Monday, October 22, 2007

Crying a river did no good...

I couldn't take it...

It was 4:30am, Sunday night. As usual I had delayed my required reading until the last minute... and I still had a paper to write about it. This week there was only one book to read... My Lai. Subtitled 'A brief history with documents.'

We didn't really cover Vietnam in my US History class, much less any specific incident like the My Lai massacre... it's a shame, really. I wonder how many people in my generation have never heard things like these, things like I've been reading in my foreign policy history class. It's getting hard to smile on Mondays, after I've finished reading and am writing, or after that...

I had read about 75 pages or so, rather impassionately, about the Geneva Conventions and rules of war, "Nine Rules" about dealing with the Vietnamese, how to handle a prisoner. I read about the briefings the night before the event--Medina to the Company, and Calley to his platoon... but then came the testimonies of the massacre itself, in a section blandly titled 'The Assault on My Lai.'

The very first one got me. It's Dennis Conti's testimony to the Peers Commission in 1970; he was in the first platoon to land and... you know what he described? Children. Killing children. I have this image in my mind of soldiers shooting a crowd of screaming children! How? How does this happen? I had to stop... and it was at least an hour before I could come back and read the rest. A boy was shot outside his house... his mother comes from the house, holding a baby... a baby... a soldier shoots her... she falls to the ground, and drops the baby... the soldier walks over and and shoots the baby too... in the face.

Then another soldier talks about watching 5 different men in a hut raping a young girl... then they all shot her... there is a section called 'Summary of Rapes' giving a list of the women who were raped at My Lai. After the men would rape a girl, they would pierce a bayonet into her vagina, if they didn't shoot her, or leave her to burn. Then the crowds of people in ditches who were shot, 30-40 here, 30-40 there...

It made me so sick, it still makes me sick, and it should, and I don't know how long it's going to be before I can think about it without crying. And I had to write a paper about the briefings, and have to talk in class tomorrow about the morality of the issue. What morality?

Why is this allowed to happen? Why do we look the other way? By we, I mean Americans, anybody who would ever attempt to justify this kind of slaughter. And I know, I know it in my head and my heart that this is still happening, but I don't think my heart can entertain anymore stories like this, in Eastern Europe, in Africa, in Iraq... I know that the evil in My Lai is in Iraq today and I want to know why we (we again being Americans) don't pick up our hammers and our axes and stop this evil in its tracks, and stop it now, and never let it return.

Photo. I had to link it because I couldn't keep looking at it on my blog... too sad... :-(


MyHijab said...

I did Human Rights Law about 3 years ago at uni and I had to watch documentaries about war crimes such as this.

I studied the darfur crisis more extensively than any other, and it still haunts me.

The justification for these crimes is that 'It's War!'

One story that will never leave me is the one told where a group of men would make bets on whether a pregnant woman was carrying a boy or a girl.

They would make their bet, hold the woman down (sometimes tie her up), slice open her stomach, pull the baby out, then they would do horrific things with this poor defenceless baby.

It was documented that this was done tens of times in any given day.

I feel sick writing about it.

Anonymous said...

Wow..that's sick.

And,the even sicker part is that they even try to justify things like this by saying " it's war". Babies and children have nothing to do with anything.
Only a sick demented demon has the ability to do these kinds of things.


Amy said...


What was said about My Lai was that Vietnam was "a different kind of war." War itself was not an excuse--there are rules of war, from Hague, Geneva. What happened is illegal by international law.

But the problem is when the military says, hold up... there are RULES in war??? Like it's a joke. Rules of war. And we think that WE are civilized??

Anonymous said...

The problem with these atrocities in war is that the offending army has to dehumanize those they are fighting to the point where they can justify killing them. Once they do this, they can justify anything. To defile the women of the country is to defile and destroy the country itself. It's a way of systematically degrading and humiliating the people until they attack in rage without thought, or they become submissive. Rape is nothing new in the world, and it's prevalence is everywhere. 1 in 4 women are raped or victims of attempted rape in America alone. The prevalence of these atrocities speak volumes about the society in which they occur. Needless to say, the world is screwed.

Amy said...

Thanks for posting, Maya -

If you read about My Lai, it's clear that both sides dehumanized the other. The name-calling of Vietnamese is just one example of how the troops viewed their hosts, but if you read the Viet Cong propaganda after My Lai you can see that the Americans were "dehumanized" as well. The injustice feeds on itself.

In the same way that Israelis don't view Palestinians as being equal to themselves, do Palestinians very often view Israelis in contempt--it's a product of the injustice. It's very difficult, if not impossible, for one side to be fair if either side is oppressed.

What I worry about is how easily it is for someone to lose his grasp of reality, how easily those soldiers checked compassion at the door. I worry about how the world (especially anyone with responsibility for the problem) refuses to acknowledge what happened, what still happens today, because that's why it continues.

Sam Rocker said...

We (As America i mean, as a whole nation) cannot step in and help every single nation around the world with their problems. We have been ridiculed as trying to be the "world's policeman" in the past. In vietnam we tried to help, it backfired (mostly because of the ill support of America itself), and now in iraq we have the sam situation. Our government is not the government of the world, and it isn't our job to stop all the evil in the world, because honestly, you can't stop it, ever, men are evil, and will always be evil, it is as simple as that. I was asked a while back "Why doesn't Bush help the 'invisible children' of Africa" (Invisible children being the orphaned children in africa that came as a result of the civil war in the north). Why? Because we can't step in and take the job that other governments already have. And if you think we as a nation are in debt now, imagine how bad it would be if we took up arms and invaded a nation when we found things like this...impossible to fathom. This being said, we as people, human beings, should do all in our power to help others, donate money, time, effort, for those less fortunate. We didn't do anything and didn't deserve to be born in the greatest country on earth, and we shouldnt act it.

Amy said...

Hi Sam,

Thanks for your comment. I mostly agree with you. The USA sends a lot of aid money to sub-Saharan Africa, I think it sends more than any other nation. But it sends so much more to Israel. It sends troops into Iraq and Afghanistan. The US has some really good organizations--the CDC, for example.

But the way we as a nation deal with the world is very bizarre. It could be economically driven, but people are suffering under terrible governments in many countries. But sometimes we say it's okay (Uganda, China) and sometimes we say no way and send in the Marines.

It's not our job to police the world, so we should stop acting like it, don't you think? Sending in troops is not the right message, unless the country is agressing against it's neighbors, there is not much we can do. Iraq is as good an example as Vietnam. Troops aren't helping the situation, only exacerbating it.

troops supporter said...

There are times where i do agree that the U.S. is playing "world police" in these other nations. But what they are mianly fighting for in countries under terrible governments like these is human rights. They see it as that we are all humans regardless, and dont deserve to be treated like this.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

This article really upset me, but what gives me a sliver of hope is seeing people like yourself show such respect and compassion. I don't mean to stereoptype or label, but Americans can often be ignorant to this kind of thing and say things like 'they deserved it' or 'they were terrorists' Most don't even know the cause of the war or that America lost, so it's refreshing to read from someone who has a heart. I'm finding it really hard to read stories like this though day after day. Always the same attrocities, different victims. Jews, Native Americans, African Americans, Australian Aboriginals, Haitians, even my own people - the Irish, Vietnamese, P.O.Ws, Guantanamo Detainees. At this stage I find it impossible to look at the world in a positive light. Man has f*cked everything up.