Friday, March 16, 2018

A Day That Will Live in Infamy

Today, 16 March 2018, is the 50th anniverasry of the My Lai Massacre, perhaps the most notorious of America's shameful acts in our war against Vietnam.  Not an anniverasry to be celebrated but one that should always be remembered.  The nation was shocked when freelance reporter Seymour Hersch broke the story 18 months later.  Our national consciousness did not admit that American soldiers could flat out just murder as many as 500 people.  I guess by now we've come to some gudging recognition of that disturbing fact. Still, we prefer to blame it on a few "bad apples" and ignore the environment in which atrocities occur.

The enviornment for My Lai was mass violence.  As documented by journalist Nick Turse in 2008 the US launched "Operation Speedy Express" in the Mekong Delta in December 1968.  By the time it ended in May 1969, the operation claimed " enemy body count of 10,899 at a cost of only 267 American lives.  Although guerrillas were known to be well armed, the division captured only 748 weapons." 

A "Concerned Sergeant" wrote multiple letters describing official command policies that had led to the killings of thousands of innocents, what the sergeant described as a "My Lai each month for over a year."  The investigations that followed documented the systematic murder of civilians but resulted in no prosecutions.  Three decades later, fllowing up the Concerned Sergeant's letters and declassified military records, Turse investigation painted a "...disturbing picture of civilian slaughter on a scale that indeed dwarfs My Lai, and of a cover-up at the Army’s highest levels."

Add to that the hail of bombs, bullets, artillery, and defoliants dropped on Vietnam in the by American forces during our war there.  Some of that ordnance continues to maim and kill to this day. 

It is right and proper to remember My Lai.  Equally important is to remember the totality of American violence unleashed on Vietnam and the many victims.