November 20, 2009
Lisa DeJong, The Plain Dealer Ron Haeberle, a Fairview High School graduate, was a combat photographer in Vietnam. He was in the village of My Lai in 1968 when 300 Vietnamese civilians were killed by American troops. Haeberle, who still lives in Northeast Ohio, has finally broken his silence about got the photos and the impact they have had on his life and the history of his country.
Forty years ago today, black-and-white photographs of slaughtered women, children and old men in a Vietnamese village shocked the world -- or that portion of the world willing to believe American soldiers could gun down unarmed peasants and leave them to die in streets and ditches...>>>
Only speaking up brought light onto a reality of War and Occupation:
The Plain Dealer front page on Nov. 20, 1969
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It was too hard, too painful, to comprehend.
But the atrocities committed by soldiers in the U.S. Army's Charlie Company were captured by combat photographer Sgt. Ron Haeberle, a Fairview High School graduate who'd been drafted after college.
The Army did not begin investigating My Lai until the spring of 1969, a year after the killings, after a former member of Charlie Company sent a letter to government officials, including President Richard Nixon and numerous members of Congress...>>>
"First, I showed all the good we did there, what the medics did, and photos of Vietnamese people smiling. And then I'd go to the My Lai photos, and there'd be dead silence," says Haeberle today, in one of his first U.S. interviews in many decades...>>>
For any of the good to win hearts and minds they are quickly wiped out in the atrocities of war and the killing and maiming of the innocent citizens of any occupation, survivors don't forget, some join the battles to rid their land of those that occupy.
Unbelievable massacre still reverberates
On March 16, 1968, American soldiers, "the good guys," who were not under fire, entered a village where residents were eating breakfast, rousted them from their homes, raped young girls and then killed them, their siblings, parents and grandparents. When the injured moved among the corpses they lay with, they were shot again until they were still...>>>
What was the My Lai massacre?
* The My Lai massacre occurred on March 16, 1968, less than three months after the start of the Tet Offensive, a series of surprise attacks by Viet Cong and North Vietnamese on U.S. troops.
* By the time the U.S. Army's Charlie Company headed for My Lai, it had lost several men to mines and booby traps. The soldiers were warned that "VC" could be anyone and were hiding everywhere.
* That set the scene for the unit's attack and shootings that left hundreds dead in the village of My Lai..>>>
In Vietnam, a shocking memorial
In 2000, Haeberle went back to Vietnam for the first time. He bought a number of original works by Vietnamese artists, which hang in his living room today. Most are abstracts; one is a black-and-white, delicately needleworked portrait of a woman, gracefully reaching one arm toward the sky.
He and a group of cyclist friends biked 775 miles from Hanoi to Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, with stops along the way.
One was at My Lai, where women still push and pull water buffalo alongside green rice fields and where there is now a museum and peace garden memorializing the dead.
Haeberle's traveling friends knew of his role in My Lai's past. "But we just kept it quiet. They were protective."
He walked into the small museum -- "It's beautiful," he says -- and was shocked to see the 16-by-20-inch photos on the wall. The massacre photos were all his, some color, some black-and-white; there was even a black-and-white shot of him.
"I never gave them the photos," he explains. "So the Army must have."
He won't say he got choked up, exactly, but he was affected by being in that space, his own powerful images of horror looking back at him from the walls.
"I found myself making an apology for what happened," he says. "I walked around by myself. No one else was around, and I was making silent amends.
"For something that didn't have to happen, but did." ...>>>>>Rest Here
The lessons were widely discussed, in particular what they revealed about the GI's attitude to the enemy they were fighting. Name-calling and indoctrination had dehumanized the Vietnamese in their minds to the extent that even violence against civilians seemed uncontroversial.
It would be good to think that this lesson stuck, but the pictures of Iraqi prisoners being tortured and humiliated at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad show it's a mind set that has never been eradicated.
After Haeberle's photographs were published, anti-war protests took on a new momentum, but just as vocal were the protests from "patriotic" Americans against the premeditated murder conviction and life sentence given to Calley. A year after the court martial, Nixon caved in to their uproar and had him freed pending a case review....>>>>>
Last night, November 20, 2009, on the Bill Moyers Journal LBJ'S PATH TO WAR
Bill Moyers considers a President's decision to escalate troop levels in a military conflict. Through LBJ's taped phone conversations and his own remembrances, Bill Moyers looks at Johnson's deliberations as he stepped up America's role in Vietnam. Explore a multimedia timeline.
The origins of the Vietnam War lie in 1945, when the British ignored Ho Chi Minh's declaration of independence and restored French rule to the country.
After a protracted conflict with Ho Chi Minh's nationalist forces and a massive defeat at Dien Bien Phu, the French left Vietnam in 1954.
During the Cold War many foreign policy analysts subscribed to "The Domino Theory" — which contended that should one country come under communist rule, its neighbors were likely to follow suit. President Eisenhower, worried about the spread of communism, sent U.S. advisors to train forces in South Vietnam in 1956, and President Kennedy increased American forces significantly, with 12,000 U.S. military advisors stationed in Vietnam by 1962.
But it was under President Johnson that the U.S. escalated the conflict to a full scale war...>>>>>
Times are different now and have been since our long ocupation of Vietnam, of which I served In-Country '70-'71. The Vietnamesse, wanting their Freedom, just wanted the invaders and occupiers of out of their country, first the French then the United States and the few coalition forces who joined us.
Since then the failed policies towards the smaller less powerful countries, by the powerful, have caused what we now refer to as terrorism and those that lash out terrorist, everybody not us.
The criminal acts of terrorism, knowing no borders, have taken untold numbers of lives of innocents of the countries carrying out their failed policies in the names of those they lead.
Today, as has been for long before the Sept 11th '01 attack within our borders, and many other countries before and since, the invasions and occupations as well as the continued failed foreign policies lead not only to extreme destructive attacks within the borders of the occupied countries but a greater occurance of same anywhere, especially towards those who's governments and more try to force their ideologies or seek the resources of others for themselves.
Lessons Never Learned, and Now we've created the destructive future for those who follow us!