Sunday, March 13, 2016

Remembering My Lai and My Khe

I was 14 or 15 when My Lai was all over the news and in the newspapers. America -- at least most of the people I knew and listen to -- were stunned by the news. A group of US soldiers in Vietnam had lined up all the women and children and men of all ages and murdered them. The only reason the story hit the news instead of being buried in the Vietnamese jungles was because of Capt. Hugh Clowers Thompson, Jr. 

I remember an article about the massacre and the aftermath once Captain Thompson came forward and told what happened that day. I had tears in my eyes when I read about how horrified he was at his team's actions, how they laughed and raped the women and made their families watch while they raped and mutilated children. Capt. Thompson evidently couldn't live with the knowledge and spoke out.

Their intelligence was that the village was full of sympathizers. Capt. Thompson's team had gone into other villages and hamlets in their sweeps and been met with derision and fear and children carrying bayonets and knives and sharpened bamboo stakes covered in feces or dipped in poison.

That day the soldiers likely expected to be attacked by the villagers because they had been told there were North Vietnamese sympathizers willing to kill and die for Ho Chi Minh. It didn't take long for the situation to devolve into murder, mutilation, rape, and massacre. That day My Lai, My Khe, and 4 other hamlets were destroyed by the US soldiers.

Other atrocities during war -- and even in peace time -- have happened throughout the world and on American soil. War brings out the worst in men. War and fear and violence bring out the rabid animal in men.

Many atrocities go unnoticed because there are few people willing to stand up and say, "Stop! No more!" the way that Capt. Thompson did that day even in the midst of his own shock and horror. I've no doubt he could not believe his eyes when the members of his patrol sliced off body parts (ears, noses, genitalia) and affixed them to their uniforms or when young prepubescent girls were raped and killed in front of their families or their mothers and grandmothers were raped.

It takes someone with more heart than fear of what will happen to him or her to stand up and tell the truth about being a part of, or even on the fringe of, such heinous acts. Capt. Thompson risked his military career and his life to go public with what happened that day at My Lai and My Khe.

"On November 17, 1970, a court-martial in the United States charged 14 officers, including Major General Samuel W. Koster, the Americal Division's commanding officer, with suppressing information related to the incident. Most of the charges were later dropped. Brigade commander Colonel Henderson was the only high ranking commanding officer who stood trial on charges relating to the cover-up of the My Lai massacre; he was acquitted on December 17, 1971."  

Lt. Calley, one of the accused, claimed during the 4-month long court martial that he was following the orders of commanding officer, Capt. Medina, and was summarily judged guilty and sentenced to life in prison for the premeditated murder of at least 20 people. The US Army calculated the death toll at 347 at My Lai  and others say 400 dead. The Vietnamese government listed 504 deaths in My Lai and My Khe.

Of the 26 soldiers charged with the premeditated murders, only Lt. Calley went to trial and President Nixon reduced Calley's sentence to 20 years in prison, serving 3-1/2 months on house arrest at Fort Benning and another 3 months in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Calley was paroled in 1974.

The sentence was light and not nearly as harsh as it should have been, especially considering he murdered and raped the villagers under orders. I believe the same defense was used at the Nuremberg trials.

Backward logic seems to be par for situations like these, especially when someone steps forward to make the facts known. These whistle-blowers are regarded by those in high positions, especially those with dirt on their hands, as traitors while the average American considers them heroes. The Powers That Be do not treat honesty and a moral conscience with the dignity they deserve.

Men like Julian Assange of WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden who currently resides in Russia. There are more than a handful of men and women willing to do the right thing. They are often considered rats and stool pigeons and, especially in the case of Snowden, traitors who have misused their privileged positions.

Snowden knew he'd spend his life in exile by making the illegal wire tapping and spying on every from American citizens to allies and enemies around the world. He chose exile over loyalty to the sitting President of the United States and the various alphabet agencies (FBI, CIA, Homeland Security, ...). As an ethical and moral individual, what other choice did he have?

What choice does anyone faced with an ethical dilemma have? His conscience or his bank account.

Snowden was no spy and he was not infiltrating the US government. He was a contractor paid to handle the data collected by the US government, much of that data collection in violation of every single American citizen's rights under the US Constitution.

As more news about the New World Order emerges and the plan for the human race becomes appallingly clear, I see the world differently. I saw it differently in the latter part of the 1960s after reading about My Lai. With each new atrocity, the view changes and becomes darker and more forbidding. It is only through the actions of men like Assange, Snowden, and Captain Hugh Thompson, Jr. that the Pandora's box they have uncovered spewing out all manner of evil and horror that a glimmer of hope shines brightly. As long as there are men and women willing to face the fire and retribution of the evil perpetrators, there is hope for us all and I am thankful they refused to stick their heads in the sand and ignore the horrors and betrayals they saw and experienced.

I keep coming back to the same thought every time. All it takes for evil to flourish is for good men (and women) to do nothing. Take the bribe and turn a blind eye too often seems to trump honor and conscience. I'm glad none of those that stand up and call a spade a spade chose greed over truth. 

That is all. Disperse. 

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