• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

SPRING FUNDRAISER

Is it time for our Spring fundraiser already? If you enjoy what we offer, and have the means, please consider donating. The sooner we reach our modest goal, the faster we can get back to business as (un)usual. Please, stay safe and we’ll see you down the road.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Mỹ Lai Amnesia Fifty Years On

When I ask a class of college students how many have heard of Mỹ Lai, only a few if any raise their hands, tentatively. Even they are unsure what it was, or where, or when, or who was involved. Why have we forgotten the nadir of the Vietnam War? Is our collective amnesia accidental or willful?

March 16 marks the 50th anniversary of the date that does not live in infamy. Does it for any Americans? In 1968, American soldiers slaughtered animals, raped villagers, and murdered 109 “Oriental human beings” in Mỹ Lai. That was the number cited in a court-martial 18 months later.

The memorial there today, however, lists 504 men, women, and children. Lieutenant Calley was found guilty of murdering “not less than 22 victims” and sentenced to life in prison. Four of five Americans disagreed with that verdict. His sentence was reduced to 20 years, then to 10. He was released after 42 months of house arrest. His captain was found not guilty. No one else faced court-martial.

These and other facts are quickly summarized: Charlie Company had suffered many casualties recently (the Tet Offensive had begun six weeks earlier); it was hard to distinguish daytime friends from nighttime foes engaged in civil war; stuff happens.

Some soldiers committed mass murder, but others intervened, reported the atrocity, and wrote letters made public when the military appeared to play possum. Helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson received the Distinguished Flying Cross for “disregarding his own safety” to rescue 15 children in a bunker. The Mỹ Lai Memorial commemorates him today as well.

Americans learned about the Mỹ Lai story on 12 November 1969, from Seymour Hersh’s Associated Press story, and then saw grisly photos of the carnage 10 days later when Life published Army photographer Ronald Haeberle’s shocking photos of peasants splayed atop one another in a ditch. The actual event had occurred 20 months before.

Haeberle’s photos, like Calley’s sentence, create cognitive dissonance. They do not comport with Americana ideals of brave soldiers risking their lives to protect freedom and make the world safe for democracy. Our boys and girls do not behave like this until, alas, they do: our soldiers abused prisoners at Abu Grahib; marines murdered women and children in Haditha, Iraq; Navy SEALs killed Afghan detainees at Kalach.

I do not rekindle this sorry litany to suggest a new form of American Exceptionalism or the erosion of character among American soldiers. Rather, normal human beings, Americans among them, behave abnormally when stressed abnormally amidst unremitting violence. Viewed across time and space, Mỹ Lai is no exception. Its rape, plunder, and carnage occur in wars reaching back through antiquity both real and legendary: Romans raped the Sabine women. Among the Greeks, hailed as progenitors of democracy and civilization itself, Ajax went berserk, then slaughtered his army’s cattle, which he mistook for the enemy. Achilles desecrated Hector after the siege of Troy dragged on for 10 years. The American Psychiatric Association added Posttraumatic Stress Disorder to its classifications only in 1980, but character-changing responses to trauma are common. “Soldier’s Heart” of the Civil War became “shell shock” in the First World War and “combat fatigue” in the Second. No soldier escapes war unwounded.

Perhaps we citizens purposefully ignore the horrific, inhumane, and inevitable atrocities of every war so we can renew and act again like stalwart patriots the next time the bugle sounds and the call to heroism beckons fellow citizens to victory in foreign lands.

News of Mỹ Lai reached war-weary America when it could no longer be hidden. Now, it is buried again. A recent study of more than 100 U.S. history textbooks found that fewer than half mention Mỹ Lai at all. Of those that do, it merits only 80 words on average, the number contained in this very paragraph. How could my students know about Mỹ Lai? We do not want them to know. And we do not want to remember either.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 29, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Tim Wise
Protest, Uprisings, and Race War
Nick Pemberton
White Supremacy is the Virus; Police are the Vector
T.J. Coles
What’s NATO Up to These Days? Provoking Russia, Draining Healthcare Budgets and Protecting Its Own from COVID
Benjamin Dangl
Bibles at the Barricades: How the Right Seized Power in Bolivia
Kevin Alexander Gray - Jeffrey St. Clair - JoAnn Wypijewski
There is No Peace: an Incitement to Justice
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Few Good Sadists
Jeff Mackler
The Plague of Racist Cop Murders: Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and the COVID-19 Pandemic
Joshua Frank
In Search of a Lost Socialism
Charles Pierson
Who are the “Wrong Hands” in Yemen?
Andrew Levine
Trump Is Unbeatable in the Race to the Bottom and So Is the GOP
David Schultz
Trump isn’t the Pope and This Ain’t the Middle Ages
Ramzy Baroud
Political Ambiguity or a Doomsday Weapon: Why Abbas Abandoned Oslo
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
A Growing Wave of Bankruptcies Threatens U.S. Recovery
Joseph Natoli
Conditions Close at Hand
N.D. Jayaprakash
No Lessons Learned From Bhopal: the Toxic Chemical Leak at LG Polymers India 
Ron Jacobs
The Odyssey of Elias Demetracopoulos
J.P. Linstroth
Arundhati Roy on Indian Migrant-Worker Oppression and India’s Fateful COVID Crisis
Melvin Goodman
Goodness Gracious, David Ignatius!!
Roger Harris
Blaming the COVID-19 Pandemic on Too Many Humans:  a Critique of Overpopulation Ideology
Sonali Kolhatkar
For America’s Wealthiest, the Pandemic is a Time to Profit
Prabir Purkayastha
U.S. Declares a Vaccine War on the World
David Rosen
Coronavirus and the Telecom Crisis
Paul Buhle
Why Does W.E.B. Du Bois Matter Today?
Mike Bader
The Only Way to Save Grizzlies: Connect Their Habitats
Dave Lindorff
Pandemic Crisis and Recession Can Spark a Fight for Real Change in the US
Nyla Ali Khan
The Sociopolitical and Historical Context That Shaped Kashmiri Women Like My Grandmother in the 1940s
Louis Proyect
Does Neo-Feudalism Define Our Current Epoch?
Ralph Nader
S. David Freeman: Seven Decades of Participating in Power for All of Us
Norman Solomon
Amy Klobuchar, Minneapolis Police and Her VP Quest
Maria Paez Victor
Venezuela in the 2020 Pandemic
Ron Mitchell
Defending Our Public Lands: One Man’s Legacy
Nomi Prins 
The Great Depression, Coronavirus Style: Crashes, Then and Now
Richard C. Gross
About That City on A Hill
Kathleen Wallace
An Oath for Hypocrites
Eve Ottenberg
Common Preservation or Extinction?
Graham Peebles
Air Pollution Mental Illness and Covid-19
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Unearned Income for All
Evan Jones
The Machine Stops
Nicky Reid
Proudhon v. Facebook: A Mutualist Solution to Cyber Tyranny
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
What is a “Native” Plant in a Changing World?
Shailly Gupta Barnes
Why are Our Leaders Still Putting Their Faith in the Rich?
John Kendall Hawkins
In Search of the Chosŏn People of Lost Korea
Jill Richardson
Tens of Millions of Are Out of Work, Why on Earth is Trump Trying to Cut Food Aid?
Susan Block
Incel Terrorism
David Yearsley
Plague Music
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail