Monday, August 4, 2008

Seoul probes civilian "massacres" by U.S.




Seoul probes civilian `massacres' by US

By CHARLES J. HANLEY and JAE-SOON CHANG, Associated Press WritersSun Aug 3, 3:31 PM ET

This is from AP via Yahoo.

Long after the fact these issues are finally being investigated. Events such as these give the lie to the idea that the U.S. gives great priority to preventing civilian casualties. It does so only in terms of public relations. More importance is given to military aims and saving the lives of their own troops although those lives too may sometimes be sacrificed for limited military gains. One of the most flagrant violations of the rule that one should avoid killing innocent civilians was in the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. With events such as this and the firebombing of Dresden any idea of a modern just war went out the window.

South Korean investigators, matching once-secret documents to eyewitness accounts, are concluding that the U.S. military indiscriminately killed large groups of refugees and other civilians early in the Korean War.

A half-century later, the Seoul government's Truth and Reconciliation Commission has more than 200 such alleged wartime cases on its docket, based on hundreds of citizens' petitions recounting bombing and strafing runs on South Korean refugee gatherings and unsuspecting villages in 1950-51.

Concluding its first investigations, the 2 1/2-year-old commission is urging the government to seek U.S. compensation for victims.

"Of course the U.S. government should pay compensation. It's the U.S. military's fault," said survivor Cho Kook-won, 78, who says he lost four family members among hundreds of refugees suffocated, burned and shot to death in a U.S. Air Force napalm attack on their cave shelter south of Seoul in 1951.

Commission researchers have unearthed evidence of indiscriminate killings in the declassified U.S. archive, including a report by U.S. inspectors-general that pilots couldn't distinguish their South Korean civilian allies from North Korean enemy soldiers.

South Korean legislators have asked a U.S. Senate committee to join them in investigating another long-classified document, one saying American ground commanders, fearing enemy infiltrators, had adopted a policy of shooting approaching refugees.

The Associated Press has found that wartime pilots and declassified documents at the U.S. National Archives both confirm that refugees were deliberately targeted by U.S. forces.

The U.S. government has been largely silent on the commission's work. The U.S. Embassy here says it has not yet been approached by the Seoul government about compensation. Spokesman Aaron Tarver also told the AP that the embassy is not monitoring commission findings.

The commission's president, historian Ahn Byung-ook, said the U.S. Army helped defend South Korea in the 1950-53 war, but also "victimized" South Korean civilians. "We feel detailed investigation should be done by the U.S. government itself," he said.

The citizen petitions have accumulated since 1999, when the AP, after tracing Army veterans who were there, confirmed the 1950 refugee killings at No Gun Ri, where survivors estimate 400 died at American hands, mostly women and children.

In newly democratized South Korea, after decades of enforced silence under right-wing dictatorships, that report opened floodgates of memory, as families spoke out about other wartime mass killings.

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