Archive | September, 2013

The Night Pol Pot Died: Excerpts from unpublished manuscript “SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL: A JOURNALIST’S MEMOIR INSIDE POL POT’S KHMER ROUGE” By Nate Thayer

28 Sep

The Night Pol Pot Died: From the Jungles of Northern Cambodia

By Nate Thayer


(Copyright Nate Thayer. All rights reserved. No publication or transmission in whole or part allowed without express written permission of the author. Excerpts from the unpublished manuscript “Sympathy for the Devil: A Journalist’s Memoir from Inside Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge.”)

By Nate Thayer

I was alone in a hotel the night Pol Pot died, in the small, remote Thai border town of Surin, abutting the Khmer Rouge controlled jungles of Cambodia.

I had been urgently summoned by the Khmer Rouge a few days earlier in a phone call which betrayed no specifics of why they wanted to see me, only that it was urgent. General Khem Nuon, the Khmer Rouge army-chief-of-staff and top field commander for Ta Mok had said only: “What you have been asking for we have agreed to.”

I took that to mean that I had been granted another interview with Pol Pot, but I was to learn it was even more significant. They had decided, as I had been pressing them for months, to turn Pol Pot over to the international community to face a trial.

I was summoned to discuss how to actually handle the logistics of handing over Pol Pot. It was an attempt to play their last card to garner international support and stem metastasizing mutinies and all out warfare raging in their jungles which threatened to finish their organization for the final time.

I had spent several days along the Thai-Cambodian rebel held border discussing their plight and interviewing their top cadre. Earlier that day I had filed a story with my magazine, the Far Eastern Economic Review, on the Khmer Rouge decision to hand over Pol Pot. The Review went to press at 6:00 pm Hong Kong time on Wednesdays—this one being that day–the 15th of April, 1998.

“We have decided to turn Pol Pot over to the Americans. But we can’t get in touch with the Americans. We discussed it again this morning and Ta Mok agreed. So we want to give him to you,” said the guerrilla commander.

I was, to put it mildly, momentarily flummoxed.

What the fuck was I supposed to do with Pol Pot? Put him in the back of the pickup truck and take him to the Far Eastern Economic Review office in Bangkok? It was not part of my job description. I suggested they should promptly get in touch with the International Committee of the Red Cross and gave him the appropriate contact details. “That is a very good idea!” Khem Nuon responded.

There were other details, but I knew that the decision to turn over one of the century’s most egregious perpetrators of crimes against humanity to face justice was a very good story indeed.

The magazine released the highlights of the story in a press release that night, April 15, 1998, at 5:00 pm Bangkok time—6:00 pm Hong Kong time. It was picked up immediately by the international wire services, shooting high up in the top world stories, and broadcast by the Voice Of America at 8:00 pm Cambodian time on their Khmer language service, which Pol Pot had told me he listened to, religiously, every evening.

17 minutes after Pol Pot died—at 10:32 pm on 15 April 1998—my mobile phone rang in my hotel room.

Reaching past the half-empty bottle of fake Johnny Walker Black whiskey on the bedside table, I grabbed the remote, muted the volume of CNN blaring on the television, and answered the phone.

“My friend, Pol Pot is dead!” said Gen. Khem Nuon, my good friend and the top khmer Rouge military field commander, in an urgent whisper. “He died a few minutes ago.” He was calling on a Chinese military radio phone from the jungles a few kilometers away across the Thai border.


While the Khmer Rouge always whispered, they were rarely breathless. Nuon was desperate and looking for guidance. “What should I do?” he pleaded. “You must tell the Americans and you must come here immediately!”

It was an example of the murky terrain I had assumed in my only true role as a journalist, but in the final days had morphed into the  chief liaison with the rebels and the outside world in their final months.

As I listened to the Khmer Rouge army commander, Monica Lewinsky splashed across the muted screen of CNN International Headline News, the world news, that night, dominated with the criminal punishment and attempts at removal from power of  US president Bill Clinton, the most powerful man on earth, for his indiscreet blow job with a young intern. That story would continue to tower over the story of the demise of Pol Pot, a man who had been one of the century’s most notorious despots.

General Nuon called, mainly, because he knew I would want to know. He was both a killer and my friend. Nuon always tried his best to be helpful. I had spent countless days and nights over the last months with Nuon explaining how the world worked outside the jungles he had called home for thirty years. His appetite for and curiosity for ideas and the new-fangled world was insatiable.

It equaled my thirst for knowledge of his movement, its inner workings and history. He had commanded the troops that overthrew Pol Pot the year before, in June 1997, and therefore Gen. Khem Nuon had risen as the top field commander of all Khmer Rouge troops. With his formidable language skills and new role as chief field commander of rebel troops, he was for the first time able to clandestinely leave the jungles he had called home for decades and travel for covert meetings in Thailand, where he was escorted by a special unit of Thai military intelligence operatives who closely monitored the routines, movements, and intentions of the outlawed guerrilla faction.

Nuon was also receiving medical treatment in Bangkok at a Thai military facility for a cancerous thyroid. He would always come to my house and, over copious amounts of hot tea with lots of sugar, spend hours talking about life. He reveled just to be free from the harsh deprivations of the jungle.

Gen. Khem Nuon had come to rely on me, and me on him, since July 1997 as we spent countless days and nights sharing thoughts and information. “We will be friends forever!” he would often say to me with a broad, gentle grin, squeezing my hand and hugging me. He was bright, gentle, hard working, kind, and a natural leader of men. He was also the top armed commander of one of the world’s most brutal political movements.

General Nuon personified the contradictions within the Khmer Rouge movement that allowed them to be such a formidable political force twenty years after having committed the most despicable state ordered crimes against humanity leaving 1.8 million people–20% of their population—dead in 3 years, 8 months, and 20 days in power. Despite their atrocious human rights record, it was decent, good men like General Nuon who allowed the Khmer Rouge to garner considerable popular support in the years after ruining the lives of millions.

He represented to me the contradictions in my own mind that I had developed for the Khmer Rouge—on one hand respectable and impressive and on the other hand unspeakably brutal and offensive. I was very fond of Nuon and him of me, despite the fact, in truth, I had grown to collectively detest everything that Cambodia had become.

There was symbiosis in my relationship with the Khmer Rouge: They needed me and I needed them and neither of us trusted each other.

While competent jungle fighters, these were peasants, mostly rice farmers turned guerrillas, but their ranks were also filled with the best and the brightest of Cambodia who had fled to the jungles as youth 30 years before to join the revolution. Nuon, and most others in the Khmer Rouge hierarchy in the Cambodian jungles, had no exposure to how the world worked outside their jungle, where most had lived there entire adult lives. In the years preceding, they had come to largely rely on me to both interpret how the outside world worked and thought for them and, simultaneously, take their message to them.

After Nuon called me with the news of Pol Pot’s death at 10:32 PM April 15, 1998,  I knew I would not have to tell the Americans that the mass murderer Pol Pot was dead. Moments after I hung up, an American intelligence officer charged with following Khmer Rouge developments called me on my cell phone from Bangkok. He wanted to know if I had heard “rumours” that Pol Pot was dead. Nuon’s phone was tapped, as I knew mine was, and the American spy wasn’t fooling, or trying to, either of us. It was a game whose rules I had long before learned and understood.

But he also knew that a monitored phone conversation between a guerrilla commander and a journalist was insufficient to confirm such an historic event. They, as I, needed proof. To be sure this wasn’t some kind of political trick, someone independent and credible needed to go back to the jungle and provide details and evidence of what had happened.

The American asked me if I could bring Pol Pot’s body back from the jungle to Thailand,  if possible, he said, or, at the least, some forensic material. “If you can’t do that, maybe you could cut off one of his fingers,” he suggested seriously, in an only fleetingly embarrassed tone. This was not abnormal. I thought it quite a reasonable suggestion. I told him I would do what I could. He needed to get Washington hard evidence of what had happened in these jungles inaccessible to them, and his crude suggestion didn’t faze me at the time at all. The American was a top notch military intelligence officer, very bright, spoke fluent Thai, and had excellent relations with the Thai military. I had the greatest respect for him and his job.

The Americans had political restraints and could not simply show up at Khmer Rouge field headquarters, but I didn’t. I requested he make a phone call to the Thai military to encourage them to let me cross their borders at dawn with direct permission from the highest command, into the Khmer Rouge zones. The American promised to put in an urgent good word to facilitate my crossing through the heavily guarded Thai military checkpoints, through which all unauthorized persons were forbidden to pass. The road to Anlong Veng was a well hidden dirt path set off a remote road that hugged the unpopulated, jungle-clad Thai Cambodian border marked by a steep mountain escarpment. These rutted narrow paths were bordered by a towering jungle canopy and weaved through eerily silent thick tropical forests void of any human presence. It was a no-man’s land for miles after the last Thai checkpoint and before populated areas of the Khmer Rouge controlled jungle bases in Cambodia. The areas between frontlines are always the most dangerous, fraught with vulnerability from roving bandits, landmines, and ambush from a wide potential cast of characters.

While the Khmer Rouge wanted me to come, and Gen. Nuon controlled the troops at his jungle checkpoints, crossing out of Thailand into Khmer Rouge territory required another set of permissions.

A few moments after I hung up with the American spook, the assistant of the Thai army commander-in-chief called. It was close to midnight now. He told me, without me even making the request, I was granted permission personally from the Thai army commander-in-chief, who I had known personally for years. He had been a mid level Thai army Special Forces commander. The Thai’s, also, wanted me to venture into the midst of a then heavily embattled war zone on the mountains across the borders from Thailand to find Pol Pot’s body. The Thai army commander in chief general was highly respected for his professionalism and honesty and previously was in charge of Thailand’s important and complicated efforts during the Cambodian covert war from 1979 throught 1992. He then headed army intelligence before rising to overall army commander, one of Thailand’s most powerful positions. He later became Prime Minister of Thailand after a military coup overthrew the elceted civilian government.

His aide gave me the name and mobile phone number of the commander of a highly secret Thai military unit who I knew only by reputation. Regiment 16 was based in a remote location along the border and charged with the extremely sensitive task of controlling all access to and liaison with the Khmer Rouge, escorting them on their forbidden trips to Thailand and entering the Khmer Rouge zones with relative free will. Regiment 16 officially didn’t exist and performed functions Thailand officially denied it didn’t engage in. He said the Colonel was already instructed to meet me at a specific gas station at dawn

Neither the Thais or the Americans wanted to be seen as involved in what surely would be an extremely high profile event that would soon, I knew, dominate world headlines and attract scores of journalists to the border area. The Thais had long denied they had direct dealings with the Khmer Rouge, loathed the periodic public fallout from revelations to the contrary, and were under intense international scrutiny and United Nations official directive to not assist them.

My trip across the border from Surin in Thailand to Khmer Rouge zones was not a new scenario. I had made these forays many times before. And both the Thai and American intelligence officers trusted me. I could have burned them all many times over the years, and I never did.

I never revealed how I accessed the guerrilla zones or who assisted me. I knew which secrets to keep and which ones to spill and they appreciated that. One thing I rarely reported was what means and methods of getting to the story I sought or used which might jeopardize a source. The process was usually full of intrigue and would make a good read, but all officials involved operated covertly and therefore were deeply suspicious of journalists. I never betrayed a promise or source from any faction, agency or government.

By the time of Pol Pot’s death in 1998, no governments, even China, who previously appeared unconcerned with international opinion, could be seen as having friendly—or any—relations with the Khmer Rouge.

But everyone knew I still maintained good contacts with the guerrillas, and as a journalist this was wholly legitimate. Beholden to no one, I could hold the mantle of an independent, neutral journalist around my neck, which I defended proudly and without compromise. I had no political problems with associating with international pariahs and murderers. It started as my job. And I rather enjoyed it. Rogue people and states fascinated me. And then it became my obsession.

But the night of Pol Pot’s death, in many ways, marked when that long episode my life’s long efforts was finally over.

It was midnight now. Pol Pot was dead. I felt numb mainly, but also relieved. Fifteen years of my life efforts had now come to an end.

I drank straight whiskey from a glass. I re-organized my gear to cross the border in a few hours at dawn.

I watched Monica Lewinsky play over and over on CNN in the background, flashbulbs sparking, as she fled into a courthouse, to face the full puissance of the American justice system.

It did not elude me that it was a twisted reality that the Lewinsky affairs’ sordid details of superfluous justice was far more newsworthy than that which had been deemed appropriate for pursuit of Pol Pot, who stood accused of crimes against humanity.

It was a fact that when he died, 20 years after his regime, which left 1.7 million people dead–1/4 of the population—in 3 years, 8 months, and 20 days in power, Pol Pot had never been charged by any court with any crime anywhere in the world.

When he died he was not formally, in the eyes of international law, a wanted man. In fact, it would have been a violation of his rights, sufficient to have any charges dismissed under international law, if he was captured and held against his will anywhere outside of Cambodia.

I knew that soon Pol Pot’s death would dominate–perhaps not eclipsing–but nearly of equal prurient interest along with Monica Lewinsky, in the world press. I knew, as a journalist to my core, that this story would leak to be a world story within hours. Once leaked, scores of journalists would descend on this Thai border town, an 8 hour drive from Bangkok. I wanted to get in and out of the jungle before the circus began…..

To be continued….

(Copyright Nate Thayer. All rights reserved. No publication or transmission in whole or part allowed without express written permission of the author. Excerpts from the unpublished manuscript “Sympathy for the Devil: A Journalist’s Memoir From Inside Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge.”)

Journalist of Mercy: Walt Whitman Remembered

26 Sep

Journalist of Mercy: Walt Whitman Remembered

Hundreds of letters on behalf of the incapacitated, the suffering, the frightened, the dying soldiers during the U.S. Civil War to their families were written by the loving handwritten pen of one of our eras greatest journalist/poets 

By Nate Thayer

September 26, 2013

Thus in silence in dreams’ projections,
Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the hospitals,
The hurt and wounded I pacify with soothing hand, 
I sit by the restless all the dark night, some are so young,
Some suffer so much, I recall the experience sweet and sad, 
(Many a soldier’s loving arms about this neck have cross’d and rested,
Many a soldier’s kiss dwells on these bearded lips.)”—Walt Whitman, from his poem “The Wound Dresser “, as inscribed in marble at my local underground train station in Dupont Circle, Washington D.C.

I read those words again tonight as they loomed in the cavernous space emerging  above me as I rode the long escalator up from underground,  the large, carved words lingering in the marble and concrete above , words that I have read a hundred times, words which leave a near cathartic, unsettling impression on me, every time.

Tonight, on my walk home I couldn’t stop thinking of the communion of crafted words–disturbing, mundane, heartbreaking, unspeakable– and how true they were for every war and every soldier before and remain for every organized carnage after they were  the reflection of truth for the U.S. Civil War when Whitman wrote them. I thought of the present and how seamlessly true they remain for the wars that seem to have metastasized over the last decade, for all soldiers and civilians, in all countries, on all sides, wars that have uncomfortably etched themselves in the world’s unconscious as routine, acceptable, inevitable, the new cadence of of the collective global failure of diplomacy.

When I came home tonight, I looked into what was behind these words that never fail to move me, deeply.

Walt Whitman was a well-known writer when he arrived in Washington in 1862. His seminal work Leaves of Grass was first published on July 4, 1855, an account of what Whitman called “the divine Average” American. But many American readers were shocked at his raw prose and his open sexualized emotions.

During the Civil War, Whitman worked as a volunteer nurse and visited wounded soldiers daily in Washington, D.C., hospitals, ministering to their needs and recording the experience in newspaper articles, letters, and poems. The poet and journalist considered his years with the wounded soldiers the defining period of his life.

Whitman was gay and elicited scorn from many in Washington official society. Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase dismissed the poet’s Leaves as a “very bad book,” and the poet himself as “a decidedly disreputable person.”  The Secretary of Interior and War refused to hire him based on his immoral character. Whitman supported himself copying reports and doing minor clerical chores in the Paymaster’s Office. To supplement this small income, Whitman also wrote free-lance news articles.


Walt Whitman

At the start of the U.S. civil war, Walt Whitman, an anti-slavery and pro-Union journalist, was angered at the failure of the country’s leaders to resolve the conflict peacefully. He decided to remain in Washington to serve the Union through ministry to its wounded and to chronicle it from the hospital bedside of the war wounded. Armed with pencil and paper, he wrote down the small requests of the soldiers—candy for one, rice pudding for another, writing a letter home, feeding a sweet tooth, passing the time by playing a game of “Twenty Questions.” He transferred patients between beds, pushed wheelchairs,  he talked to them. Hundreds of letters from incapacitated soldiers to their families were written in the handwriting of one of our histories greatest poets . Whitman knew that the greatest need for many was human warmth and caring and he paid attention to each soldier. He talked to them. He held their hands. He left each night making the rounds hugging and kissing the wounded, suffering and dying. The experience provided inspiration for poetry and prose.

On June 3, 1864, Whitman wrote his mother about a gift of ice cream he arranged for the wounded.

Washington | June 3 1864

Dearest mother

Your letter came yesterday — I have not heard the least thing from the 51st since — no doubt they are down there with the Army near Richmond — I have not written to George lately — I think the news from the Army is very good — Mother, you know of course that it is now very near Richmond indeed, from five to ten miles —

Mother, if this campaign was not in progress I should not stop here, as it is now beginning to tell a little upon me, so many bad wounds, many putrified, & all kinds of dreadful ones, I have been rather too much with — but as it is I shall certainly remain here while the thing remains undecided — it is impossible for me to abstain from going to see & minister to certain cases, & that draws me into others, & so on — I have just left Oscar Cunningham, the Ohio boy — he is in a dying condition — there is no hope for him — it would draw tears from the hardest heart to look at him — he is all wasted away to a skeleton, & looks like some one fifty years old — you remember I told you a year ago, when he was first brought in, I thought him the noblest specimen of a young western man I had seen, a real giant in size, & always with a smile on his face — O what a change, he has long been very irritable, to every one but me, & his frame is all wasted away — the young Massachusetts 1st artillery boy, Cutter, I wrote about is dead — he is the one that was brought in a week ago last Sunday, badly wounded in breast — the deaths in the principal hospital I visit, Armory Square, average one an hour — I saw Capt Baldwin of the 14th this morning, he has lost his left arm — is going home soon—

Mr Kalbfleisch & Anson Herrick, (M C from New York) came in one of the wards where I was sitting writing a letter this morning, in the midst of the wounded — Kalbfleisch was so much affected by the sight that he burst into tears — O I must tell you I gave the boys in Carver hospital a great treat of ice cream a couple of days ago, went round myself through about 15 large wards, (I bought some ten gallons, very nice) — you would have cried & been amused too, many of the men had to be fed, several of them I saw cannot probably live, yet they quite enjoyed it, I gave everybody some — quite a number western country boys had never tasted ice cream before — they relish such things, oranges, lemons, &c — Mother, I feel a little blue this morning, as two young men I knew very well have just died, one died last night, & the other about half an hour before I went to the hospital, I did not anticipate the death of either of them, each was a very, very sad case, so young — well, mother, I see I have written you another gloomy sort of letter — I do not feel as first rate as usual —


[Postscript] You don’t know how I want to come home & see you all, you, dear Mother, & Jeff & Mat & all — I believe I am homesick, something new for me — then I have seen all the horrors of soldier’s life & not been kept up by its excitement — it is awful to see so much, & not be able to relieve it —

Whitman worked daily as a nurse for no pay and for no government agency. He had contempt for the United States governmental bodies charged with nursing the soldiers. Whitman’s mission was as eccentric as his poetry. “He was, in the act of nursing the wounded, trying to define and demonstrate a new kind of affection,” wrote one biographer. He said his hospital service “the greatest privilege and satisfaction . . . and, of course, the most profound lesson of my life.”

Whitman found the soldiers desperate for affection. In one letter he wrote: “Abby, you would all smile to see me among them—many of them like children, ceremony is mostly discarded—they suffer & get exhausted & so weary—lots of them have grown to expect as I leave at night that we should kiss each other, sometimes quite a number, I have to go round—poor boys, there is little petting in a soldier’s life in the field, but, Abby, I know what is in their hearts, always waiting, though they may be unconscious of it themselves.” 

On February 26, 1863, he wrote  In the New York Times about wounded Pvt. John Holmes: “I sat down by him without any fuss; talked a little; soon saw that it did him good; led him to talk a little himself; got him somewhat interested; wrote a letter for him to his folks in Massachusetts.” Holmes said he would like some milk and Whitman gave him enough of his own pocket money to do so. Holmes burst into tears, later telling Whitman that he had saved his life.

The Whitman family suffered during that war. Whitman’s brother George was captured by Confederates and another brother, Andrew Jackson, died of tuberculosis. His brother Jesse was committed to the Kings County Lunatic Asylum. At the end of the war, Whitman was fired by Secretary of the James Harlan, on moral grounds after Harlan read Leaves of Grass.

The mild and sensitive poet 42 year old Whitman, wrote his friend and biographer John Burroughs, could never have been a soldier. “Could there be anything more shocking and incongruous than Whitman killing people?” Burroughs wrote. “One would as soon expect Jesus Christ to go to war.”

Whitman estimated that he attended to “some 80,000 to 100,000 of the wounded and sick, as sustainer of spirit and body in some degree, in time of need”


“While I was with wounded and sick in thousands of cases from the New England States, and from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, and from Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and all the Western States, I was with more or less from all the States, North and South, without exception…I was with many rebel officers and men among our wounded, and gave them always what I had, and tried to cheer them the same as any. . . . Among the black soldiers, wounded or sick, and in the contraband camps, I also took my way whenever in their neighborhood, and did what I could for them.”

“What an attachment grows up between us, started from hospital cots, where pale young faces lie & wounded or sick bodies,” he wrote; “The doctors tell me I supply the patients with a medicine which all their drugs & bottles & powders are helpless to yield.” 

D. Willard Bliss, the chief surgeon of Armory Square civil war hospital in Washington said of Whitman “From my personal knowledge of Mr. Whitman’s labors in Armory Square and other hospitals, I am of [the] opinion that no one person who assisted in the hospitals during the war accomplished so much good to the soldier and for the Government as Mr. Whitman.” 

Outside the hospital were piles of amputated limbs. “I do not see that I do much good to these wounded and dying,” he wrote; “but I cannot leave them.”

Erastus Haskell, a carpenter from Elmira, New York played the fife for the 141st New York Infantry band when he wounded. After Haskell’s death, Whitman fulfilled a promise to write to the soldier’s parents. Whitman relayed Erastus’ love to them, and described their son’s last days: “Poor dear son, though you were not my son, I felt to love you as a son, what short time I saw you sick & dying here—it is as well as it is, perhaps better—for who knows whether he is not better off, that patient & sweet young soul, to go, than we are to stay? So farewell, dear boy—it was my opportunity to be with you in your last rapid days of death—no chance as I have said to do anything particular, for nothing could be done—only you did not lay here & die among strangers without having one at hand who loved you dearly, & to whom you gave your dying kiss”

Recently, on the 150th anniversary of the publication of Leaves of Grass, one critic wrote this: “If you are American, then Walt Whitman is your imaginative father and mother, even if, like myself, you have never composed a line of verse. You can nominate a fair number of literary works as candidates for the secular Scripture of the United States. They might include Melville’s Moby-Dick, Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Emerson’s two series of Essays and The Conduct of Life. None of those, not even Emerson’s, are as central as the first edition of Leaves of Grass.”


Today, in Washington Whitman’s legacy of mercy lives on through the Whitman-Walker Clinic, A free clinic that has primarily served those suffering from HIV and AIDS, named in honor of the Civil War ministers of mercy: female physician Mary Walker and the gay poet Walt Whitman.

Here is the entire poem:

The Wound Dresser

AN old man bending I come among new faces,
Years looking backward resuming in answer to children,
Come tell us old man, as from young men and maidens that love me,
(Arous’d and angry, I’d thought to beat the alarum, and urge
relentless war,
But soon my fingers fail’d me, my face droop’d and I resign’d
To sit by the wounded and soothe them, or silently watch the dead;)
Years hence of these scenes, of these furious passions, these
Of unsurpass’d heroes, (was one side so brave? the other was equally
Now be witness again, paint the mightiest armies of earth,
Of those armies so rapid so wondrous what saw you to tell us?
What stays with you latest and deepest? of curious panics,
Of hard-fought engagements or sieges tremendous what deepest


O maidens and young men I love and that love me,
What you ask of my days those the strangest and sudden your talking
Soldier alert I arrive after a long march cover’d with sweat and
In the nick of time I come, plunge in the fight, loudly shout in the
rush of successful charge,
Enter the captur’d works-yet lo, like a swift-running river they
Pass and are gone they fade-I dwell not on soldiers’ perils or
soldiers’ joys,
(Both I remember well-many the hardships, few the joys, yet I was

But in silence, in dreams’ projections,
While the world of gain and appearance and mirth goes on,
So soon what is over forgotten, and waves wash the imprints off the
With hinged knees returning I enter the doors, (while for you up
Whoever you are, follow without noise and be of strong heart.)

Bearing the bandages, water and sponge,
Straight and swift to my wounded I go,
Where they lie on the ground after the battle brought in,
Where their priceless blood reddens the grass the ground,
Or to the rows of the hospital tent, or under the roof’d hospital,
To the long rows of cots up and down each side I return,
To each and all one after another I draw near, not one do I miss,
An attendant follows holding a tray, he carries a refuse pail,
Soon to be fill’d with clotted rags and blood, emptied, and fill’d

I onward go, I stop,
With hinged knees and steady hand to dress wounds,
I am firm with each, the pangs are sharp yet unavoidable,

One turns to me his appealing eyes- poor boy! I never knew you,
Yet I think I could not refuse this moment to die for you, if that
would save you.


On, on I go, (open doors of time! open hospital doors!)
The crush’d head I dress, (poor crazed hand tear not the bandage
The neck of the cavalry-man with the bullet through and through
Hard the breathing rattles, quite glazed already the eye, yet life
struggles hard,
(Come sweet death! be persuaded O beautiful death!
In mercy come quickly.)

From the stump of the arm, the amputated hand,
I undo the clotted lint, remove the slough, wash off the matter and
Back on his pillow the soldier bends with curv’d neck and side
falling head,
His eyes are closed, his face is pale, he dares not look on the
bloody stump,
And has not yet look’d on it.

I dress a wound in the side, deep, deep,
But a day or two more, for see the frame all wasted and sinking,
And the yellow-blue countenance see.

I dress the perforated shoulder, the foot with the bullet-wound,
Cleanse the one with a gnawing and putrid gangrene, so sickening, so
While the attendant stands behind aside me holding the tray and

I am faithful, I do not give out,
The fractur’d thigh, the knee, the wound in the abdomen,
These and more I dress with impassive hand, (yet deep in my breast
a fire, a burning flame.)


Thus in silence in dreams’ projections,
Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the hospitals,
The hurt and wounded I pacify with soothing hand,
I sit by the restless all the dark night, some are so young,

Some suffer so much, I recall the experience sweet and sad,
(Many a soldier’s loving arms about this neck have cross’d and
Many a soldier’s kiss dwells on these bearded lips.)

All eyes on U.S. prisoner during Dennis Rodman return visit to N. Korea

3 Sep

By Nate Thayer see full story at:

Eccentric U.S. basketball star Dennis Rodman will arrive in North Korea today for a five day mission where all eyes are on the plight of detained American citizen Kenneth Bae, a prisoner who on Thursday Rodman promised to talk personally to Kim Jong Un to secure his release.

Despite comments suggesting otherwise, all eyes are focusing on whether Rodman’s visit will now lead to the eventual release of the imprisoned American, especially in light of the basketballer’s Thursday pledge to personally raise the issue during his planned meeting with Kim Jong Un.

“I will definitely ask for Kenneth Bae’s release,” Rodman told Huffington Post TV of his forthcoming visit.

Rodman’s personal manager A.J. Bright told NK News that the focus of the trip would be sports diplomacy and had “no comment” when asked about the issue of Kenneth Bae being on any agenda, echoing comments made by Rodman Tuesday morning to Reuters news agency.

But the sports diplomacy trip to North Korea follows a mission cancelled Friday to release the prisoner by U.S. Special Envoy for North Korean human rights Ambassador Bob King, an eleventh hour development that left U.S North Korean experts utterly baffled and State Dept. “surprised and disappointed”.

“King was not going there to negotiate the release of Bae. It was 100% agreed he was bringing Bae home–a done deal,” a U.S. government North Korean specialist who spoke with Ambassador King Thursday told NK News. “He was going there to pick up the package.”

Had Ambassador King made his scheduled trip to Pyongyang, he would have been the highest level U.S. official to have visited the isolated nation since the young leader, Kim Jong Un, took power in December 2011…….( see full story at:

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