For the test to come
WINSTON Churchill wrote that at the Tehran Conference in 1943, the Big Three powers discussed the pursuit of justice in the post-war days. How would the German command—military and political—be punished?
Marshall Stalin proposed executing 50,000 to 100,000 German officers.
The prime minister was stunned. He turned to the president. So FDR joked: Maybe we could get away with only 49,000.
Churchill had to be wooed back to dinner by no less than Uncle Joe himself, who insisted he was kidding. But who knows? Churchill claims Stalin’s proposal was, at first, dead serious. Emphasis on dead.
Yes, the Allies were planning for post-war trials before D-Day, even before Rome fell. By the time the Germans finally laid down their arms, the Allied lawyers were already preparing briefs.
These days, the world has another gang of fanatics controlling a country. And one day will surely find justice, too, as much as they’d like to avoid it. The world is taking notes. And preparing briefs.
There’s an outfit operating out of Seoul, South Korea, called Transitional Justice Working Group, and it’s funded by the National Endowment for Democracy and helped along by all kinds of do-gooder types. It has issued a new report, called the Mapping Project, which identifies locations in North Korea of killing fields and mass burial sites, and collects documents and eye-witness testimony about the goings-on in the Hermit Kingdom. One day, before a tribunal, this evidence might be necessary.
The report is basic lawyer- and engineer-talk about Google Earth, maps, prisons and cemeteries. Until it gets to testimony. Then it gets, as you’d expect, bizarre and grotesque.
Some of those former North Korean citizens/prisoners told the Mapping Project that the mountains around police stations are off-limits to civilians. North Koreans can’t even go for a hike in some parts of their country. The assumed reason for this is because the police bury bodies in the mountains. When they bother to bury them at all.
Escapees say there are all kinds of reasons why somebody might get the death penalty, including smuggling drugs, trying to escape one of the gulags after being thrown into one, watching a South Korean soap opera or any other TV show, selling copper, stealing rice, gang activity and even “damaging of state property,” as a young American named Otto Warmbier found out too late recently, or at least his family did. It should be noted that in North Korea, all property is state property, so watch your step. Top officials can be executed for having luxury goods, which is the only reason to be a top official in North Korea. It appears Lil’ Kim has you coming and going. The Longs of Louisiana only required you to pre-sign a resignation form as a condition of employment, thereby giving them the ability to dismiss you at any time. Lil’ Kim has the paperwork for your execution after you’ve signed for your yearly bonus.
More from the report:
“. . . . [O]ur interviewees stated that public executions take place near river banks, in river beds, near bridges, in public sports stadiums, in the local marketplace, on school grounds in the fringes of the city, or on mountainsides” where more people can watch the state’s punishment.
Yes, on school grounds. Apparently one part of the young’s indoctrination is watching executions at recess, the better to keep them a-feared of the state and truly loving Big Brother.
Of course, not everybody is hung, shot or placed before anti-aircraft guns. One witness recalls police beating to death a convict as means of execution, because “some crimes were considered not worth wasting bullets on.” But important enough to warrant the death sentence just the same.
The Mapping Project, its authors say, hope its work comes in handy one day for exhumations and “legal proceedings.” And maybe the project “will assist in designing a blueprint for processing the sites, and the resources that will be required for the efficient delivery of justice, reparations and memorialisation measures.”
That’s legalese for: We must document these crimes, for we have our own souls to think about.