On April 26 PBS aired an incredible documentary about the gravity beyond belief of the My Lai massacre in Viet Nam on March 16, 1968. Through interviews with U.S. Army veterans and Vietnamese civilians who were there and extraodrinary video and still fim footage, director Barak Goodman, recreates this horrifying tragedy befalling Vietnamese children, women and men. A couple of survivors told of their family members and others being shot right near by and of their miraculous escapes. Interviewed additionally are elderly former U.S. Soldiers who felt they too would be shot if they tried to stop the killings of between 300 and 507 unarmed and unresisting victims, mostly lying in a ditch. The film recounted the efforts of a couple of heroic U.S. Army men in a helocopter in saving a very few from murdrers within their own ranks.
In the early 1960s, I was stationed with military intelligence and the First Cavalry Division near the border of South and North Korea. Within months of my arrival, The First Cav began transferring itself to Vietnam. I stayed in my assigned mission monitoring North Korean border crossers and spies as well as conducting U.S. unit security inpections in Pajuri near the North Korean border. As it turned out, I and many others did not have enough service time left on our overseas assignments for transfers.
After watching PBS's brilliant and riveting program, I went to sleep to have nightmares. I now feel so very fortunate not to have ever been sent into the Vietnam War. Listening to the deeply emotional interviews of US soldiers and Vietnamese civilians involved in the My Lai Massacre, I was compelled to search my soul to ask what I would have done had I been there.
I know what I would have wanted to do! I would have wanted to scream: "You are murdering innocent children, men and women! Stop! Stop! Stop!" But, would I have had the courage that Hugh Thompson, Jr., a helicopter reconnaissance pilot , had to save potential Vietnamese civilian victims and protest the killings? Or would I have stood and watched in fear of my own life without uttering a word as children and adults were being shot nearby in a ditch? I sure as hell know I would never, ever have fired on helpless and innocent Vietnamese civilians! And, I am sure I would have reported the massacre to higher ups and been outraged had they done nothing, as they did.
But even if I had reported the horror, I would have had to ask myself why didn't I stop it? If I had not constantly screamed bloody murder as shots were fired, why hadn't I?
Horrifyingly the perpetrators, in the end, got away without serious punishment because former President Richard Nixon caved in and pardoned Lt. William Calley, the only killer prosecuted. His murderous cohort, Capt. Ernest Medina, and Major General Koster, a division commander, who ordered a halt to any inquiry, and others did not even have to face a trial.
So what does this teach us?! It shows that when a war starts, absolutely nothing is going to stop the tragic killings of hundreds or thousands of innocent people. Lokk what has happened since in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan!
And so, the wars and the senseless murders and killings continue today! And they continue in the name of saving innocents, when instead they are being slaughtered by military representatives of the United States of America! Untold thousands of others have become sick from the U.S. Army's use of radioactive depleted uranium munitions and the U.S. bombing of Iraqi bunkers filled with chemical warfare agents.
Few are punished or even investigated. So what makes us so different from the Nazis or the leaders of the Congo or Rwanda or South Africa?! Are we avoiding the killings of innocents after lessons learned from history? Hell no! Historically, once wars start, they take years to end and then new ones begin! Why can't humans live in peace like most of the rest of nature's living beings? If we continue on this path, what's the eventual fate of the already overpolluted earth?! Who is responsible?
We the people are certainly responsible to stand up and demonstrate and oppose war at the outset and as it continues. But, of course, we desparately need good leadership to help us. It's been absent for all these years. According to Answers.com, the Vietnamese "fought for 11 years against France between 1946-1957, and 18 years against the U.S. Between 1957-1975."
If it had not been for repetitious and emotional and sometimes violent demonstrations by U.S. Citizens, that war could have gone on indefinitely. Yet as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan started and continued on for years, few have staged similar demonstrations. On the contrary, many in this country have supported those wars. They have done so despite all the killings of innocents, the thousands of U.S. casualties and war related illnesses and the lack of resolution to the so called War on Terrorism.
Looks like we learned absolutely nothing from the seemingly endless war in Vietnam. Why?