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Some weeks back I was sent, by a friend in England, a book entitled ‘The Language of Empire: Abu Ghraib and the American Media’. It was by someone called Lila Rajiva, but doubtless that was not the only reason to assume it would interest me.

I took some time to start on the book but, once I did so, it had to be finished. Published in 2005, it is a graphic and convincing account of the manner in which the Americans ignored all moral restraint in the war against terrorism they were engaged in.

That part was convincing, and simply fleshed out what one knows anyway, that countries in pursuing their own interests will stop at nothing. What was more startling was the suggestion that the wholesale prevalence of this absolutist mindset also represented a takeover of the ruling political dispensation by a culture of chicanery that strikes at the heart of supposedly predominant American values.

At the core of this transformation is the corporate supremacy represented most obviously by Rumsfeld and Cheney, and the takeover of much supposedly military activity by private contractors and special agents, who move with seamless dexterity from one world to another. Exemplifying this, and indicative of what C S Lewis would have described as a Hideous Strength which finds its own partisans dispensable, is the strange story of Nicholas Berg, the shadowy contractor whose beheading served to deflect the story of torture at Abu Ghraib, and in some minds excuse the institutionalized torture that was taking place there.

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Soon after the sensational Channel 4 film about Sri Lanka, I was sent by someone who seemed upset at this blatant effort to put our government in the dock a review of a book called ‘OTHER LOSSES: AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE MASS DEATHS OF GERMAN PRISONERS AT THE HANDS OF THE FRENCH AND AMERICANS AFTER WORLD WAR II’. It was written in 1989 by James Bacque and published in Toronto, but its findings are not at all well known.

I have not read the book myself, but what the review states is pretty startling. The subject of the book is ‘succinctly stated by Col. Ernest F. Fisher, a former senior historian with the United States Army, in the foreword’ –More than five million German soldiers in the American and French zones were crowded into barbed wire cages, many of them literally shoulder to shoulder. The ground beneath them soon became a quagmire of filth and disease. Open to the weather, lacking even primitive sanitary facilities, underfed, the prisoners soon began dying of starvation and disease. Starting in April 1945, the United States Army and the French Army casually annihilated about one million men, most of them in American camps.

Bacque’s own narrative is even more gruesome – ‘enormous numbers of men of all ages, plus some women and children, died of exposure, unsanitary conditions, disease and starvation in the American and French camps in Germany and France … The victims undoubtedly number over 800,000, almost certainly over 900,000 and quite likely over a million. Their deaths were knowingly caused by army officers who had sufficient resources to keep the prisoners alive’. Read the rest of this entry »

Rajiva Wijesinha

July 2019
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