Just saw on the New York Times website that PBS is supposed to run a documentary entitled “My Lai”, about the massacre by American soldiers of hundreds of unarmed villagers in 1968 during the Vietnam War.
It’s supposed to be on tonight (Monday) — check your local listings. I certainly plan to watch if I can.
To some it may seem like just a terrible aberration or something that just happens in the fog of war.
Well, it does happen. We are doing it today in Afghanistan and have done it in Iraq, although perhaps not on such a grand scale (unless you count the totals).
My Lai, from all accounts, was rather up close and personal — troops mowing down women and children (babies) and others with automatic weapons fire.
There were too many soldiers involved in the My Lai incident for it to be simply blamed on a deviant or two.
The Nazis did such things in World War II out of pure hatred and some terrible programmed group-think thing.
From what I have read over the years, My Lai was kind of the result of fear and frustration out of losing fellow soldiers to booby traps and a largely unseen enemy firing out of the jungle and the reasonable suspicion that villagers were either Viet Cong guerillas themselves (although the babies could not have been) or were aiding and abetting the enemy. And their command also instilled a mentality to kill first and ask questions later (and right or wrong, in the interest of survival that was probably necessary to some extent — killing women and children and other innocents still not excusable though).
When soldiers are sent to a strange land to intervene in an internal struggle (notwithstanding outside involvement of other belligerents or wider world implications) terrible things result.
That’s a good reason not to commit our troops to fight internal struggles that should be left up to the locals.
It’s kind of like the local cops going out on a domestic disturbance call. The husband is beating the wife (or visa versa), but when it’s all said and done the unhappy couple both beat up on the cops.