Skip to comments.Haditha killings recall Vietnam's My Lai
Posted on 06/02/2006 6:52:09 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
NEW YORK - On a March morning in 1968, American troops swept into a village on South Vietnam's central coast in search of communist guerrillas. Instead, they found unarmed civilians and gunned them down, leaving bodies huddled in ditches.
Nearly four decades later, the notorious name of that hamlet My Lai has been summoned from memory again, as the U.S. military investigates allegations of mass civilian killings by a group of Marines in the western Iraqi town of Haditha.
While the numbers differ upward of 300 at My Lai, compared to 24 at Haditha some of the circumstances are eerily similar.
Haditha, a deceptively quiet town in the Euphrates valley, is known as a center of insurgent activity, just as My Lai was 38 years ago.
The killings at My Lai were attributed by some to U.S. troops seeking vengeance for booby traps and mines the "improvised explosive devices" of that time. Just two days earlier, the same infantry unit had suffered casualties from a booby trap.
Flash forward to another war, in another time.
Last Nov. 19, a Marine was killed when an IED struck a four-vehicle convoy at Haditha. The Marines reported that 15 Iraqi civilians also died in the blast, and eight insurgents were killed in an ensuing firefight.
But that story didn't stick. Rep. John Murtha (news, bio, voting record), D-Pa., a leading critic of the Iraq war, said after being briefed by military officials that the Marines actually had killed unarmed civilians at the scene, and others in nearby homes. Lance Cpl. James Crossan of North Bend, Wash., who was wounded by the roadside bomb, told a Seattle TV interviewer the incident might have caused others to be "blinded by hate ... and they just lost control."
Investigators want to know not only what happened, but whether officers of the 3rd Marine Regiment covered up the truth as did senior officers of the Army's Americal Division, to which the My Lai unit belonged.
While the two incidents appear to have similarities, there are key distinctions between the Vietnam era's military and today's an all-volunteer armed force that officials consider more professional and better motivated.
Perhaps most important is that all U.S. service members now undergo training in the "law of armed conflict," which spells out rules for dealing with civilians in a combat situation, said Scott Silliman, a law professor and executive director of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke University.
"That didn't kick in until the 1970s, and My Lai was the watershed case," Silliman said. "But this (Haditha) is not My Lai, and those that try to make a direct comparison are not well informed. It may be a gut reaction, but today's troops are much better educated, trained and disciplined than those at My Lai."
My Lai occurred on March 16, 1968, as troops launched Task Force Barker, a "search and destroy" operation in one of South Vietnam's most dangerous areas. It was the turf of a seasoned Viet Cong guerrilla battalion, where locals displayed sullen hostility toward U.S. troops and an estimated 80 percent of casualties were from booby traps and mines.
In what was later depicted as a combination of systematic killing and uncontrolled rampage, the GIs forced men, women and babies from their homes, herded them into groups and shot them.
The incident was noted in the next day's war communique by MACV, the U.S. command headquarters in Saigon. It said U.S. forces had killed 128 "enemy" in a sweep in Quang Ngai province. The name My Lai was not mentioned.
In a particularly chilling moment at his 1970 court-martial, Lt. William Calley, a platoon leader, testified that the "order of the day" from his company commander, Capt. Ernest Medina, had been to move the villagers, and if they refused, to "waste them."
The body count ranged between 250 and 300 by Calley's estimate, and more than 400 by some others. A later U.S. inquiry would settle on 347.
The first inkling of such incidents came months after My Lai, in a letter from a former soldier to the division commander. The letter, which did not specifically mention My Lai, was referred to the operations officer, Lt. Col. Colin Powell the eventual Secretary of State who investigated and reported that the claims were groundless.
It was not until November, 1969, that the truth finally surfaced, after Ron Ridenhour, another ex-GI who had learned of My Lai from participants, wrote letters to President Nixon, the Pentagon, State Department and members of Congress.
The My Lai affair had several outcomes, and few were satisfied. Acquitted of murdering 102 Vietnamese after a skillful defense by attorney F. Lee Bailey, Medina later admitted he had suppressed evidence and lied to superiors about the death toll. Fourteen Americal Division officers were accused of taking part in a cover-up, but none was convicted. Lt. Col. Frank Barker, for whom the operation was named, died a few weeks later in a helicopter crash.
Calley, the lowest-ranking officer charged, was convicted of premeditated murder in 1971 and faced life at hard labor. But Nixon ordered him moved from the stockade to house arrest. In 1974 he was paroled and returned to a civilian life of obscurity in Columbus, Ga.
My Lai did have its heroes, however. Chief Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson and two helicopter crew mates landed their reconnaissance chopper in the middle of the killing spree, threatened to shoot any soldiers who continued firing, and directed the evacuation of 12 wounded villagers.
All three eventually were awarded the Soldier's Medal for bravery. Thompson died of cancer in January 2006 and was buried with military honors. In a 2004 television interview, he had said he wanted to forgive what had been done at My Lai, but "I swear to God, I can't."
Richard Pyle covered the Vietnam War for five years and was AP's Saigon bureau chief 1970-73.
Thank you, Dishonorable Jack Murtha!!
Support Murtha's opponent - Diana Irey. Please!
Disgusting - the investigation is not over and the marines are convicted. Same old Vietnam garbage.
ON THE NET...
"Haditha Doctor Was Arrested, Hates US Too"
Sweetness & Light ^ | June 1, 2006 | N/A
Posted on 06/01/2006 6:44:37 PM PDT by Sam Hill
"Haditha: Blood Money, Lies and Videotape?"
Front Page Mag ^ | June 2, 2006 | Andrew Walden
Posted on 06/01/2006 9:09:03 PM PDT by beaversmom
"relatives turned down a request by U.S. investigators to exhume the victims' bodies for forensic tests."
JACK ASS MURTHA IT'S OVER UNLESS YOU DON'T NEED A FAIR TRIAL TO CONVICT THESE MARINES?
Yup! Another My Lai. Jack "The Fragger" Murtha says so. Why waste time and money on investigations, hearings and all that jazz. Let's just execute these Marines. Murtha says they're guilty so it must be true. "THERE THEY ARE! LET'S GET 'EM BOYS!!!!!
Yes, that would describe the media.
Well,,, thank you...uh, duh..oh, yeah... It's yahoo.
Whether you do it on the ground, up close and personal, or from an aircraft, or with missiles...the results are the same. Non-combatants die. Either collaterally, or as an effort to pacify the enemy population.
Non-combatants in enemy enclaves should either get out or their own blood is on their hands, or whomever holds them there. Sorry, AP, libs, liberal media, hand-wringers, RINO's, etc... but thatt's the harsh reality of war.
Richard Pyle of Sh$t!
it's amazing how the lame-stream-media is slowly bringing this comparison closer together....
the other night on some idiot news show when speaking of My Lai they talked of "420 men/women/children murdered"...now, according to this article, the number is a little more then 300.
As I recall there were Iraqi soldiers on that operation. Has anyone seen any reports on what if anything they saw?
One very interesting line in this story...was the one that said that the initial reports of My Lai was INVESTIGATED by Colin Powell...and he found no wrongdoing...
Therefore, it shows that NO ONE can be sure of anything at this time...and maybe never, because if, like I believe, this was some kind of either planned, or spontaneous set up...the Marines won't be able to tell what happened before they got there..and we know the terrorists won't tell.
They're trying to make it Vietnam again, but this time we're fighting back. Don't sit back and take it.
I'm hoping for a re-visit of Wounded Knee next...what dorks!
If these poor Marines are scapegoated and convicted, then I predict this case will spell the beginning of the end of the all-volunteer military. Who the hell wants to join a military that allows an anti-American media to travel with them for the sole purposes of misrepresenting the facts and painting our guys out to be cruel, abusive criminals? And what's worse, who wants to join a military that applies ridiculous constraints on our guys and constantly finds troops to place on trial for "abuse" or even murder?
As Michael Savage calls it, "the enemy within", they are doing more damage than the external enemies of America are.
Thanks for the links!
The despicable Murtha needs to go. Support Diana Irey FReepers.
DIANA IREY FOR CONGRESS
600 PARK AVENUE
MONONGAHELA, PA 15063
You have a way with words...Mystery!!
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