⚡ The My Lai Massacre: Military Involvement In Vietnam

Saturday, November 06, 2021 4:38:44 AM

The My Lai Massacre: Military Involvement In Vietnam



If Hanoi is so enamored with elections, pros and cons of smartphones is preventing them from having one tomorrow? Mass killings during the Vietnam War. At that The My Lai Massacre: Military Involvement In Vietnam in the war, supplies to camps were zero. Some 15 vehicles, including a minivan and a couple of trucks, blocked the road. The withdrawal of U. Shock and Awe Harlan K. Maybe The My Lai Massacre: Military Involvement In Vietnam am blinded by love of country, Patriotism. Retrieved 22 February There are literally thousands of anecdotes about mass killings, lime-pits filled with bodies, NVA units using hammers on The My Lai Massacre: Military Involvement In Vietnam teachers and others working for The My Lai Massacre: Military Involvement In Vietnam 'Southern Regime'.

Interviews with Veterans of My Lai

The inquiry found that, in addition to using "electrical shock by means of a field telephone," an all too commonly used method of torture by Americans during the war, MI personnel also struck detainees with their fists, sticks and boards and employed a form of water torture which impaired prisoners' ability to breath. Similar to the "Tiger Force" atrocities chronicled by the Blade , documents indicate that no disciplinary actions were taken against any of the individuals implicated in the long-running series of atrocities, including d MI personnel Norman Bowers, Franciszek Pyclik and Eberhard Gasper who were all on active duty at the time that the allegations were investigated by Army officials.

In fact, in , Bowers's commanding general pronounced that "no disciplinary or administrative action" would be taken against the suspected war criminal and in a formerly classified memorandum to the U. Gard in January , it was noted that the " Their crimes and identities kept a secret, Bowers, Pyclik and Gasper apparently escaped any prosecution, let alone punishment, for their alleged actions. Similarly, the Toledo Blade pays particular attention to Sam Ybarra, a "notorious suspect," who was named in seven of the thirty "Tiger Force" war crimes allegations investigated by the Army -- including the rape and fatal stabbing of a year-old girl and the brutal killing of a year-old boy.

Yet, Ybarra's notorious reputation may well pale in comparison to that of Sergeant Roy E. According to a former commander, "the Bummer" was rumored to have "personally killed over 1, people" during a forty-two week stretch in Vietnam. Even if the number was exaggerated, clues on how Bumgarner may have obtained high "body counts" came to light in the course of an Army criminal investigation of an incident that took place on February 25, According to investigation documents, Bumgarner and a subordinate rounded up three civilians found working in a rice paddy, marched them to a secluded area and murdered them.

Assorted weapons were then planted near the mutilated corpses to make them appear to have been enemy troops. During an Army criminal investigation of the incident, men in Bumgarner's unit told investigators that they had heard rumors of the sergeant carrying out similar acts in the past. Said one soldier in a sworn statement to Army investigators:. I've heard quite a few rumors about Bumgarner killing unarmed people. Only a couple weeks ago I heard that Bumgarner had killed a Vietnamese girl and two younger kids boys , who didn't have any weapons.

Unlike Sam Ybarra, who had been discharged from the military by the time the allegations against him came to light and then refused to cooperate with investigators, "the Bummer" was charged with premeditated murder and tried by general court martial. Moreover, after six months, Bumgarner promptly re-enlisted in the Army. His first and only choice of assignments -- Vietnam. Records indicate he got his wish! Military records demonstrate that the "Tiger Force" atrocities are only the tip of a vast submerged history of atrocities in Vietnam. In fact, while most atrocities were likely never chronicled or reported, the archival record is still rife with incidents analogous to those profiled in the Blade articles, including the following atrocities chronicled in formerly classified Army documents:.

While not yielding the high-end body count estimate of the "Tiger Force" series of atrocities, the above incidents begin to demonstrate the ubiquity of the commission of atrocities on the part of American forces during the Vietnam War. Certainly, war crimes, such as murder, rape and mutilation were not an everyday affair for American combat soldiers in Vietnam, however, such acts were also by no means as exceptional as often portrayed in recent historical literature or as tacitly alluded to in the Blade articles. The excellent investigative reporting of the Toledo Blade is to be commended for shedding light on war crimes committed by American soldiers of the st Airborne Division in However, it is equally important to understand that the "Tiger Force" atrocities were not the mere result of "Rogue GIs" but instead stem from what historian Christian Appy has termed the American "doctrine of atrocity" during the Vietnam War -- a strategy built upon official U.

The headline of one Blade article proclaims, "Earlier Tiger Force probe could have averted My Lai carnage," referring to the fact that the st Airborne Division's "Tiger Force" troops operated in the same province Quang Ngai , with the same mission search and destroy months before the Americal Division's men committed their war crimes. But atrocities were not a localized problem or one that only emerged in Instead, the pervasive disregard for the laws of war had begun prior to U. Only by recognizing these facts can we hope to begin to understand the "Tiger Force" atrocities and the history of American war crimes in Vietnam, writ large. Does anyone have any idea of whether the interrogation techniques used in Vietnam or Iraq have any validity in terms of effectiveness?

Is valid intelligence being gathered with these interrogation techniques? I certainly hope people take these comments seriously. Our standing in the world is affected by such charges, and I for one do not want to see my country having a reputation as being a bunch of hippocrites, going after war criminals in other parts of the world and then giving war criminals in our country accepted status. I'm E-mailing ministers all over the country and requesting they read these and other writings such as "Tiger Force: Men at War".

And I would think that all men of honor would be involved in some meaningful capacity. Best of luck to the author. Tim Baker. We know what happened "wasn't right" to paraphrase a Nam vet's words. But but vet's killing vet's to prevent the occurances from going to the US Army's War Crimes Command Division is certainly as bad as atrocities themselves. Yet, there has been only a wisp of an indication as to those likely events. I believe that Turse's methodology is flawed for the reasons I laid out in this piece from a couple of years ago. This is why all the attempts to paint them as Republican stooges are so far off of the mark.

The volume of e-mails and phone calls I received from Vietnam veterans agreeing with me demonstrated that I was far from alone. But due to a lack of media interest, the issue dropped off the scope, permitting Kerry and his apologists to avoid addressing the issue. Enter the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. This they did with varying degrees of success, owing to the fact that men in battle often perceive the same event differently. It does seem clear that Kerry did not spend Christmas of in Cambodia as he claimed on numerous occasions. There are also legitimate questions about the circumstances surrounding his first Purple Heart and his rescue of Jim Rassmun.

These events may have brought him to political prominence in the United States, but at the cost of alienating a substantial number of Vietnam veterans who believed he besmirched their honor and whose resulting anger has simmered for three decades. He was, so the argument went, merely relating stories told by others. But if so, he should have chosen his words more carefully. The common-sense meaning of the statement that "over honorably discharged and many very highly decorated veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command" seems to be that these accounts represent only the tip of the iceberg and more importantly, that such actions represented US policy against the Vietnamese.

So indeed, the second attempt to defend Kerry is now in play. His defenders claim that he was telling the truth—atrocities did take place in Vietnam. Of course, as anyone who has read my articles knows, there is no controversy about this point. But this is missing the point—whether intentionally or not I cannot say. In every one of those pieces as well as many others I have written over the years about the Vietnam War, I have stated unequivocally that Americans committed atrocities in Vietnam. I have never tried to whitewash the record, as one of my correspondents claimed. I was not alone. The transcripts of the WSI struck me the same way.

As I wrote in the 23 February issue of National Review, paraphrasing Lewy, when the Naval Investigative Service NIS attempted to interview those who allegedly had witnessed atrocities, most refused to cooperate, even after assurances that they would not be questioned about atrocities they may have committed personally. Those that did cooperate never provided details of actual crimes to investigators. The NIS also discovered that some of the most grisly testimony was given by fake witnesses who had appropriated the names of real Vietnam veterans.

The same thing happened with Army investigators. Most of the allegations were so general as to defy investigation. Burkett and Genna Whitley. In the course of trying to raise money for a Texas Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Burkett discovered that reporters were only interested in homeless veterans and drug abuse and that the corporate leaders he approached had bought into the popular image of Vietnam veterans. They were not honorable men who took pride in their service, but whining welfare cases, belly-aching about what an immoral government did to them. What he found was astounding. Indeed, Burkett discovered that over the last decade, some 1, individuals, including some of the most prominent examples of the Vietnam veteran as dysfunctional loser, had fabricated their war stories.

Many had never even been in the service. Others, had been, but had never been in Vietnam. Indeed the emergence of new evidence during the last 30 years has only solidified the winter soldiers' overall case. When the Naval Investigative Service tried to pull VVAW members into an inquiry, it found one Marine who either could not or would not give details of what he had seen and allegedly located several other veterans who said they had never gone to Detroit. O'Neill had cited this same information in his televised debate with Kerry.

But even if true, these incidents were far too limited to establish anything in particular about the Winter Soldier Investigation; the fact that some of the winter soldiers declined to give depositions does not prove or disprove the legitimacy of the entire project. The VVAW leadership left it up to individual members to decide how to respond to requests for depositions. And veterans had good reasons to decline. For one thing, they argued that their purpose was to protest U. What's more, with the VVAW under direct assault from the Nixon administration, it's understandable that the group's members were loathe to cooperate with government investigators.

Of course the best known incident was the admission several years ago by Bob Kerrey, the highly respected former senator from Nebraska and Medal of Honor recipient, that the Navy SEAL team he led in Vietnam killed women in children during a nighttime mission some 32 years ago. Kerrey's admission was prompted by a lengthy New York Times Magazine story by Gregory Vistica that went farther than the charge that civilians died during this action. It contained the explosive claim that then-Lieutenant j. Kerrey had ordered the civilians to be rounded up and then shot point blank to facilitate the SEAL team's escape. If this allegation is true, what happened that night in the Mekong Delta village of Thanh Phong was more than a terrible tragedy of war--it was a war crime.

These are all troubling events. But they do not prove that atrocities in Vietnam were more widespread than in previous wars. Some three million men served in Vietnam. Since the logistics tail of US forces is fairly large, only about twenty-five percent, ,, served in combat units. If we add up all of the atrocities, both proven and alleged, and multiply them by two as a hedge against under-reporting, the percentage of American combat soldiers who might have committed atrocities is still less than one percent of the total. I doubt that many armies in history could match that record.

The fact is that anyone who has been in combat understands the thin line between permissible acts and atrocity. The first and potentially most powerful emotion in combat is fear arising from the instinct of self-preservation. But in soldiers, fear is overcome by what the Greeks called thumos, spiritedness or righteous indignation. It is thumos, awakened by the death of his comrade Patroclus that causes Achilles to quit sulking in his tent and wade into the Trojans, slaughtering them in great numbers.

But unchecked, thumos can engender rage and frenzy. It is the role of leadership, which provides strategic context for killing and enforces discipline, to prevent this outcome. Such leadership was not in evidence at My Lai, or most of the other cases of atrocities. In the May 3 issue of National Review, I suggested three reasons that explain the belief on the part of so many that atrocities in Vietnam were more frequent than in other wars and that they were a part of policy: 1 Soviet propaganda; 2 the belief on the part of the veterans who related atrocity stories that they were telling their listeners what they wanted to hear; and 3 liars and phonies.

As Ion Mihai Pacepa, a former Romanian intelligence chief, has recounted, the Soviets set up permanent international organizations — including the International War Crimes Tribunal and the Stockholm Conference on Vietnam — "to aid or to conduct operations to help Americans dodge the draft or defect, to demoralize its army with anti-American propaganda, to conduct protests, demonstrations, and boycotts, and to sanction anyone connected with the war. Lewy writes that "the Communists made skillful use of their worldwide propaganda apparatus. When he testified before the Senate in , Kerry was merely repeating charges that had been making the rounds since To the anti-war Left, atrocities revealed the Nazi-like character of "Amerika.

American military sociologist Charles Moskos has suggested that atrocity stories out of Vietnam were the functional equivalent of heroic war stories from World War II: They provided a meaning to participation in Vietnam that resonated with those who opposed the war and were now judging the returning soldiers. Some atrocity claims were the product of outright fantasy, on the part of soldiers who returned from the war emotionally disturbed. The anti-war psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton wrote of a veteran who, after some time in group therapy, could "confess that he had been much less violent in Vietnam than he had implied.

He had previously given the impression that he had killed many people there, whereas in actuality, despite extensive combat experience, he could not be certain he had killed anyone. Not all atrocity stories can be pawned off as the work of phonies. But one of the most striking revelations of Stolen Valor is how easy it is to produce fraudulent records, including the DD And anyone who served in Vietnam has no doubt at one time or another confronted a wannabe Vietnam vet.

It has always amazed me how many people want to claim to have served in such an unpopular war. I would add a fourth reason—the passing down of a story from soldier to soldier. According to FactCheck. Since , Nolan has interviewed roughly 1, veterans in depth for his books, and spoken to thousands of others. Frustrating guerrilla wars produce a particularly horrific number of atrocities. That some individual soldiers and certain units responded with excessive brutality in Vietnam shouldn't really surprise anyone. As far as I know, neither did the other officers in my regiment and battalion. But I heard of an atrocity just after I joined the unit. A Marine who was scheduled to rotate very shortly recounted an incident that he claimed had occurred shortly after he had arrived in the unit about a year earlier.

According to the story, members of a sister company had killed some North Vietnamese soldiers after they had surrendered. Some months later, I heard another Marine who had joined my platoon after I took it over relate exactly the same story to some newly arrived men, only now it involved me and my platoon. I had a little chat with him and he cleared things up with the new men. But that little episode has always made me wonder how many of the stories have been recycled and how many account of atrocities are based on what veterans heard as opposed to committed or witnessed.

Of course, an account based on hearsay may be true. After all, the soldier who broke the My Lai story was not present during the massacre. Unfortunately for the body politic, this issue is not going to go away. Too many veterans have long memories and they believe that Kerry sacrificed their honor on the altar of his political ambitions. He led a Marine infantry platoon in Vietnam in I am not inclined to do Mr. MacKenzie's homework for him; however the data exists if he should chose to look for it. Warm regards, R. If he has researched this issue as thoroughly as he claims to have, I would have to conclude that he calculatingly misled his audience by falsely implying that American military authorities were unwilling to prosecute, convict, and harshly sentence, whenever possible, soldiers who committed war crimes.

On this latter point, there is no question that some unit commanders tried to cover up "bad news;" however, once an allegation of a possible crime was exposed senior American military authorities and their civilian superiors ensured the allegation was investigated and that appropriate action was taken. In this regard, I would expect that a person of Turse's education and credentials must be aware of the manner in which the rules of evidence influenced the ability of military commanders and prosecutors to successfully bring an accused person to trial and, when brought to trial, to gain a conviction.

His failure to mention this factor suggests to me that he was not interested in presenting his readers an honest and balanced view of this issue. Writers such as Turse are free to cite hearsay, isolated examples, and conjecture as evidence with which to smear persons and institutions they dislike, disapprove of, or simply know nothing about. Fortunately our system of justice holds our courts to a higher standard.

It seems to me that Turse is guilty of committing at least the following fallacies of logic in this article: Appeal to popular authority 'climb on the bandwagon'. It is popular among academics and mainstream journalists to accuse members of our armed forces of regularly committing heinous crimes. Climbing on this bandwagon likely is a sure way for an academic researcher and writer to gain popularity and acclaim from many of his colleagues. Hasty generalization. Turse generalized about a group--American soldiers and their commanders in Vietnam--based upon a sample that is too small to be representative.

Three and a half million or more Americans served in Vietnam. With rare, but widely publicized, exceptions all served honorably. Appeal to emotions. Turse described incidents in which American soldiers allegedly killed children and raped women. Here he arouses the readers' emotions in a manner apparently intended to influence the readers' beliefs about American soldiers and military authorities--whether consciously or unconsciously, Turse seems to wish to undermine public support for the American armed forces and system of justice.

Anecdotal fallacy. It is easy for the reader to imagine that some soldiers will commit war crimes when engaged in armed conflict. Turse described a few examples of such acts from which, he might expect, based on the ease with which readers can imagine such acts could have been committed, that many readers will conclude mistakenly that American soldiers commonly committed war crimes for which they were rarely prosecuted or punished. On a subjective and, I admit, logically fallacious level--I find myself wondering if it is reasonable that I should expect accurate and balanced reporting from an academic outfit that calls itself the "Center for History and the New Media.

No, the U. The U. The Geneva Accords were not signed by either the U. The worst mistake the U. As to the elections that didn't happen, that the Minh would have won is debatable. If Hanoi is so enamored with elections, what is preventing them from having one tomorrow? Ho's agenda was to unify Indo-China under his rule, regardless of the cost. That was the cause of the war. During the period of rice production increased in the South along with the standard of living. It really did, look up the numbers. Killing Diem was another blunder of the American government, but it is clear the South did not want to be ruled from Hanoi.

My main objection is to the charactorization of the American war effort as some sort of Genocidal frenzy. This is crap, pure and simply. The war in Korea claimed as many lives, and more destruction, in a shorter period of time. Many of the attacks on America's efforts in Vietnam could be use in reference to the Korean War. The results fifty years later speak for themselves. Maybe I am blinded by love of country, Patriotism. But that is still better than being blinded by anti-patriotism, hatred of America and all it stands for, which is what motivates the Vietniks. And is why the Left is always on the side of America's enemies. I will note that despite how terrible the war of was, it was only after the Commie victory that nearly a million Vietnamese found it necessary to flee their country by any means avaliable.

More Indo-Chinese died during the first two years of the commie "peace" than during the ten years of American involvement. Thomas, Your points about democracies going to war were well taken. I should have specified that liberal democracies have not gone to war with other liberal democracies since WWII. On a side note however, I would argue that Britain was not really a democracy in the modern sense of the word, nor was Prussia even though it technically had a Constitution.

The Confederacy was more of a rebellion then a war, and the Kaiser was essentially a king. Thanks for a good post with many fine, amusing points. I must take issues with the democracy vs democracy point. It seems to me that democracy has a special insidiousness, in that it posits the presumption of legitimacy. Santayana, paraphrasing Plato, contradicting Wilson's "War to end all wars": "Only the dead have seen the end of war".

I increasing appreciate your take on things, though our core beliefs may at times diverge somewhat. Just to make a complex subject more so, Vietnam was incontrovertably separated into four main philosophical groups: the communists, who believed in no God but dialectical materialism, the animists who believed in a world soul, manifested in millions of sub-souls in every thing, whether rock, tree, or dog, the Buddists Therevada who believed that all wisdom was in denying the world, at least in their 18th year, and the Catholics, strongest of all, who were the bulwark against the communists in all but numbers. The Ap Loc incident I referred to above involved communists as persecutors, and animists as victims. The battle of Song Mao, May '70 involved Catholics against perhaps, nominally, maybe-kinda-sorta communists, in which 5, of the latter, recently marched down from North Vietnam, perished in a mini-Cannae.

It was not possible to consider any incident without its ethnic component being involved. This was often missed in contemporaneous analysis, and is invisible today. I wanted you to have this background information for future discussions. At times I wonder whether the internet might foster a paradigm shift in the power relationships in society, in favor of small "d" democracy. In this type of reportage and reaction could not be possible.

I can tell you that, in , it felt pretty damned cut off out there. Thanks for being on message. It's hard at times to get a meaningful discourse when so many are so inexperienced in the subject. But then, when one is Thomas said, "War coarsens and diminishes all its participants Likewise, I think I can understand a little something of the factors that led him to quit the Army in face of his experiences in exotic Indochina. All that said, I take strong issue with Michael Meo's smug assummption that it is necessarily wrong to do what must be done to win a war, to protect one's hide. War isn't for the faint of heart.

By the same token, it isn't much fun. As a number of people have pointed out, the permanent frustrations of operating in a general context where occupying troops are resented, hated by a civilian population is what creates the conditions under which the kinds of crimes Turse chronicles take place, or even become part of the routine. This does not excuse the actions of individual GIs, but the response to the question of whether there is documented evidence that similar crimes are occurring in Iraq is that the detereriorating relationship between occupation forces and the Iraqui people makes such a scenario inevitable.

This piece is six months old, and it is likely that the situation has grown much worse rather than better. Wait till I get hold of a friggin' Iraqi. No, I won't get hold of one. I'll just kill him. The silence felt almost eerie after a night of shooting so intense it hurt the eardrums and shattered the nerves. My footsteps felt heavy on the hot, dusty asphalt as I walked slowly towards the bridge at Nasiriya. A horrific scene lay ahead. Some 15 vehicles, including a minivan and a couple of trucks, blocked the road. They were riddled with bullet holes.

Some had caught fire and turned into piles of black twisted metal. Others were still burning. Amid the wreckage I counted 12 dead civilians, lying in the road or in nearby ditches. All had been trying to leave this southern town overnight, probably for fear of being killed by US helicopter attacks and heavy artillery. Their mistake had been to flee over a bridge that is crucial to the coalition's supply lines and to run into a group of shell-shocked young American marines with orders to shoot anything that moved. One man's body was still in flames. It gave out a hissing sound. Tucked away in his breast pocket, thick wads of banknotes were turning to ashes. His savings, perhaps. Down the road, a little girl, no older than five and dressed in a pretty orange and gold dress, lay dead in a ditch next to the body of a man who may have been her father.

Half his head was missing. Nearby, in a battered old Volga, peppered with ammunition holes, an Iraqi woman - perhaps the girl's mother - was dead, slumped in the back seat. This was not the only family who had taken what they thought was a last chance for safety. A father, baby girl and boy lay in a shallow grave. On the bridge itself a dead Iraqi civilian lay next to the carcass of a donkey. As I walked away, Lieutenant Matt Martin, whose third child, Isabella, was born while he was on board ship en route to the Gulf, appeared beside me.

I carried her body and buried it as best I could but I had no time. It really gets to me to see children being killed like this, but we had no choice. They had rolled towards Nasiriya, a strategic city beside the Euphrates, on a mission to secure a safe supply route for troops on the way to Baghdad. They had expected a welcome, or at least a swift surrender. Instead they had found themselves lured into a bloody battle, culminating in the worst coalition losses of the war - 16 dead, 12 wounded and two missing marines as well as five dead and 12 missing servicemen from an army convoy - and the humiliation of having prisoners paraded on Iraqi television.

There are three key bridges at Nasiriya. The feat of Martin, Dupre and their fellow marines in securing them under heavy fire was compared by armchair strategists last week to the seizure of the Remagen bridge over the Rhine, which significantly advanced victory over Germany in the second world war. But it was also the turning point when the jovial band of brothers from America lost all their assumptions about the war and became jittery aggressors who talked of wanting to "nuke" the place. None of this was foreseen at Camp Shoup, one of the marines' tent encampments in northern Kuwait, where officers from the 1st and 2nd battalions of Task Force Tarawa, the 7,strong US Marines brigade, spent long evenings poring over maps and satellite imagery before the invasion.

The plan seemed straightforward. The marines would speed unhindered over the miles of desert up from the Kuwaiti border and approach Nasiriya from the southeast to secure a bridge over the Euphrates. They would then drive north through the outskirts of Nasiriya to a second bridge, over the Inahr al-Furbati canal. Finally, they would turn west and secure the third bridge, also over the canal. The marines would not enter the city proper, let alone attempt to take it. The coalition could then start moving thousands of troops and logistical support units up highway 7, leading to Baghdad, miles to the north.

There was only one concern: "ambush alley", the road connecting the first two bridges. But intelligence suggested there would be little or no fighting as this eastern side of the city was mostly "pro-American". I was with Alpha company. We reached the outskirts of Nasiriya at about breakfast time last Sunday. Some marines were disappointed to be carrying out a mission that seemed a sideshow to the main effort. But in an ominous sign of things to come, our battalion stopped in its tracks, three miles outside the city. Bad news filtered back. Earlier that morning a US Army convoy had been greeted by a group of Iraqis dressed in civilian clothes, apparently wanting to surrender. Five wounded soldiers were rescued by our convoy, including one who had been shot four times.

The attackers were believed to be members of the Fedayeen Saddam, a group of 15, fighters under the command of Saddam's psychopathic son Uday. Blown-up tyres, a pool of blood, spent ammunition and shards of glass from the bulletridden windscreen marked the spot where the ambush had taken place. Swiftly, our AAVs ton amphibious assault vehicles took up defensive positions. About marines jumped out of their vehicles and took cover in ditches, pointing their sights at a mud-caked house. Was it harbouring gunmen? Small groups of marines approached, cautiously, to search for the enemy. A dozen terrified civilians, mainly women and children, emerged with their hands raised. Plumes of smoke rose as heavy artillery shook the ground under our feet.

Heavy machinegun fire echoed across the huge rubbish dump that marks the entrance to Nasiriya. Suddenly there was return fire from three large oil tanks at a refinery. The Cobras were called back, and within seconds they roared above our heads, firing off missiles in clouds of purple tracer fire. There were several loud explosions. Flames burst high into the sky from one of the oil tanks. The marines believed that what opposition there was had now been crushed. More than 20 AAVs, several tanks and about 10 Hummers equipped with roof-mounted, anti-tank missile launchers prepared to move in. Crammed inside them were some marines. Tension rose as they loaded their guns and stuck their heads over the side of the AAVs through the open roof, their M pointed in all directions.

As we set off towards the eastern city gate there was no sense of the mayhem awaiting us down the road. A few locals dressed in rags watched the awesome spectacle of America's war machine on the move. Nobody waved. Slowly we approached the first bridge. Fires were raging on either side of the road; Cobras had destroyed an Iraqi military truck and a T55 tank positioned inside a dugout. Powerful explosions came from inside the bowels of the tank as its ammunition and heavy shells were set off by the fire. With each explosion a thick and perfect ring of black smoke ring puffed out of the turret. An Iraqi defence post lay abandoned. Cobras flew over an oasis of palm trees and deserted brick and mud-caked houses.

We charged onto the bridge, and as we crossed the Euphrates, a large mural of Saddam came into view. Some marines reached for their disposable cameras. Suddenly, as we approached ambush alley on the far side of the bridge, the crackle of AKs broke out. The road widened out to a square, with a mosque and the portrait of Saddam on the left-hand side. The vehicles wheeled round, took up a defensive position, back to back, and began taking fire. Pinned down, the marines fired back with 40mm automatic grenade launchers, a weapon so powerful it can go through thick brick walls and kill anyone within a 5-yard range of where the shell lands.

It shook as Keith Bernize, the gunner, fired off round after deafening round at sandbag positions shielding suspected Fedayeen fighters. His steel ammunition box clanged with the sound of smoking empty shells and cartridges. Bernize, who always carries a scan picture of his unborn baby daughter with him, shot at the targets from behind a turret, peering through narrow slits of reinforced glass. He shouted at his men to feed him more ammunition. Four marines, standing at the AAV's four corners, precariously perched on ammunition boxes, fired off their Ms. Their faces covered in sweat, officers shouted commands into field radios, giving co-ordinates of enemy positions.

Some marines, fully exposed to enemy fire and slowed down by their heavy weapons, bulky ammunition packs and NBC suits, ran across the road, taking shelter behind a long brick wall and mounds of earth. A team of snipers appeared, yards from our vehicle. The exchange of fire was relentless. We were pinned down for more than three hours as Iraqis hiding inside houses and a hospital and behind street corners fired a barrage of ammunition.

Despite the marines' overwhelming firepower, hitting the Iraqis was not easy. The gunmen were not wearing uniforms and had planned their ambush well - stockpiling weapons in dozens of houses, between which they moved freely pretending to be civilians. They are even using women as scouts. The women come out waving at us, or with their hands raised. We freeze, but the next minute we can see how she is looking at our positions and giving them away to the fighters hiding behind a street corner. It's very difficult to distinguish between the fighters and civilians. Many, including some children, were gunned down in the crossfire.

In a surreal scene, a father and mother stood out on a balcony with their children in their arms to give them a better view of the battle raging below. A few minutes later several US mortar shells landed in front of their house. In all probability, the family is dead. The fighting intensified. An Iraqi fighter emerged from behind a wall of sandbags yards away from our vehicle. Several times he managed to fire off an RPG at our positions. Bernize and other gunners fired dozens of rounds at his dugout, punching large holes into a house and lifting thick clouds of dust.

Captain Mike Brooks, commander of Alpha company, pinned down in front of the mosque, called in tank support. Armed with only a 9mm pistol, he jumped out of the back of his AAV with a young marine carrying a field radio on his back. Brooks, 34, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, had been in command of men for just over a year. He joined the marines when he was 19 because he felt that he was wasting his life. He needed direction, was a bit of a rebel and was impressed by the sense of pride in the corps. He is a soft-spoken man, fair but very firm. Brave too: I watched him sprint in front of enemy positions to brief some of his junior officers behind a wall. Not every case is clear-cut. Asking soldiers to make fine legal distinctions in combat or else face court-martial is akin to asking them to sail between Scylla and Charybdis.

This tension is resolved by rules contained in the Manual for Courts Martial. The manual is an executive order that augments the Uniform Code of Military Justice by setting forth procedural rules and providing guidance based on case law for interpreting the code. Rule d of the Manual for Courts Martial says:. It is a defense to any offense that the accused was acting pursuant to orders unless the accused knew the orders to be unlawful or a person of ordinary sense and understanding would have known the orders to be unlawful. Calley was convicted under this rule. But what other, less clear-cut orders might give rise to an obligation to disobey? It is obvious that a soldier could not refuse to disobey an order simply because he disagreed with its tactical wisdom.

An order to advance along one route rather than another is obviously legal, even if the subordinate thinks it is a bad idea. Can a soldier refuse an order to deploy in support of a military operation that Congress has not approved? In recent years, presidents have used force against al-Qaeda and associated groups, and more recently against ISIL, in places as far-flung as Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and Syria. These presidents relied for their authority on the Authorization for the Use of Military Force , a reading that stretches the meaning of the authorization to its logical limits, and arguably well beyond. In , President Barack Obama went even further, launching a major military action in Libya without making any effort to get congressional approval or attempting to cite the Authorization for the Use of Military Force.

Instead, he relied on a U. A few servicemembers have tried unsuccessfully to disobey orders to deploy in support of these operations. In , 1st Lt. Ehren Watanda refused to deploy to Iraq because he believed the war was illegal. His arguments fell on unsympathetic ears. In fact, Watanda was not even permitted to present his preferred defense because. Courts are not empowered to second-guess policy decisions made by the political branches.

In the end, Watanda was administratively discharged under other than honorable conditions for his refusal to deploy. In , Capt. Nathan Michael Smith deployed to Kuwait to support the fight against ISIL, but he also filed a lawsuit in federal district court challenging the legality of the order. The fundamental problem in both the Watanda and Smith cases was that the order to deploy was not palpably illegal. As My Lai shows, however, there are cases where an order would clearly violate the law.

An order to torture a detainee would be one. Every soldier is trained to know that torture is illegal. The U. Convention Against Torture , to which the United States is a party, prohibits cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment of detainees. Army Field Manual It permits 19 types of interrogation techniques, none of which could be considered torture, and two of which require special authorization to use. Torture is also explicitly prohibited by DoD Directive It would be palpably illegal to give an order to torture a prisoner. There is no defensible legal argument that interrogation techniques such as waterboarding are permitted.

No soldier, sailor, or airman would be in a position to plead ignorance of the law. Any member of the military who received such an order would not just be allowed to disobey it — they would be required to do so. Otherwise, they would face the threat of criminal charges under Article 92 of the UCMJ, for dereliction of duty in failing to follow lawful regulations and for cruelty and maltreatment, and Article , for general misconduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline. The officer would also be at risk of being charged for conduct unbecoming under Article This is exactly what happened after the conditions at Abu Ghraib prison were made public in The lurid details of widespread abuse of prisoners, including sexual abuse and humiliation, are by now well-known.

Eleven soldiers were found guilty of various charges at court-martial for their involvement in prisoner abuse. Two senior officers who had overseen the prison, Lt. Steven Jordan and Col. Thomas Pappas, also faced disciplinary action for their dereliction in supervising the facility. Some of the soldiers involved in the abuse tried to assert superior orders as a defense, though none were successful. It was true that Lt. Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of U. Because the soldiers involved in the scandal were assigned to detainee operations, they would have been expected to know what techniques were and were not authorized by the manual.

Franklin Roosevelt himself was reportedly given a gift of a letter-opener made of a Japanese soldier's arm by U. The war behind me: Vietnam veterans confront the truth about The My Lai Massacre: Military Involvement In Vietnam. I was with Indian Ocean Basin Dbq Essay The My Lai Massacre: Military Involvement In Vietnam. President Johnson's The My Lai Massacre: Military Involvement In Vietnam for U. Main article: Phoenix Program. Raimondo, Maj. This Social Ecological Model: The Applied Social Work Model going on on both sides, of course.

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