War Criminal # 1


SIDESHOW by William Shawcross

When I first visited Cambodia in 1995, I arrived at Phnom Penh’s airport on a brutally sunny day. My sunglasses offered little protection against the glare and I stumbled toward the terminal seeking relief from the heat, then stopped upon seeing a small bus deboarding its young passengers. Every child was dressed in their best clothes. A flight attendant for Bangkok Air informed me that these children were flying to Thailand to be fitted with prosthetic limbs. Hopeful smiles disguised their the agony of missing arms and legs as well as the nervous anticipation of a long journey away from family and friends.

Amputees were everywhere in Cambodia and the mines laid during that long conflict reaped new victims without a vacation. People don’t express anger about Pol Pot, the mines, or the long war, almost as if it had happened to someone else or talking about the horror might bring back those years.

Not me, I’d be out for revenge and my #1 target would be Henry Kissinger, who was portrayed in William Shawcross’ book, SIDESHOW as the principal architect of Cambodia’s descent from a neutral monarchy to the Pentagon’s secret front of the Viet-Nam War.

Prince Sihanouk had kept his country out of the neighboring conflict by skillfully waltzing between the USA and Vietnamese combatants to maintain his dynasty’s reign over Cambodia. By 1970 this non-combatant status was unacceptable to the Nixon regime and Kissinger condoned the secret bombing of suspected NVA bases in what was known as the Parrot’s Beak.

Armed incursions followed in 1970 as well as an invasion. Sihanouk was deposed and supported the Khmer Rouge against the Lon Nol dictatorship. This country of rice paddies and flood plains joined Laos and Vietnam in the holocaust. As usual civilians paid the heaviest toll and the Nobel Institute disgraced itself forever by awarding Kissinger with the Peace Prize.

A little know fact is that Senator McCain’s father was the admiral directing the unauthorized bombing of Cambodia. He was offered his son’s release if the bombing stopped. It never did, because the USA doesn’t speak with terrorists, but worst than the bombs was what the Cambodian suffered at the hands of the Khmer Rouge and as of yet none of them have gone on trial.

The Khmer Rouge numbered in the thousands. They lived amongst the people like fish in water as suggested by Mao. Calls for justice are muted by the quiet resignation that righting a wrong was for big people and not poor peasants. No one was asking Kissinger to appear before a judge or the Chinese or the Vietnamese. The frontiers of guilt died at a country’s borders.

Back in 1982 I was working in Hamburg, Germany. A reporter friend took me to the trial of a Nazi. The accused must have been 80 and my friend said, “The Polizei found him hiding in a nursing home.”

Despite the horrors portrayed in SIDESHOW, the Cambodians are a much more forgiving people than others who have suffered through a holocaust, mostly because they have to live with the perpetrators. They love Americans and only a few older people have any idea about what Kissinger or Nixon did to them. The rest live life as best they can without any help from the bombers of 1970.

Along the path to Angkot Wat’s Bayon Temple a quintet of amputees plays traditional music. A tourist stopped to take a photo and the leader of the troupe asked the visitor’s nationality. When the middle-aged voyager replied Texas, the band struck up YELLOW ROSE OF TEXAS.

The tourist left a dollar and I left two.

Small reward for such forgiveness.

Forgetting is another matter saved for another time.

Steroid Cops On The Prowl

The Police have wage war on the lower classes for ages. Their provocateurs have instigated riots, their ranks are strengthened by racism, and the bosses reward their murderous attitude toward the underprivileged, however in recent years their brutal reign of terror against the black communities of America have come under scrutiny thanks to cellphone videos capturing the shootings and beatings of unarmed victims from Rodney King in LA to Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri or Tamir Rice in Cleveland or Eric Garner in Staten Island.

“He had a gun.”

This line of defense has been blindly accepted by White America, who view the Police as a defense against a black uprising seeking revenge for the centuries of slavery and oppression.

“I felt threatened by the suspect.”

The Police’s violent nature has been enhanced by Homeland Security training to consider all non-police or non-whites to be a terrorist and the addition of steroid abuse by the Police has given them itchy trigger fingers.

People are shot to be brought down for good and then left in the street to bled out like Akai Gurley in a public housing stairwell after he was killed by an NYPD officer.

NBC news described the shooting as an accident.

And who can forget Amadou Diallo’s murder when cocaine-high cops shot off 41 rounds at the unarmed street merchant and hit him 19 times?

His crime?

Nothing.

The demilitarization of the police and a strict ban on steroids are long overdue.

Plus they should no longer responded to 911 emergency medical calls.

They are only trained to kill.

Not serve.

Murderers.

Poor Tamir Rice.

Shot without a chance.

And the killers keep their jobs.

Shame.

Jill St. John

For crime against humanity Henry Kissinger is # 1 on my guillotine list.

It’s an impossibility, but I can dream.

Can’t I?

THE CALL OF WILD by Peter Nolan Smith


My life was once ruled by the night. I haunted concerts, bars, clubs, and parties from dusk to dawn from the 60s into the 90s. My retirement occurred around the turn of the century and the birth of my children completed the process, for I feared the Chris Rock’s curse of being the oldest man in the club.

Last night I came home from work. My plans for the evening were dinner, a little writing, a glass or two of wine, and then retire to bed to read THE SAVAGE FURY, a non-fiction book about racism, dirty cops, and injustice in New York of the 60s and 70s.

This destiny was disrupted by a phone call from the 347 area code.

A New York City cell phone.

I answered the call and a gravelly voice spoke several indecipherable words.

“Who’s this?” Only my wife called at his hour and I was a little annoyed, until I deciphered the thick Delta slang. “Homer, that you?”

“Course it’s me. Who you think it was?” Homer was a regular from Frank’s Lounge. The rest of the crew loved to rib him about his Deep South roots.

“Had no idea.” Homer and I had a bar stool relationship. 660 Fulton was our universe. He drank Beck’s. I was Stella. Our conversation were face-to-face. This was our first conversation on a phone.

“What’s up?”

“I got that thing.” His voice dropped to a whisper, as if his cellphone was taped by the NSA seeking ‘Ssippi separatists.

“Thing?” I was confounded by ‘thing’.

“You know, the shine.”

“Shine.” The syllable referred to the elixir of the South, Moonshine otherwise known as Mountain Dew or Ole Brokehead.

“What else you think I’m talking ’bout?”
Several months ago the bartender’s husband brought up several jars from NC. The ‘shine was favored with peaches. We drank the demon liquor with reverence and I remarked that I was in the market for some ‘shine. Homer had finally answered my need.

“How much?”

“A gallon for $35.”

“I’m in.” A liter of Scotch cost the same and I was stashing this ‘shine for an emergency and judging from the state of the world i.e. Japan earthquake, the rich having all the money, revolution in the oil states, and the rising cost of everything under the sun a gallon of distilled corn liquor was a good investment.

“I’ll be at the bar in an hour.” Homer was good to his word and he put the gallon of shine in my hands an hour later.

“It’s plastic.” I had been expecting a hillbilly ceramic jug

“Damn, boy, of course it’s plastic. Glass breaks.” He shook the bottle. “See them bubbles vanish quick. That means the ‘shine is strong.”

“And if you take a match to it and it burns blue, then it’s clean.” LA said from his computer. The forty year-old worked around the corner. His second office was the window table at Frank’s, which was my living room.

“Don’t you be lighting no matches around ‘shine in my bar.” Tyrone was in charge of the joint. ‘Shine was highly flammable and the health departments of the Deep South condemned the safety of drinking ‘white lightning’.

“Shine ain’t dangerous is you don’t mistreat it.”

“I seen friends drink themselfs blind, but that was a bad batch. This is a good ‘un.”
Homer lifted his finger. The Mississippian had earned his respect. He was seventy-five without a gray hair on his head. He leaned over to me and said, “Put that under the bar stool. You can only drink in a bar what the bar serves, unless Tyrone ain’t here and then we do what we want.”

“What proof is it?”

“I ain’t no chemist, but it’s probably 95% alcohol.”

“95%.”

“Maybe more. It ain’t no toy. Now do what I say and put it away before we start sippin’.”

I planted the jug between my feet. I had intended to go to sleep at a decent hour. I watched basketball until midnight and bid good-night to Homer, Tyrone, and LA.

“You be careful with that ‘shine.” Homer wagged a finger. “You got work tomorrow.”

“I’ll just take it out for a test-drive.”

“If it burns your throat it’s no good, but if it only burns in your stomach than it’s the real thing.” LA was a Lakers fan. I was die-hard Celtic Green. He was only worried about me, so he’d have someone to ride during the NBA finals.

“Thanks for the warning.” My place was a long two blocks away. Four beers ran through my system like liquid Drano, but the cops were patrolling my street for public urinators. At home I relieved myself in the bathroom and then cracked the cap of the ‘shine.

The fumes cleared my head.

A single sip quenched my curiosity, but I resisted the siren call of its magic.

The Call of Wild was for the weekend and then it was time to howl at the moon.

Yee-hah.

THE SMELL OF MOONSHINE by Peter Nolan Smith

Back in the late 50s my Irish grandmother took my older brother and me for a monthly visit to downtown Boston. We left from her house in Jamaica Plains and rode the trolley into Boylston Street. The El from Forest Hills to Washington Street was quicker, but Nana preferred the trolley. My late grandfather had driven them out of Forest Hills. Once on Washington Street she headed to St. Anthony’s Shrine for a ritual of lighting candles. The priest on duty heard her confessions. Her penance was five Hail Mary’s and one Our Father. Nana asked if we had been good boys. We nodded yes. At six and seven Frunka and I were too young to have broken any of the serious Commandments, especially since my childhood atheism was a secret to my family and friends.

Next stop was WT Grant for hot dogs and then we went over to the Orpheum Theater.

Nana liked handsome movie stars and she was particularly partial to Robert Mitchum. THUNDER ROAD was a hit in May 1958. The actor played a Korea war veteran running moonshine through the hills of Kentucky. A hot-rodded 1951 Ford, illegal whiskey, hillbilly gangsters, and a rocking title song.

“Don’t tell your mother about us seeing this movie.” Her accent was pure County Mayo.

“No, Nana.”

Neither of us were brought up to be rat finks.

We sat in the darkened theater and heard the rocking title song.

BALLAD OF THUNDER ROAD

And there was thunder, thunder over Thunder Road
Thunder was his engine, and white lightning was his load
There was moonshine, moonshine to quench the Devil’s thirst
The law they swore they’d get him, but the Devil got him first.

We left the theater singing the chorus. Nana warned us not to sing it in front of my mother.

“She doesn’t like whiskey.”

Years later I heard from my aunt that Nana had brewed whiskey and beer during Prohibition. Our Irish blood was true to our devotion to spirits. My juvenile encounters with alcohol were restricted to beer bought by the town bum, Red Tate, and hard liquor siphoned from our parents’ bottles. My next door neighbor and I rationalized this abasement of vodka saved the adults from drunken misbehavior.

Moonshine remained beyond our reach.

Only white trash drank ‘busthead’.

In 1970 I was attending BC. My college friends from the South extolled the virtues of ‘popskull’. Al Wincent and Hank Watson drove taxi together for Checker Cab in Boston. We were hippies, but liked to finish the night’s work waiting for the go-go dancers from the Combat Zone.

One night a blonde from Tennessee invited us to her apartment in the South End. We drank distilled alcohol from a jug. Its strength content was near-lethal, but Al slurred, “It might kick you in the head, but it doesn’t have the light. I can’t explain something you can’t touch unless it’s in your hands. Once you taste it, nothing else will taste like it.”

I accepted his explanation and in the summer of 1971 I hitchhiked to Virginia from Boston. The trip took 7 hours from Mass. Ave. to the Tap o Keg in Georgetown. Al was waiting for me. It was almost 1am, but the bars along Wisconsin Avenue stayed open until 4. The southern girls were friendly to long-hairs. A red-headed coed from hill country knew where to get some ‘shine. Her name was Billy.

Al made a call from the payphone and twenty minutes later we met a thick-tongued grit in a alley. He was standing next to a rusted Ford pick-up.

“You ain’t no revenuer?” His accent was Appalachian. He smelled like his burly body had been dipped in medicine. A .38 was in his waist.

“Jimbo, put away that gun. He ain’t no police.” Billy laughed at his accusation, but I understood his concern. The federal government frowned on the sale of untaxed alcohol.

“$15 for three.” Jimbo pulled a tarp off a crate in the flatbed loaded with clear glass jars. Al cracked one open.

“Smells like good shine. Watch.” Al lit a match to the liquid. A blue flame. “Good color. Won’t make you go blind.”

“That’s right.” Jimbo finished the transaction with the speed of a snake needing to take a piss. He drove away with a rumble. The V-8 under the hood was not stock.

“Here’s to ‘shine.” Al chugged a sip. His face went sour and then his body shuddered with spasms to every muscle. “Now that’s ‘shine.”

He handed me the open jar. I offered some to Billy. She waved it away.

“Ladies don’t drink ‘shine. It makes them crazy. You go right ahead.”

I brought the jar to my lips. Mountain Dew wasn’t made for sipping. I pour a good swallow down my gullet. White lightning splashed down my gullet and flashed against my spine.

“Now I understand.”

“I thought you would.” Al toasted my conversion to ‘shine.

Billy accompanied us through the night. She felt responsible for the two of us. The last thing I remembered was singing the chorus to THUNDER ROAD over and over until it faded to a mumbled lullaby. Morning came ten hours too early. I was in a strange bed in a woman’s room.

Al lay on the floor.

“How you feeling?” Billy lay next to me. She was older than us by a few years. 22 to our 19.

“Okay.” My hangover was survivable and I sat up in bed. There were no spins. “Did we drink it all?”

“Every last drop.” She pointed to the empty jar by Al. He looked comfortable in that position. “Your friend made sure of that. You feel like some breakfast.”

“Yeah, that sounds good.”

How about some bacon, fried eggs, and grits.”

A southern wake-up dish.

“Sounds even better.”

I was south of the Mason-Dixon line. My breath tasted of ‘shine. Billy’s accent was a drawl. Moonshine was good, then again I always knew it was, because like my Nana I liked Robert Mitchum too and he was a good ole boy.

To hear THUNDER ROAD by Robert Mitchum, please go to this URL;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdwUpxkfSJw