Monday, August 07, 2006

Atrocities, Past and Present

I read an article in today’s Fort Worth Star-Telegram called Vietnam atrocities come to light. It was shocking, but not surprising, based on what I’ve heard through the years from Vietnam veterans and their friends and relatives.

Authors Nick Turse and Deborah Nelson write that some recently declassified Army files show that “confirmed atrocities by U. S. forces in Vietnam were more extensive than was previously known.” These files, they say, “are part of a once secret archive assembled by a Pentagon task force in the early 1970s.”

According to the documents, there were “320 alleged incidents that were substantiated by Army investigators—not including the most notorious U.S. atrocity, the 1968 My Lai massacre.” The facts revealed are based upon “investigative files, sworn statements by witnesses and status reports for top military brass.”

Turse and Nelson state: “The records describe recurrent attacks on ordinary Vietnamese—families in their homes, farmers in rice paddies, teenagers out fishing. Hundreds of soldiers in interviews with investigators and letters to commanders described a violent minority who killed, raped and tortured with impunity.

“Abuses were not confined to a few rogue units . . . .” but were “uncovered in every Army division that operated in Vietnam.” The records show, specifically, 7 “massacres . . . in which at least 137 civilians died”; 78 “other attacks on noncombatants in which at least 57 were killed, 56 wounded and 15 sexually assaulted”; and 141 “instances in which U.S. soldiers tortured civilian detainees or prisoners of war with fists, sticks, bats, water or electric shock.”

When soldiers tried to report atrocities they had witnessed, they were often branded “traitors and fabricators.” They were accused of being unpatriotic. (This sounds like some things happening today, doesn’t it?)

These disturbing facts make me think that the few incidents we hear of today as occurring in Iraq are only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Nobody wants to hear of such things. We don’t want to believe that such meanness exists in the human heart—especially the American heart. So we look the other way, deliberately.

Star-Telegram 08/06/2006 Vietnam atrocities come to light


ts said...

my stomach turned upon hearing of some of the more recent findings in iraq. not just because of the horrible acts themselves, but because those acts will cost more american soldiers' lives. just think: if the u.s. was occupied, and the occupiers did such things here, how many americans would sit idly by and wait for courtroom justice?

Judy Callarman said...

That's right, ts. We don't often turn things around to how we would see them if we were in their place.

We just would rather not believe that our people would do such things.

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