Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Fortune of War

   George Washington repeatedly referred to Prisoners of War (POWs) as people whom "the fortune of War" had thrown into their enemy's hands.  Captivity was not a moral judgment on the prisoners.
   In a March 1777 letter to British military commander Sir William Howe, for instance, Washington wrote of "my wish that every reasonable indulgence and act of Humanity should be done to those whom the fortune of War has or may put into our hands."
   Unfortunately, 2016 Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump spoke of military captivity as a mark of failure in a soldier, sailor or airman.  Especially unfortunate is the fact that Trump's remarks came at the expense of Senator John McCain (Republican-Arizona).
   Born in 1936, McCain represents a generation of Americans with a marked aversion to torture.  

Saturday, July 4, 2015

All Nations & Religions

   George Washington repeatedly spoke of the United States of America as a home for "all Nations & Religions."
   George Washington's idea of America included Jews and Muslims.

Monday, March 16, 2015

St Patrick's Day

     The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association honors Saint Patrick's Day by posting George Washington's General Orders of March 16, 1780, giving the Continental Army the day off March 17.  Referring to himself in the third person as he customarily did, General Washington wrote,

     The general congratulates the army on the very interesting proceedings of the parliament of 
Ireland and the inhabitants of that country which have been lately communicated; not only as they appear calculated to remove those heavy and tyrannical oppressions on their trade but to restore to a brave and generous people their ancient rights and freedom and by their operations to promote the cause of America.  

     The actions of the Irish Parliament prompted many Americans to hope that Ireland's independence was imminent.  On February 24, 1780, Philadelphia newspaper The Pennsylvania Packet published a November 17, 1779 letter from an unnamed crewman or officer from L'Orient, a ship commanded by John Paul Jones.  The writer exulted, "The Parliament of Ireland have acted with a degree of spirit, that surprizes every body.  On their meeting, instead of echoing back the Lord Lieutenant's speech, as is usual, they in their address to the King, demanded a free trade in every respect; and if this is refused them, there is no doubt but that they will declare themselves independent."
     During the Revolutionary War (1775-1783), Britain detained some captured American sailors in Ireland.  In December 1783, Washington assured an association of Irish immigrants that "the Hospitality and Beneficence of your Countrymen, to our Brethren who have been Prisoners of War, are neither unknown, or unregarded."
     Washington's letter is available online courtesy of PBS.  Read about the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association at their website, mountvernon,org.  For background on the office of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the British monarch's representative in the Kingdom of Ireland and the executive authority there, please read the entry at Wikipedia.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Infamous Decapitators Treated Kindly

During China's War Against Japanese Aggression (1937-1945), China's part in World War Two (1939-1945), Japanese soldiers became notorious for beheading helpless victims.

For the Allies, Japan's brutality was not an excuse to abuse Japanese Prisoners of War.

US interrogators hosted Japanese prisoners at "Camp Tracy," actually a luxury resort hotel at California's Byron Hot Springs.  US interrogators treated Japanese prisoners kindly, providing them meals cooked by Asian chefs and spa baths.

In 2010, former interrogator Al Nipkow told The San Francisco Chronicle that "as far as brutalizing anyone--there wasn't any question about that.  It wasn't allowed."

Please check Kevin Fagan, "Army official touts WWII's nisei interrogators," The San Francisco Chronicle, 24 January 2010, [accessed 12 December 2014].   The treatment of Japanese prisoners by Chinese guerrillas is mentioned in the second section of this post, "Treating Enemy Wounded."

Monday, December 8, 2014

Torture Endangers American Lives

   In a November 28, 1782 sermon of thanksgiving, Rev. John Witherspoon remarked, "The barbarous treatment of the American prisoners...will be a stain upon the British name to future ages."
   The United States tightened security at embassies around the world in preparation for the December 9, 2014 release of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on torture committed by CIA personnel in the years following the mass murder attacks of September 11, 2001.
   It is helpful to remember that it is not the Senate Intelligence Committee report that might inspire violence.  Advocates of torture claimed the torture and perverted sexual degradation would somehow save American lives.  Instead, torture is still endangering American lives, years after the torture happened.