Remembering the My Lai massacre

I have written many times before about one of the greatest atrocities of the Vietnam war, a war that was itself a monstrous atrocity at every level. The My Lai massacre was notable because the appalling facts eventually came out (although more than a year after the event) and were undeniable and yet president Nixon excused the actions of the murderous soldiers and the officers who ordered the attack in which the people in a hamlet were ordered into a ditch and then were ruthlessly gunned down.
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Wars and war crimes

War crimes follow wars as surely as night follows day.

When you look at the list of things that constitute war crimes according the Geneva Conventions and the Nuremberg Tribunals, you will immediately see that any sustained conflict inevitably leads to actions, such as “Atrocities or offences against persons or property, constituting violations of the laws or customs of war”, “the wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages” or “devastation not justified by military necessity”, that fall into the category of war crimes. So when the US declares that Russian troops have committed war crimes during its invasion of Ukraine, they are undoubtedly right. One major crime is “planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression.”

But what is infuriating is the revolting hypocrisy demonstrated by all the righteous indignation by the US and its allies about Russian war crimes when the long and ugly and incontrovertible history of war crimes by the US is ignored by the US political class and that mainstream media. After all, the US has so many times in the past been involved in the “planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression”, Iraq being merely one of the most recent.

I was trying to formulate a post about this but Chris Hedges pretty much said it all.
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Jules Ffeiffer on Nixon and Trump

The great cartoonist, whose is now 91 and whose wordy cartoons were less gag-driven but more mordant, was a must-read during the Nixon era. In a recent interview, he shows that he has not lost his bite and says that Donald Trump has dispensed with the illusions that Americans have about themselves and revealed what many of them are really like.

“The president affected much more than the politics of the country,” Feiffer says. “And you see it with Trump. He created a social style of what was acceptable and not acceptable in all forms, not just political, but social, interpersonal behavior. The way we react to one another, whether we’re kind or the way we’re paranoid or suspicious. Somehow it’s all centered in the White House and spreads out.”

As for the current president, “He’s bringing us back the real America. That’s it. Making America great again is making America openly bigoted again. You had to hide the bigotry during the liberal years. Now we don’t have to hide it. And that’s what you see in the Trump rallies. That’s what you see with his crowds… He’s licensing his followers to behave as badly as they once fantasized but didn’t dare. And he’s saying, ‘Let’s stop fucking around, this is who we always were.'”

Feiffer recalls what he considered the callous response of many Americans to the news of the My Lai massacre-comparable to the widespread acceptance today of the forced separation of families at the Southern border. It’s not due to any lack of information, as Feiffer told Studs Terkel in 1974. It’s just “the process of denial, over and over again.”

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Pardoning war criminals

The US penchant for absolving those in the military who murder foreigners is once again on full display. It begins with the US government hardly ever prosecuting those who commit such crimes and then even on the few occasions when the crime is so egregious that someone is tried and convicted (usually on lesser charges than they deserved), the punishment is often very lenient. But even that is considered too much and presidents often intervene to pardon or commute the sentences. A famous example is how the officers of the troops responsible for the murders of an entire village of Vietnamese people in My Lai were given mere slaps on the wrist.
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“I sent them a good boy, and they made him a murderer”

As promised in my review of Seymour Hersh’s excellent memoir Reporter, here is an excerpt that describes how he found out about Paul Meadlo, one of the people in the platoon that committed the My Lai massacre. Hersh had seen a small news item about a young journalist named Ron Ridenhour who had heard about the massacre and sent reports to the army top brass about what he had heard and been frustrated by the lack of action and feared a cover-up. After talking with Ridenhour, Hersh got the name of Michael Terry, a soldier in that same platoon, and went to see him.
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Book review: Reporter by Seymour M. Hersh

I am not in general a fan of the memoir genre but when I heard that legendary investigative reporter Seymour Hersh had written one, I rushed out to buy a copy the day it was released because I knew it would be good. And I was not disappointed. The book is excellent, containing details of how he arrived at his stories and should be required reading for anyone who wants to be a good reporter because he tells you how he went about getting important information. As I read it I started marking various passages to quote in a review but they became so numerous that there is no way that I can do so without this becoming very lengthy. What I will do is from time to quote from sections of it as it relates to other topics I write about.
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Seymour Hersh shows the difference between a reporter and a stenographer

Seymour Hersh is a legendary investigative reporter who has broken many major stories, perhaps most famously the My Lai massacre in Vietnam and the torture by the US in Abu Ghraib. He has just published a memoir Reporter and Matt Taibbi says that current journalists could learn a lot from Hersh from the way he describes how he got information. Taibbi points to a story Hersh tells about what happened when he was preparing to write a story in 1999 in the New Yorker about Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard,
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The Greatest Living American WriterTM has given up on Donald Trump

In this essay, Neal Pollack explains what made him switch.

So it is with the utmost intellectual and moral authority that I can state that Donald Trump represents the greatest threat to the Republic’s moral standing since the rise of pay-per-view motel porn. While we managed to endure that other scourge, and even thrive with it, my considered opinion is that Trump would finish us off. And not in a porn kind of way.
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Why the bombing of the Kunduz hospital was likely a war crime

The US and NATO commander in Afghanistan General John Campbell has now come out and said that the bombing of the hospital in Kunduz was a ‘mistake’ and that US forces were called in at the request of Afghan forces. But he also admitted that the strike had been approved after going through the US chain of command. He said that “Even though the Afghans request that support, it still has to go through a rigorous US procedure to enable fires to go on the ground. We had a special operations unit that was in close vicinity that was talking to the aircraft that delivered those fires,” which means that the special forces would have been involved in calling for the strike. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) says that what the US has said so far amounts to an admission of a war crime.
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