While the Assad regime continues its slaughter of Syrian children from the air and on the ground, the Media and some politicians have chosen to focus the world's attention on the depraved act of one rebel commander, Abu Sakkar, who posted a video of himself eating the heart he had cut out of the body of a dead enemy soldier.
One of the main things to understand about war is the extremes of brutalization and de-humanization to which it drives those who wage it. This is true even for those fighting a just war, like one to overthrow forty years of dictatorship. This would be reason enough to avoid all war, unfortunately, sometimes war is forced upon a people, as it was by Bashar Assad on the Syrian people.
The campaign to tar all the revolutionary fighters in Syria with the image of this one vile act has had some success because the video of it has been widely promoted by those seeking to undermine the people's struggle. It's too bad YouTube wasn't around during the American War against Vietnam because I'm sure that if videos of the following war crimes committed by US soldiers had been posted for all the world to see, that war would have ended a lot sooner.
From the American conduct during the War in Vietnam, here is my list of "Ten things worst than eating a dead man's heart." These selections come from the testimony given in Detroit, MI between January 31 - February 2, 1971. Known as the Winter Soldier Investigation, this hearing was organized by Vietnam Veterans Against the War at a time when the US was still fighting in Vietnam and even without YouTube, it helped to end the war.
One reason I think that these acts were worst than what Abu Sakkar did is that they didn't just represent the actions of a single demented soldier, these were acts by groups of Americans, often with officers present, that there so pervasive as to be considered SOP (standard operating procedure). They represent just a small number of the more than 3 million Vietnamese killed in that war. This is how meanly they were killed.
Some video of this testimony also appears in my film Vietnam: American Holocaust:
1 Scott Camil, 24, Sgt. (E-5), 1st Bn., 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division
The calling in of artillery for games, the way it was worked would be the mortar forward observers would pick out certain houses in villages, friendly villages, and the mortar forward observers would call in mortars until they destroyed that house and then the artillery forward observer would call in artillery until he destroyed another house and whoever used the least amount of artillery, they won. And when we got back someone would have to buy someone else beers. The cutting off of heads--on Operation Stone--there was a Lt. Colonel there and two people had their heads cut off and put on stakes and stuck in the middle of the field. And we were notified that there was press covering the operation and that we couldn't do that anymore.
2 Joe Bangert, 22, Sgt. (E-5), VMO-6, PMAG-39, 1st Marine Air Wing, 1st Marine Division (October 1968 to October 1969)
The first day I got to Vietnam I landed in Da Nang Air Base. From Da Nang Air Base I took a plane to Dong Ha. I got off the plane and hitchhiked on Highway 1 to my unit. I was picked up by a truckload of grunt Marines with two company grade officers, 1st Lts.; we were about 5 miles down the road, where there were some Vietnamese children at the gateway of the village and they gave the old finger gesture at us. It was understandable that they picked this up from the GIs there. They stopped the trucks--they didn't stop the truck, they slowed down a little bit, and it was just like response, the guys got up, including the lieutenants, and just blew all the kids away. There were about five or six kids blown away and then the truck just continued down the hill.
3 Joe Bangert, 22, Sgt. (E-5), VMO-6, PMAG-39, 1st Marine Air Wing, 1st Marine Division (October 1968 to October 1969)
Also in Quang Tri City I had a friend who was working with USAID and he was also with CIA. We used to get drunk together and he used to tell me about his different trips into Laos on Air America Airlines and things. One time he asked me would I like to accompany him to watch. He was an adviser with an ARVN group and Kit Carson's. He asked me if I would like to accompany him into a village that I was familiar with to see how they act. So I went with him and when we got there the ARVNs had control of the situation. They didn't find any enemy but they found a woman with bandages. So she was questioned by six ARVNs and the way they questioned her, since she had bandages, they shot her. She was hit about twenty times. After she was questioned, and, of course, dead, this guy came over, who was a former major, been in the service for twenty years, and he got hungry again and came back over working with USAID, Aid International Development. He went over there, ripped her clothes off and took a knife and cut, from her vagina almost all the way up, just about up to her breasts and pulled her organs out, completely out of her cavity, and threw them out. Then, he stopped and knelt over and commenced to peel every bit of skin off her body and left her there as a sign for something or other and that was those instances.
4 Scott Camil, 24, Sgt. (E-5), 1st Bn., 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division
I saw one case where a woman was shot by a sniper, one of our snipers. When we got up to her she was asking for water. And the Lt. said to kill her. So he ripped off her clothes, they stabbed her in both breasts, they spread-eagled her and shoved an E- tool up her vagina, an entrenching tool, and she was still asking for water. And then they took that out and they used a tree limb and then she was shot.
5 Charles Stephens, 24, Pfc. (E-3), 1/327, 101st Airborne Division (December 1965 to February 1967)
So, every operation we went on after that, after our Happy Valley, they didn't believe our body counts. So we had to cut off the right ear of everybody we killed to prove our body count. I guess it was company SOP, or battalion SOP, but nothing was ever said to you. Guys would cut off heads, put them on a stake and stick a guy's _____ in his mouth.
6 Michael Hunter, 24, Sgt. (E-5), "B" Co., 5/7 Air Cav. Reg., 1st Air Cav. Division (February 1968 to February 1969); "H" Co., 75th Rangers, attached to 1st Air Cav. Division; "I" Co., 75th Rangers, attached to 1st Infantry Div. (September 1969 to March 1970)
After the fire fight was over and the NVA were laying on the trail, we would approach the bodies, we'd shoot again to make sure that they were dead and then we'd carve--and I would say we, meaning myself also--carve Cav. patches (what you see on that gentleman's arm right there) into his chest. And after that, if that wasn't sufficient (and this was done quite a few times) the heads of the bodies were cut off and they were placed on stakes, jammed down on stakes, and were placed in the middle of the trails and a Cav. patch was hammered into the top of his head, with Bravo Company's "B" written right on the top. Now this hasn't happened just once or twice, it happened five or six times. It didn't happen just in Hue, Phu Bai, it happened around the Tay Ninh Province also, when the First Cav. moved north or south. We also dug up bodies, bodies that had been dead, gone for about three or four weeks when we weren't making that much contact, and we would take the skulls and do the exact same thing--put them on the stakes on the trail, put another Cav. patch on it, plus we would use them for body counts, repeated body counts, and what I'm saying, so no one will just misquote me, is that the body count given to the American public is extremely exaggerated.
7 David Bishop, 21, L/Cpl., "H" Co., 2nd Bn., 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division
We came across four NVA nurses that were hiding out in one of the bunkers. They were nurses, we found medical supplies on them and they had black uniforms on. The ROK Marines came up to us and one of their officers asked us if they could have the NVA nurses, that they would take care of them because we were sweeping through the area, and that we couldn't take care of any POWs. So, I imagine, that instead of killing them, we handed them over to the ROK Marines. Well, we were still in the area when the ROK Marines started tying them down to the ground.
They tied their hands to the ground, they spread-eagled them; they raped all four. There was like maybe ten or twenty ROK Marines involved. They tortured them, they sliced off their breasts, they used machetes and cut off parts of their fingers and things like this. When that was over, they took pop-up flares (which are aluminum canisters you hit with your hand; it'll shoot maybe 100-200 feet in the air)--they stuck them up their vaginas--all four of them--and they blew the top of their heads off.
8 Jamie Henry, 23, Sgt., 1/35 Inf., 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division (August 1967 to August 1968)
The order that came down from the colonel that morning was to kill anything that moves, which you can take anyway you want to take it. When the captain told the lieutenant this, the lieutenant rang off. I got up and I started walking over to the captain thinking that the lieutenant just might do it because I had served in his platoon for a long time. As I started over there, I think the captain panicked, he thought the lieutenant might do it too, and this was a little more atrocious than the other executions that our company had participated in, only because of the numbers. But the captain tried to call him up, tried to get him back on the horn, and he couldn't get a hold of him. As I was walking over to him, I turned, and I looked in the area. I looked toward where the supposed VCS were, and two men were leading a young girl, approximately 19 years old, very pretty, out of a hootch. She had no clothes on so I assumed she had been raped, which was pretty SOP, and she was thrown onto the pile of the 19 women and children, and five men, around the circle, opened up on full automatic with their M-16s. And that was the end of that.
9 John Mallory, 24, Captain, 1st Sq., 11th Arm. Cav. Reg., 1st Air Cav. Division (May 1969 to May 1970)
On one occasion, a North Vietnamese Army nurse was killed by 11th Armored Cavalry troops; subsequently a grease gun of the type used in automotive work was placed in her vagina and she was packed full of grease. On several occasions, enemy graves were violated, their skulls taken out of the graves and used as candle-holders and conversation pieces.
10 James Mackay, 20, Sgt. (E-5), HHQ 3rd Brigade, 9th Inf. Div. (October 1968 to August 1970)
Explosives have been put in the dumps for the purpose of exploding and injuring men, women, and children while they're going through the trash.
Robert S. Craig, 23, Pfc. (E-2), 2nd Bn., 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division (August 1966 to December 1967)
I was stationed in LS St. Barber, roughly between the months of March and August 1969. And it was battalion-originated policy to mortar the neighboring dump on the pretext "the gooks are scavenging food." It was proven that it was civilians from the town of Loc Minh. Roughly two a week were killed and occasional injury was often treated at the battalion first aid hootch.
Michael McCusker, 29, Sgt. (E-5), Public Information Office, 1st Marine Division (1966 to 1967)
Now the first one took place around September 6th or 7th 1966 about ten miles northwest of the Province capital of Tam Ky near the mountains. It was in a pineapple forest and a Marine had just been killed. He had been hit by a sniper and the entire battalion, in revenge, destroyed two entire villages, wiping out everything living, the people (and that was men, women, their children), all their livestock, burning the huts, destroying the paddies, their gardens, their hedgerows, just wiped them out--erased them. They did not exist the moment after the Marines were finished and they might never have existed. The next instance happened also in the same month of September when a squad of nine men, that was a Chu Lai rifle squad, went into this village. They were supposed to go after what they called a Viet Cong whore. They went into the village and instead of capturing her, they raped her--every man raped her.
Kenneth Campbell, 21, Cpl. (E-4), "A" Btry., 1st Bn., 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Div., scouted for "B" Co., 1st Bn., 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division (February 1968 to March 1969)
A particular way that the people I was with got rid of bodies was on Operation Meade River in November '68. There were some mutilated bodies. The Engineers blew them with C-4. They put 40 pounds of C-4 underneath the bodies and blew them. This was done for kicks; not just to dispose of them, but for kicks, to watch them go up.
James Duffy, 23, SP/5 (E-5), 228 Avn. Bn., 1st Air Cav. Div. (February 1967 to April 1968)
Also in Hue, during the Tet offensive in '68, I observed American fighters and bombers (Phantoms) dropping bombs and napalm into very crowded streets full of civilians. I don't know how many people were wiped out in that place. They blamed that on the NVA. Also, I was flying tail gun at the time on one mission into Hue, and just for kicks, the pilot told me to spray a house with my M-16. I don't know if the house was occupied, but the area was occupied by civilians. This was common policy. Kill anything you want to kill, any time you want to kill it, just don't get caught.
Most Americans were horrified when hearing about the cannibalism of Abu Sakkar. Most Americans might think US Marines would never do anything like that. They are wrong. The longer we allow Bashar al-Assad to brutalize his people, the greater the intensity with which that brutality will ultimately be reflected back upon the world.