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50 Years Later, What Can We Learn From the My Lai Massacre?

50 Years Later, What Can We Learn From the My Lai Massacre?

Ted Morgan

On March 16, 1968, platoons from the army’s Charlie and Bravo companies began an assault on the village of Son My and particularly the hamlet of My Lai in South Vietnam. Without encountering a single act of resistance from Viet Cong guerrillas, the American soldiers brutally killed roughly 504 Vietnamese civilians, including pregnant women and 210 children under the age of 13, among them, babies. Women were brutalized and gang raped and the village was burned to the ground. Lieutenant William Calley ordered his men to herd village residents into a ditch and left them with the order, “You


I remember the reporting of the Vietnam War. As a child, The Today Show was the soundtrack to our school morning rituals, and we ate dinner with Walter Cronkite’s frank recitations of the war’s violent statistics. I remember seeing coffins coming home, US troops being blown up, shot at, injured, and killed. I saw executions of Viet Cong by US soldiers and the effects of napalm and what we later learned was Agent Orange. And I remember my mom teaching me about the atrocity of war through it all. My daily dose of the Vietnam War is a key part of what shaped my political and spiritual beliefs, which is why only the sanitized, entertaining parts of war are televised now.

From time to time, I’ll spend some time on youtube and watch footage from the Vietnam war, just to remind myself of my political roots and inspire me to keep fighting for democratic self-governance right where I am.


Some time ago, I watched a Black Mirror episode in which soldiers had an implant that caused them to see innocent ‘enemy’ civilians as monsters. That way they were able to kill them without being bothered by it.

Such an implant is not needed these days. The US military, other Western militaries, the Russian military, and those they fight such as IS, seem to have learned how to indoctrinate personnel to accept that such crimes against humanity are acts of heroism because any innocent ‘enemy’ civilian is a potential future terrorist.

Much of the public has been similarly indoctrinated. Witness the fact that, while many in the US are horrified by the killing of innocent kids in a school by a crazy kid, there has been no public outcry when the US military slaughters hoards of school kids in other parts of the world:

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The headline asks, “50 Years Later, What Can We Learn From the My Lai Massacre?” The answer appears to be, “Don’t Show It On TV.” Otherwise it’s business as usual.


Today, the children are subjected to sanitized synth pop to scramble their hormones over school loudspeakers. With LCD screens so pervasive in our culture today, no corporation utters a word that might reduce their profits by a cent.

History books look like Katy Perry’s super bowl half time show as well.

My Lai?


Excellent, spot-on comment! Putting it another way, we can conclude that the MIC won. They did it by numbing our hearts and minds.


Though the U.S. is a signatory to the UN Convention, the U.S. considers anyone armed who is from a non-allied country to be a “terrorist” and therefore devoid of any rights or considerations as outlined by the Geneva Convention. So when the U.S. invades a country for its oil or strategic importance, anyone who resists is not considered an ‘enemy combatant’, but rather a terrorist or someone aiding and abetting terrorists (such as the mother or daughter of the ‘terrorist’) thereby justifying the slaughter of the entire village or city.
To make matters worse, the U.S. is the most violent country on Earth that is not engaged in a war thereby desensitizing the public to the routine slaughter of civilians by the U.S, military around the globe to keep the world safe for ruthless dictatorships and Royal families.
The problem with any convention held to determine the defining characteristics of behaviour in war, is that if we start labelling those who routinely and indiscriminately murder innocent victims around the world as ‘war criminals’, the U.S. would top the list as the planets largest collection of war criminals, hence the necessity to label every combatant as a ‘terrorist’ to justify their murder.
The logical step to rid our society of the need to murder civilians around the globe is to cease interfering militarily with all countries, however this could only occur in a functioning democracy, something the U.S. is clearly not. Until the public can dictate foreign policy instead of a handful of special interest groups, the slaughter will continue.

Since our Military is still in the business of killing innocent people in our worldwide pursuit of expanding Empire and increasing profits for the corporations involved, “No” I do not believe our country or our government has learned a single thing, in the past 50 years.

The people of our country keep voting for the same two parties that are selling our futures to the highest bidder.

We have lost our ability to learn.


The political lead-up to Citizens United, the final nail in the coffin - needs to be repudiated. What folks fail to understand but is being played in spades, is that the coffin is not a box, its a runaway train that thralls the conundrum of risk of death by staying on it or jumping off.

The media violence and military are the opaque curtain constantly being rattled between the sociopaths armed with institutional power and public still exercising their interconnectedness with the living planet.

It ain’t pretty.

Remember , the majority of the people in the USA supported what Lt Calley had done and in poll after poll claimed he should never have been tried for doing what they saw as "his duty’.

Jimmy Carter just as example, then Governer of Georgia orchestrated a campiagn of protest to the sentence in Georgia. Flags across the Country were flown at half mast. Incoming telegrams on the sentence were 100 to 1 in favor of leniency.

The opposition to the war was very much a student thing where it was the Nations youngest who were most vocally opposed. What we also learned is that far too many of those once youth and against war, have turned into supporters of war in other Countries today.


Try and find “Winter Soldier” on youtube and see what you come up with. Without the name Viet Nam… you get superheros story lines. intentional much? Might the filmmakers been screwing around with even more than abuse of women?

Since then Winter Soldiers have provided witness from Iraq and Afghanistan

Learning from the horse’s mouth the reality of being sold a bill of goods.

down the rabbit hole…

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Anyone with the slightest understanding of the true history of My Lai and/or the true history of the Vietnam War, and the slightest level of human empathy, would never support another US ‘humanitarian intervention’ or droning or bombing or any other military action ever again.

If I had my way, we’d make all school children, aged 12 & older, watch an accurate, non-US government produced, video documentary on My Lai.

As it is though, despite all the pseudo-democratic trappings, all of us in the US live within a defacto military dictatorship. As such, almost all media available is, to greater or lesser extent, either state propaganda, or is material which the state deems to be harmless regarding its true ends.

The US government is, at its core, a vast system to extort workers’ wages for the purpose of waging unspeakable violence on workers in poorer nations, who mostly happen to also be people of color.


Is it only a crime when the US does it? Because in Syria, the US actions pale in significance compared to the ongoing war crimes against civilians committed by Assad and Putin. When we on the left resist war, we should do it as citizens of the world, and not be so US-centric while we, in an almost racist way, rob other people of agency in their fight for freedom - unless their oppressor happens to be the USA.


Hi Yunzer,

Perhaps you missed my second paragraph.

In that paragraph, I identified the problem as extending, not only to the US military, but the other Western militaries, the Russian military, IS. Indeed, the problem is that these days most, if not all, militaries around the world totally dehumanize the ‘enemy’ to the extent that soldiers have no qualms about slaughtering innocent ‘enemy’ civilians.

What about the concept of “humanitarian interventions” more broadly? There have been individuals and regimes so monstrous that the people under them welcome an intervention on their side. Should the US have just stayed out of Europe in WW2?

Nobody in the US government ever called Vietnam a “humanitarian intervention” for the benefit of the Vietnamese people - it was an anti-socialist ideology-driven invasion with specific economic interests (rubber) serving a lesser role.

Your excuse is childish, Yunzer.

You are claiming Bobby is a worse murderer so your blood lust for dead foreigners is okay.

The qualms about killing innocent civilians begin to build after its over.

One veteran for peace in my town says, “Humpty Dumpty cannot be put back together again.”

Your response is incoherent. What blood lust for what dead “foreigners”?

Did you even bother to view what the respected Syrian socialist, author, and many-years-political-prisoner of Assad had to say in the attached video before you responded? The left - with their hero Zizek leading the way, is, very visibly, ignoring Assad’s horrible crimes, and in many cases, claiming even the reports of them are false - which is of course like other forms of denialism, a off-handed way supporting the crimes.

Yes, Assad probably wishes he had figured out how to promote justice and greater democracy before the revolution against his government began to be supported by weapons sent to imported US terrorist proxies.

The right wants to build democracies and bases all over the world. It lusts for war along with the democrats.

The Chronos Quartet and composer musician Van-Anh Vo commissioned a piece called My Lai Lullaby based on the dying Hugh Thompson’s struggle with his memories of the massacre. Thompson tried to stop the murders and he and his two man helicopter crew were willing to shoot American troops to do so. He was vilified by many inside and outside the Army for his actions. He and his crew were able to save some villagers, including a small boy Thompson pulled from a pile of dead. The composition does not celebrate Thompson but I think conveys the confusion and torment of what he witnessed. I hope it is performed and seen widely.

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