Join 3,497 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


"Black Glasses Like Clark Kent"
January 8, 2012 9:55 AM   Subscribe

In 2004, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal broke. Author Terese Svoboda's uncle checks into a pyschiatric ward.

Her uncle Don - a successful, prosperous and charming extrovert, in the golden years of life - has plunged into a deep depression, triggered apparently by the publicity surrounding Abu Ghraib.

Terese Svoboda's father begins to illuminate the situation: her uncle was an MP in occupied Japan, working at a military prison housing wayward GI's. Although she views it as a nusiance, she agrees to try to write his story. Her uncle then begins sending her audio recordings on cassette, of his memories of his time in occupied Japan.

The final tape is blank, save for recorded exerpts of a radio program on Abu Ghraib. Her uncle then puts a shotgun into his mouth.

Ms. Svoboda then beings to dig: her uncle has planted a secret, and she is driven to try to find out what was really going on over there, to confirm the details he provided, to try to understand what drove him to suicide.

The resulting book is entitled Black Glasses Like Clark Kent.

When all is said and done, the smoking gun is ephemeral. What emerges is a picture of the occupation, where allied soliders conducted themselves with carte blanche capacity to do anything they saw fit to do, under a blanket of press censorship; of one where military justice was asymmetrically applied to african americans; one where executions were quietly carried out and largely undocumented.
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey (20 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow. Deep.
posted by ReeMonster at 10:18 AM on January 8, 2012


I don't find the sexual assaults all that surprising given the "we are the conquerors" attitude that US GIs arrived in Japan surely had. But the racial aspect is something I hadn't considered previously, since I assumed that most black troops were in the European theater. That so many were executed and lost to censorship or deliberate destruction of evidence is truly a war crime.
posted by tommasz at 10:46 AM on January 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Speaking as the son of a WWII veteran, it does not surprise me in the least that "The Greatest Generation" acted as bad as, or worse than, the Desert Storm Generation.

But remember, it was "The Good War". Bullshit.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:08 AM on January 8, 2012 [11 favorites]


... but America is still the moral leader of the world when it comes to war conduct, right?
posted by anaximander at 11:35 AM on January 8, 2012


.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:36 AM on January 8, 2012


During WWII, as many as one in eight US soldiers were court-martialed for crimes committed while in the service.

What?!!
posted by Seiten Taisei at 12:23 PM on January 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


During WWII, as many as one in eight US soldiers were court-martialed for crimes committed while in the service.


Ya, that drew my eye too.

Five months after the occupation began, one in four American soldiers had contracted VD.


[W]hile the U.S./Japanese-sponsored brothels were open “the number of rapes and assaults on Japanese women were around 40 a day,” but after they were closed, the number rose to 330 a day.

If there was 200, 000 US soldiers in Japan that would be 0.6 rapes per soldier, per year.
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 12:32 PM on January 8, 2012


There are no good wars.
posted by Avenger at 12:33 PM on January 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


If there was 200, 000 US soldiers in Japan that would be 0.6 rapes per soldier, per year.

If you average it out, yes, but not if you assume some soldiers committed assault/rape multiple times over that period.
posted by anaximander at 12:44 PM on January 8, 2012


>If there was 200, 000 US soldiers in Japan that would be 0.6 rapes per soldier, per year.

>If you average it out, yes, but not if you assume some soldiers committed assault/rape multiple times over that period.

In BGLCK, the author speculated that the number of rapes reported was probably well below the number that were actually committed, the same as in peacetime.
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 12:56 PM on January 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


P.S. read this book!
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 1:11 PM on January 8, 2012


When MacArthur responded by making both prostitution and fraternization illegal,18 the number of reported rapes soared, showing that prostitution and the easy availability of women had suppressed incidents of rape.

While this is exactly the result I would have predicted, I was not aware that the monstrous experiment had actually been performed to verify the result.
posted by localroger at 1:31 PM on January 8, 2012


Either way. Averaging works under equal and unequal distributions (cf the economics concept of GDP). 120,000 rapes may mean 60,000 who raped once or more, 30,000 who raped twice or more, etc. This would seem more consisted with human behavioural norms - everything, good, bad or indifferent, has power-law and bell curve distributions (and a few others).
posted by aeschenkarnos at 1:46 PM on January 8, 2012


With the crushing amount of dehumanizing propaganda that was produced, it would be arrogant to think that somehow Americans were superhuman and could shed those prejudices when faced with the actual humans they were told were subhuman.

Thankfully Svoboda's uncle made it out of his service alive. If he had killed himself during, or shortly after this may have never come out. The military at the time would probably have branded him a 'sad sack'.
posted by narcoleptic at 1:48 PM on January 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actual rapes always greatly exceed reported rapes; cultural factors amount to a multiplier effect. Post-occupation Japan, where the rapists are primarily occupying army personnel: likely to be a very high multiplier.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 1:58 PM on January 8, 2012


I remember a gathering where a few of my parent's friends had too much to drink, and discussion turned to the huge numbers if rapes in the U.S. occupied portion of Germany. I was 12, and probably if everyone had been sober I never would have known about this.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 2:01 PM on January 8, 2012


greatest generation
posted by telstar at 3:03 PM on January 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Emailing and writing to the historian at the 8th Army Public Affairs office in Yongsan, Korea was met with silence."

The leadership of the 8th Army needs to start getting calls from congressional offices.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:52 PM on January 8, 2012


oneswellfoop, the title of the book is actually _The "Good" War_, but unfortunately most people overlooked where the quotes are and missed Terkel's point. But I agree with you.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:08 AM on January 9, 2012


On Okinawa in 1960 the devastation from the bombings and fighting was still vividly clear ... in the landscape and in the people. Someday someone will produce the "American Raj" books - and maybe even the Merchant-Ivory films - of this 'empire heyday'. I hope they don't leave out any of the less savory details.
posted by Surfurrus at 6:40 PM on January 9, 2012


« Older Otters chasing a butterfly. (Why should cats have ...  |  The Comedian's Comedian's Come... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments