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This massacre was a big turning point in the American people's experience of the Vietnam War.   In "My Lai marks 40th massacre anniversary". Ben Stocking of the AP tells us about it:

To the villagers who survived the My Lai massacre and many of the Americans who fought in the Vietnam War, all the anniversaries of the atrocity are important.
But Sunday's anniversary — the 40th — seems especially urgent to some of the Americans who have come to commemorate it.
In My Lai, members of the Charlie Company slaughtered as many as 504 villagers, including unarmed women, children and elderly.
Frustrated U.S. troops came to My Lai on a "search and destroy" mission, looking for elusive Vietcong guerrillas. Although there were no reports of enemy fire, the U.S. troops began mowing down villagers and setting fire to their homes.
The incident shocked Americans and undermined support for the war.

 Those of us who lived during that sad time will never forget what we learned.  Some choose to remember and repeat, but they will never forget.  One who seems to fit that category is Colin Powell, then a 31-year-old Army Major.  Come look below the fold and learn more about his involvement.

This is Stocking's article:My Lai marks 40th massacre anniversary

The massacre reminds Lawrence Colburn and war veteran Mike Boehm of the 2005 images of torture that emerged from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
"We're supposed to learn from the mistakes of history, but we keep making the same mistakes," said Colburn, whose helicopter landed in My Lai in the midst of the massacre. "That's what makes My Lai more important today then ever before

This is from the Wikipedia account of the massacre:

Cover-up and investigations
The first reports claimed that "128 Vietcong and 22 civilians" were killed in the village during a "fierce fire fight". General William C. Westmoreland, MACV commander, congratulated the unit on the "outstanding job". As related at the time by the Army's Stars and Stripes magazine, "U.S. infantrymen had killed 128 Communists in a bloody day-long battle."

Initial investigations of the My Lai operation were undertaken by the 11th Light Infantry Brigade's commanding officer, Colonel Henderson, under orders from the Americal Division's executive officer, Brigadier General George H. Young. Henderson interviewed several soldiers involved in the incident, then issued a written report in late April claiming that some 22 civilians were inadvertently killed during the operation. The army at this time was still describing the events at My Lai as a military victory that had resulted in the deaths of 128 enemy combatants.

Six months later, Tom Glen, a 21-year-old soldier of the 11th Light Infantry Brigade, wrote a letter to General Creighton Abrams, the new overall commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam, accusing the Americal Division (and other entire units of the U.S. military) of routine and pervasive brutality against Vietnamese civilians. The letter was detailed and its contents echoed complaints received from other soldiers.

Colin Powell, then a 31-year-old Army Major, was charged with investigating the letter, which did not specifically reference My Lai (Glen had limited knowledge of the events there). In his report Powell wrote: "In direct refutation of this portrayal is the fact that relations between American soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent." Powell's handling of the assignment was later characterized by some observers as "whitewashing" the atrocities of My Lai. In May 2004, Powell, then United States Secretary of State, told CNN's Larry King, "I mean, I was in a unit that was responsible for My Lai. I got there after My Lai happened. So, in war, these sorts of horrible things happen every now and again, but they are still to be deplored."

The carnage at My Lai might have gone unknown to history if not for another soldier, Ron Ridenhour, a former member of Charlie Company, who, independently of Glen, sent a letter detailing the events at My Lai to President Richard M. Nixon, the Pentagon, the State Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and numerous members of Congress. The copies of this letter were sent in March 1969, a full year after the event. Most recipients of Ridenhour's letter ignored it, with the notable exception of Congressman Morris Udall (D-Arizona). Ridenhour learned about the events at My Lai secondhand, by talking to members of Charlie Company while he was still enlisted.

Eventually, Calley was charged with several counts of premeditated murder in September 1969, and 25 other officers and enlisted men were later charged with related crimes. It was another two months before the American public learned about the
massacre and trials.

So the business of being an apologist for evil was not new to Powell when Iraq was the issue.

One should not try to understand Mai lai without reading Scott Peck's chapter on it in his book People of the Lie . The entire book is worth the read, but this chapter is especially meaningful.  Peck relates the relationship of Mai Lai to a very large number of other events that went unreported until the investigations were pushed very hard.  Peck's role in the investigations was that of a professional, since he was a psychiatrist.  The book is devoted to an attempt to understand human evil and Peck got more than he bargained for with this investigation.  Once the Mai Lai story was spilled, a cascade of related events were revealed.  The extent of the cover up was overwhelming.  It caused Peck to wonder about how so many Americans could collude in such a mess.  His conclusion was devistating to me when I read it.  The finger was pointed at all of us.  He could not condemn the young Americans who participated in the attrocities and their subsequent cover up.  He saw them as caught up in a situation they could not handle and understood their inability to behave honorably in it.  Peck then fixed the responsibility on the American people for putting these young people in that impossible situation.  Since then my anti-war fervor has been even higher than it was before.  In spite of all we learned we are doing it again.

I'm going to end on a note that may anger some.  If Barack Obama's pastor said some harsh words about this country, he is neither the first or the last to ask us to look at our sins.  Among the worst of them were the original plunges into genocide about which I wrote here:
A sad day in American history: Wounded Knee  Will it ever stop?

UPDATE:  Last word on poll title is "war".  Sorry!

UPDATE II:  See Henry David's diary right after this one
My Lai March 16, 1968

Originally posted to don mikulecky on Fri Mar 14, 2008 at 09:45 PM PDT.


This country's history of attrocities during

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Comment Preferences

  •  TIP JAR (7+ / 0-)

    Please also rec

    An idea is not responsible for who is carrying it. It stands or falls on its own merits.

    by don mikulecky on Fri Mar 14, 2008 at 09:45:28 PM PDT

    •  Hi Don. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      don mikulecky

      Thank you for this diary found by the mention in Henry David's.

      Each of you bring something different to the subject and memory of Mai Lai and both deserves a larger audiance. For that reason, I will reccommend both be considered for Diary redcue. Of course, both have been tipped & Rec'd.

      I have mixed feelings about Colin Powel. He strikes me as a tragic fingure in the sense that so often his sense of loyalty and duty tovthe service has led him to defend the indefensible. With the best of intentions (and at times he has those) he fails to take the ultimate step tovspeak out and stand up when he should, always avoiding confronation and putting politeness and deference before honesty and his oiwn humanity.

      He's eported to be regretfulk for the role he played on the path leading to the Iraq war. Well, I suppose he has to live with himself - he's gotten-off easy compared to some he has failed.

      When harmonious relationships dissolve, respect and devotion arise; when a nation falls to chaos, loyalty and patriotism are born - Daodejing (paraphrased)

      by koNko on Sat Mar 15, 2008 at 01:21:10 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  If John McCain ruled the world . . . (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koNko, eastmt, don mikulecky

    we'd still be in Viet Nam.  Even if it took 1,000 years.

    "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex" Dwight D. Eisenhower

    by bobdevo on Fri Mar 14, 2008 at 09:50:40 PM PDT

    •  I'm not sure about that. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      don mikulecky

      I suspect the John McCain who served in Vietnam and survived years of imprisonment and torture was a much different person that the politician of today who will abandon his principles for the sake of ambition.

      It suggests the McCain of today is unfit to lead a nation, regardless of his past bravery.

      Personally, I wouldn't choose to diminish the pain he suffered anymore than I would falsly credit his present suggestion the USA remain in Iraq at all costs.

      Vote Dem and end the war.

      When harmonious relationships dissolve, respect and devotion arise; when a nation falls to chaos, loyalty and patriotism are born - Daodejing (paraphrased)

      by koNko on Sat Mar 15, 2008 at 05:30:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  McCain still thinks we were RIGHT in Vietnam. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        He cannot admit it was an ill-advised, illegal foreign adventure.

        As for his "character" - he was a decent POW.  Huzzah.

        But if you want to analyze his character, think about this:  he got into Annapolis because his father and grandfather were admirals.  So he got a free, tax-payer paid education.  Did he take advantage of this rare opportunity and study hard?  No - he partied, drank and graduated 894th out of 899.

        Did he then study hard in flight school?  No - he was a below average pilot.  He crashed on his first landing attempt - at taxpayer expense.  2 years later in Spain he vioalted regs, flew too low, hit power lines and crashed another plane at taxpayer expense.   After being reassigned to Jacksonville Florida, he took a plane to fly to the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia, and crashed it.  At taxpayer expense.

        He lost another plane on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier (not his fault) and then was shot down OR CRASHED another plane over North Vietnam.

        Since his return, I am not aware he was worked at all in the private sector, so his whole life has been a free ride at taxpayer expense.

        He's a crabby old man, and not my idea of a hero.

        "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex" Dwight D. Eisenhower

        by bobdevo on Sat Mar 15, 2008 at 11:17:57 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I don't think he's a hero (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          don mikulecky

          But his imprisonment and torture were not trivial matters and are political currency woth many people.

          It's unwise to attack him on that part of his personal record ynless he trys to use it as a credential.

          When harmonious relationships dissolve, respect and devotion arise; when a nation falls to chaos, loyalty and patriotism are born - Daodejing (paraphrased)

          by koNko on Sat Mar 15, 2008 at 09:58:41 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I certainly wouldn't attack him on his POW period (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            but I would sure as heck attack him for wasting taxpayers dollars throughout the free ride he has enjoyed.

            "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex" Dwight D. Eisenhower

            by bobdevo on Sun Mar 16, 2008 at 08:52:44 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Yes only the republicans can get away with (0+ / 0-)

            tearing down war veterans.  It was VA-01 where Tribble dissed Lou Puller when they were running for the congress.  Max Clelland, Kerry, how many others.  They are scum!  Support our troops!  They have turned that into something that makes me feel disgust.  Remember the Viet Nam war slogan:

            War is good business, invest your son

            Now your daughter too.

            An idea is not responsible for who is carrying it. It stands or falls on its own merits.

            by don mikulecky on Sun Mar 16, 2008 at 12:50:58 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    Recommended by:
    koNko, eastmt

    An idea is not responsible for who is carrying it. It stands or falls on its own merits.

    by don mikulecky on Fri Mar 14, 2008 at 09:51:21 PM PDT

  •  It took 20 months before the story ... (5+ / 0-)

    ...of My Lai managed to make it into the media. Seymour Hersh's exposé was rejected by one newspaper after another. Finally, he went to tiny, alternative Dispatch News Service, which sold the piece for $100 a pop.

    The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppose. - Frederick Douglass

    by Meteor Blades on Fri Mar 14, 2008 at 09:59:38 PM PDT

  •  Hey Don! you hit POSTon this right before me (5+ / 0-)

    and your heart's in the same good, sad place.

    And, until we can figure out how to make HEART Power into Political power, then the best thing we can do is to keep our hearts in tune with those who suffered, and never join the side of those who did this to them...

    If a thousand men were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State...

    by HenryDavid on Fri Mar 14, 2008 at 10:05:39 PM PDT

  •  Will some one please... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koNko, don mikulecky

    post the name of the heroic helicopter pilot who helped stop the massacre.His name escapes me and he deserves to be remembered.

    I don't hate Republicans I just feel better when they're not around.

    by justCal on Fri Mar 14, 2008 at 11:23:46 PM PDT

    •  Here it is from Wiki (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      koNko, justCal

      Helicopter rescue
      " It looks like a bloodbath down there! What the hell is going on? "
      —Unidentified helicopter pilot over My Lai[15]

      Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson, Jr., a 24-year-old helicopter pilot from an aero-scout team, witnessed a large number of dead and dying civilians as he began flying over the village - all of them infants, children, women and old men, with no signs of draft-age men or weapons anywhere. Thompson and his crew witnessed an unarmed passive woman kicked and shot at point-blank range by Captain Medina (Medina later claimed that he thought she had a grenade).[16] The crew made several attempts to radio for help for the wounded. They landed their helicopter by a ditch, which they noted was full of bodies and in which there was movement. Thompson asked a Sergeant he encountered there if the Sergeant could help get the people out of the ditch, and the Sergeant replied that he would "help them out of their misery". Thompson was shocked and confused but took it as some kind of a joke at the time. As the helicopter took off one of the crew members said "My God, he's firing into the ditch

      An idea is not responsible for who is carrying it. It stands or falls on its own merits.

      by don mikulecky on Fri Mar 14, 2008 at 11:30:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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