BETWEEN FOUR WORLDS: CHINA, RUSSIA, JAPAN AND AUSTRALIA;
BETWEEN FOUR CAREERS: DIPLOMAT, ECONOMIST, JOURNALIST AND JAPANOLOGIST;
BETWEEN FOUR LANGUAGES: ENGLISH, CHINESE, RUSSIAN AND JAPANESE
Thoughts on Revolution and Violence
1. Japan's Red Army
2. Revolution, and Counter-Revolution
3. A Latin American Tragedy
4. Indochina: We Are All Guilty
5. Western 'Civilization'?
Soon after arriving in Japan in 1969 I had covered the so-called Kamata Senso (the 'war' at Kamata station) near Haneda airport.
The 'war' was a clash between hundreds of riot police versus thousands of students and radicals who had gathered near the station to protest Prime Minister Sato Eisaku's departure for the US to broker yet another deal involving Indochina.
Some time after midnight, when things were gradually winding down, I was standing next to a serious-looking student whose only crime was to watch with hostility as the riot police went about their business (one of their tricks was to tear open the blouses of the female protesters in an alleged search for the incriminating smell of petrol bombs).
Just looking with hostility, it seems, was enough for the police to grab the young man, upend him and throw him head-first into a wagon, breaking his glasses.
From there it could have been days in detention, with his name put on the blacklist of young radicals circulated to Japan's conservative employers.
I wondered how I would react to this treatment.
Interviewing Prime Minister Sato Eisaku - 1971
A generation of young Japanese left-wingers suffered far worse violence from the Japanese police in those days than anything I could see or imagine.
If some in revenge might have wanted to join the Red Army radicals in secret hill camps around Tokyo in the early seventies, blindly determined to hit back at the people who had hit them, would that be a surprise?
Some of those Red Army types destroyed themselves in the internecine fighting that usually plagues ideology-based movements. Forced into hiding, and the under constant threat of informers, any movement - Japanese movements especially - will tend to devour itself.
Eventually most were rounded up and thrown into jail, some for years.
But not before some had hijacked Yodo - a large JAL passenger plane - and had it flown to North Korea.
Some also fled abroad and tried to do more hijackings.
To this day they have not been forgiven for the crime of embarrassing the nation, even though there were few casualties.
(As for the far larger crime of supporting US murderous activities in Indochina, no one seems to have suggested that the authorities responsible should suffer any embarrassment, or any other punishment for that matter.)
Hundreds in Japan's several security organs have worked fulltime for years tracking down the Red Army remnants. Their relatives and friends have been detained for years on trumped up charges.
Western intelligence agencies happily joined the hunt.
Yet the people on the run included young men and women with an intelligence, toughness and moral sense far superior to that of the people employed to hunt them down.
One could see that even from the police face photos posted all over Japan, calling for their early arrest.
Maybe they included even that young man I had seen thrown into the police wagon.
The Climax of Violence
The Red Army affair reached its climax with the February 1972 'Battle of Asama Sanso'.
Six radicals on the run had barricaded themselves into a frozen mountain lodge below the volcanic Mt Asama outside Tokyo.
For over a week they held off the massed forces of Japan's riot police armed with fire hoses and wrecking balls, all before the concentrated gaze of a nation glued to its TV screens.
No one seems to have noticed that the six young people holding out for days against the wrecking balls and freezing fire hose drenchings showed far more skill and bravery than any of their well-fed, well-clothed and well-protected enemies outside.
But for the media the people outside were the brave heroes. The people inside were the cowardly villains.
The radicals were eventually defeated, of course, and their capturers were quick to boast their 'victory'. Police incompetence and cowardice throughout the affair were rarely mentioned.
The head of the police contingent, one Sassa Atsuyuki, has since been able to parlay his alleged skill and bravery during the siege into a 30 year career as an alleged expert on how to defeat terrorists, radicals, extremists and other revolutionary vermin, not just in Japan but around the world.
(For some reason I often find myself seated beside him in conferences and TV shows. His manner is invariably pleasant, uncomplicated, and ﾉ unfailingly dumb. He is typical of the many other establishment conservatives I have to relate to.)
(Incidentally, the same conservatives complain constantly about the weakness and lack of initiative in the younger generation. But the young radicals they sought to exterminate showed more guts and determination than any of Japan's wishy-washy younger generation today.)
Violence and injustice beget counter-violence, which then gives the authorities even more license to unleash even more violence and injustice.
The cycle gets underway and often can only end with the defeat of one side or the other - ruthless suppression versus bloody civil war or revolution.
Often the authorities have a vested interest in creating the counter-violence since it guarantees them budgets and employment, in Japan especially.
A bemused public condemns the counter- violence, with little interest in looking at how and why it all started.
It is one of the continuing atrocities of our age.
Japan's unthinking reaction to the Red Army affair was a microcosm of that atrocity.
2. Revolution, and Counter-Revolution
I mentioned earlier how during my stay in Moscow I would often find myself seated with others in student cafes. Toasts would be exchanged.
My favorite toast was za revolutsiyi, tam gdye ne buila revolutsiya, and za kontra-revolutsiyi, tam gdye uzhe buila revolutsiya.
Translated it became: For the revolution, there where there has not been revolution, and for the contra-revolution there where there has already been revolution.
Most were kind enough to laugh; Russians in those days were not the robots of much Western imagination.
But for an earlier generation, the revolution, and the sufferings imposed by those who would try to defeat that revolution, were no laughing matter.
The cycle of violence and counter violence that began in 1917 was brutal.
Yet in the West there is little understanding of the dreadful harm and injustice caused by its intervention on the side of the contra-revolutionaries.
An experience during that Moscow posting made a deep impression on me. I have written about it elsewhere in more detail (see my website under Quadrant - Western and other Brutality) but will repeat the main points here.
True, it is only the story of one man with one particular experience. But repeated thousands of times over it could explain why the communist revolution in Russia went so deep and the hatreds lasted so long.
In 1964, on a long train ride from Odessa to Moscow, I met by chance a former Russian Red Army fighter.
With much difficulty I got him to start talking. His story explains why he did not particularly want to talk to me, a Westerner.
Together with his young wife he had joined Trotsky's Red Army fighting desperately in 1918 against the combined forces of the Whites and the Western interventionist armies.
She had become a nurse on the Murmansk front, was captured by the British and handed over to the Whites for prompt execution.
(Later in Vietnam I to learn more about the charming habit of Western interventionist forces handing over for execution, or worse, nurses captured in the field hospitals of the so-called enemy.)
In his grief he had thrown himself into Communist Party activities, and had even helped in Stalin's anti-kulak purges of the 1930's.
He had never remarried.
Today he was totally disillusioned with Communism. But he still did not want to have anything to do with us Westerners.
If our cause was so virtuous, why did his wife have to die so miserably.
Many in the early Soviet leadership could relate similar experiences.
Anastas Mikoyan, the intelligent and affable Armenian whom surprised many in the West by his loyalty to the communist cause, had a little-known reason for that loyalty.
His older brother had been captured by British interventionist forces in Baku, and promptly executed.
At the time when I made that trip on the Odessa train, our Western rightwing intellectuals were producing volumes denouncing Stalin's crimes, and using them as a reason for encouraging even greater US efforts in Vietnam.
Why millions of Vietnamese should die because of wrongs committed by a sadistic Georgian dictator 30 years earlier in a very different part of the world was never explained.
Nor did any of our rightwing intellectuals want to understand how the cruelty and injustice of that 1918-20 intervention, in which Japan played a grisly but little-known role, might have allowed Stalin to unleash his crimes.
(In the Khabarovsk historical museum they have the photos of grinning peasant Japanese soldiers standing in front of the stacks of frozen corpses of the young students and other revolutionaries they had executed during their 1919-23 Siberian intervention.)
(Japan then went on to feel quite justified in committing every kind of brutality, including Unit 731 live vivisections, on Chinese with the courage to resist their cruel and illegal aggression.)
Cause and Effect
The concept of cause and effect should not be too difficult for mature adults to understand.
Yet when it comes to understanding the causes of revolutionary strife, small children squabbling over who hit whom first in a kindergarten spat often do better than our conservatives and rightwingers.
Even children understand that if you hurt people they will want to hurt back.
If you want to stop their attempts at retaliation, then simply stop trying to hurt them.
Our allegedly mature Western democracies are still struggling with that elementary concept.
During the West's long period of anti-Communist China hysteria in the fifties and sixties we were reminded constantly of Mao Tsetung's saying that 'all power comes from the barrel of a gun.'
It was used time and time again to justify suppression of leftwing insurgencies and revolts in much of Southeast Asia - Thailand, Malaya, Indonesia, the Philippines.
The claim that China was inherently aggressive was a key factor justifying the intervention in Vietnam.
Nobody ever bothered to look at the background to Mao's remark, namely the brutal Kuomintang massacres of the 1920's against pro-communists and other left-wingers who had been cooperating with the Kuomintang.
Mao was simply saying that the time had come to cease cooperating. Or rather, if you want to keep on cooperating, be prepared to be massacred.
Common sense, surely.
Yet in our allegedly mature Western democracies, Mao's words would be turned into a weapon to justify decades of anti-communist activity around the globe, in Asia especially.
Millions would have to die as a result.
A Western Failure of Intellect
For most of my adult life I have tried to understand why so many of our alleged Western intelligentsia seem unable to realize this simple law of cause and effect.
It is as if one runs into a mental brick wall the moment one tries to explain it.
Are they really so ignorant of the background to the various wars, revolutions, uprisings etc that have changed the world's political map so drastically?
Or is it simply an inability to realize that sometimes right and justice may not lie on our side, that sometimes it is with the other side?
For me, there have always been three simple criteria for deciding the legitimacy or otherwise of political violence - who started it, who is doing the most of it, and which side has to rely more on foreign support to continue it i.e. which side lacks popular support.
In the case of China the answers were clear.
The communists initially had hoped to gain support and power by cooperating and competing peacefully with Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist Party (Kuomintang).
Chiang's brutal suppression of his communist allies left the latter with no alternative but to head for the hills and try to create their own army.
In the vicious civil war that followed, Chiang's armies tried to wipe out all and any of those suspected of supporting the communists.
Even so, and despite massive US support, they could not prevail against their initially poorly armed opponents.
Which side was in the right? The answer should be obvious.
And yet many in the West would argue for years that the other side was in the right and deserved fullest support
In Vietnam the answers were even clearer. The Geneva Agreements of 1954 promised elections to decide the terms for reunification.
Saigon ignored that promise and set about suppressing and executing the many Hanoi supporters in the south of the country.
Those supporters somehow regrouped and with some support from Hanoi, which in turn had some support from outside, were able to prevail not only against the fully-US supported Saigon armies but the military might of the US as well.
Rarely in history has right and justice lain so firmly with one side in a civil war.
And yet once again our 'best and brightest' would get it wrong.
Elsewhere in Asia they would get it equally wrong.
True, some of the other leftwing or communist uprisings in Asia may have lacked the obvious popular support available to the communist side in Vietnam.
But the fact these uprisings could only be suppressed or checked with difficulty and with foreign, mainly US or UK, support suggests that they too deserved understanding.
Today, the world has little interest or sympathy for those who fought so hard, and died so miserably, in those conflicts, many hidden in the jungles of Southeast Asia.
An especially tragic struggle was that of the revolutionaries (mostly Chinese) in postwar Malaya. They had been the only people to fight against the former Japanese occupation.
(The Malays in general cooperated with the Japanese. The British fled.)
They felt entitled to claim independence.
Yet the British felt quite entitled to hunt down them and kill them like dogs.
(The defeat of that uprising was to do much to stimulate the tragic belief that the same kind of defeat could easily be imposed on other revolutionaries - in Indochina a decade later especially.)
Other conflicts equally justified and equally tragic have been virtually forgotten.
One I saw close up - the struggle by the overseas Chinese in Sarawak to resist the discrimination they would suffer from the British-imposed Malaysia concept.
Another also in 1962 was the Azahari revolt against Brunei's unpopular and totally non-democratic hereditary rulers, also suppressed by outside intervention.
Islamic uprisings in Asia and the Middle East - Afghanistan, Iran, southern Philippines - have met the same misunderstandings.
True, the Islamic uprisings do point to another caveat, namely that revolutionaries with a cause do often have an 'unfair' advantage over their pro-government opponents, since it is usually easier to stir up people to fight for a cause, any cause, than it is to bestir them to fight for a government.
So simply because the revolutionary forces win out over government forces does not automatically prove they deserve to win. It can also prove that they were more brutal or messianic than their pro-government opponents.
But in the case of China, and Vietnam especially, it is hard to argue that the pro-government side was unfairly handicapped by such factors.
Similarly with most of the other Asian civil war situations, including one that most fail to see as a civil war - the 1950-53 war in Korea.
There, like it or not, the balance of virtue clearly lay with the communist side at the time. It could easily defeat its opponents. It could only be defeated by massive US intervention.
None of this is to say that only leftwing/communist movements deserve success.
If those opposed to leftwing or communist regimes can gain enough popular support to overthrown the regime, they too deserve to be appreciated.
Counter-revolution also has its virtues.
The uprisings in East Germany and Hungary in the 1950's which could only be suppressed by Soviet intervention are good examples.
But to date we have not seen any such example in Asia, despite active attempts by outsiders to encourage such uprisings.
Much of the problem is the strange determination to see conflicts in foreign countries as some kind of struggle between good and evil.
Good lies 100 percent with the people on our side. Evil lies 100 percent with the others.
In Vietnam and to some extent China the reality was almost 100 percent in reverse. But that aside, it is true that there invariably are good people on the defeated side of domestic conflicts.
So what can we do to help them?
One is to accept them as refugees. But there are limits to our refugee generosity.
A better answer is to intervene to encourage separation.
Taiwan is a good example. The anti-communists in China deserved to be defeated in the civil war they had initiated.
But many of them did not deserve to be exterminated.
Able to flee to Taiwan, they were able to regroup and create in peace the kind of society which, if created earlier, could have helped prevent their defeat.
As mentioned earlier I tried hard in Australia to propose a similar solution in Vietnam in the sixties, but got nowhere.
Similar solutions in the former Yugoslavia could have prevented much of the subsequent suffering.
3. Latin American Tragedies
In Asia the revolutionaries were for the most part eventually to have the satisfaction of victory, even if they were also to suffer greatly en route to that victory.
In Latin America they were for the most part to be denied victory. They knew only suffering.
Yet in many cases their cause was as valid if not more so than that of their Asian equivalents.
The corruption and brutality of rightwing governments in Latin America gave progressives little choice but try to create opposition movements.
If they managed to gain power democratically, then, as in Guatemala or Chile, they were brutally overthrown by rightwing thugs backed up a democracy-touting US.
But for the most part such movements were banned or repressed well before they even looked like gaining power democratically. Death squads were one technique. Others were not much more attractive.
If they then felt they had little choice but to resort to arms, even if only to survive, they were then demonized as fearsome leftwing, pro-communist guerillas.
(In those days, before 'terrorist' became the buzzword, guerilla played a similar pejorative role.)
Our Western conservatives would wax indignant about the guerilla violence. They had little to say about the rightwing corruption and brutality that caused it.
Most of those who did resort to arms were quickly massacred or jailed, often with the help of our allegedly humanistic Western governments.
Only now, in places like El Salvador and Guatemala, are people beginning to realize what should have been obvious from the beginning - that the guerrillas should have been given access to the democratic process.
3. A Peruvian Atrocity
Japan still remains even more cruelly 'cause and effect' obtuse than most when it comes to understanding revolutionary or resistance movements.
In 1997, 14 militants from Peru's Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) stormed the Japanese Embassy in Lima, taking 400 guests as hostages at an embassy reception.
The militants were demanding release of their colleagues and wives being held in Peru's notorious prisons, or failing that, an end to the savage conditions under which they were being held.
The government of then president Alberto Fujimori had refused any concession.
As the siege on the embassy dragged into a third month, fury and tension in Japan were mounting.
(US angst over its diplomats being held as hostages in Iran was similar. Strange how our alleged democracies fuss over the alleged wrong of their nationals having to suffer inconvenience as a result of far greater wrongs committed against other peoples.)
(In Iran the reasons for the students wanting to occupy the embassy should have been clear - anger over the way the US had used that embassy to feed information and help to the dreaded Savak secret police busily torturing and killing opponents of the former regime.)
(The students even managed to reassemble the documents shredded by the embassy, to provide documentary evidence of this cruel and illicit activity.)
(At the time this very important fact - the abuse of embassy functions for intervention in the domestic affairs of a foreign country ﾐ got minimal coverage in the Western media.)
(Today it seems completely forgotten. But we are still told endlessly about the sufferings of US staff in the occupied embassy. )
As a member of a small Japanese Cabinet office think-tank being run inside Nihon Seimei, my advice on the Peru embassy drama was sought.
I said what I have always felt, namely that revolutionaries should always be given the chance to put down their arms and join in the democratic process.
Only if they refuse to do that do governments have the right to move against them.
This need for compromise was especially true in the case of the MRTA which, unlike Peru's Maoist Shining Path revolutionaries, had a record of relative moderation and seeking negotiations.
In exchange for a promise at least to improve prison conditions and to allow the MRTA to function as a legitimate political party, it was very likely they would agree to release the hostages, I suggested.
Tokyo should lean on Fujimori to do just that.
Needless to say, my advice was thoroughly ignored. Fujimori's military thugs stormed the embassy and killed all 14 of the militants, some in cold blood.
Japan was delighted.
Nowhere was there any hint of sympathy for the militants, most of whom were young and dedicated and included some women, and who had treated the hostages well.
It was a sickening rediscovery of just how easily Japan can lapse into its past unthinking hatreds for those who seem to harm its interests, even when they have good reasons to do so.
At the time I had a regular column in the otherwise reasonably progressive Tokyo Shimbun. I tried to explain the militants' position, and my proposed solution to the problem.
The Shimbun people made it clear they did not like what I was saying. My column was terminated soon after.
Years later under a better government, the Peruvians were able not only to indict Fujimori for corruption and murder but also to exhume the bodies of the 14 militants.
They were able to prove that some of them, the women especially, had been murdered outright, shot in the back.
All this coincided with the moves underway in elsewhere in Latin America to negotiate with suppressed revolutionary movements and bring them into the democratic process.
The crimes of previous rightwing regimes were being recognized.
But did we hear even a whimper of recognition from Japan that its former blood lust against the embassy militants might have been misplaced?
On the contrary. Japan turned round and provided the refuge needed to protect Fujimori from prosecution.
4. Indochina: We Are All Guilty
Blood lust is not confined to Japan. Over the revolutionary wars in Indochina the West, the US and Australia especially, have disgraced themselves even more.
In his book "About Face: The Odyessy of an American Warrior," David Hackworth, a decorated veteran of the Korean war, explains why he had resigned his Vietnam commission.
One incident he witnessed involved four North Vietnamese nurses captured in a field hospital during a raid into guerrilla-controlled territory. They were handed over to the South Vietnamese forces who had the charming habit of exploding US-supplied flares in the vaginas of captured women prisoners.
The heads of victims would be blown off by the force of the explosion.
Did any of our conservatives, right-wingers and other Vietnam War supporters even bother to read Hackworth's book, let alone be worried by its revelations?
But they could still tell you in excruciating detail the sufferings being imposed of Soviet bloc dissidents at the time - exile, incarceration in mental hospitals and so on.
Having one's head blown off by a flare in your vagina sounds a lot worse than being put in a mental hospital.
Worse, our conservatives and their militaristic friends paid for the flare.
I would have thought that if cruelty and injustice worry you, then your first responsibility is to stop the wrongs being committed by your own government and funded by your own tax monies.
Only then can you begin to condemn the wrongs of others.
In the acres of print about the so-called killing fields created by the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia in the 1980's, there is hardly any mention of the vicious US B52 bombing raids against the Khmer Rouge armies that went before.
Very few in the West seem interested even in knowing the results of such a raid - people reduced to pulped flesh in a matter of seconds, with many of the survivors in shock for years after.
For our conservatives and right-wingers the people being bombed are non-people. They only become people when they fight back in revenge, and then of course they deserve to be bombed again.
Then when those being bombed and re-bombed turn to vicious hatred and executions of suspected opponents, our societies wax indignant over the 'killing fields' horrors, with no memory even of the 'killing fields' they created earlier.
Sometimes I feel that the only answer to this blind inhumanity is for the people in the West to be forced to suffer the same treatment.
But on rare occasions when this happens - the 9-11 affair for example - the self-indulgent wailing and anger is unending.
In the large North Vietnam town of Vinh, for example, only one building was left standing after five years of constant bombing (its misfortune was to lie on the US bombing routes towards the Ho Chi Minh trail).
How many in the West are even aware of facts like this?
Laos had more bombs dropped on it than the whole of Germany during World War Two. And so on.
To this day there has been no apology for the bombings, defoliations, torture chambers and other atrocities across Indochina.
As for the US joining European groups trying to remove unexploded ordinance from the Plain of Jars in Laos? Forget it.
Today the world is genuinely shocked over what is happening in Sudan's Darfur region - pro-government planes and well-armed groups laying waste to defenceless villages and crops.
Calls for UN intervention, humanitarian aid, sanctions, war crimes trials are frequent - even though there are some genuine civil war elements involved in the Dafur tragedy.
And what, pray, was the global reaction when the US did exactly the same to large areas of Vietnam under its free-fire zone edicts?
There the unfortunate inhabitants could not flee to another country. They ended up have to live in underground tunnels, for years on end.
Did the people in the planes shooting, bombing and napalming anything that moved below them meet outpourings of indignation, calls for sanctions or threats of war crimes prosecutions?
Just to ask the question is to get the answer.
Nowhere in the minds of our Western policy- makers does one find any hint of embarrassment about having to rely on overwhelming force to gain a victory over far less well-armed 'enemies'.
Nowhere is there any hint of realizing the unfairness of the conflict.
On the contrary. If thanks to incredible bravery and skill the people being bombed and napalmed are able to fight back and survive, or even win, as in Vietnam, this is seen as somehow confirming their original evil.
One of the benefits of being a righteous conservative or a rabid hawk or just a Westerner is never having to say sorry. You know that right is on your side. You do not even have to think about what happens to the other side.
And we boast about the superiority of our alleged Western civilization.
In fact, we are all Nazis.
Evil In a Beautiful Place
In 1971, at the height of the secret Cambodian bombing, I visited Guam from Japan. The island is much larger and more beautiful that its tourist image allows it to be.
A Tokyo-based journalist friend with strong links to the US military, Doug Fane, was there at the time. He had arranged for me to get into the Anderson air base there to enjoy the steak dinner and the Filipino band.
(Fane was an ex-naval marine who talked often about his underwater raids into North Korean harbors during the Korean War.)
(Fane also enjoyed fame in Japan as the father of children borne by the subsequently well-known author and commentator, Kirishima Yoko.)
(She in turn gained fame by telling Japan how she was a mikon no mama ﾑ a mother with children born out of wedlock - something radically new to Japan at the time. )
(She probably forgets this but Fane once decided he should help her get a husband and arranged a very unsuccessful meeting for the two of us.)
At dinner in the Anderson base I got to talking with one of the B52 crews. They then invited me back to the barrack room they had to share. The sharing was to promote four-man B52 crew camaraderie.
Entering the room was bad enough - walls festooned with cutouts of Playboy nudes and genitalia above the bunk beds below.
Worse was to follow.
They got to telling me casually about how they would set out on their bombing missions early before dawn each day, fly for six hours, drop their bomb loads, turn round and head back home.
The big aim was to get back in time for the steak dinner and the Filipino band.
I asked one of them what they felt as they dropped their bombs. His reply: 'Just a lot of pretty green fields down there, pretty green fields.'
Rarely have I come so close to the face of evil.
Years later a brave AP reporter went into the area of south-east Cambodia they had been bombing. It was not just the pretty green fields that had suffered. Village after village had been destroyed.
There is no warning of a B52 attack. The planes are flying at such altitude you hear little. You have no time to escape before you are turned into pulp.
Strangely, no one uses the words 'killing fields' for the area of Cambodia that suffered that bombing.
Oh, and by the way, the bombing raids were completely illegal. The US was not in a state of war with Cambodia.
But for our conservatives, no doubt, that did not matter. The aim was to bring superior US -style values and civilization to Asia. Legality was irrelevant.
If you belonged to an ancient, peaceful civilization, defenceless against B 52 attacks by people obsessed with Playboy genitalia, then being destroyed by those B 52s was a crucial part of that civilizing US mission.
5. Western 'Civilization'?
Hypocrisy, barbarity, torture, napalm, B52 bombers, stupidity - these are just some of the gifts of our Western civilization in Asia.
Meanwhile we remain determined to ignore one of the most civilized acts of our age, namely the almost complete lack of revenge shown by the pro-Hanoi Vietnamese as they emerged victorious from their cruel, decade long struggle against the US-supported pro-Saigon Vietnamese.
Never in the history of bitter civil wars have we seen such civilized behavior by the winning side.
The Spaniards, for example, under Franco killed 100,000 of their own after their civil war.
Stalin killed countless millions, though most of that was for reasons that had little to do with revenge.
If you were part of a minority in the artificially incited civil wars of Croatia, Bosnia or Kosovo you had to flee or be killed. (In many cases, if you retaliated you were arrested as a war criminal.)
And the Vietnamese? The worst thing that could happen to someone from the other side was being sent to a re-education camp.
Yet even that was bitterly denounced by the our Western rightwingers who had remained so silent about the atrocities committed by our side previously.
Towards the end of the Vietnam War, rightwing commentators and 'experts' such as Australia's Denis Warner told us darkly of a future 'bloodbath' in the event of a Hanoi victory - warnings that were then used to justify even greater and more continued brutality against pro-Hanoi Vietnamese.
Having failed to get their bloodbath, the same people then turned round and joined the clamor against the re-education camps.
Before that they had told us how cruel it was that US airmen captured after their vicious bombing raids over North Vietnam had to suffer some discomfort and indignities in the 'Hanoi Hilton'.
Curiously the people worried about such terrible treatment against people on our side who were captured never managed to show much interest in the treatment of people on the other side captured by our side.
Most would be tortured viciously, often for days, before being killed or thrown out of helicopters.
Or have flares exploded in their vaginas.
That sounds a lot worse than having to spend a few years in the Hanoi Hilton.
A standing joke among the military in Saigon was the cub journalist who wanted to be taken to the camps for Vietcong prisoners of war.
Why Hanoi never sought to retaliate for this barbarity remains one of the greater mysteries of the 20th century. Something either very gentle or very civilized in the Vietnamese psyche perhaps.
Whatever it is, it was clearly superior to what those B52 bombers wanted to impose on the Cambodian people.
There is something sick in Western 'civilization', Anglosaxon 'civilization' particularly. The world will be a better place when it is radically and forcefully cured.
Belief in the superiority of the democratic system has created an ideology of superiority that prevents any need to consider the injustices imposed on others.
Thanks to its allegedly free press it has also created an ideology of triviality which prevents serious political debate.
Hopefully the confrontation with a powerful and equally dogmatic Islamic civilization will provide part of that cure. The rest could come from the humiliation of having to face up to the reality of Chinese power.
Once again we can expect Japan also to be actively involved, and once again on the wrong side.
If the West is to gain even a glimmering of humanity and logic, it needs to suffer decades of the same turmoil and oppression that it has tried to impose on others.
But even then it is doubtful if the wall of ignorance and inhumanity can be breached.
The French and the Dutch who had suffered so much at the hands of Nazi Germany were quite happy to turn round and impose even worse sufferings on the Vietnamese and Indonesian peoples once the war in Europe had ended.
What the French did in Algeria defies description.
The British were equally brutal in Malaya (and Kenya, we now discover) even if the world has yet to know the full details.
There is something seriously sick - evil even - in the Westerner's value system. It resembles the sickness and evil of the Japanese value system.
The Japanese at least had to suffer the shock of defeat. We Westerners have yet to suffer.
There is the story of the British journalist who interviewed India's Nehru after that nation's struggle for independence.
He asked Nehru what he (Nehru) thought of British civilization.
Nehru is said to have paused for a moment. 'Yes, it would be a very good idea.'