Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Reasons for Critical Vigilance

Thirty-seven years ago today, American forces entered the area surrounding the Vietnamese village of My Lai. According to eyewitness testimony, over the next 3 hours, over 500 Vietnamese civilians were killed by these American forces.

The American forces in this area were under orders to hunt down and destroy the 48th Viet Cong Battalion. However, from the time that US forces entered the area until the time that they withdrew, no such Viet Cong forces were encountered.

Yet there had been no firefight with the enemy - not a single shot was fired at the soldiers of Charlie Company, a unit of the Americal Division's 11th Infantry Brigade.

The 48th Viet Cong Battalion - the intended target of the mission - was nowhere to be seen.
While there were indeed a handful of "bad apples" among the enlisted men of Charlie company, the military leadership and policies implemented for operations in the Indochina peninsula by such leadership deserves the bulk of the blame.

In My Lai: A Brief History with Documents, a compilation of documents related to the My Lai incident accompanied by commentaries and explanations, James Olson of Sam Houston University and Randy Roberts of Purdue University explain in their opening chapter:

Once again, leadership failed Charlie Company. The officers who should have set a better example and held their men to a higher code of conduct did not. Captain Medina, remembered Michael Bernhardt, said "everything that walked and didn't wear a uniform was VC . . . He was as much a nut as anybody else. He was pissed off at the people and had no respect for them." With Medina providing the moral yardstick, platoon and squad members fell into line.
Remember this woman the next time you are accused of being unpatriotic for attacking those who have been responsible for the creation of despicable policies guiding American wartime actions.



Remember this child when you are next attacked for placing more value in the lives of "terrorists" than on the lives of innocent Americans because you attack this administration's inept leadership.

Do not back down. Do not give this administration a blank check when it comes to national defense policies. To do so ensures more My Lais, Abu Ghraibs, Guantanamo Bays, and even more international fury directed at the United States, which will create more 9/11s. The United States needs to maintain the moral high ground in the military operations in which it engages. The only way to ensure this is to remain critical of those in power, for as we all know, power has a strong tendency to corrupt.

UPDATE: I found this story very fitting. Let your anger flow.

WASHINGTON - At least 108 people have died in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, most of them violently, according to government data provided to The Associated Press. Roughly a quarter of those deaths have been investigated as possible abuse by U.S. personnel.
I echo the ACLU, hold someone accountable.

ACLU: Hold someone accountable
To human rights groups, the deaths form a clear pattern.

“Despite the military’s own reports of deaths and abuses of detainees in U.S. custody, it is astonishing that our government can still pretend that what is happening is the work of a few rogue soldiers,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. “No one at the highest levels of our government has yet been held accountable for the torture and abuse, and that is unacceptable.”