventful, almost standard. The battlefield equivalent of a traffic stop. The men treated the prisoners with ordinary roughness, blindfolding, tying their hands with rope. Then we filed back through the darkness to the confiscated qalat. Soon, anyone who could folded into exhausted sleep. It was nearly 4 a.m.

On a concrete patio, I pulled my sleeping bag over my head, leaving my boots on and my legs uncovered, like a drunk. Near me, a soldier and an American civilian began interrogating one of the prisoners. I slid into a weird slumber, the day’s events, flashes of heat and light, merging in dreams to the rhythm of interrogation.

What did he do in Iran during those two years?

He’s not dead, he’s sleepy.

If I knew where the Taliban were I would personally show you.

My ex, that bitch. I got a plan to kill her.

Stop. He’s playing this game again. Where the fuck was he prior to that time in Iran?

Respect yourself and no one else.

War is small, opaque moments. In spans of wakefulness, I wondered how I could ever write about them, and where my power of perception failed. A cock crowed, the interrogation ended. Soon the desert sun rose above the qalat walls, and my sleeping bag warmed into a putrid cocoon. When I finally emerged, the prisoner lay near me on his back, hands still cuffed, blindfold held in place with a strip of silver duct tape. For a moment I thought he was napping, like the dog beside the trash pile. Then, slowly, he reached up and scratched his nose.

It was the last day of the long mission. After midnight helicopters would retrieve Destroyer and the other units working in the area. The soldiers waited in their rooms, killing time. Some men stripped off their stinking combat shirts and scrubbed each other’s backs with baby wipes. Others popped hard-to-reach pimples for their friends. Hygienic intimacy.

“Feels like it’s been a month,” a soldier said.

“I can’t wait to wash my hair,” said another, smoothing his dark mop. “Man, we fucked up some houses, shit.”

Givens laughed and leaned against his gear. He was slim, boyish, unscalded by his own anger. He hated Afghans.

“Yeah, we definitely made some Taliban out here,” he said. “It was like a week-long Taliban recruiting drive. And we had fun doing it. I love recruiting for the Taliban. It’s called job security.”

They passed around packs of Pine cigarettes they had “liberated” during the raid and taunted each other with gay jokes. On the walls the Afghan homeowners had hung posters and odd pictures torn from magazines. An image of a yellow sports car, a photograph of Mecca, an idyllic scene of a cabin in Austria or Germany. Dreams beyond war. Beneath them, the men tipped cigarettes onto the floor and lit detonation cord on the rug, burning black coils into the fabric. A few men retold plans to kill former wives and girlfriends. Givens and one of his close friends talked of blowing up the qalat as they left, a parting thank-you to the residents of the valley.

The mood in the rooms slowly darkened. It reminded me of parties years ago, in high school, after the drinking had gone on a long while. The shift in tone imperceptible at first. A gathering menace. Certain kids felt it, knew they would probably become victims. Some left, others drank more, while around them social rules faded and certain boys began testing their power.

The day dragged on, all of us waiting to leave, obsessed with our filth, thinking of showers, meals. Air Force fighters roared overhead and dropped 500-pound bombs near the qalat, the explosions thudding through our chests. In the courtyard, one of the prisoners sat cross-legged in the shade, his blindfold removed but his hands still cuffed. Someone had placed food and a bottle of water in front of him. Eventually Givens and another soldier sat down on the concrete and glared at him. He glared back.

“I think he remembers we were the ones who fucked him up last night,” the soldier said to Givens. “I think he’s starin’ at you.”

“Fuck him,” Givens said. “The only reason he’s still alive is because the United States of America holds 25 to life over my head.”

As I write, furor is waning in the United States over a YouTube video showing four Marines urinating on Taliban corpses. I don’t consider it too surprising, though some writers suggest it is a war crime. It was probably born in a hot moment, without much reflection. Beginner’s foolishness. The men of Destroyer did nothing like that in front of me. They shoved prisoners around, looted cigarettes, wrecked property—things we routinely dismiss in war. But I had seen and sensed enough, and they spoke of past deeds and future desires that leapt beyond the normal bluster of young soldiers.

In speech we give ideas life. I felt I was watching some of the men unravel toward serious crimes, if, in fact, they had not already committed them elsewhere in Afghanistan or Iraq. Evil or atrocity often explodes from a furnace built by the steady accretion of small, unchallenged wrongs. Some men in Destroyer platoon had been drifting that way for a long time.

Of course, we require our fighters to be ready hurricanes, on-call combat machines. We want them held easily in check, and we expect light-switch control over their aggression. Yet the Afghan war no longer relies so much on combat. The mission is nuanced, and future success, even sane withdrawal, demands Afghan cooperation. Soldiers like Givens, so barely restrained, their switches unreliable after years of war, undermine this. But we have no good method for dealing with men who grow too dangerous. We vaguely hope their anger does not spill over, or come home. It is not simple. My own reaction to the men of Destroyer is difficult. I liked them. I still want to believe they were merely full of bravado.

In the qalat courtyard, a young specialist walked along the patio carrying a plastic toy cap gun, something he’d found in one of the rooms. Givens stood and went to him and smacked the gun out of his hand. Without a word he stomped it to pieces on the concrete.

I sat nearby with another sergeant from the platoon. I had noticed this man distance himself from Givens’s clique. Givens occasionally tried to drag him into things, but the sergeant steadfastly refused. We listened to the plastic crunch beneath Givens’s heel. It was funny, in a way.

“He is a hater,” I said to the sergeant, trying to joke. His face tightened.

“He’s bad. He’s real bad. He sees someone having fun with something, he just wants to kill it. I don’t want to have nothing to do with that.” Givens and the specialist stood in silence, looking down at the spray of plastic shards. Then Givens picked up a stick. He stepped down into the garden. The specialist followed. Together they began swatting the heads off flowers. The sergeant looked away. “I don’t want to get none of that shit on me,” he said.


I was really surprised to see this published on an American website and it's great to see.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 24, 2012 9:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 08, 2012 7:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The U.S. Military and Massacres
Tim Kelly,
March 29 2012

The murderous rampage of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales in Afghanistan has received much deserved media attention. Sgt. Bales’s shooting spree, killing 17 Afghan civilians, was quickly condemned by the Obama administration as a horrible incident and an aberration that was in no way representative of the “exceptional character” of the U.S. military. It is a matter of state doctrine that such “incidents,” no matter how frequent, are treated as singular events from which no broader conclusions can be drawn. This is convenient for U.S. policy makers and politicians, for it absolves them of any responsibility for the actions of the soldiers they deploy overseas to kill people and break things.

But how isolated was this latest massacre? Anyone following the news is aware that U.S forces are frequently responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians. These deaths may not be the result of a soldier or group of “rogue” soldiers “losing it,” but that is a meaningless distinction. After all, it was Gen. Stanley McChrystal who said of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, “We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat.”

The past ten years have borne witness to one atrocity after another committed by U.S. soldiers. There was the Abu Ghraib prison-abuse scandal and the “Collateral Murder” video showing a U.S. gunship crew cheerfully mowing down Iraqi civilians. There was the Haditha massacre and the team of U.S. soldiers that were killing Afghan civilians for sport. There was the more recent “incident” of U.S. soldiers urinating on corpses. And during their occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. troops have carried out night raids into villages that have killed and injured countless civilians. How many such “incidents” have gone unreported?

Are atrocities inevitable when soldiers are being deployed multiple times to foreign countries where they are surrounded by hostile populations? Of course they are. This is why the ultimate responsibility for the crimes of U.S. soldiers lies with those in power, for they’re the ones who make the war plans and give the orders to invade. When Donald Rumsfeld spoke obtusely of “shock and awe” in the run up to the Iraq War, he knew that it meant the suffering and death of many innocent civilians. But the carnage visited upon Iraqi society by the U.S. military was considered “worth it” by the geopolitical strategists and imperial schemers in Washington. As H.L. Mencken said, “wars are not made by common folk, scratching for livings in the heat of the day; they are made by demagogues infesting palaces.”

Perhaps U.S. troops overseas would be on better behavior if those further up the chain of command were expected to abide by the law. After all, both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have boasted of authorizing the torture of prisoners. But these admissions to what are clearly violations of federal and international law have not led to any indictments. The decision by the Obama administration not to indict Bush, Cheney, et al. for their crimes is understandable. Having now served more than three quarters of a presidential term, President Obama and his henchmen are probably guilty of a long train of abuses, and they want similar immunity from the law.

But let’s go back to the Obama administration’s claim that Sgt. Bales’ actions are not representative of the “exceptional character” of the U.S. military. Contrary to the patriotic mythology, the U.S. military has never flinched from inflicting civilian casualties in waging war.

America’s westward expansion in 19th century was enabled by a series of ruthless military campaigns to clear out the Native American population. To justify the theft of land and the slaughter of defenseless men, women, and children, Americans adopted the myth of Manifest Destiny. The prevailing attitude among the military regarding Native Americans was perhaps best expressed in the words of Colonel John Chivington, who reportedly said to his troops at Sand Creek, “Kill and scalp all, big and little; nits make lice!”

During the so-called American Civil War, the armies killed an estimated 50,000 civilians, mostly women and children. Entire cities in the South were bombarded and burned to the ground. Union generals like Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, and Philip Sheridan deliberately targeted civilians in their military campaigns to rein in the “rebellious” South.

After the United States took control of the Philippines in 1898, the U.S. military waged a brutal campaign to quell a native insurgency. The Philippine-American War (aka the Philippine War of Independence) cost the lives of an estimated 250,000 Filipinos before it ended in 1902. During World War II, the U.S. military deliberately targeted German and Japanese civilians in a strategy of terror bombing. As General Curtis Lemay described it, American B29 bombers flying over a prostrate Japan in 1944 and 1945 “scorched, boiled, and baked to death” some 330,000 people. America’s wars in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq killed more than six million people, the vast majority of them civilians. In each of these wars, U.S. soldiers have engaged in massacres, but the lion’s share of the civilian death toll was a consequence of actions occurring within the rules of engagement.

During the Korean War, American planes bombed the North with no regard for civilian life. In Vietnam, the U.S. military declared vast areas “free-fire zones,” and wiped out entire villages. The United States dropped over 8 million tons of bombs on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1962 to 1973. The United States also waged a 20-year war against Iraq, including a sanctions regime that killed 500,000 children. The total civilian death toll is estimated to exceed one million, and more than five million have fled the war-torn nation. The fact is that the U.S. military has historically used its massive firepower to intentionally kill large numbers of civilians. Most Americans, however, are either ignorant of this ugly truth or rationalize the carnage as an unavoidable consequence of waging just, necessary, and “good” wars.

John Tirman, author of the remarkable and thought-provoking The Deaths of Others: The Fate of Civilians in America’s Wars, calls this phenomenon “the collective autism” of the American people. He writes,

"One of most remarkable aspects of American wars is how little we discuss the victims who are not Americans. The costs of the war to the populations and common soldiers of the “enemy” are rarely found in the narratives and dissections of conflict, and this habit is a durable feature of how we remember war. As a nation that has long thought itself as built on Christian ethics, even as an exceptionally compassionate people, this coldness is a puzzle. It is in fact more than a puzzle, for ignorance or indifference has consequences for the victims of American wars and for America itself."

As General Sherman infamously said, “War is hell.” So why do so many Americans support creating hell on earth? I suppose many still think that these wars are necessary to defend the country, and thus are beguiled by all the pro-war propaganda, patriotic symbolism, and flag waving. But the truth is that most of America’s wars have been waged neither for purposes of defense nor for the promotion of freedom abroad, but for imperial conquest. This lust for wealth and power has driven U.S. foreign policy for more than a century, and millions of innocent civilians have been the victims of Washington’s imperial ambitions.

In order to deal with the daunting problems now confronting them, Americans are going to have to come to terms with their country’s true history and admit that American political leaders and American soldiers have been guilty of ghastly crimes in pursuit of plunder and empire. James K. Galbraith put it well: "The reality is that we are a country like any other, with good and evil people, the strong and the weak, noble and criminal acts, with truth often hidden under deception and propaganda."

Tim Kelly is a columnist and policy advisor at the Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Virginia, a correspondent for Radio America’s Special Investigator, and a political cartoonist.
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PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2012 2:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

US military officers taught to target civilians and wage ‘total war’ on Islam
Alex Kane
May 10, 2012

Over the past decade, fringe ideas about Muslims and Islam have seeped into law enforcement agencies across the country. Now we know the details about what some members of the US military have been learning about Muslims. It’s not pretty. Wired’s Spencer Ackerman first broke the story last month, when he revealed that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had ordered a thorough review of the entire military to ensure that anti-Muslim ideas were not being taught to soldiers. The order from General Martin Dempsey was issued after an anti-Muslim course was found to have been taught at the Joint Forces Staff College in Virginia.

Today, Ackerman and Noah Shachtman published an extensive story in Wired detailing the exact contents of the course, titled “Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism.” It’s been taught since 2004 by Lt. Col. Matthew A. Dooley, who is still working at the college currently.

Wired has published some of the documents used in the course. Among the lectures military officers heard was a presentation by Dooley in which he suggested that Saudi Arabia should be threatened with starvation and that the historical precedents of Hiroshima and Dresden should be considered to deal with holy sites in Saudi Arabia. Dooley also said that the Geneva Conventions were “no longer relevant or respected globally” because of the “current common practices of Islamic terrorists” and that “total war” should be waged on Islam.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is calling for the Defense Department to dismiss Dooley. "It is imperative that those who taught our future military leaders to wage war not just on our terrorist enemy, but on the faith of Islam itself be held accountable," Nihad Awad, CAIR's director, wrote in a letter to Leon Panetta, the Secretary of Defense. "If left uncorrected, the biased, inaccurate and un-American training previously given to these officers will harm our nation's security, image and interests for years to come."

More excerpts from the story:

Dooley, who has worked at the Joint Forces Staff College since August 2010, began his eight-week class with a straightforward, two-part history of Islam. It was delivered by David Fatua, a former West Point history professor. “Unfortunately, if we left it at that, you wouldn’t have the proper balance of points of view, nor would you have an accurate view of how Islam defines itself,” Dooley told his students. Over the next few weeks, he invited in a trio of guest lecturers famous for their incendiary views of Islam.

Stephen Coughlin claimed in his 2007 master’s thesis that then-president George W. Bush’s declaration of friendship with the vast majority of the world’s Muslims had “a chilling effect on those tasked to define the enemy’s doctrine.” (.pdf) Coughlin was subsequently let go from his consulting position to the military’s Joint Staff, but he continued to lecture at the Naval War College and at the FBI’s Washington Field Office. In his talk to Dooley’s class (.pdf), Coughlin suggested that al-Qaida helped drive the overthrow of Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak and Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi. It was part of a scheme by Islamists to conquer the world, he added. And Coughlin mocked those who didn’t see this plot as clearly as he did, accusing them of “complexification.”

Former FBI employee John Guandolo told the conspiratorial World Net Daily website last year that Obama was only the latest president to fall under the influence of Islamic extremists. “The level of penetration in the last three administrations is deep,” Guandolo alleged. In his reference material for the Joint Forces Staff College class, Guandolo not only spoke of today’s Muslims as enemies of the West. He even justified the Crusades, writing that they “were initiated after hundreds of years of Muslim incursion into Western lands.”

Ackerman has also exposed how the Federal Bureau of Investigation was teaching its agents incendiary ideas about Muslims and Islam. The Obama administration has since ordered a “widespread review of government counterterrorism training materials.” As for the military, Ackerman reports that a senior officer will “investigate how precisely Dooley managed to get away with that extended presentation in an official Defense Department-sanctioned course. The results of that review are due May 24.”
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2012 2:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm sure Jesus would appreciate this adoration of soldiers.
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Pitch Queen

Joined: 24 May 2007
Location: Sunshine State

PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2012 3:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Idiotic.....I wonder what (other than money) would make this show interesting to these "stars" that are participating.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 5:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Georgia murder case uncovers terror plot by soldiers
Associated Press

LUDOWICI, Ga. (AP) -- Prosecutors say a murder case against four soldiers in Georgia has revealed they formed an anarchist militia within the U.S. military with plans to overthrow the federal government. One of the accused troops, Pfc. Michael Burnett, pleaded guilty Monday to manslaughter and gang charges in the December slayings of former soldier Michael Roark and his girlfriend, 17-year-old Tiffany York.

Burnett told a Long County judge that Roark, who had just left the Army, knew of the militia group's plans and was killed because he was "a loose end." Prosecutor Isabel Pauley says the group bought $87,000 worth of guns and bomb-making materials and plotted to take over Fort Stewart, bomb targets in nearby Savannah and Washington state, as well as assassinate the president.


If they were planning a campaign against military targets then it's not terrorism. Terrorism is what they would have been involved in if they'd been in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Still, interesting.
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 02, 2012 12:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Why I had no choice but to spurn Tony Blair
I couldn't sit with someone who justified the invasion of Iraq with a lie
Desmond Tutu
The Observer,
2 September 2012

The immorality of the United States and Great Britain's decision to invade Iraq in 2003, premised on the lie that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, has destabilised and polarised the world to a greater extent than any other conflict in history.

Instead of recognising that the world we lived in, with increasingly sophisticated communications, transportations and weapons systems necessitated sophisticated leadership that would bring the global family together, the then-leaders of the US and UK fabricated the grounds to behave like playground bullies and drive us further apart. They have driven us to the edge of a precipice where we now stand – with the spectre of Syria and Iran before us.

If leaders may lie, then who should tell the truth? Days before George W Bush and Tony Blair ordered the invasion of Iraq, I called the White House and spoke to Condoleezza Rice, who was then national security adviser, to urge that United Nations weapons inspectors be given more time to confirm or deny the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Should they be able to confirm finding such weapons, I argued, dismantling the threat would have the support of virtually the entire world. Ms Rice demurred, saying there was too much risk and the president would not postpone any longer.

On what grounds do we decide that Robert Mugabe should go the International Criminal Court, Tony Blair should join the international speakers' circuit, bin Laden should be assassinated, but Iraq should be invaded, not because it possesses weapons of mass destruction, as Mr Bush's chief supporter, Mr Blair, confessed last week, but in order to get rid of Saddam Hussein?

The cost of the decision to rid Iraq of its by-all-accounts despotic and murderous leader has been staggering, beginning in Iraq itself. Last year, an average of 6.5 people died there each day in suicide attacks and vehicle bombs, according to the Iraqi Body Count project. More than 110,000 Iraqis have died in the conflict since 2003 and millions have been displaced. By the end of last year, nearly 4,500 American soldiers had been killed and more than 32,000 wounded.

On these grounds alone, in a consistent world, those responsible for this suffering and loss of life should be treading the same path as some of their African and Asian peers who have been made to answer for their actions in the Hague.

But even greater costs have been exacted beyond the killing fields, in the hardened hearts and minds of members of the human family across the world.

Has the potential for terrorist attacks decreased? To what extent have we succeeded in bringing the so-called Muslim and Judeo-Christian worlds closer together, in sowing the seeds of understanding and hope?

Leadership and morality are indivisible. Good leaders are the custodians of morality. The question is not whether Saddam Hussein was good or bad or how many of his people he massacred. The point is that Mr Bush and Mr Blair should not have allowed themselves to stoop to his immoral level.

If it is acceptable for leaders to take drastic action on the basis of a lie, without an acknowledgement or an apology when they are found out, what should we teach our children?

My appeal to Mr Blair is not to talk about leadership, but to demonstrate it. You are a member of our family, God's family. You are made for goodness, for honesty, for morality, for love; so are our brothers and sisters in Iraq, in the US, in Syria, in Israel and Iran.

I did not deem it appropriate to have this discussion at the Discovery Invest Leadership Summit in Johannesburg last week. As the date drew nearer, I felt an increasingly profound sense of discomfort about attending a summit on "leadership" with Mr Blair. I extend my humblest and sincerest apologies to Discovery, the summit organisers, the speakers and delegates for the lateness of my decision not to attend.


Excellent. If only more public figures would speak out in the same way.
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Brown Sauce

Joined: 07 Jan 2007

PostPosted: Mon Sep 03, 2012 5:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

maybe more will, it takes someone with stature to get things going.
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 06, 2012 11:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shooting apps fine, says Apple, just don’t mention the drone attacks
Catherine Gilfedder
3 September 2012

Apple has, for the third time this month, rejected an iPhone app which alerts the user to a drone attack and to the number of people killed. Drones+ enables those concerned about the CIA’s illegal, unregulated use of these remote-controlled weapons to track the strikes to their handset.

This is no doubt an uncomfortable prospect for the US authorities, whose use of drones extends to Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, where no war has been declared. Such drone strikes have killed more than 3,300 people in Pakistan alone since 2004, according to reports by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Reprieve is working to expose and challenge the programme, through investigation on the ground and representing victims in legal action across various jurisdictions.

Strangely, Apple’s three rejections of Drones+ have each been for different reasons. On the first occasion, the company said its content was “not useful” (betraying something of an ignorance of the number of people interested in this issue, and the value in raising awareness of it); next, Apple said it was due to the inclusion of a corporate logo within the app.

Now, the company has told Josh Begley, the app’s developer, that the content is “objectionable and crude”. This is despite the fact that the app doesn’t display images or provide graphic details of any deaths, but simply aggregates news of drone strikes from various publicly available sources.

So Drones+ is more objectionable than, say, an app providing daily updates as to new weapons (including drones) developed? Or one teaching users to accurately shoot a range of 27 rifles, mimicking the effect of real guns? Both of which are available in the App Store.

Apple doesn’t publish any explanation of the Guidelines it applies in deciding which apps to allow. Its motivation for preventing those concerned from accessing information about these arbitrary executions is difficult to understand. Begley has said he will try to redevelop the app for Android. Hopefully its operators will take a sensible stance, rather than (even inadvertently) assisting in covering up these covert killings.
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Brown Sauce

Joined: 07 Jan 2007

PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2012 8:07 pm    Post subject: Drones Reply with quote

"On the battlefield there are no sides, just bloodshed. Total war. Every horror witnessed. I wish my eyes would rot."

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PostPosted: Tue May 21, 2013 6:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Dark Side of Liberation
May 20, 2013

The soldiers who landed in Normandy on D-Day were greeted as liberators, but by the time American G.I.’s were headed back home in late 1945, many French citizens viewed them in a very different light.

In the port city of Le Havre, the mayor was bombarded with letters from angry residents complaining about drunkenness, jeep accidents, sexual assault — “a regime of terror,” as one put it, “imposed by bandits in uniform.” This isn’t the “greatest generation” as it has come to be depicted in popular histories. But in “What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American G.I. in World War II France,” the historian Mary Louise Roberts draws on French archives, American military records, wartime propaganda and other sources to advance a provocative argument: The liberation of France was “sold” to soldiers not as a battle for freedom but as an erotic adventure among oversexed Frenchwomen, stirring up a “tsunami of male lust” that a battered and mistrustful population often saw as a second assault on its sovereignty and dignity.

“I could not believe what I was reading,” Ms. Roberts, a professor of French history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, recalled of the moment she came across the citizen complaints in an obscure archive in Le Havre. “I took out my little camera and began photographing the pages. I did not go to the bathroom for eight hours.”

“What Soldiers Do,” to be officially published next month by the University of Chicago Press, arrives just as sexual misbehavior inside the military is high on the national agenda, thanks to a recent Pentagon report estimating that some 26,000 service members had been sexually assaulted in 2012, more than a one-third increase since 2010.

While Ms. Roberts’s arguments may be a hard sell to readers used to more purely heroic narratives, her book is winning praise from some scholarly colleagues.“Our culture has embalmed World War II as ‘the good war,’ and we don’t revisit the corpse very often,” said David M. Kennedy, a historian at Stanford University and the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945.” “What Soldiers Do,” he added, is “a breath of fresh air,” providing less of an “aha” than, as he put it, an “of course.”

Ms. Roberts, whose parents met in 1944 when her father was training as a naval officer, emphasizes that American soldiers’ heroism and sacrifice were very real, and inspired genuine gratitude. But French sources, she argues, also reveal deep ambivalence on the part of the liberated.

“Struggles between American and French officials over sex,” she writes, “rekindled the unresolved question of who exactly was in charge.”

Sex was certainly on the liberators’ minds. The book cites military propaganda and press accounts depicting France as “a tremendous brothel inhabited by 40 million hedonists,” as Life magazine put it. (Sample sentences from a French phrase guide in the newspaper Stars and Stripes: “You are very pretty” and “Are your parents at home?”)

On the ground, however, the grateful kisses captured by photojournalists gave way to something less picturesque. In the National Archives in College Park, Md., Ms. Roberts found evidence — including one blurry, curling snapshot — supporting long-circulating colorful anecdotes about the Blue and Gray Corral, a brothel set up near the village of St. Renan in September 1944 by Maj. Gen. Charles H. Gerhardt, commander of the infantry division that landed at Omaha Beach, partly to counter a wave of rape accusations against G.I.’s. (It was shut down after a mere five hours.)

In France, Ms. Roberts also found a desperate letter from the mayor of Le Havre in August 1945 urging American commanders to set up brothels outside the city, to halt the “scenes contrary to decency” that overran the streets, day and night. They refused, partly, Ms. Roberts argues, out of concern that condoning prostitution would look bad to “American mothers and sweethearts,” as one soldier put it.

Keeping G.I. sex hidden from the home front, she writes, ensured that it would be on full public view in France: a “two-sided attitude,” she said, that is reflected in the current military sexual abuse crisis.

Ms. Roberts is not the first scholar to bring the sexual side of World War II into clearer view. The 1990s brought a surge of scholarship on the Soviet Army’s mass rapes on the Eastern front, fed partly by the international campaign to have rape recognized as a war crime after the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. At the same time, gender historians began taking a closer look at “fraternization” by American soldiers, with particular attention to what women thought they were getting out of the bargain.

“The standard story had been that the Soviets were the rapists, the Americans were the fraternizers, and the British were the gentlemen,” said Atina Grossmann, the author of “Jews, Germans and Allies: Close Encounters in Occupied Germany.”

Work that looked at sexual assaults by American soldiers, even on a small scale, remained controversial. J. Robert Lilly’s “Taken by Force,” a groundbreaking study of rapes of French, German and British civilian women by G.I.’s, based on courts-martial records Mr. Lilly uncovered, drew a strong response when it was published in France in 2003. But the book, which emphasized the grossly disproportionate prosecution of black soldiers, struggled to find an American publisher amid tensions between the United States and Europe over Iraq.

“American presses wouldn’t touch the subject with a 10-foot barge pole,” said Mr. Lilly, a sociology professor at Northern Kentucky University. (Palgrave Macmillan published his book in the United States in 2007.)

Today the seamier side of liberation is not entirely absent from popular accounts. “The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945,” the final volume of Rick Atkinson’s best-selling trilogy about the war, published this month, includes a brief discussion of the Army’s campaign against venereal disease (“Don’t forget the Krauts were fooling around France a long time before we got here,” an Army publication warned soldiers in December 1944), as well as a reference to Mr. Lilly’s work.

The few scholars who have looked more closely at rape by G.I.’s have attributed its racially skewed prosecution to “the Jim Crow army,” which was happy to depict rape as a problem only among the noncombat support units to which black soldiers were mostly limited.

“White soldiers got a pass because of their combat status,” said William I. Hitchcock, author of “The Bitter Road to Freedom” (2008), a history of the liberation of Western Europe from the perspective of often traumatized local civilians. “The Army wasn’t interested in prosecuting a battle-scarred sergeant.”

Ms. Roberts, who closely studied transcripts of 15 courts-martial in Northern France, certainly sees American racism at work. “Let’s Look at Rape!,” a 1944 Army pamphlet credited to “a Negro Chaplain,” contained a prominent illustration of a noose — a clear suggestion that the Army was going to “protect the color line,” she writes. (Among the soldiers hanged for rape and murder was Louis Till, the father of Emmett Till.)

But her analysis is hardly more flattering to the French, whose often shaky accusations, as she sees them, reflected their own need to project the humiliations of occupation onto a racial “other.” (“We have no more soldiers here, just a few Negroes who terrorize the neighborhood,” one civilian remarked in April 1945.)

Ms. Roberts said the book has attracted strong interest from French publishers, where willingness to explore the darker side of liberation jostles with a lingering fear of seeming ungrateful. At home, she insisted, her goal is not “to sour the story of Normandy.”

“I truly believe what we did there was amazing,” she said. “But I’m interested in providing a richer and more realistic picture.”

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