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Jazzy Jan

50 years since disgusting My Lai massacre

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I watched a 2 hour documentary on this tonight on the History Channel and it is one of the most shameful disregard for human life and humanity we could imagine.  The saying that "  All is fair in love and war"  is one I never can remotely agree with.   This is something that should never be excused or forgotten 

Early morning on March 16, 1968, helicopters carrying U.S. soldiers flew into a tiny village on the eastern side of South Vietnam, bordering the South China Sea. They'd arrived by a series of hamlets, known as My Lai, expecting to find a booby-trapped stronghold of their enemy, the Viet Cong. Instead, all they saw were noncombatants: women, children, elderly men. Many of them were preparing for breakfast.

The Americans, about 100 soldiers from the Army's Americal division, proceeded to massacre them. Over the next several hours, the civilians in My Lai (pronounced "Me Lie") and an adjacent settlement were shot and thrown in ditches. The body count: 504 people from more than 240 families. Some women were raped. Huts and homes were burned. Even the livestock was destroyed.

It was one of the worst American military crimes in history and still pierces the collective conscience of Vietnam War veterans. On Friday, an organization called the Vietnam Peace Commemoration Committee is scheduled to hold a vigilin Lafayette Square across from the White House to acknowledge the American war crimes at My Lai.

Right after the attack, the soldiers — who had been told by their superiors the night before that everyone they'd see would be a Viet Cong guerrilla or sympathizer — kept quiet about what they'd done. For more than a year and a half, the public wouldn't know about the atrocity. Top military officials initially tried to keep a lid on the killings and commanders even touted the mission to the press as a tactical feat. A United Press International wire service account published in newspapers March 16 reported that U.S. infantrymen "tangled with Communist forces threatening the northern city of Quang Ngai Saturday and U.S. spokesmen reported 128 guerrillas slain in the bitter fighting." But a few paragraphs later, the article, unwittingly, contained an ominous foreshadowing: "Details of the fighting near Quang Ngai were sketchy."

Soon, a government whistleblower and a promising journalist would expose the atrocity. In early 1969, Ronald Ridenhour, a veteran from Arizona, wrote a letter to the White House, Pentagon, State Department and numerous members of Congress, revealing his conversations with soldiers who participated or saw the attack. Ridenhour's letter included details that made the allegations credible and worthy of investigation, including map coordinates of My Lai, witness names and the identities of the perpetrators, according toa congressional probe.

Ridenhour's letters sparked a military investigation. By early September 1969, First Lt. William Laws Calley Jr., a 26-year-old college dropout from Miami who'd served as a platoon leader in the attack, was charged with the premeditated murder of 109 civilians. But the military only released the fact that Calley had been accused of murdering an unspecified number of people. Without knowing the magnitude of his crimes, the New York Times, for instance, only ran a four-paragraph Associated Press article on his arrest, running it on page 14. The press information officer "declined to give details of the case other than to say that the incident occurred in March, 1968, in Vietnam, and that the charge involves the deaths of more than one civilian," according to the article.

Shortly after Calley had been charged, Seymour Hersh, a freelance reporter and former news aide to antiwar presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy, learned about My Lai from a lawyer opposed to the war. But he only got vague outlines. He started sniffing around. Eventually, he approached a Pentagon source. As he recalled in aNew Yorker piece three years ago, the official slapped his hand against his knee, and said, "That boy Calley didn't shoot anyone higher than this."

Now Hersh had what he needed to crack the story wide open. Eventually, he found that tiny Times article noting Calley's full name and arrest. Then he visited Calley at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he was being held. Incredibly, the Army allowed Hersh to read and takes note from Calley's classified charging sheet — the document that showed Calley had been accused of killing 109 people. Even more incredible was that when Hersh completed his expose and took it to Life and Look magazines, the editors rejected him. So Hersh took his story to the Dispatch News Service, which he described to the New Yorker as "a small antiwar news agency" in Washington. The story broke on the wires Nov. 12, 1969, and appeared in newspapers the next day.

With a dateline from Fort Benning, Ga., Hersh began his story this way:

"Lt. William L. Calley Jr., 26 years old, is a mild-mannered, boyish-looking Vietnam combat veteran with the nickname 'Rusty.' The Army is completing an investigation of charges that he deliberately murdered at least 109 Vietnamese civilians in a search-and-destroy mission in March 1968 in a Viet Cong stronghold known as 'Pinkville.' "

Calley told Hersh he was merely following orders. His attorney, George W. Latimer, a former judge on the U.S. Court of Military Appeals, ridiculed the accusations against his client. "This is one case that should never have been brought," Latimer said. "Whatever killing there was in a firefight in connection with the operation. You can't afford to guess whether a civilian is a Viet Cong or not. Either they shoot you or you shoot them."

Deep into the scoop, Hersh, who would win a Pulitzer Prize, wrote that Calley, only 5-foot-3, "seems slightly bewildered and hurt by the charges against him. He says he wants nothing more than to be cleared and return to the Army." He also told Hersh: "I know this sounds funny, but I like the Army ... and I don't want to do anything to hurt it."

Hersh's article prompted front page stories in The Washington Post and the New York Times, and contributed to the swelling anger against President Richard Nixon, who was less than a year into his first term and had earlier that month pleaded for nationwide solidarity to support the war in his famous"Silent Majority" speech. Coincidentally, two days after the publication of Hersh's story, at least a quarter of a million people gathered by the Washington Monument to demand an end to the Vietnam War. "It surpassed in size the civil rights March on Washington in 1964 and was easily the largest — and was perhaps the youngest — antiwar crowd ever assembled in the United States," The Post noted.

The massacre at My Lai, meanwhile, continued to make news. In early 1970, charges of trying to cover up the slaughter were brought against Maj. Gen. Samuel W. Koster, who'd served as the commanding general over the My Lai troops but was now the superintendent at the United States Military Academy at West Point. The news shocked the country. Numerous other officers were charged with concealing the killings, but the accusations against them — and Koster — were eventually dismissed. One brigade commander stood trial on coverup allegations, but was acquitted.

Calley was the only officer convicted of playing a direct role in the massacre. According to Hersh's account, eleven other men were charged with murder, maiming or assault with the intent to commit murder, but their cases either fizzled out before trial or they were acquitted.

During his trial in early 1971, Calley argued that he was merely following orders - echoing the same lines of the Nazis during the Nuremberg trials. But an Army jury of six men, five of whom served in combat, rejected that defense. On March 29, 1971, Calley was found guilty of the premeditated murder of at least 22 Vietnamese civilians. He was sentenced to life in prison, but Nixon intervened and ordered that he serve under house arrest in a reduced sentence.

But Hersh was not done chronicling these crimes. In early 1972, Hersh compiled all of his research and wrote a mammoth two-part series for the New Yorker on the military's investigation into My Lai. One soldier, Terry Reid of Milwaukee, described to Hersh what he'd seen when the onslaught erupted.

"As soon as they started opening up, it hit me that it was insanity. I walked to the rear. Pandemonium broke loose. It sounded insane — machine guns, grenades. One of the guys walked back, and I remember him saying, 'We got sixty women, kids, and some old men.' "

Hersh also reported that more than 40 soldiers who spoke to him or government investigators recalled hearing, in advance of the operation, "a specific order to kill civilians." He quoted one soldier, Larry G. Holmes, who said: "We had three hamlets that we had to search and destroy. They told us they ... had dropped leaflets and stuff and everybody was supposed to be gone. Nobody was supposed to be there. If anybody is there, shoot them."

Calley was not done with My Lai, either. He kept appealing his conviction and ultimately took his case into the civilian court system. By November 1974, three months after Nixon resigned, a federal-district court judge ordered Calley's release, having ruled earlier that the enormous publicity surrounding his case prevented a fair trial. Finally freed, Calley went on to work for his father-in-law's jewelry store in Columbus, Georgia, and, according to Hersh, spent the following years, "offering self-serving interviews to journalists willing to pay for them."

In August 2009, at a local Kiwanis club near the military base in Georgia where he'd been court-martialed, Calley finally delivered his first public apology. A Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reporterchronicled the dramatic moment.

"There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai," Calley told the Kiwanis members. "I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry."

But, during a short question-and-answer session, he also couldn't resist rationalizing what he'd done, either.

"If you are asking why I did not stand up to them when I was given the orders," Calley said, "I will have to say that I was a second lieutenant getting orders from my commander and I followed them — foolishly, I guess."

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Horrible. Every war story is horrible. Just look what is happening this very minute in Gouta, in Syria, where 400.000 civilians are trapped and being bombed, little kids dying... Every little story is so incredibly sad. And that trauma lasts for generations. 

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On 19 March 2018 at 11:35 PM, karbatal said:

Horrible. Every war story is horrible. Just look what is happening this very minute in Gouta, in Syria, where 400.000 civilians are trapped and being bombed, little kids dying... Every little story is so incredibly sad. And that trauma lasts for generations. 

It does.  The world is such a disgusting place in so many ways.  When will human being ever stop wars and fighting ?  It is all so disgusting, barbaric and pointless. Those science fiction shows where enlightened intelligent aliens try to teach humans not to fight and hate each other are like a dream into the future.  I doubt humans will ever learn though. 

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4 hours ago, Jazzy Jan said:

It does.  The world is such a disgusting place in so many ways.  When will human being ever stop wars and fighting ?  It is all so disgusting, barbaric and pointless. Those science fiction shows where enlightened intelligent aliens try to teach humans not to fight and hate each other are like a dream into the future.  I doubt humans will ever learn though. 

I'm afraid in the future we will be those aliens from other films, going to other places to create havoc, steal resources and destroy cultures. 

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4 hours ago, Jazzy Jan said:

It does.  The world is such a disgusting place in so many ways.  When will human being ever stop wars and fighting ?  It is all so disgusting, barbaric and pointless. Those science fiction shows where enlightened intelligent aliens try to teach humans not to fight and hate each other are like a dream into the future.  I doubt humans will ever learn though. 

The thing is that we are slowly learning. We are much more enlightened than we were 200 years ago, for example. Sadly, as any creation, it is very hard to achieve and very easy to destroy. We only need hunger, tension or propaganda to reach that instintive animal point of survival. 

One neurophiliologist explained to me that our brain is made of different layers: the innermost layer is the reptilian one, with all animal pulsion and violence. And then, the more we evolutioned, the more layers we have until the recent ones. Thing is that once the recent ones fail, either by illness or brain damages or pure hatred and instint of survival, the reptilian brain takes command and we are able to do any monstruosity. It doesn't mean that any person in war is being dominated by the innermost reptilian brain, but it means that we have those instints inside of us and we have to fight to keep them at bay. It is a theory that other people discuss, of course, but it is interesting. 

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9 hours ago, karbatal said:

The thing is that we are slowly learning. We are much more enlightened than we were 200 years ago, for example. Sadly, as any creation, it is very hard to achieve and very easy to destroy. We only need hunger, tension or propaganda to reach that instintive animal point of survival. 

One neurophiliologist explained to me that our brain is made of different layers: the innermost layer is the reptilian one, with all animal pulsion and violence. And then, the more we evolutioned, the more layers we have until the recent ones. Thing is that once the recent ones fail, either by illness or brain damages or pure hatred and instint of survival, the reptilian brain takes command and we are able to do any monstruosity. It doesn't mean that any person in war is being dominated by the innermost reptilian brain, but it means that we have those instints inside of us and we have to fight to keep them at bay. It is a theory that other people discuss, of course, but it is interesting. 

Very interesting.  I loved the old series Cosmos with Carl Sagan (  one of my ultimate idols )  who explained how the mammal's brain evolved from the reptilian brain over time and the huge difference in how they had families and cared for their young in one of the episodes.   Over the years,  we developed empathy, feeling, love and humour where the reptilian brain just had a survival instinct.  What you are saying makes sense.  If people are being brought up to hate etc and are shown no love,  it would be easy to just switch into survival mode. 

Also,  when I watch shows on events from history, it always strikes me how disgustingly cruel they were all the time and how that was just the normal everyday life.  Continual wars, going to watch killings and torture for fun and sport even up to burning so called witches at the stake.  We would think that each generation would learn more and more about love, social justice etc but some do still not remotely want to.  

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13 hours ago, Jazzy Jan said:

Very interesting.  I loved the old series Cosmos with Carl Sagan (  one of my ultimate idols )  who explained how the mammal's brain evolved from the reptilian brain over time and the huge difference in how they had families and cared for their young in one of the episodes.   Over the years,  we developed empathy, feeling, love and humour where the reptilian brain just had a survival instinct.  What you are saying makes sense.  If people are being brought up to hate etc and are shown no love,  it would be easy to just switch into survival mode. 

Also,  when I watch shows on events from history, it always strikes me how disgustingly cruel they were all the time and how that was just the normal everyday life.  Continual wars, going to watch killings and torture for fun and sport even up to burning so called witches at the stake.  We would think that each generation would learn more and more about love, social justice etc but some do still not remotely want to.  

And it happened very very recently. I recall I had to do some article a couple of years ago, and I had to surf on the newspaper archive from 1911. There were so many crimes, even crimes commited by children! And they didn't even make big news. Crime, violence... it was normal only 100 years ago. 

Of course, we are analysing this through our western-first world eyes. We are enjoying peace for the past 70 years, which is the longest period in human history. And we are evolving in a way that brutality is much more obscene when we know about it. But in other parts of the globe they've experienced unknown levels of violence these past decades. 

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Just now, karbatal said:

And it happened very very recently. I recall I had to do some article a couple of years ago, and I had to surf on the newspaper archive from 1911. There were so many crimes, even crimes commited by children! And they didn't even make big news. Crime, violence... it was normal only 100 years ago. 

Of course, we are analysing this through our western-first world eyes. We are enjoying peace for the past 70 years, which is the longest period in human history. But in other parts of the globe they've experienced unknown levels of violence these past decades. 

True.  Look at Rwanda and the violent genocide in 1994 where 800,000 were killed.  It is beyond comprehension but it only happened 24 years ago.  

Have you seen the movie Arrival ?  The message in that is one that I wish everyone worldwide would take on board.  My favourite movie of the past 5 years. 

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1 hour ago, Jazzy Jan said:

True.  Look at Rwanda and the violent genocide in 1994 where 800,000 were killed.  It is beyond comprehension but it only happened 24 years ago.  

Have you seen the movie Arrival ?  The message in that is one that I wish everyone worldwide would take on board.  My favourite movie of the past 5 years. 

Yes! Such a beautiful and interesting movie! 

Oh, I found Close Encounters Of The Third Kind last week in the Amazon TV app to watch for free and I watched it. I had watched the movie as a kid, and it was so interesting now, years after. You can see that Steven Spielberg really invented the alien genre, for example Arrival is heavily inspired in this movie. 

Love those movies. Love the other ones too, when the aliens destroy everything :chuckle:

 

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4 hours ago, karbatal said:

Yes! Such a beautiful and interesting movie! 

Oh, I found Close Encounters Of The Third Kind last week in the Amazon TV app to watch for free and I watched it. I had watched the movie as a kid, and it was so interesting now, years after. You can see that Steven Spielberg really invented the alien genre, for example Arrival is heavily inspired in this movie. 

Love those movies. Love the other ones too, when the aliens destroy everything :chuckle:

 

I loved Contact as well.  Such a great movie. 

I have never been afraid of aliens.  If they could travel to Earth from millions of lights years away, they would be so much more advanced than us and would be advanced in ethics, understanding and would be more curious than hostile.  We on Earth however are still fighting each other over race, religion and greed and treating animals so cruelly.  :wacko:

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