Isegoria got to the part in Duffer’s Drift where they start kidnapping civilians.
The patrols returned shortly with their bag of a few men, women and children. The women indulged in much useless abuse, and refused to obey orders, taking the matter less philosophically than their mankind. Here was evidently an opportunity of making use of the short training I had once had as an A.D.C. I tried it. I treated the ladies with tons of “tact” in my suavest manner, and repeated the only Dutch words of comfort I knew “Wacht een beetje”- “Al zal rech kom” – but to no purpose. They had not been brought up to appreciate tact in fact, they were not taking any. I turned regretfully round to the colour-sergeant, winked solemnly and officially, and seeing an answering but respectful quiver in his left eyelid, said “Colour-sergeant.” “Sir?” “Which do you think is the best way of setting alight to a farm?”
“Well, sir, some prefer the large bedstead and straw, but I think the ‘armonium and a little kerosene in one corner is as neat as anything.” There was no need for more. The ladies quite understood this sort of tact; the trouble was over.
The Dutchmen and Kaffirs were at once started digging shelters for themselves and the women and children. The latter were placed together, and were put into a small ravine not far from the trench, as it was necessary to place them in a really deep trench, firstly to keep them safe, and secondly to prevent their waving or signaling to the enemy.
Somehow kidnapping a bunch of civilians and tactfully joking about setting their farms on fire angers me more than the crude atrocities of the USA in Vietnam.
Tom Chittum wrote a bit about his Vietnam days – he called it “the Rock-and-Roll Slaughterhouse.”
Tom Chittum is a rude, crude practitioner of homicide.
But Tom Chittum never, so far as I know, insulted a prisoner with “tactful” humor.
My unscientific impression is that people get more offended by passive-aggressive threats than open threats.
The atrocities are bad enough. The not-very-plausible deniability is decadent.