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Jan Barry's NewsLetter

Iraq Like Vietnam 

Tiger Force Atrocities

Iraq: Vietnam Redux

Stan Goff's Open Letter to Soldiers in Iraq Brings Up My Lai

VFP Member Considers Basic Training/Abu Ghaib Connection

Charlie Liteky Interview with Amy Goodman about Ronald Reagon

WAR RESISTERS OF CANADA WEB SITE

Tiger Force

The Scalping Party 

MIKE DAVIS / Best of Monterey 26nov03
  KALI illustration by Paul Goettlich - Tiger Force: The Scalping Party MIKE DAVIS / Best of Monterey 26nov03

A Pentagon investigation into the Tiger Force atrocities was scuttled in 1975, when Donald Rumsfeld was Secretary of Defense. And Dick Cheney was Chief of Staff to President Gerald Ford when the decision was made to drop the secret Tiger Force investigation.

 

In his dark masterpiece, Blood Meridian (1985), novelist Cormac McCarthy tells the terrifying tale of a gang of Yanqui scalp-hunters who left an apocalyptic trail of carnage from Chihuahua to Southern California in the early 1850s. 

Commissioned by Mexican authorities to hunt marauding Apaches, the company of ex-filibusters and convicts under the command of the psychopath John Glanton quickly became intoxicated with gore. They began to exterminate local farmers as well as Indians, and when there were no innocents left to rape and slaughter, they turned upon themselves with shark-like fury.

Many readers have recoiled from the gruesome extremism of McCarthy's imagery: the roasted skulls of tortured captives, necklaces of human ears, an unspeakable tree of dead infants. Others have balked at his unpatriotic emphasis on the genocidal origins of the American West and the book's obvious allusion to "search and destroy" missions à la Vietnam.

But Blood Meridian, like all of McCarthy's novels, is based on meticulous research. Glanton—the white savage, the satanic face of Manifest Destiny—really existed. He's simply the ancestor most Americans would prefer to forget. He's also the ghost we can't avoid.

Seven weeks ago, a courageous hometown paper in rustbelt Ohio—the Toledo Blade—tore the wraps off an officially suppressed story of Vietnam-era exterminism that recapitulates Blood Meridian in the most ghastly and unbearable detail. The reincarnation of Glanton's scalping party was an elite 45-man unit of the 101 Airborne Division known as "Tiger Force." The Blade's intricate reconstruction of its murderous march through the Central Highlands of Vietnam in summer and fall 1967 needs to be read in full, horrifying detail. Blade reporters interviewed more than 100 American veterans and Vietnamese survivors.

Tiger Force atrocities began with the torture and execution of prisoners in the field, then escalated to the routine slaughter of unarmed farmers, elderly people, and even small children. As one former sergeant told the Blade, "It didn't matter if they were civilians. If they weren't supposed to be in an area, we shot them. If they didn't understand fear, I taught it to them."

Early on, Tiger Force began scalping its victims (the scalps were dangled from the ends of M-16s) and cutting off their ears as souvenirs. One member—who would later behead an infant wore the ears as a ghoulish necklace, just like the character Toadvine in Blood Meridian, while another mailed them home to his wife. Others kicked out the teeth of dead villagers for their gold fillings.

A former Tiger Force sergeant told reporters "he killed so many civilians he lost count." The Blade estimates that innocent casualties were in "the hundreds." Another veteran, a medic with the unit, recalled 150 unarmed civilians murdered in a single month.

Superior officers, especially the Glanton-like battalion commander Gerald Morse (or "Ghost Rider" as he fancied himself), sponsored the carnage. Orders were given to "shoot everything that moves" and Morse established a body-count quota of 327 (the numerical designation of the battalion) that Tiger Force enthusiastically filled with dead peasants and teenage girls.

Soldiers in other units who complained about these exterminations were ignored or warned to keep silent, while Tiger Force slackers were quickly transferred out. As with Glanton's gang, or, for that matter, Einsatzgruppen, the Nazi mobile extermination squads, in the western Ukraine in 1941, atrocity created its own insatiable momentum. Eventually, nothing was unthinkable in the Song Ve Valley.

"A 13-year-old girl's throat was slashed after she was sexually assaulted, and a young mother was shot to death after soldiers torched her hut. An unarmed teenager was shot in the back after a platoon sergeant ordered the youth to leave a village, and a baby was decapitated so that a soldier could remove a necklace_"

Stories about the beheading of the baby spread so widely that the Army was finally forced to launch a secret inquiry in 1971. The investigation lasted for almost five years and probed 30 alleged Tiger Force war crimes. Evidence was found to support the prosecution of at least 18 members of the platoon. In the end, however, a half dozen of the most compromised veterans were allowed to resign from the Army, avoiding military indictment, and in 1975 the Pentagon quietly buried the entire investigation.

According to the Blade, "It is not known how far up in the Ford administration the decision [to bury the cases] went," but it is worth recalling whom the leading actors were at the time: the Secretary of Defense, then as now, was Donald Rumsfeld, and the White House chief of staff was Dick Cheney.

Recently in the New Yorker, Seymour Hersh, who was instrumental in exposing the My Lai massacre, decried the failure of the corporate media, especially the four major television networks, to report the Blade's findings or launch their own investigations into, the official cover-up. (Since then, ABC News and Ted Koppel's Nightline have both covered the subject.) He also reminds us that the Army concealed the details of another large massacre of civilians at the village of My Khe 4, near My Lai on the very day in 1968 when the more infamous massacre took place.

Moreover, the Tiger Force story is the third major war crimes revelation in the last few years to encounter apathy in the media and/or indifference and contempt in Washington.

In 1999, a team of investigative reporters from the Associated Press broke the story of a horrific massacre of hundreds of unarmed Korean civilians by U.S. troops in July 1950. It occurred at a stone bridge near the village of No Gun Ri and the unit involved was Custer's old outfit, the 7th Calvary regiment.

As one veteran told the AP, "There was lieutenant screaming like a madman, 'fire on everything, kill 'em all.' Kids, there was kids out there, it didn't matter what it was, eight to eighty, blind, crippled or crazy, they shot them all." Another ex-soldier was haunted by the memory of a terrified child: "She came running toward us. You should have seen guys trying to kill that little girl. With machine guns."


A reluctant Pentagon inquiry into this Korean version of the Wounded Knee Massacre acknowledged that there was a civilian toll but cited very low figures for the dead and then dismissed it

as "an unfortunate tragedy inherent in war," despite overwhelming evidence of a deliberate U.S. policy of bombing and strafing refugee columns. The Bridge at No Gun Ri (2001), by the three Pulitzer Prize-winning AP journalists, currently languishes at near 600,000 on the Amazon sales index.

Likewise there has been little enduring outrage that a confessed war criminal, Bob Kerrey, reigns as president of New York City's once liberal New School University. In 2001, the former Navy SEAL and ex-Senator from Nebraska was forced to concede, after years of lies, that the heroic engagement for which he received a Bronze Star in 1969 involved the massacre of a score of unarmed civilians, mainly women and children. "To describe it as an atrocity," he admitted, "is pretty close to being right."

The blue-collar exSEAL team member who revealed the truth about the killings at Than Phong under Kerrey's command was publicly excoriated as a drunk and traitor, while powerful Democrats-led by Senators Max Cleland and John Kerry, both Vietnam veterans—circled the wagons to protect Kerrey from further investigation or possible prosecution. They argued that it was wrong to "blame the warrior instead of the war" and called for a "healing process."

Indeed covering up American atrocities has proved a thoroughly bipartisan business. The Democrats, after all, are currently considering the bomber of Belgrade, General Wesley Clark, as their potential knight on a white horse. The Bush administration, meanwhile, blackmails governments everywhere with threats of aid cuts and trade sanctions unless they exempt U.S. troops from the jurisdiction of the new International Criminal Court.

The United States, of course, has good reason to claim immunity from the very Nuremburg principles it helped establish in 1946-47. American Special Forces troops, for example, were most probably complicit in the massacres of hundreds of Taliban prisoners by Northern Alliance warlords several years ago. Moreover, "collateral damage" to civilians is part and parcel of the new white man's burden of "democratizing" the Middle East and making the world safe for Bechtel and Halliburton.

The Glantons thus still have their place in the scheme of Manifest Destiny, and the scalping parties that once howled in the wilderness of the Gila now threaten to range far and wide along the banks of the Euphrates and in the shadow of the Hindu Kush.

Mike Davis is the author of City Of Quartz, Ecology Of Fear, and most recently, Dead Cities: And Other Tales.  http://www.coastweekly.com/

For Toledo Blade series on Tiger Force http://www.toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?Category=SRTIGERFORCE 

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''Iraq déjà vu Vietnam''
Tuesday, May 04, 2004

By David Antoon, Colonel, USAF Ret.
www.YellowTimes.org Guest Columnist (United States)

(www.YellowTimes.org) – When I was an innocent and naïve young man, I served
three tours of duty in Vietnam, an immoral war that left some fifty thousand
Americans and three million Vietnamese dead. Each of these deaths, both American
and Vietnamese, represented the loss of a relative -- grandparents, parents,
sons, daughters, brothers, or sisters -- and left a void only known by those
families who have suffered such losses. Today, Vietnamese children suffer birth
mutations, cancers, and untimely deaths from the Agent Orange that was deposited
in their ground water by America decades ago.
And now a misguided America is using its war machine with the same horrible
results in another fraudulently manipulated war. Depleted Uranium (with a
half-life of 1.5 million yea! rs) has replaced Agent Orange as the contaminant of
choice. Iraqis and Afghanis have become the victims instead of Vietnamese.
AC-130 gun-ships are again raining down indiscriminate death in Iraqi cities as
they did three decades ago on Vietnamese villages. And young innocent Americans
(“fungible” units as described by Rumsfeld in one of his jocular press
briefings) are vainly dying again at the hands of a misguided, mendacious and
immoral administration. American and Iraqi families are experiencing a void that
we all hope to never know.

With Vietnam, the falsified Gulf of Tonkin incident was used to “buy” America’s
support for war. The objective of this war became a moving “goal post;” “domino
theory;” “democratization;” the fraudulent and morbid score of body counts; and
finally to “avoid defeat.” American sentiment was purchased this time with
claims of WMD’s and an Oscar-winning performance at the United Nations
describing non-existent! “Yellow Cake.” In less than a year the goal posts have
moved from WMDs, to regime change, to “freedom,” and now to “smoke out” the
terrorists that we are creating daily with our terrorism and illegal occupation.
In response to the chaos in the besieged city of Fallujah, the military
commentators are now talking about “avoiding defeat,” instead of outright
victory. The goal posts won’t stand still.
Three decades ago, Colin Powell, in his first tour of duty in Vietnam did search
and destroy missions. During his second tour of duty, Major Powell was assigned
to investigate the My Lai massacre where he dismissed the reports of the real
heroes in this atrocity, those who reported the crime. He has again demonstrated
in his position with the current administration that he is still a “dutiful
soldier.” At the beginning of the war in Iraq, Secretary of State Powell stated
that the numbers of Iraqi casualties was of no concern to him or his government.The U.S. government has done no accounting, but NGOs estimate the number of
innocent Iraqis killed in Iraq to exceed 20,000 thus far. Human carnage seems to
follow Powell wherever he goes.
As in Vietnam, the killing of the “enemy” is so much easier if soldiers are
“desensitized” and the “enemy” is “dehumanized.” Today, BBC reported that an
American General and her soldiers were responsible for Iraqi prisoners being
forced into naked sexual poses where they were photographed with American troops
in uniform. They were even tortured with electrical wires attached to their
genitals. Interviews with American snipers on NPR, describe shooting Iraqis as
sport. Apparently, the “dehumanization” of the “enemy” has been successful as
evidenced by these “desensitized” transgressions.
This month the Toledo Blade was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for their reporting
on the Tiger Force atrocities in Vietnam, including the killing and torturing of
innocent Vietna! mese, and the wearing of body parts of their victims as
“necklaces.” Tiger Force was recently reactivated in Iraq to shoot and kill from
over a mile away, any Iraqi approaching the oil pipelines. It doesn’t matter if
they are innocent bystanders or not. It’s another way to endear our occupation
to the Iraqi people.
Al Jazeera has reported and documented over 450 innocent elderly men, women, and
children killed and buried in the Fallujah city soccer field now being used as a
make shift grave. They report that American forces are shooting at anybody who
moves and have also prevented the injured from being transported to hospitals
for emergency care. Even Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, reports that the
American military has bombed Al Jazeera offices, and persecuted and killed its
reporters and cameramen. Their crime was providing truthful reporting and images
to the outside world, news that has been suppressed by American forces.
Senator John McCai! n has lashed out at his colleagues in the Senate who have
referred to the war in Iraq as another “Vietnam.” Many, if not most Vietnam
veterans would strongly disagree with Senator McCain. Large numbers have joined
forces in the organization, Vietnam Veterans Against War. It should be noted
that more Americans have died in the first year of the Iraq war than died in the
first year of the Vietnam War. Senator McCain is only correct in the observation
that the consequences of this misadventure will be far, far graver than they
were in Vietnam.
I am no longer innocent and naïve. I consider writing this letter more patriotic
than anything I did during my thirty years in uniform. I confess that I am a
humanitarian who does read newspapers, and books, and history. As the American
war machine continues its horrors in Iraq, a country without WMDs, without
infrastructure and civil order, and now without a popular government, the world
easily sees the ! war’s real purpose -- control of natural resources and
protection of our lone “ally” in the region. Most of the world, and even now
many Americans realize this war too, is a mistake. Military occupation in
Vietnam, or Iraq, or Palestine, or Chechnya is doomed to failure. History has
shown us that installing a government of the occupier’s choosing, and not of the
occupied, is doomed to failure.
How many lives, American and Iraqi, must be killed or destroyed? How much of our
national treasure must be expended before the misguided officials in Washington
are willing to admit their mistake? Must the draft be reinstated, as is now
being planned, to feed this military monster? Must our campuses again burn as
young people refuse to become the “fungible” fodder of this administration?
A decade from now, will we again be building a granite monument to our thousands
of brave military soldiers who died in vain? Two or three decades from now will
a seni! or member of this administration write a book and say, “the Iraq war was a
mistake?"
Yes, this is deja vu Vietnam. The only question now is, “When will it end?”
[David Antoon is a Vietnam Veteran and retired U.S. Air Force officer, a devoted
husband and father who worries about what kind of world his children, and all
children, will inherit. He fears the damage to America's reputation and
credibility with a misguided, immoral, and illegal foreign policy specifically
in regard to the military occupation of Palestine, and now Iraq, will not be
repaired in his lifetime.]
David Antoon encourages your comments:
david_antoon@h...
YellowTimes.org is an international news and opinion publication.
YellowTimes.org encourages ! its material to be reproduced, reprinted, or
broadcast provided that any such reproduction identifies the original source,
http://www.YellowTimes.org. Internet web links to http://www.YellowTimes.org are
appreciated.
===============================================================
Bush says "Bring 'Em On"
We Say: "Bring them home,NOW"
Veterans For Peace.Inc
http://www.veteransforpeace.org/
Military Families Speak Out
http://www.mfso.org/
http://www.bringthemhomenow.com/
Traveling Soldier
http://www.traveling-soldier.org/
===============================================================

 

May 4, 2004

The Role
Another Open Letter to the Troops in Iraq
By STAN GOFF
In 1994, I was running an A-Detachment in 3rd Special Forces, ODA-354 to be
precise, a team that specialized in free-fall parachute infiltration and
special (strategic) reconnaissance. 3rd Special Forces Group's area of
operation encompassed sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean, and our team was
specifically designated for the Dominican Republic and Haiti. So we had two
language requirements on the team, Spanish and French (even though most
Haitians actually speak Haitian Kreyol).
I had a communications sergeant on my team named Ali Tehrani. His father was
an expatriate Iranian who'd married a German, and Ali had been raised in
extremely comfortable circumstances in Europe, where his father and the
society around him pushed him to fluency in English, German, Spanish, and
French. Ali also spoke decent Italian. He was the most fluent French-speaker
on the battalion, and a year before we were sent to Haiti with the 1994
invasion, Ali had been sent to the camps constructed by the United States
military in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for the purpose of detaining tens of
thousands of Haitians who were trying to escape the brutal repression and
grinding poverty of Haiti in ramshackle boats. Ali was needed there because
of his language fluency.
Ali was typical of many of the "non-white" members of Special Forces in two
respects. He was demonstrably patriotic--compelled, it seemed, to prove his
devotion to the American security state--and he adopted the prevailing
attitude within much of Special Operations of Negrophobia--a kind of
institutional disdain for Black troops that served to bloc other
"non-whites" with whites in SF. It's a peculiar mechanism of white supremacy
where there is not a master-race mentality so much as a deficient-race
ideology from which all others could self-exclude. This--along with an
anabolic version of masculinity--served as one form of social glue in SF
culture, though there were a few exceptions.
Ali's Negrophobia wasn't virulent like that I had witnessed in other SF
troops. In fact, he was willing to grant exceptions among individual Black
soldiers fairly easily. It was more part of his obsessive desire to fit in.
Ali had spent six months "working the camps" at Guantanamo in 1993.
When we received word of our mission to invade Haiti in 1994, he reacted
violently. His revulsion toward Haitians was visceral and white-hot. Given
that my own team's mission might depend on both Ali's language capabilities
("my" language was Spanish) and on our ability to establish rapport with
local Haitians, Ali's outburst sent up a warning flare in front of me, and I
made time to sit down with him for a long talk.
Ali was, aside from his passive racism and the simmering rage that one could
always sense just below his surface, a very intelligent and sensitive man. I
always suspected that he may have suffered either physical or psychological
abuse as a child.
When we talked, we fairly quickly concluded together that his aversion to
Haitians had something to do with the role he had been thrown into against
the Haitians at the camps, the role of jail-boss, and he agreed to keep that
in mind and to subordinate his conditioned reflexes on the matter to mental
time-outs in order to assure that he would behave appropriately while we
were on the mission in Haiti, which he did... most of the time.
But the point I'm getting to is this. The antagonism that Ali experienced as
an individual toward Haitians was structured by the institutional antagonism
built into the jailer-and-jailed relationship. Ali had internalized the
external reality that he was a prison guard and they were the prisoners. His
job was to dominate, to bend Haitians to his will, and every exercise of
human agency by the Haitians threatened that. Their very humanity--that
combination of independent consciousness and will--was structured by the
prison-camp phenomenon to be an enemy force in relation to Ali and the other
prison-keepers.
In 1971, Stanford University Professor of Psychology Phillip Zimbardo
designed an experiment that would come to be known as the Stanford Prison
Experiment. Subjects were recruited and paid a modest stipend, whereupon
they were separated into "prisoners" and "guards," and placed in a mock
prison built in a Stanford basement. The prisoners were stripped, deloused,
shackled, and placed in prison clothes, while the guards were given
authoritative uniforms, sunglasses, and batons. Long story short--within two
days there was a near prison riot, psychosomatic illness began to break out,
white middle-class kids in the role of guards became rapidly and
progressively more sadistic and arbitrary, and the two-week experiment had
to be abandoned after only six days... before someone was badly hurt or
killed.
The experiment seemed to support the truism that "absolute power corrupts
absolutely." But that conclusion serves as a description, not an
explanation. It describes what happens to the individual, but it fails to
account for the role of rationalization that legitimates the domination, and
it completely fails to account for institutional support of that domination.
When one uses the term "systemic," she is saying that the source of this
abuse is not individual moral failure, but a predictable expression of the
system and its structures.
The abuses of detainees, by US troops, by CACI International and Titan
Corporation mercenaries, and by the CIA in Iraq, is "systemic."
But in the same way that the system found an expression in the thoughts and
emotions of Ali Tehrani, in the same way that the structure of domination
and subjection pushed him to rationalize away his shared humanity with his
Haitian captives, we can now see in the leering grins of the Abu Ghraib
prison guards, who are regular people--like the experimental subjects in the
Stanford Prison Experiment--who quickly learned to behave as sadistic
torturers. The military has admitted that 60% of these detainees are neither
combatants nor threats.
As this is written, the US military is about to release hundreds of
detainees who fall in that category, and there will be more horror stories
coming, because it was systemic.
People were not only humiliated and forced to pose in degrading positions
with each other naked. They were forced to masturbate in front of taunting
guards. Some were sodomized with foreign objects. It appears that some were
also beaten to death during interrogation--one whose body was put on ice for
a day then carted away the next on a litter with a faked intravenous
infusion in the arm.
Now the cover stories are being spun out like webs.
We are being asked to believe that:
(1) The only abuse that occurred against anyone detained by American
forces in Iraq was photographed and reported.
(2) No abuses occurred anywhere that were not photographed or
reported.
(3) The one percent of US troops who are the "bad apples" all happen
to serve together in the same unit... the unit that is the only one guilty,
and that happened to get caught because of the photographs.
(4) The aggressive investigation now being proclaimed by everyone
from George W. Bush to CENTCOM, about abuses that were already on record in
the military (an internal investigation had already been launched in
February by Major General Antonio M. Taguba, but was kept from the public),
would have happened had the photographs and story not been aired on national
television.
(5) The military was not attempting to cover up their own
investigation, and that they would have informed the public of these abuses
even had Seymour Hersh not put the whole miserable episode into print.
(6) The military did not cover anything up in the two weeks between
the time CBS warned them that they were going to air an expose and when they
actually did air it.
(7) No one in the chain of command above Brigadier General Janis
Karpinski is responsible for the failure to halt these abuses, even though
Lieutenant General Ricardo S. Sanchez was informed of the investigation of
these abuses, complete with sworn statements and photographs, by General
Taguba last February.
Other abuses and violations of the Geneva Conventions and Laws of
Warfare are already on record, some with videos available on the web, such
as:
(1) Shooting people who are clearly not armed and who are engaged in
no threatening behavior.
(2) Shooting into ambulances.
(3) Shooting wounded people who are not armed.
(4) Shooting wounded people who are obviously no longer capable of
fighting.
(5) Shooting into crowds.
There has never been a Stanford Military Occupation Experiment to complement
the Stanford Prison Experiment, unless we just count the military
occupations themselves. There is a structured, systemic antagonism between
an occupying military and the people whose land they occupy. And there will
be no investigations of any of it, because there never are, unless and until
the American public is confronted with them.
The National Command Authority and its cheerleaders cannot say out loud...
this is what we are doing, and it can't get done unless we dehumanize the
occupied. This reality, this system, will express itself in the thoughts and
emotions of you, the troops who carry it out, because this military
occupation is in a sense making a prison of Iraq and making you, the troops,
its turnkeys.
It will only be those exceptional individuals among you in the military who
refuse to surrender their humanity--no matter how little you may understand
the big picture--and who will witness. You who do break with the system and
witness are very important people, important to history, because your
refusal to surrender your own moral integrity to the system may lead to our
collective salvation by ending this felonious occupation. The troops who
filed reports about the abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison were such
exceptions.
So were Tom Glen and Ron Ridenhour.
In The Culture of Narcissism, Christopher Lasch wrote in 1979 about US
leadership during the occupation of Vietnam:
"Success in our society has to be ratified by publicity... all
politics becomes a form of spectacle. It is well known that Madison Avenue
packages politicians and markets them as if they were cereals or deodorants;
but the art of public relations penetrates more deeply into political
life... The modern prince [an apt turn of phrase for the current member of
the Bush political dynasty] ... confuses successful completion of the task
at hand with the impression he makes or hopes to make on others. Thus
American officials blundered into the war in Vietnam... More concerned with
the trappings than with the reality of power, they convinced themselves that
failure to intervene would damage American 'credibility...' [They] fret
about their ability to rise to crisis, to project an image of decisiveness,
to give a convincing performance of executive power... Public relations and
propaganda have exalted the image and the pseudo-event."
What these images of the Abu Ghraib humiliation and torture have done in the
United States is collide with the "exalted image and the pseudo-event" of
the Bush propaganda apparatus, just as the images of the My Lai massacre did
in 1969. That collision between the reality and the real image of war
startles civilians here in the La-La Land of wide screen TV and suburban
SUV's, and it shakes them out of their opiated shopper dream-state.
My Lai is what General Colin Powell was remembering when he implemented "the
Powell Doctrine" for the military, which includes a co-opted press and a
vigorous attempt to keep things like flag-draped coffins off of those wide
screen TVs.
Most of you don't remember My Lai.
On March 16, 1968, units of the Americal Division, to which Powell was
assigned as a staff officer in Chu Lai, entered a Vietnamese village called
My Lai and spent four hours raping women, burning houses, then finally
massacring men, women, and children--including infants who dying women tried
to shield with their own bullet-riddled bodies. The massacre was stopped by
a Georgia-born helicopter pilot named Hugh Clowers Thompson who landed his
chopper between the few surviving Vietnamese and the blood-intoxicated
soldiers, and ordered his door gunners to open fire on the Americans if they
failed to stand down.
A few weeks later, General Creighton Abrams, then commanding general in
Vietnam, received a letter from a young Specialist-4 in the Americal
Division named Tom Glen:
"The average GI's attitude toward and treatment of the Vietnamese
people all too often is a complete denial of all our country is attempting
to accomplish in the realm of human relations... Far beyond merely
dismissing the Vietnamese as 'slopes' or 'gooks,' in both deed and thought,
too many American soldiers seem to discount their very humanity; and with
this attitude inflict upon the Vietnamese citizenry humiliations, both
psychological and physical, that can have only a debilitating effect upon
efforts to unify the people in loyalty to the Saigon government,
particularly when such acts are carried out at unit levels and thereby
acquire the aspect of sanctioned policy... [American soldiers attack
Vietnamese] for mere pleasure, fire indiscriminately into Vietnamese homes
and without provocation or justification shoot at the people themselves...
Fired with an emotionalism that belies unconscionable hatred, and armed with
a vocabulary consisting of 'You VC,' soldiers commonly 'interrogate' by
means of torture that has been presented as the particular habit of the
enemy. Severe beatings and torture at knife point are usual means of
questioning captives or of convincing a suspect that he is, indeed, a Viet
Cong... It would indeed be terrible to find it necessary to believe that an
American soldier that harbors such racial intolerance and disregard for
justice and human feeling is a prototype of all American national character;
yet the frequency of such soldiers lends credulity to such beliefs... What
has been outlined here I have seen not only in my own unit, but also in
others we have worked with, and I fear it is universal. If this is indeed
the case, it is a problem which cannot be overlooked, but can through a more
firm implementation of the codes of MACV (Military Assistance Command
Vietnam) and the Geneva Conventions, perhaps be eradicated."
Glen's letter was forwarded from Abrams' office to the Americal Division and
ended up with Major Colin Powell in Chu Lai.
Powell never followed up by questioning Glen, and instead ended his
"investigation" of Glen's allegations after accepting uncritically the claim
by Glen's commander that Glen hadn't been close enough to "the front"
(whatever that was supposed to be in Vietnam) to have any knowledge of such
alleged abuses. Powell then began his career as a damage-control expert in
the military by writing a letter, dated December 13, 1968, in which he said,
""There may be isolated cases of mistreatment of civilians and POWs... [but]
this by no means reflects the general attitude throughout the Division... In
direct refutation of this [Glen's] portrayal is the fact that relations
between Americal soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent." He went
on to impugn Glen's account for having been brought to light only
reluctantly and lacking sufficient detail.
This was, of course, horseshit. Abuses were systemic.
Glen had only heard through rumors about My Lai. It was another GI, Ron
Ridenhour, an infantryman who was not willing to surrender his humanity to
occupier-racism, who finally pieced together, on his own initiative, the
story of the My Lai massacre, and brought it to public light. When the
photographs of the massacre were combined with Ridenhour's account, and the
American public was confronted with the reality of an entire unit
participating in a systematic massacre of civilians, it marked a turning
point in the loss of political support in the United States for continued
military occupation of Vietnam.
Powell himself admitted war crimes in his memoir, My American Journey, where
he wrote, "I recall a phrase we used in the field, MAM, for military-age
male... If a helo spotted a peasant in black pajamas who looked remotely
suspicious, a possible MAM, the pilot would circle and fire in front of him.
If he moved, his movement was judged evidence of hostile intent, and the
next burst was not in front, but at him." Powell would also come to the
defense of Brigadier General John Donaldson who had the door gunners on his
own helicopter shoot Vietnamese for sport. Donaldson was exonerated,
naturally, in a military investigation.
Powell not only developed as a skilled cover-up artist, he would eventually
incorporate this ability to manage public perception about war as a key
element in the "Powell Doctrine," which he imposed on the military and the
press. He never forgot My Lai, and he has always believed that exposure of
My Lai and other atrocities were responsible for the US defeat in Vietnam.
Donald Rumsfeld shares these beliefs with Colin Powell. They are both wrong.
The two phenomena that collide with this Powell-Rumsfeld orientation were
and are (1) the decision of their 'enemy' never to quit, and (2) the
inevitability that someone who is part of the occupation force will be
confronted with these contradictions between "the exalted image and the
pseudo-event" and the real character of war--and that this someone will
expose it in an attempt to rescue his or her own humanity.
The war in Vietnam was lost by the French then the Americans because they
didn't belong there, and the resistance endeavored to do whatever was
necessary to make that point. This is also the situation in Iraq.
So I'll leave to others the analysis of whether the troops facing courts
martial are scapegoats (they are, and they are also probably guilty as
hell), and whether or not the military is letting the officers off with
reprimands and walking papers to prevent the fire spreading (which it is).
I'll just emphasize that the war in Iraq cannot be won. Not because of the
inability of US troops to fight, but because we don't belong there. And
since that's the case (which I firmly believe it is) every life--Iraqi,
American, or otherwise--that is lost or ruined... is wasted.
All this talk of whether Military Intelligence or the mercenaries working
for CACI International or the CIA or the MP commanders were responsible is
diversionary bullshit so we won't see how Iraq itself has become the
Stanford Military Occupation Experiment.
Because if we conclude that the problem is systemic, then the only thing to
do to stop this is to walk away. And the Bush administration sent troops
there for the purpose not of building democracies, but of building permanent
military bases in the heart of oil country, and if they walk away, they
can't rightly build bases, can they?
So we can either blithely obey and support our new Neros, or we can continue
to cling to the absurd notion that the vandal can rebuild the house they
just ravaged, or we can do what we might to make them walk away. Troops that
come forward will play a key role in this moral imperative.
Every troop that comes forward with accounts of the inhumanity of this
war--while jeopardizing his or her career--is serving to hasten an end to
this criminal enterprise of the Military-Petroleum Complex. These
troop/witnesses will serve to hasten an end to the suffering of Iraqi
families and the suffering of the families of the occupying forces. They
will serve to prevent more torture, more humiliation, more suspicion and
hatred, and more lives being thrown away on this imperial folly.
Every troop who keeps his secrets, who faithfully serves the system and
never bears witness, can travel for the rest of his life.
She can go to Rio de Janeiro.
He can go to Bangladesh.
She can go to Lagos, or Montreal, or Tokyo, or Moscow, or Antarctica.
But no matter where he goes, there he'll be--alone with the growing weight
of his own silence on his head, wrapping himself in his own
rationalizations, and restlessly turning away from the faces that look back
at him in the mirrors of his memory.
Stan Goff is the author of "Hideous Dream: A Soldier's Memoir of the US
Invasion of Haiti
<
http://www.softskull.com/cgi-bin/SoftCart.100.exe/store/goff/hideous_dream.
html?L+scstore+jssh4901+1060182363> " (Soft Skull Press, 2000) and of the
upcoming book "Full Spectrum Disorder
<
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1932360123/counterpunchmaga> " (Soft
Skull Press, 2003). He is a member of the BRING THEM HOME NOW!
<
http://www.bringthemhomenow.org/>  coordinating committee, a retired
Special Forces master sergeant, and the father of an active duty soldier.
Email for BRING THEM HOME NOW! is
bthn@mfso.org

 

 

friends:
thanks to each of you who responded to my request for information about basic training.  as you can see from the commentary i wrote, i used a couple of your stories to illustrate the point.  i hope you're happy with the results, and sorry i couldn't include more of your recollections.
all the best,
mike

ps: if you like "shocked?" check out this web site for a group i work with:  www.poclad.org

****************************

http://www.buzzflash.com/contributors/04/05/con04211.html

Shocked? We shouldn't be. Just ask a vet.

A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
by Mike Ferner

George "that's not the way Americans do things" Bush is outraged.

General "those troops let us down" Kimmit is outraged.

Senators and Congressmen are outraged.

Everyone is shocked, simply shocked to hear that abuse is going on at Abu Ghraib prison!

Of course it's an outrage that American soldiers and mercenaries are torturing Iraqi prisoners. But ask anyone who has gone through military basic training and they might well ask you: "What did you THINK was going on in Iraq?"

What could be more naked abuse than cluster-bombing children and terrorizing whole cities? What could be more obscene than sending armless and legless GIs home by the planeload? Our leaders are outraged at what is happening inside Abu Ghraib? When they know full well that next door in Fallujah our troops were killing so many people -- including women and children -- that the soccer stadium was turned into a cemetery? There have been pictures of all this, too. Not on 19th Century Fox, or other corporate news outlets, but there were pictures aplenty.

In 1984, Orwell describes how Big Brother keeps the citizens of Oceania in line with a daily, televised "Two Minutes Hate" directed at the nation's Public Enemy #1.

"He was the primal traitor...all treacheries, acts of sabotage, heresies, deviations, sprang directly out of his teaching...(he) seemed like some sinister enchanter, capable by the mere power of his voice of wrecking the structure of civilization."

Once the good people of Oceania work up a good hate, they're ready to let Big Brother do whatever he wants to "protect" them from their supposed enemies: bomb them, kill them young and old, put them in places like Abu Ghraib.

We of course don't do this personally. We prepare a vulnerable segment of our own population to do it for us. It's called basic training.

We take kids hoping for college or looking for direction, heads full of myths about how Oceania always stands for freedom and democracy. We systematically dehumanize them in basic training and teach them how to dehumanize "others," "over there" until those others become "the enemy." Surely whatever happens to the enemy is fair game. They are, after all, the enemy.

Consider this from Hal Muskat, who went through basic training at Ft. Dix, NJ, describing a frightening scene during bayonet practice for 1,000 young men:

"In between the call/response of, 'What's the spirit of bayonet?' 'Kill! Kill! Kill!' drill instructors (DIs) would pick up megaphones and scream, 'See those C-130s landing? They are bringing in bodies of dead Americans killed by gooks. The gooks murdered our soldiers! Do you want to be a body on that plane? I can't hear you? What's the spirit of bayonet?' Every once in a while, a DI would pull several of us aside and give us lessons on the proper use of bayonet in performing a 'field abortion.' Stick the bayonet in the gook's cunt and pull up towards her throat. A dead gook in the womb saves Americans lives!'"

Or this, from Roger Domagalski, describing what he was told as a recruit and his duties after basic training: "From the first moment we arrived, we often heard the words, 'girls, ladies, sissies, pussies, and worse' when insulting us. Thus 'women' as a whole became a derogatory concept; very sexist and very dehumanizing...I had been dehumanized to such an extent that I completely lacked all empathy for these frightened, new trainees. Instead of treating them decently, I mistreated them as I had been mistreated. Once you dehumanize a person, you need to maintain control because such a person is liable to do anything, from the relatively mild 'hazing' I engaged in, to the Nazi-like terror tactics used by the guards against Iraqi prisoners. Yes, basic training works...all too well sometimes."

Should we be shocked that good American kids are filling Fallujah's soccer field with corpses, torturing prisoners in Abu Ghraib, raping their own female comrades?

While in Baghdad recently, more than one Iraqi asked me this tough question: "How can your soldiers do these things for America? Don't you live in a democracy?"

Perhaps some day we will live in a democracy and will no longer train soldiers to do these things in our name. But until then, we continue to live much closer to the condition Eugene Debs described in the closing months of World War One's butchery, in his famous Canton, Ohio speech: "...when the feudal lords concluded to enlarge their domains...they declared war upon one another. But they themselves did not go to war any more than the modern feudal lords, the barons of Wall Street go to war...The serfs had been taught to believe that when their masters declared war upon one another it was their patriotic duty to cut one another's throats...The working class who fight the battles and furnish the corpses, have never yet had a voice in either declaring war or making peace."

George Bush can be outraged at the news from Abu Ghraib, but he is the one who unleashed the dogs of war at the behest of our modern feudal lords. The result is never pretty. Are we shocked?

Mike Ferner
Toledo, Ohio

A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION

Ferner visited Iraq for two months earlier this year. He served as a Navy Corpsman during Viet Nam, is a member of Veterans for Peace www.veteransforpeace.org and a former member of Toledo City Council.

© 2004 by Mike Ferner

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


 

Nathaniel Batchelder The Peace House EDITORIAL by Batch, published

Friday, May 7, 2004 in the DAILY OKLAHOMAN:

"IRAQ POLICY TURNS UGLY" by Nathaniel Batchelder

While serving in Vietnam (68/69) I assisted doctors doing emergency

surgery for 14 months in Phu Bai and Qui Nhon. I never fired a weapon

in Vietnam and was never shot at. I was a daily witness to combatants

brought to our hospital who reflected the confusion and fog of war

which are inevitable parts of combat.

By the late stages of the war 74% of Americans reported they thought

the war was a mistake. The young John Kerry chose a doubly difficult

path, first in combat service in Navy river patrols, and then, upon

his return to the U.S, testifying to his conviction that the war put

American soldiers into impossible situations where atrocities did

occur. His conclusions eventually became what most Americans

believed.

Any Vietnam veteran will attest to hearing stories or being witness

to actions which would qualify as atrocities. "Free-fire zones" were

areas designated by command to contain no innocent civilians, so

anything alive there was a target. Combat units of primarily

teenagers found themselves carrying heavy packs down jungle trails in

hot humid conditions where enemy fire could come from anywhere. Under

such stress the watchword of "shoot first" inevitably resulted in

civilian deaths. Every such death might be added to the "body count"

of enemy killed in the official report following hostile action. Less

than honorable men might have their way (rape) with Vietnamese girls

or women, while better men might turn a tired eye away from such

behavior.

Helicopter gunships returning after fire-fights where Americans were

killed might be tempted to shoot one more Vietnamese on the way home,

or a water buffalo -- not common events, but it happened Ask any

Vietnam veteran.

Oklahoma City's V.A. Hospital is home to some Vietnam veterans so

psychologically wounded that they still require in-patient care. In

large numbers, others have faced issues including alcohol, drugs, and

anger-based violence.

In Iraq now, American forces face hostility from diverse political

and religious factions which seem to be unifying around the goal of

forcing the Americans to leave. This aspect of the Iraq situation

sounds disturbingly familiar to this Vietnam veteran. I grieve the

terrible decisions which our young service women and men are having

to make, inevitably wounding and killing civilians caught in the

crossfire. Our Iraq policy has turned sour and ugly, and I say it is

time to bring American forces home.

Nathaniel Batchelder THE PEACE HOUSE

2912 North. Robinson Oklahoma City, OK 73103

405-524-5577 batchokc@aol.com

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Congressional Medal of Honor Winner: Reagan Was "An Accomplice to the Death of Literally Thousands and Thousands of People"

We speak with Charlie Liteky a former US Army chaplain, who won the congressional medal of honor for saving some 20 soldiers in Vietnam. In 1986, he laid that medal at the Vietnam War memorial in protest of U.S. involvement in Central America. [Includes transcript]

In 1986, Vietnam veteran Charlie Liteky laid his Congressional Medal of Honor at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC. He wrote a letter to then-President Ronald Reagan saying he was returning the medal in protest of US support for right wing death squads in Central America, such as the Contras in Nicaragua. In Vietnam, Litkey was a US Army chaplain who saved some 20 US soldiers. During the 1980s, Liteky spent extensive time in Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and el Salvador. He was an organizer of the first ever protest at the US Army School of the Americas, which trained many of the paramilitary leaders in Central America.

     

  • Charlie Liteky, won congressional medal of honor for saving some 20 soldiers in Vietnam. In 1986, he laid that medal at the Vietnam War memorial in protest of US involvement in Central America.

AMY GOODMAN: I'm Amy Goodman as we turn to Charlie Liteky who won the congressional medal of honor for saving some 20 soldiers in Vietnam. In 1986, he laid that medal at the Vietnam War memorial in protest of U.S. support of the Contras in Nicaragua. We welcome you to DemocracyNow!.

CHARLIE LITEKY: Good to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: You are a former U.S. army chaplain. Your thoughts today about the Reagan legacy in Central America as we continue our series, "Remembering the Dead."

CHARLIE LITEKY: Well, all of this lionization of President Reagan which is coming over the TV now on almost every channel is just nauseous to me. I have gotten to a point where I can't even turn it on until all of the accolades are over.

As far as I am concerned, President Reagan was in the same category with a man we have in there now. He was responsible, he was an accomplice to the death of literally thousands and thousands of people. I don't think the public is much aware of this, you know; this is all part of history, and we seem to have a very short memory for the atrocities committed by people we hold in high esteem.

Anyway, I became aware of the fact that what was going on in Central America during the 1980's and when president Reagan was right in there from, I think it was 19 84 or 1985 on. He was in great support of the military in El Salvador, which was one of the most brutal militaries in history, and also the Contras in Central America or rather in Nicaragua. I think it's been said very eloquently by the priest who preceded me-- all of the things that he is responsible for.

But I went to Central America several times. I went with a group of Vietnam veterans to El Salvador and Nicaragua and Honduras, and I came back with a changed mind. It was a beginning of a process of metamorphosis for me to discover what our government has been involved in over the years.

So, as a result of my visit to El Salvador and Nicaragua, I decided that I no longer wanted a medal associated with a government that would be behind such things by way of policy. Also, I wanted to draw attention to what we were doing in Central America, in the name of freedom and democracy.

When President Reagan said, "I am a contra, too," I said that he insulted every American patriot when he referred to these killers of children, old men and women as freedom fighters, comparable to the founding fathers of our country. To me that's an obscenity.

So, I just said, you know, in the name of freedom and national security and national interests in anti-communism, you have tried to justify crimes against humanity of the most heinous sort. You have made a global bully of the United States. You would not dare to do that to countries capable of defending themselves, what you have done to tiny nations like El Salvador and Nicaragua and Honduras.

So, I, you know, wrote just a one-page letter, laid it at the apex of the Vietnam wall where the names of the victims of that war and the lives of that war are etched in black marble. I felt that was an appropriate place to leave it, because the soldiers of Vietnam, those who died, those who were wounded were victims of lies of that era just as these poor kids now in Iraq are victims of the lies of this administration; so, it was a poignant moment for me, because I was very proud of the fact to have received that particular award.

So, but I just felt that was all I could take at that particular time. And, I finally ended the letter to President Reagan with this short paragraph. I said, "I pray for your conversion, Mr. President. Some morning I hope that you wake up and hear the cry of the poor riding on a southwest wind from Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador. They're crying, stop killing us."

It's still going on. That's the really sad thing.

So, as far as President Reagan is concerned, that's eulogy for him. All I can say is, you know, may god have mercy on him. It's not for me to judge, but it is for me, and I think it is for every American to be aware of what is being done in our name around the world. It was not just then. It's been going on ever since then, and this mess in Iraq is, to me, far worse than Vietnam for a lot of reasons.

I am in deep sympathy with all of those young men that are over there now doing what they think is their patriotic duty. I think it is more of a patriotic duty of citizens of this country to stand up and say that this is wrong, that this is immoral.

AMY GOODMAN: Charlie Liteky returned the congressional medal of honor, was a U.S. army chaplain in Vietnam, saved more than 20 soldiers in Vietnam, laid down that medal in 1986 protesting U.S. involvement in Central America in the midst of the Reagan years in Washington.

 

 



 



 

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