Some actions in war are so vile that humanity has decided that their perpetrators have committed against humanity as a whole, as well as the direct victims of those crimes. Examples like the Nazis and Japanese in World War 2, to the Balkans, Rwanda, and the modern war on terror. Hiding in Plain Sight examines the hunt for some of the most notorious of these criminals, and society’s pursuit of justice… or non-pursuit, as the case may be.
Looking back at the events of history, one might imagine that it is as simple as locating the perpetrators of genocide, and other war crimes, and prosecuting them, but as history – and this book – reveals, not everything is quite that simple. After World War 2, some of the worst criminals were scooped up by either the Americans or the Russians, as they were deemed to have useful talents or knowledge. (Operation Paperclip) In the case of others, as time passed there simply was not the political will to continue the pursuit, outside of a few committed individuals.
I find the whole topic rather detestable, not simply because of the crimes themselves, but because of how society has failed to adequately respond. This book does not back down from pointing out the failings.
I was interested to see how the book would deal with the issue of America’s actions after the attacks of 9/11. As someone who lived through that era, and was a part of the protests against the invasion of Iraq, one could not help but categorise those actions as aggressive warfare, and yet in the white-wash of history, nothing ultimately came of it. The book points out that – as the US is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court, and does not allow its soldiers to be prosecuted by the same – there is a serious lack of oversight for the sole remaining superpower.
While I found the book to be extremely well-researched, and very thorough, I did feel like it ultimately pulled some of its punches, in not pursuing some of the more modern stories as far as it might have. But perhaps that is symptomatic of society’s attitude as a whole. We exist in a world of 24 hour news cycles, and even shorter outrage cycles.
Well worth a read. I received a review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.