February 22, 2013

My Lai

PBS American Experience

Fanaticism is the breeding ground of atrocity.
Atrocity is the breeding ground of fanaticism.


William Peers (1914 – 84) [General, US Army]:
  1. During the period 16-19 March 1968, US Army troops of [Task Force] Barker, 11th Brigade, Americal Division, massacred a large number of noncombatants in two hamlets [My Lai and My Khe] of Son My Village, Quang Ngai Province, Republic of Vietnam.
    The precise number of Vietnamese killed cannot be determined but was at least 175 and may exceed 400.
  2. The massacre occurred in conjunction with a combat operation which was intended
    • to neutralize Son My Village as a logistical support base and staging area, and
    • to destroy elements of an enemy battalion [mistakenly] thought to be located in the Son My area.
  3. The massacre resulted primarily from the nature of the orders issued to persons in the chain of command within TF Barker.
  4. The task force commander's order and the associated intelligence estimate issued prior to the operation were embellished [such that they] ultimately presented to the individual soldier a false and misleading picture of the Son My area as an armed enemy camp, largely devoid of civilian inhabitants.
  5. Prior to the incident, there had developed within certain elements of the 11th Brigade a permissive attitude toward the treatment and safeguarding of noncombatants which (contributed to the mistreatment of such persons during the Son Ply Operation).
  6. The permissive attitude in the treatment of Vietnamese was, on 16-19 March 1968, exemplified by an almost total disregard for the lives and property of the civilian population of Son My Village on the part of commanders and key staff officers of TF Barker.
  7. On 16 March, soldiers at the squad and platoon level, within some elements of TF Barker, murdered noncombatants while under the supervision and control of their immediate superiors.
  8. [Crimes] visited on the inhabitants of Son My Village included individual and group acts of murder, rape, sodomy, maiming, and assault on noncombatants and the mistreatment and killing of detainees. …
  9. Some attempts were made to stop the criminal acts …
    [But,] with few exceptions, such efforts were too feeble or too late.
  10. [There was] no evidence that any member [engaged in the] operation was under the influence of marijuana or other narcotics.
(Report of the Department of the Army Review of the Preliminary Investigations into the My Lai Incident, Department of Army, 1970)

William Westmoreland (1914 – 2005) [General and Chief of Staff, US Army]:
The Oriental doesn't put the same high price on life as does a Westerner.
Life is plentiful.
Live is cheap in the Orient.
(Peter Davis, Hearts and Minds, 1974)

Dallas Morning News:
Supposedly the purpose of fortified villages is to keep the Vietcong out. …
Vietnamese farmers are forced at gunpoint into these virtual concentration camps.
Their homes, possessions and crops are burned.
[Seven villagers had their] stomachs slashed, their livers extracted and put on display.
These victims were woman and children.
In another village, expectant mothers [had their stomachs] ripped open and their unborn babies removed.
(1 January 1963)

Vietnamese Democratic Bulletin:
It is certainly an ironic way to protect the peasant masses from Communism. …
(September 1963)

Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970):
The advantages of successful war are doubtful, but the disadvantages of unsuccessful war are certain.
(Creeds as sources of power, Power, 1938, p 103)

John Kennedy (1917 – 63)

You can never defeat the Communist movement in Indochina until you get the support of natives …
[And] you won't get [that support,] until the French … pull out and give this country the right of self-determination and the right to govern themselves.

[I believe] that no amount of military assistance in Indochina can conquer an enemy that is everywhere and at the same time nowhere — "an enemy of the people" which has the sympathy and covert support of the people.

(Chris Matthews, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero, Simon & Schuster, 2011, Reader's Digest, 2013, pp 67 & 98)

Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970)

… South Vietnam was part of French Cochin-China, but after a long process of civil war, the French were excluded from the whole region.
A conference was summoned to meet at Geneva in 1954.
The conclusions reached were sensible and, if they had been carried out, no trouble would have arisen.
Vietnam was to be independent and neutral, and was to have a parliamentary government established by a General Election.
The Americans did not like this.
They professed to suspect that [a unified] Vietnam would become part of the Communist bloc if left to itself… in spite of reiterated statements by the Government of North Vietnam that they wished to be neutral. …

There were in South Vietnam three parties:
  • the peasants [—] who constituted the large majority;
  • the Buddhists; and
  • a tiny minority of Christians [—] who had been supporters of the French.
The Americans [chose] to support [the Catholics.]
[Consequently, war] ensued between the American-supported minority and the Buddhists and peasants. …

It has been warfare of an incredibly brutal kind [—] brutal to a degree seldom equaled by any civilised power. …
It is generally admitted that there is no hope that the Americans can win this war. …

[8,000,000 South Vietnamese] have been put in barbed wire concentration camps involving forced labour.
The country — civilians, animals and crops, as well as warriors and jungle — has been sprayed with jelly gasoline and poison chemicals.
50,000 villages were burnt in 1962 alone. …

[The] anti-Communist Democratic Party of Vietnam told the International Control Commission that:
Decapitation, eviscerations and the public display of murdered women and children are common.
(The Labour Party's Foreign Policy, London School of Economics, 15 February, 1965)

John McNaughton (1921 – 67) [Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs]:
Draft Memorandum to Robert McNamara — Plan of Action for South Vietnam, 24 March 1965.

Ken Burns & Lynn Novick:
[In mid-1965] Undersecretary of State George Ball [told Johnson] the war could not be won.
The American people will grow weary of it.
Our troops will get bogged down in the jungles and rice paddies, he warned, while we slowly blow the country to pieces.
No one else agreed.

(The River Styx, Episode 3)

(Ken Burns & Lynn Novick, Déjà Vu, The Vietnam War, Episode 1, Public Broadcasting Service, 2017)

February 11, 2013

Richard Nixon

PBS American Experience

Richard Nixon (1913 – 94):
I saw Watergate as politics, pure and simple.

John Kennedy (1917 – 63) [November 1960]:
Nixon wanted the presidency so bad that there were no depths he wouldn't sink to.
(Chris Matthews, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero, Simon & Schuster, 2011, Reader's Digest, 2013, p 199)


[In 1969, at age 56 and] after 22 years of political battle, Richard Nixon had become the most powerful man in the world.
He envisioned nothing less than a new world order …

American troops had been fighting for four years … against the Soviet-backed Communist forces of the North [at a cost of 30,000 American] and over a million Vietnamese [lives.]

[By war's end, 4 years later …
Estimates of the number of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians killed vary from 800,000 to 3.1 million.
Some 200,000–300,000 Cambodians, 20,000–200,000 Laotians, and 58,220 US service members also died …
(Wikipedia, 11 February 2013)
For every American who died at least 40 non-American lives were lost.
About the same ratio as that between the number of documented civilian deaths in Iraq between 2003 and 2011 (116,777) and the number killed on September 11, 2001 (2,977).
The [Gaza War] resulted in between 1166 and 1417 Palestinian and 13 Israeli deaths (4 from friendly fire).
(Wikipedia, 9 February 2013)
A ratio of about 280:1.]

February 9, 2013

The Future Eaters

Tim Flannery

Tim Flannery:
[Future] eating is … a cycle …
[By] the beginning of the 16th century … the Maori had really hit rock bottom.
{[There] was far too many people and not enough food. …}
[From] then on we see [the first glimmerings of] conserving their resources for the future … that was to play an increasingly important role in the new societies that they were beginning to invent. …


Outside the mainland of Afro-Eurasia … megafaunal extinctions followed a distinctive landmass-by-landmass pattern that closely parallels the spread of humans into previously uninhabited regions of the world, and which shows no correlation with climatic history …
An analysis of Sporormiella fungal spores (which derive mainly from the dung of megaherbivores) in swamp sediment cores spanning the last 130,000 years from Lynch’s Crater in Queensland, Australia showed that the megafauna of that region virtually disappeared about 41,000 years ago, at a time when climate changes were minimal …
[The] change was accompanied by an increase in charcoal, and was followed by a transition from rainforest to fire-tolerant sclerophyll vegetation.
The high-resolution chronology of the changes supports the hypothesis that human hunting alone eliminated the megafauna, and that the subsequent change in flora was most likely a consequence of the elimination of browsers and an increase in fire.
The increase in fire lagged the disappearance of megafauna by about a century, and most likely resulted from accumulation of fuel once browsing stopped.
(27 January 2013)