According to the account in Michel Mourre's historical encyclopedia, the Knights Templar constituted the world's first international bank.[1]   --  BACKGROUND:  Mourre devoted the last decades of a brief reclusive life to the drafting of reference works that are perhaps unique in the 20th century for their solitary erudition.  --  Little-known in the English-speaking world, Le Mourre, as the work has popularly come to be known, was first published in France in 1978, several months after the author's death at the age of 49.  --  It has gained a certain reputation as a monument of erudition, and has been kept up to date in several subsequent editions.  --  The passage translated below is from the 1996 French edition....

An extraordinary, shocking, and much praised book on the extent of U.S. atrocities in Vietnam appeared last month.  --  Nick Turse's Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam (Metropolitan Books, January 2013) is based on more than a decade of research into secret Pentagon files and extensive interviews.  --  An idea of what the book contains can be divined from an article that Turse wrote in 2006 as a freelancer for the Los Angeles Times, based on a government file that he discovered while researching PTSD.[1]  --  The file contains reports of hundreds of atrocities committed in Vietnam by American soldiers.  --  Already in his 2006 article, Turse, born in the year (1975) that U.S. forces left Vietnam, showed a rare tenacity and achieved a depth rarely seen in journalism.  --  But his 384-page book, crisply and clearly written, goes much further.  --  In its introduction, he writes:  "[T]he stunning scale of civilian suffering in Vietnam is far beyond anything that can be explained as merely the work of some 'bad apples,' however numerous.  --  Murder, torture, rape, abuse, forced displacement, home burnings, specious arrests, imprisonment without due process -- such occurrences were virtually a daily fact of life throughout the years of the American presence in Vietnam. . . . they were no aberration.  --  Rather, they were the inevitable outcome of deliberate policies, dictated at the highest level of the military" (p. 6).  --  Turse's work gives new substance to the saying that wars never end for those who fought them.  --  His work is of major historical import, for he has, as early reviewer Steve Weinberg said, "proven, after a decade of mind-boggling research, that U.S. air and ground troops killed civilians in North Vietnam and South Vietnam as a matter of policy -- over and over, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year."[2]  --  "Based on Turse's meticulously documented findings, nobody can ever again state convincingly that the U.S. invasion of Vietnam was honorable."  --  A longer review in the San Francisco Chronicle two weeks ago called Turse's "damning and masterful" book "indispensable" and framed its historical importance:  it demonstrates that those at the highest levels of the U.S. military sought "not to prevent war crimes but to contain the damage and stay, as the euphemism might go today, ahead of the PR problem."[3]  --  And reviewer Joel Whitney has the vision to connect what was happening then to what is happening now:  "Kill Anything That Moves is a paradigm-shifting, connect-the-dots history of American atrocities that reads like a thriller; it will convince those with the stomach to read it that all these decades later Americans, certainly the military brass and the White House, still haven't drawn the right lesson from Vietnam -- which was that billions were spent to wantonly slaughter as many as 2 million civilians, and that this slaughter was the official policy.  --  'Whatever remains unconscious emerges later as fate,' wrote psychoanalyst Carl Jung.  --  Given today's killings from the air, whole zones made up of enemies who are enemies for simply living in a certain area, the impunity of it, Jung was clearly onto something." ...

This week's New York Times Magazine profiled Gérard de Villiers, the author of the long-running SAS spy novel series.  --  Written in a low potboiler style, the novels have the distinctive attraction of "regularly contain[ing] information about terror plots, espionage, and wars that has never appeared elsewhere," Robert F. Worth said.[1]  --  Hubert Védrine, France's former foreign minister, has read them all, and says that he "consult[s] them before visiting a foreign country, as they let him in on whatever French intelligence believed was happening there."  --  "De Villiers’s books have made him very rich, and he lives in an impressively grand house on the Avenue Foch, a stone’s throw from the Arc de Triomphe."  --  "When de Villiers describes intelligence people in his book, everybody in the business knows exactly who he’s talking about," a former spy told Worth.  “The truth is, he's become such a figure that lots of people in the business are desperate to meet him.  There are even ministers from other countries who meet with him when they pass through Paris."  --  The thesis of De Villiers's next novel will be that it was Iran, not Libya, that carried out the Lockerbie bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 on Dec. 21, 1988, to avenge the U.S. downing of Iran Air Flight 655 on Jul. 3, 1988, by the U.S. Navy cruiser USS Vincennes, a thesis that some say is plausible.  --  "The Iranians went to great lengths to persuade Muammar el-Qaddafi to take the fall for the attack," according to this version of events....