For those who don’t recall:
Two tragedies took place in 1968 in Viet Nam. One was the massacre by United States soldiers of as many as 500 unarmed civilians—old men, women, children—in My Lai on the morning of March 16. The other was the cover-up of that massacre.
U.S. military officials suspected Quang Ngai Province, more than any other province in South Viet Nam, as being a Viet Cong stronghold. The U.S. targeted the province for the first major U.S. combat operation of the war. Military officials declared the province a “free-fire zone” and subjected it to frequent bombing missions and artillery attacks. By the end of 1967, most of the dwellings in the province had been destroyed and nearly 140,000 civilians left homeless. Not surprisingly, the native population of Quang Ngai Province distrusted Americans. Children hissed at soldiers. Adults kept quiet.
Today’s news: U.S. launches largest Iraqi air assault since 2003 invasion.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — American and Iraqi forces on Thursday launched the largest air assault operation since the invasion of Iraq nearly three years ago, the U.S. military said.
More than 50 aircraft and 200 tactical ground vehicles are involved in Operation Swarmer, supporting more than 1,500 Iraqi and U.S. troops near Salaheddin province, a restive region north of the capital regarded as a hotbed for insurgents.
What else do we know? This came from a comment by cmk, a frequent contributor here:
Just heard from a friend in Texas whose nephew has been in Iraq for a week.
His unit has had eleven killed.
Just seemed a thing to mention in this context.
But … we hear from official sources that we’ve only lost seventeen troopers since the first of the month: nine Army, six Marines, two National Guard. No single unit has had eleven killed.
I don’t think it’s the friend’s nephew.
What else do we know? We know that about 8,000 of our all-volunteer troops have deserted since this debacle began. They’re voting with their feet. Where did they go? Back home, or working at Burger King under an assumed name? I couldn’t tell you.
We just launched the biggest air assault since the start of the war. Too bad Bush was so stoned during Vietnam that he didn’t hear that that trick never works. Rumsfeld and Cheney were around, but they were on Nixon’s staff and took away the wrong lessons. “If only those peace activists hadn’t stabbed us in the back….”
One of officers at My Lai was Lt. William Calley. While he was the lowest ranking officer present, he was the only one to be tried and convicted. In March of 1971, after the longest court martial in American history, he was found guilty of the murder of at least twenty-two Vietnamese civilians. But that wasn’t the end of the story:
Opinion polls showed that the public overwhelmingly disapproved of the verdict in the Calley case [OPINION POLLS]. President Nixon ordered Calley removed from the stockade and placed under house arrest. He announced that he would review the whole decision. Nixon’s action prompted Aubrey Daniel to write a long and angry letter in which he told the President that “the greatest tragedy of all will be if political expediency dictates the compromise of such a fundamental moral principle as the inherent unlawfulness of the murder of innocent persons” [AUBREY LETTER]. On November 9, 1974, the Secretary of the Army announced that William Calley would be paroled. In 1976, Calley married. He now works in the jewelry store of his father-in-law in Columbus, Georgia.
My Lai mattered. Two weeks after the Calley verdict was announced, the Harris Poll reported for the first time that a majority of Americans opposed the war in Viet Nam. The My Lai episode caused the military to re-evaluate its training with respect to the handling of noncombatants. Commanders sent troops in the Desert Storm operation into battle with the words, “No My Lais—you hear?”
Aubrey Daniel was the prosecutor. Read Aubrey’s letter. Really.
You’ll recognize a couple of the names from My Lai today. An Army officer named Colin Powell helped in the cover-up. And a journalist named Seymour Hersh helped break the story. Later, Powell was Secretary of State and Hersh helped break the story at Abu Ghraib.
The rest of the Abu Ghraib photos have been released. Have you seen them? There’s full motion video.
Let’s talk about Hearts and Minds for a minute: U.S. military airstrikes significantly increased in Iraq
Stories of American missiles hitting the homes of innocents are passed between Iraqi men at teahouses and during Friday worship services.
“Residents worry that their homes will be bombed at any time,” said Hussein Ali Jaafar, who owns a stationery shop in the town of Balad, north of Baghdad, which was targeted by bombs or missiles at least 27 times between October 2005 and February 2006. “Most of the bombing is unjustified and random. It does not differentiate between militants and innocent people.”
A tribal sheik who lives on the outskirts of the troubled Anbar town of Ramadi, who asked that he be identified as Abu Tahseen instead of by his full name out of fear of possible retribution, said that the strikes create more insurgents than they kill because of the region’s tribal dictates of revenge.
“They (the Americans) think: `As long as there are resistance fighters operating in this spot, we will wipe it out entirely,’” Abu Tahseen said, using the term for insurgents favored by Iraqis sympathetic to their cause. “As you know, our nature is a tribal one, and so if one from us is killed, we kill three or four in return.”
Good going, guys. We’ve already dropped more tons of bombs on Iraq than we did on Nazi Germany. Over in Vietnam, over the course of ten years, we killed around 70,000 civilians. In Iraq we’ve managed to kill around 100,000 civilians in just three years.
We’ve been having fewer and fewer of our troops killed, though. Officially we lost 99 KIA in October ‘05, 86 in November, 68 in December, 64 in January ‘06, 58 in February, and only 17 so far in March, halfway through the month.
How are we managing that, given that there’s a full-blown civil war in progress over there? One way might be by retreating to cantonments and shooting anyone who gets within 500 yards. Taking a defensive posture.
Another way might be by lying about the casualties.
All depends on what the objective is.
I do wonder what Bush’s objective is. Is it really an attempt to hasten the arrival of Christ on earth by setting up the Apocalypse? Is he nuts?
I don’t know. But I do know that the current situation — civil war, thousands dead, quagmire — was predictable, and predicted. And the people who were predicting it were called traitors at the time for doing so.