Topic: Making Use of History
Books: We ARE the good guys, and always have been...
Robert Lilly, criminology professor at Northern Kentucky University, has a book not yet published here - perhaps the translation is not quite complete.
La Face cach?e des GI's. Les Viols commis par des Soldats Am?ricains en France, Angleterre et en Allemagne pendant la Seconde Guerre Mondiale 1942-1945
Paris: ?ditions Payot et Rivages, 2003.
Pr?sentation : Broch? - 445 g - 14 cm x 22 cm
ISBN : 2228897558 - EAN : 9782228897556
The GIs' Hidden Face?
What is this about?
A commentary at alapage.com:
Ah, but if your French is not up to speed today, the Associated Press has you covered.
See U.S. GIs in France: 60 years later, some are exploring the downside
Jamey Keaten, Friday, June 04, 2004
The AP item has been picked up in the Canadian press, by Fox News, and by the Boston Herald and The Guardian and most every service out there.
It opens like this:
This is not "The Greatest Generation" stuff, obviously. But the fellow from Kentucky is quoted as saying, ""There is a great, ugly underbelly that has not been really explored."
Well, yes, this could be.
But our troops were greeted pretty warmly. That is not in dispute.
So do we stretch the parallel to fit - France at the end of WWII and our "bad apples" (and their leaders) doing awful things in that prison outside of Baghdad?
The AP writer suggests there are limits to the parallels with Iraq.
But the fellow from Kentucky contends that while there were rapes (les viols) by GIs in France, the number of cases "skyrocketed" when U.S. soldiers rolled into Germany and the war was wrapping up.
How does he know that?
It seems Lilly says he was inspired to examine rape by GIs from stories by his father and uncle, both Second World War veterans. (Curious family revelation, that!) And Lilly estimates there were 3,620 rapes by U.S. soldiers in France from June 1944 to June 1945 - and apparently he was using military records as his source.
Why would he use military records? Funny thing - it seems things were a bit different back then.
It seems times have changed. We have three guilty pleas in the prison scandal so far. Executions? No - dishonorable discharge and loss of pay will do these days. Is that progress? Perhaps so. Perhaps not.
But then again, the French summary comments on this - les sanctions militaires chang?rent ?galement, les punitions refl?tant la diff?rence de perception que les Am?ricains avaient des param?tres id?ologiques de chaque pays, de ses habitants et de ses r?fugi?s....
We severely punished those who raped and otherwise abused the French and Germans. We understood the ideology of those countries - and we knew these folks. We had centuries of experience with them. They were a bit like us, really. The French helped us in our revolution. The Germans supplied mercenaries to help out Washington. They were us - as we are a nation of immigrants, and mostly European immigrants. We don't "get" Arabs and Muslims in this way. They lose. The punishment matches what we understand of the people who were wronged.
Anyway, how does one explain what happened then, since we are having a national debate over how to explain what's happening with the prison abuse business right now?
Elizabeth Coquart, the journalist quoted above, says only a "handful" of GIs, about one per cent of those stationed here until France set up its own government in 1946, were involved in misbehavior and crime. And AP runs this by Peter Caddick Adams, a military historian at Britain's Royal Military College of Science, and he says, well, the guys were bored - "When you get a lot of bored rear-echelon troops with a lot of time on their hands, you get excesses of behavior."
Ah, yes, I suppose you do.
But what else was different then? Well, there were posters in police stations across France that reminded the local officers not to prosecute GIs suspected of wrongdoing but to hand them over to U.S. authorities. I guess the idea was that everyone knew the United States didn't tolerate such stuff and would take care of the misbehaving occupation troops, and severely punish the bad apples, so the speak.
No one believes that now. That is not going to work in Baghdad, particularly after the June 30 change in status. No way. It's almost like no one trusts us any more. Now, why would that be?
But here's a classic French existentialist shrug - Elizabeth Coquart, the journalist quoted above, says this sort of thing is, well, just what happens: ""It was just the behavior of an army that, like any victorious army, feels authorized to do anything it wants: taking women, taking the spoils... It's the prize of many armies."
We're no different? George says we are.