Posts Tagged ‘My Lai’

A Blogger’s Free and Responsible Search for Truth and Meaning

June 29, 2014

Being a UU, I know that Unitarian Universalists do not have a creed, but UU communities affirm and promote Seven Principles. The Fourth one, “a free and responsible search for truth and meaning,” is the one that concerns us for this post. I am examining how that principle applies to the body of work that I have produced for this blog, which is a Personal blog. WordPress, which hosts more than 60 million websites including this one, says Personal “is the broadest category and includes blogs about personal topics like politics, music, family, travel, health, you name it.”

Since I started this blog in 2008, there have been 690 posts. There is no way we can examine each one, so let’s take a look at the one that has gotten and continues to get the most hits. The August 19, 2009 post AN EMOTIONAL WILLIAM CALLEY SAYS HE IS SORRY not only continues to get a lot of hits, but continues to get comments from readers.

Former Army Lt. William Calley, the only person convicted of participating in the massacre of hundreds of Vietnamese civilians during the Vietnam War, including a lot of  women and children,  used the occasion of speaking to the Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus (Georgia), to apologize for his  role in the war crime.  My report was picked up by the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, carried by all McClatchey newspapers , and fed by the L-E to the Associated Press,  causing it to be reported around the world.

I can’t speak  for others, so I’ll just concentrate on what I  see to be true in the report.  One significant truth to me is that some human beings of any nationallity are capable of unspeakable acts. Another one is that not only are some people incapaable of that, but they will actively oppose those who are.    

 What’s the meaning of the story?  For one thing, to me, it again raises the point that  war is an insane way for nations to resolve conflicts.  For another,  it shows that political leaders can get a lot of people killed unnecessarily and can be disingenuous about justifying their lethal actions.    

I realize that it may have an entirely different truth and meaning for you. Please feel  free to click on the comment button and let me know how you feel about the subject.  I do request that comments be civil, not too profane, and sans name calling. 

 

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A Soldier Comments on How My Lai Affects Today’s Army

April 27, 2010

This is one of the many interesting comments that have been made about  the post  An Emotional William Calley Says he is SorryI am printing it as a post, not only because it is well written, but because  of the author’s explanation of how he believes My Lai has affected  today’s Army’s efforts to make sure that American soldiers know that incidents like My Lai are “not acceptable and will never be acceptable.”  The comment was written anonymously, but I checked with an Army spokesman at Fort Benning, and he confirmed that such classes are conducted. He says that while it is not required specifically that My Lai be mentioned,  it certainly can be, and it is reasonable to assume that it was in the case of the writer who identifies himself as a soldier. 

First off, I was NOT in Vietnam but I have been to Afghanistan twice now.

The bottom line is this man is showing remorse, whether real or fake, at least he is doing that much. Nothing that he can say or do will ever justify what happened there because it can’t. He is guilty of murder just like everyone else that participated in the massacre, to include his Commanders who were hovering in helicopters watching what was going on. They will have to live with that for the rest of their lives as they have for the last 30+ years.

I would like to put this out as a side note to this article: When Abu Ghraib happened, there was the same (though less) national and international outrage. From that investigation everyone from the Commander of the Prison itself (BG Karpinski) to the Battalion Commander (LTC Jordan) was relieved of command and well investigated for parts in the scandal, not to mention the charges on a slew of other personnel from that unit who were convicted of countless crimes. I do not believe that this kind of response would have been possible if the example of My Lai was not so prevalent in the military mindset.

Before both of my deployments we have had training classes for EVERY soldier about ROE, the Geneva Convention and Ethics in Combat. These were taught by the commanders and officers of the unit and it was made extremely clear to all of the soldiers that My Lai was not acceptable and nothing like it will ever be acceptable. My Lai changed the Army and the world for the better, and it is because of My Lai that most of our soldiers are better educated and more ethical now than they have ever been before.

It was a horrible time for our country and it’s armed forces, no one can say otherwise. Many horrible things happened to our troops over there and a lot of them are still dealing with it, but just the same as if someone had done something like My Lai today, it is WRONG and there is no excuse for it.

Just my $.02

S.S.

New York Times Editorial Says Nation Must Not Forget My Lai

August 28, 2009

The New York Times has an editorial today on  My Lai  that you might want to read.  For one thing, it says, “Mr. Calley endures as a classic scapegoat.”  You can read it by clicking the following link:  New York Times Editorial.

Calley Offered a Chance to Speak to Vietnamese People

August 26, 2009

Former Army Lt. William Calley, the only American convicted for participating in the My Lai massacre,  can speak directly to the Vietnamese people if he chooses.  He can go there, or he can be interviewed on the Voice of America. 

Voice of America radio studio (Courtesy: Voice of America)

Voice of America radio studio (Courtesy: Voice of America)

Judy Nguyen, who is Senior Editor of the Vietnamese Service for VOA,  contacted this blog and asked for help in contacting Calley.  We haven’t had success with that. 

She wants to let him know that VOA will interview him and beam the interview to Vietnam where it will be heard by a lot of people.  The interview will be translated into Vietnamese.

She says,  “We believe our listeners in Vietnam would be keenly interested in hearing what Mr. Calley has to say, especially if it is different from what they have heard or been told by their own media. If ever Mr. Calley wanted to say anything that would be heard by the people of Vietnam, the Voice of America would be the appropriate channel.”

He has also been invited to come to My Lai by the director of the memorial museum there.  According to the Canadian website “Media with Conscience,” Pham Thanh Cong,  who saw both his mother and brothers killed during the massacre,  wants Calley to return to see how things are there now. “Maybe he has now repented for his crimes and his mistakes committed more than 40 years ago.”  He also said he accepts Calley’s public apology, with a condition. He wants Calley to send him a letter or email apologizing for his part in the My Lai massacre.

When Is an Order Unlawful?

August 23, 2009

You are a young lieutenant. 

You are ordered to take out a machine-gun emplacement on a hill. 

You lead your men up the hill to the emplacement. 

The enemy has lined up women and children in front of the machine gun.  You decide you will not shoot the innocent civilians. 

When you get back to your superior officer, he tells you that you have flunked the test.

That’s a true story, told to me by my friend, retired Lt. Col. John Nix,  who served as an  attorney in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps.  He was that young lieutenant – well, he was actually an R.O.T.C cadet pretending to be a lieutenant for that exercise.   He was informed by his instructor that it is a lawful order to shoot innocent civilians if they block your target.

Naturally, this conversation was triggered by the story about the  apology for his role in the My Lai massacre by former Army Lt. William Calley.  ” The difference,” he said, “is that you could not say herding innocent civilians into a ditch and killing them was removing shields that were in front of a target.”

Calley’s defense all along has been that he was following orders.  That was denied by his superior officer.  If Calley’s assertion had been determined right,  he would still have had the problem of following an unlawful order.   

John  Nix says whether an order is lawful or not can end up in a courtroom dispute.  He warns that if a soldier decides not to follow one, he had better be right because the consequences can be dire.  However, the consequences of following an illegal order can also be dire.

According to About.com, the Manual for Courts-Martial says, “An order requiring the performance of a military duty or act may be inferred to be lawful and it is disobeyed at the peril of the subordinate. This inference does not apply to a patently illegal order, such as one that directs the commission of a crime.

Who decides whether an order is lawful or not? It’s certainly not the soldier who decided not to follow the order.  About.com puts it this way: “Ultimately, it’s not whether or not the military member thinks the order is illegal or unlawful, it’s whether military superiors (and courts) think the order was illegal or unlawful.”

Wonder how much, if any, training about whether an order is legal or not is given to the average soldier.  I never got any. When I was in basic training I was told just how horrible my life could be if I disobeyed an order.  Nobody ever said, that I can remember,  that I didn’t have to obey an unlawful order.  Maybe it’s different now.  I took basic training fifty-five years ago. 

Basic training graduation ceremony parade, National Infantry Museum, Ft. Benning/Columbus

Basic training class graduation ceremony parade, June, 2009, National Infantry Museum, Ft. Benning/Columbus, GA

Why William Calley Chose to Speak at the Kiwanis Club

August 21, 2009

A number of people have asked me why former Army Lt. William Calley picked the Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus to speak publicly.  It is because he and TV commentator Al Fleming, an old friend of mine, are old friends.  Al, a member of the Kiwanis Club,  invited him. 

Al Fleming, William Calley at Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus, Columbus, GA

Al Fleming, William Calley at Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus, Columbus, GA

As far as a respectful and polite audience is concerned, he picked the right place.  He got a standing ovation when introduced – everyone gets that when they speak at this club’s meetings – but, he also got one at the end.  Al says that just usually doesn’t happen. To be honest,  almost everyone stood both times, but I spotted at least one exception.

The questions were asked respectfully and politely, which could give the impression they were softball.  I don’t think that was the case. The questions got right to the crux of the matter, in my view, and Calley didn’t dodge any of them.   

I have been a guest a few times at this club. On a personal note, I have always enjoyed those visits. In fact, I spoke there last week, giving a Power Point presentation for  Muscogee County Friends of the Libraries,  pointing out the importance of supporting your public libraries.   I enjoyed that, too.