My Lai massacre remembered in Vietnam

My Lai massacre

From Associated Press:

My Lai marks 40th massacre anniversary

By Ben Stocking
Associated Press Writer / March 14, 2008

MY LAI, Vietnam—To the villagers who survived the My Lai massacre and many of the Americans who fought in the Vietnam War, all the anniversaries of the atrocity are important.

But Sunday’s anniversary — the 40th — seems especially urgent to some of the Americans who have come to commemorate it.

In My Lai, members of the Charlie Company slaughtered as many as 504 villagers, including unarmed women, children and elderly.

Frustrated U.S. troops came to My Lai on a “search and destroy” mission, looking for elusive Vietcong guerrillas. Although there were no reports of enemy fire, the U.S. troops began mowing down villagers and setting fire to their homes.

The incident shocked Americans and undermined support for the war.

The massacre reminds Lawrence Colburn and war veteran Mike Boehm of the 2005 images of torture that emerged from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

“We’re supposed to learn from the mistakes of history, but we keep making the same mistakes,” said Colburn, whose helicopter landed in My Lai in the midst of the massacre. “That’s what makes My Lai more important today than ever before.”

Boehm runs various humanitarian programs in Quang Ngai province, the central Vietnamese province where My Lai is located. He returned for the 30th anniversary and is helping organize this year’s event.

“If you follow the war in Iraq,” Boehm said, “you can see nothing has changed. At both My Lai and Abu Ghraib, there was a dehumanization of our enemy and a dehumanization of our own soldiers.”

The formal memorial events will be held Sunday next to a museum paying homage to the massacre victims.

On Saturday morning, Buddhists monks led a group prayer at the massacre site, burning incense and praying for the souls of those who died there.

Among the crowd of several hundred people was Do Thi Buong, 67, who fled from the marauding U.S. troops forty years ago and whose mother was shot to death during the massacre.

We just want peace,” she said. “We don’t want this sort of thing to happen again anywhere else in the world. Every year when this day arrives, I always feel terrible sadness, and I always remember my mother.”

Tariq Ali on 1960s Vietnam war protests: here.

USA: after 40 years, finally a Hollywood movie about the My Lai massacre in Vietnam

This video is about the My Lai massacre.

From the [Conservative] Daily Express in Britain:


Sunday September 2,2007

By Henry Fitzherbert and York Membery

THE infamous My Lai massacre – when US troops slaughtered up to 500 Vietnamese villagers – is to be made into a movie.

The 1968 atrocity has been considered off-limits for film-makers in a nation that prides itself on its patriotism.

But events in Iraq have pressed home its contemporary relevance as America gets to grips with cases of brutality by its troops, such as the torture of prisoners in Abu Ghraib.

“The feeling is that audiences are now ready for this story,” says a movie executive.

“The behaviour of US troops in Iraq shows that My Lai was no one-off aberration and the modern-day parallels will be impossible to ignore.”

Pinkville is to be made by Oliver Stone, a director not known for pulling his punches in films such as Natural Born Killers. …

Stone does have first-hand experience of Vietnam. He fought there for almost two years, was wounded twice and won a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. Platoon, his semi-autobiographical classic about the horrors of the war, won four Oscars. He made two more films about Vietnam: Born On The Fourth Of July, and Heaven & Earth.

The My Lai massacre occurred while US troops were searching villages they suspected of harbouring Viet Cong fighters. Their order was to “go in there aggressively, close with the enemy and wipe them out for good”.

They saw no soldiers but, led by Lieutenant William Calley, they stormed a village, attacking anything or anyone that moved with firearms, grenades and bayonets.

The victims were all civilians and mostly women and children. Some were gang-raped, beaten and clubbed.

US helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson saw what was happening and landed to try to stop the massacre and carry civilians to safety. In the film he will be portrayed by rising star Channing Tatum. Bruce Willis will play General William R Peers, who supervised the inquiry into the massacre.

The army hailed the incident as a military victory in which 128 enemy soldiers were killed.

But disenchanted US soldiers began complaining about routine brutality against civilians.

An inquiry by a young major, Colin Powell, later Secretary of State, found “relations between American soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent”.

In 2004 he admitted: “I was in a unit that was responsible for My Lai. I got there after My Lai happened. So, in war, these sorts of horrible things happen every now and again. But they are still to be deplored.”

Because there were horrifying photographs of the carnage, the My Lai story could not be hidden for ever. It was exposed by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, who also helped to uncover the torture at Abu Ghraib.

Eventually 26 soldiers were brought to court on charges ranging from premeditated murder to covering up the incident.

Only William Calley was convicted. But many in America regarded him as just a soldier doing his job and a pop song in his honour, The Battle Hymn Of William Calley, was released.

He was sentenced to hard labour for life in 1971. President Nixon commuted this to house arrest. He was freed in 1974 and is now a retired store manager.

Review of the film Battle for Haditha, about Iraq: here.

US films on the Iraq war: here.