Comparing the reaction to the evidence of two war crimes reveals how much the United States has changed in the past 50 years, writes Joe Lauria.
By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News
To gauge the transformation in the response by the U.S. military, the mainstream media and the public to a U.S. war crime, one need only compare the reactions to two of the most heinous American crimes: the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam and the gunning down of innocent Iraqis on a Baghdad street in 2007.
The latter was captured on a cockpit video from attacking Apache helicopters and revealed in a video released by WikiLeaks ten years ago today. Wikileaks obtained the video from a conscientious U.S. Army intelligence analyst, Chelsea Manning.
The My Lai incident was revealed to the public in Nov. 1969 through the reporting of investigative journalist Seymour Hersh. An army veteran whistleblower, Ronald Ridenhour, had first written in early 1969 to the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department and members of Congress revealing credible details about the massacre. It lead to a military investigation.
The probe found that U.S. Army soldiers had killed 504 unarmed people on March 16, 1968 in the village of My Lai, including men, women and children. Some women were gang-raped by the soldiers. The military investigation led to charges against 26 soldiers. Just one, Lieutenant William Calley Jr., a C Company platoon leader, was convicted. He was found guilty of the premeditated murder of 109 villagers. (Given a life sentence, he ultimately served only three and a half years under house arrest.).
But Calley’s conviction was largely covered up by the military. The New York Times ran only a short Associated Press story on Sept. 7, 1969, with few details. Hersh, however, heard something about the incident from a military source in Washington and started poking around. Eventually he got to see Calley in his cell in Georgia and was even allowed to look through classified notes on his case. Hersh had his story. He pitched it to Look and Life Magazines, but was turned down. Eventually the freelancer published his story at the obscure Dispatch News Service.
There was a public outcry after Hersh’s revelation. It was picked up by newspapers across the nation, including on the front pages of The New York Times and Washington Post. It fueled anti-war sentiment and hatred of President Richard Nixon. Two days following Hersh’s story about 250,000 anti-war protestors gathered at the Washington Monument. “It surpassed in size the civil rights March on Washington in 1964 and was easily the largest — and was perhaps the youngest — antiwar crowd ever assembled in the United States,” the Post reported.
Forty years after the My Lai incident, Apache helicopter gunships patrolling the skies of Baghdad on July 12, 2007 opened fire on a group of civilians on a street below, killing a number of people, including two Reuters journalists, and the driver of a van who had come to pick up the wounded.
During the My Lai incident one brave American serviceman, Hugh Thompson, landed his helicopter between cowering civilians and advancing GIs and told the Americans his gunship would fire on them if they didn’t stop. In Baghdad, one U.S. soldier, Ethan McCord, saved the lives of two Iraqi children over the orders of his superiors.
Where the Similarities End
Some similarities between the two incidents are uncanny. But the outcomes were wholly different. Both were stories of a U.S. military massacre of innocent civilians, just two instances of many such massacres across Vietnam and Iraq. Both began with a whistleblower, Ridenhour on My Lai and Manning on Baghdad. Both stories were turned down by major media, and later accepted by obscure publications (which then made WikiLeaks well-known). (Manning was first turned down by the Times and The Washington Post).
But that’s where the similarities end. The My Lai story led to a military investigation and a conviction of a U.S. soldier for mass murder. It caused a global outcry when all the facts became known. It contributed to the growing anti-war movement in the U.S. And it catapulted Hersh into prominence. As a result of his story, the freelancer was hired by The New York Times.
The Baghdad massacre led to no military investigation or charges against any soldier involved, despite video evidence that was stronger than what came out of My Lai. (The Army photographer who took the photo up top admitted to destroying pictures of the murders being committed.) The whistleblower was not jailed, as Manning was, but was listened to, and it led to an investigation. The ‘Collateral Murder’ video caused a stir, but hardly a global outcry, and it did not contribute to a U.S. anti-war movement. While WikiLeaks was catapulted into prominence, its publisher did not win a Pulitzer Prize, as Hersh did, but instead is languishing in a London prison on remand pending an extradition request by the United States to stand trial for espionage.
It bears repeating: At least one American soldier was imprisoned in My Lai. Hersh and the whistleblower did not go to jail. Not one U.S. soldier has gone to jail for the Baghdad massacre and the whistleblower and the journalist who revealed the crime were both imprisoned.
Manning’s 35-year sentence was commuted in 2017. She was again imprisoned for more than 250 days for refusing to testify to a grand jury against Assange, before she was released last month. Assange remains in a maximum security prison for doing the same job Hersh did.
These fundamentally different outcomes to a strikingly similar situation shows how far American society has sunk into the mire of authoritarianism and obedience.
Ellsberg and Assange
There is another Vietnam-era story that contrasts sharply with WikiLeaks, demonstrating how much the U.S. has changed for the worse in half a century. During the 1973 trial of whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg for leaking the Pentagon Papers it became known that the government had broken into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office and bugged his phone to dig up dirt on him. The judge in the case was also offered the FBI directorship if Ellsberg were convicted.
When this serious prosecutorial misconduct became known, Ellsberg’s case was immediately thrown out and he was a free man. Fast forward nearly 50 years to Assange’s case. It is now publicly known that a Spanish company, UC Global, was contracted by the Ecuadorian government to conduct 24/7 video surveillance of Assange in the London embassy and that this audio and video–including of privileged conversations between Assange and his lawyers–was sold to the Central Intelligence Agency.
In other words, the prosecuting government eavesdropped on the defense preparations. This is even more egregious misconduct than in Ellsberg’s case, though it has not led to the extradition request on espionage charges being immediately tossed out.
At a rally for Assange in London in February I asked Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek finance minister, why this was so. “The difference is that Dan was tried in a normal court,” he said. “Julian will never be given this opportunity. Julian is going to disappear into a system where not even his lawyers will know what the charges are. Habeas Corpus does not exist for him. Things are getting worse. Far worse.”
Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Sunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe .
Please Donate to Consortium News.
Before commenting please read Robert Parry’s Comment Policy. Allegations unsupported by facts, gross or misleading factual errors and ad hominem attacks, and abusive or rude language toward other commenters or our writers will not be published. If your comment does not immediately appear, please be patient as it is manually reviewed. For security reasons, please refrain from inserting links in your comments, which should not be longer than 300 words.
I like Seymour Hersh but I think that he fails to acknowledge the extremely difficult circumstances in which President Kennedy operated. I am convinced, by both documentary and witness evidence, that he intended to withdraw from Vietnam in his second term.
The coup by Johnson and his allies did, therefore, change US policy.
The ’60s were a time of moral and cognitive awakening from the doldrums of the plastic ’50’s, a period of affluence , conformity ,and smugness in the after glow of WWII victory. Americans thought they had been a positive force in the world; except for those few of us who understood the long sordid history of US foreign policy. So Vietnam being broadcast live on the evening news became quite an eye opener. In addition, shock of all times, we were losing.
Coming on the heals of the civil rights movement baring the country’s racist underbelly, a whole generation woke up to the fact that our country was in MLK’s words, “The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today”. In other words we were not really so wonderful as thought.
Since then conservatives have managed to mount a sophisticated and well financed regression of moral and humane values in the political, social and economic sphere . The goal has been to undo the New Deal. This has been enabled by the ever consolidated, corporatized MSM; which has systematically purged journalists of character. The entry of Rupert Murdoch, who was allowed a journalistic monopoly in return for supporting Reagan, created an extensive news network of mostly reactionary and totally unobjective ideology masquerading as news.
Reagan did a very effective job of degrading the national psyche with his patriotic macho cow boy philosophy and voo doo economics; Bush I consolidated it with his “shock and awe” fireworks show-to the cheers of many MSM journalists. His father exclaimed about kicking the “Vietnam Syndrome”. And, of course, the Kochs financed it. Obama then came along promising ‘hopey changy”, and then raised the bar on bait and switch. The latter proving that voting doesn’t amount to much.
Of course , 19 years of perpetual war creates a dulling effect in itself. War is now the new normal. There is a whole generation of people who have grown up with their country continually at war, even to the extent of destroying whole other countries.The Pentagon has made it more palatable by relying more on bombing and drones, avoiding the spectacular casualties of Vietnam. The public has learned to tolerate premeditated catastrophe.
Nobody talks about 1964 when dope routes through LAOS, THAILAND, not CAMBODIA were jobber off to SEALS and AMERICAL DIVISION ARMY that protected military brass ready to defect with the DOPE. They waxed everyone in sight of the road to Nam. It was all about getting the DOPE to get to USA. That was the war back then. ALL MILITARY LEADERS from other countries were taken to America and floated off OREGON with waterproof dufflebags with 3 million in each bag. This was gov’t sanctioned. Langley supplied reception and connections for citizenship, drivers licenses, payments to judges in SF. They would purchase a pre-existing restaurant fully credentialed for 500,000 to the guy before them. It cost 500,000 for the citizenship and other papers including tax connections and local licensing and insurance. Now they had a home in their name paid for and registration for kids schools. 2500 dollars a night went through the cash register to was the money. Bank accts WERE already set up. Tax returns filed on record. Decent car supplied that did not stick out. NEXT guy in got the same treatment and do it again. CIA was efficient. They would need 3 lessond to learn to drive and read signs so no law broken. This was the U.S. govt. that I and others worked for. We got a little piece also. Welcome to the USA that nobody ever knew about.
Most people around the world regard America as the worst obstacle to peace. That’s what you get when you waste a trillion dollars a year on killing equipment.
This is nothing new. From the aboriginal genocide, to overthrowing numerous democracies, to starting wars based on bullshit, exporting billions in arms and placing millions under quarantine who don’t do what America says, America is #1.
This would be a far better and happier planet if America were to disappear from the face of the earth.
Remarkable times are upon us and revelation abounds.
As we, some of us, realize that toilet paper is far more valuable than the entirety of the political, corporate, and financial class.
Truly, it is apparent that the lowly providers, those whose work actually sustains and nourishes society, which neoliberals loudly swear does not even exist, are the ones deserving not only of appreciation but just compensation.
As the elite lobby “public servants” to “foam” their “runways”, to “make whole” their obscene fortunes, bolstering the stock market and pumping money in incredible proportion to the top, the pusillanimous parsimony of the crumbs offered the many cannot fail to impress upon those many the obvious conclusion that, in the sight of the powerful and wealthy controllers and their army of lobbyists, the many are held worthless, viewed as mere drudges, anonymous cogs in the vast killing machine of profit and dominance.
So too has the “mainstream” media revealed itself as little but a propaganda machine whose purpose is neither to inform nor confront power and comfort, but simply to manipulate awareness and tell the many what and how to think.
That far too many U$ians still believe that media, still imagine that better times and better policies may result from voting, believing idiotic gibberish from a political class wholly subservient (even at its “progressive” so-called “extremes”, as personified by Bernie Sanders and AOC, among others) TO corporate and financial greed, TO those who profit from perpetual war and the destruction of the capacity of the planet to support human existence, reflects, very clearly, an even deeper failure of the educational system. A deliberate and intentional failure to encourage and reward critical thinking while serving simply to inculcate obedience and the embrace of myths such as the supposed nobility of working oneself to death in the service of greed, domination, destruction, and brute power.
Made terribly evident during this pandemic and the push to get yhenlittle people “back to work”, however mindless, destructive, useless, or dangerous, that “work” might be, is the fact that the push is intended to benefits and continue the power and dominance of the elite over life, over death, over existence itself, as if “more of the same” old “normal” is all that matters.
Perhaps capitalism is finally being seen for what it is?
Possibly, at least among those not thoroughly brainwashed, it is being realized that the many really have little need of the exulted few, that the many are the ones who build, create, maintain, and sustain human society, that off-shoring jobs and capacity might well enrich the few to whom government kowtows, but it impoverishes the many, creates vulnerability, causes precarity, and weakens true national security which, really, is the good health and well-being of the many, not an obscene bloat of nuclear weaponry, a pernicious ubiquitous “intelligence” network that views the many as the enemy, spying upon them and subverting thebRule of Law, or a “cost-plus” military industry of mercenary “defense contractors” and a hierarchy of self-serving CYA Officer Corps, and appointed military Secretaries who chastise and punish any officers or enlisted personnel who dare expose the truth of things.
Would not the media be in far better, more valuable and honest hands,were it more like this site?
Would not society benefit if banks were owned by the people, companies controlled and directed by workers, Health CARE administered by doctors and nurses, schools operated by teachers,
and energy systems public utilities?
Would not humanity and the planet be far better served by cooperation rather than “race to the bottom” competition among twenty-six billionaires?
How many more object lessons does humanity need to grasp its rapidly accelerating jeopardy, the catastrophe it is guickly approaching?
Has this pandemic taught the many so very little?
Realizing that there IS a limit and we are far closer to the ends of that limit than most dare admit, is it not time to conscientiously change our ways?
What have we got to lose?
monopoly capitalism can be very cruel and evil with out free enterprise .. free enterprise allows ambition and greed to be controlled by ambition and greed for the betterment of everyone .
Ah, Eric, have you an example to back this (sarcastic?) assertion?
You may, possibly, recall that when Iraq was invaded because of nonexistent Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs), the promise made TO Iraq by the U$ political class (and much ballyhooed, for domestic consumption) was that, after the Iraqi people showered us with flower petals to shown their great appreciation for being liberated from the clutches of Saddam Hussein, we would gift them with “Democracy and Free Enterprise”.
Lots of pathological “ambition” and limitless “greed” on the part of local Warlords and U$ actors was given incredible free reign, overseen by a very ambitious and very greedy U$ government, exactly the situation which you have postulated as ideal and, essentially, perfect.
How has that experiment turned out?
Again, can you provide an example of a time and a place where ambition and greed, constrained by ambition and greed, has brought wellbeing to all?
In fact, several examples, even a dozen, would be appreciated.
Since capitalism was created in the 17th century, in Europe, you certainly have an ample span of time, right up through “greed is good” and neoliberal austerity to pick and choose from and, surely, you should have no difficulty providing definitive examples.
If comments close on this thread before you are able to reply, try to place examples on another thread, don’t be shy.
This is very much analogous to the disparity in resistance to nuclear weapons and nuclear war, an issue always to the fore in the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. Although the nuclear threat is more perilous than ever, awareness and resistance have utterly collapsed.
For example, in the ’80s, Reagan’s deployment of a dangerous new generation of nuclear missiles in Europe brought millions out into the streets in the States, in England, France, and Germany. Eventually, the madness led to treaties, and disarmament. Now, the US tears up weapons treaties, deploys new generations of nuclear missiles along with troops on Russia’s borders, and this is met with… the sounds of silence.
No one in either filthy Party even suggest detente, there are no advocates for disarmament, and the Democratic Party has moved into the howling Bircher Right with its suicidal Russiagate canard.
I think Robert Wing’s and my prior article summed up most of the reasons why and how Americans are now so desensitized to their country’s post 9-11 illegal wars and war crimes:
consortiumnews (dot) com/2018/02/04/recipe-concocted-for-perpetual-war-is-a-bitter-one/
If the American people cared enough, Calley, LBJ, Nixon, and everyone since would be in prison. But people have neither the power nor willingness nor consciousness to stop this decades long horror. Those two incidents are but footnotes, while the scandals, assassinations, false flags, and wars which created the context for My Lai and Collateral Murder just go on and on. All unpunished.
Now, Flint still doesn’t have clean water, our healthcare system so called has the country rated #1 for lack of preparedness for an epidemic and Wall Street gets another bailout, while millions will experience Great Depression 2.0
Isn’t it remarkable that such a destructive system has maintained itself rather than collapsing?
Vietnam is where the Pentagon learned to kill civilians using assault troops on the ground. The Pentagon did it without remorse, but not it’s soldiers. The Pentagon ignored that many of those guys who were under orders in free fire zones were damaged beyond repair.
There is definitely a scab that needs to be ripped off the Vietnam “Free Fire” story, a story most will not want to believe it.
Like the rest of the endless stream of our nations sordid history, that history is there to be found. One U.S. general was removed from his command because of the “Free Fire” controversy. But the Pentagon still managed to cut the damage by covering it up at the time. My Lai got the news coverage but the actual free fire practice was much larger.
Ken Burns version of the Vietnam War, he glossed right over it. If you can still find a Vet who will talk about it you will get an education.
Nice job Joe, thanks to CN & Co.
American airpower did far more slaughtering of civilians in Vietnam than group troops.
Watch “Stomping South Vietnam”
Just before clicking on this site and this story I was reflecting on how similar American attitudes have become to those of the Nazi government that ran the death camps during WWII and occupied most of Europe with “extreme prejudice” when one considers how we are attempting to mass murder Iranian and Venezuelan civilians through starvation and deprivation of medical supplies during a global pandemic simply because the leaderships of those countries refuse to cede their nations independence and sovereignty to the warmongering hegemonists in Washington.
It’s an embrace of the same attitude our leaders have displayed towards Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen: We will slaughter your people wholesale by whatever means we see fit until you submit your unconditional surrender to us, even though you never lifted a finger in anger or aggression against the American government or the American people. It’s the kind of attitude of superiority humans in general usually display versus other, subhuman, animal species. They have no rights, they exist merely for the benefit of humans, because humans possess modern implements of death and destruction.
So it is with the non-American objects of our wrath: they have no more right to live or enjoy life than a litter of pigs on a factory farm. And, truth be told, I strongly suspect that attitude of disrespect really also translates to most Americans with whom the insider elites running this place show any deference merely out of political expedience. Not only do “black lives” not genuinely matter to them, but most lives outside of their circle of elites do not! Some say that Israel has made Gaza and the West Bank into gigantic open-air death camps (which Washington supports). Well, Washington does the same over any piece of real estate on this planet that it pleases. Iran, Venezuela, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Ukraine… are not accurately described in public as crimes against humanity only because the American mass media refuses to do so at the behest of the psychopaths in Washington. Yeah, Hitler was bad… but not as bad ass as Uncle Sam has become.
Great comment. Until we wrest control from these evil bastards, the sins of empire will continue. I am hopeful that sites like CN will educate enough people that we eventually reach a tipping point. The young do not watch nearly as much TV as we “Boomers” generally, and the free flow of information on the Internet scares the bejesus out of the Oligarchy. Perhaps this global lockdown will lead to more free time to think and gather useful information like this article and your comment.
What America does best . Pompeo said it best, see: youtube.com/watch?v=qfrhATD4nM0
I wonder if Seymour Hersch has anything to say about this obvious injustice. I know Daniel Ellsberg speaks out in defense of Julian but there is a deafening silence from so many others.
I still get requests for money from Amnesty International even though I return them with a note condemning their hypocrisy on their silence on the most prominent political prisoner of our time.
I am sad that Ed Snowden seems not to help Julian at all, despite the fact that it was Wikileaks that had a large role in extracting Snowden from Hong Kong and avoiding his recapture, and thence his present safety in Russia, where he speaks out freely. In his otherwise interesting book, he actually misquotes Julian to make it seem he (Julian) is a liar, which ten years of revelations show is certainly not true. Solidarity is needed here too, and the many Western journalists who benefited from Assange’s work, notably the scurrilous Luke Harding and David Leigh, have not come forward to support him in his extreme need.
Most people have become consumers of fast news….. only a few appreciate slow news. Thank you CN for your contribution to mental health in times of ignorance.
wrt what has changed in us individually and collectively since then.
The draft did move many to action then, who today will not volunteer, and don’t necessarily need then consider the consequences of our overseas wars because it doesn’t threaten their life and limb. The military learned that it doesn’t really want those who today would not volunteer- given the choice – and so it is a mutually beneficial arrangement.
And there is also the widespread resignation to defeat, of awareness of disenfranchisement. There were many large organized marches around the country and around the world before the ’03 invasion of Iraq. I was at the one in DC (don’t remember the date, but it was very cold when we left from Pittsburgh that morning.) The number I seem to remember is 600k, but my memory may be faulty or the number incorrect. Those large organized “statements” happened a mere 2yrs after 9/11, but were ignored by the pols and the media. Then came the betrayal in ’06 when the so-called opposition party was handed an electoral mandate to change course and did not/would not. And after now almost 12 more years and under different execs, we’re not only mired in the earlier wars, we’re instigating new ones.
I used to write letters to the local paper in an effort to present information that paper chose always not to print. I wrote many (e-mail) letters to my representatives before and after the invasion, and to a declining degree in the years since. I mostly get back boiler plate, and when I do get an actual response it’s usually “I can not support at this time…” or an honest though unsatisfactory indication of which constituency makes it impossible for he/she to consider my petition.
I haven’t become apathetic, and haven’t fully given in to resignation, but I know the previous efforts weren’t working, and I’m damned if I know what might.
I understand the laments of Annie and AnneR; one of my brothers resembles that, and is why we no longer speak. I realized and suppose he did also that there was no way forward for us if the facts were in contention. Facts re Syria, Libya, Ukraine, and the impeachment trial.
My great appreciation to Joe Lauria for this and other commentary – beyond simply reporting the “news”, these times call for engaging the thought process widely (hugely?).
Not to tell others what or how to think, though considered analysis ought be encouraged above sound-byte, regurgitated opinion.
At this time, there are numerous voices urging people to take to the streets.
Yet there are very few calls to thought about the necessity of understanding what should replace the failed and failing political economy its wholesale destruction of the Social Contract and the total negation of the Rule of Law.
For those who have come recently, or over many years or decades, to understand the effective collapse of civil society into neoliberal nightmare, fast becoming neo-feudal kakistocracy, little further “evidence” or “proof” is really necessary.
Does it not fall to those of us who do comprehend what has happened to civil society to dare imagine, out loud, what should, could, or ought replace a thoroughly corrupt system, corrupt from the very beginning, if we are fully honest, with conceit, deceit, hubris, culutural superiority, with ruthless disregard of others, for the condition of the environment, for even the most basic forms, officially, of common human decency?
In our renowned “Declaration of Independence” we are told of “…
the ruthless Indian Savages , whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions”.
How, gentle reader, has our “known rule of warfare”, differed, in any way, at any time, from what was said of a people upon whom we committed genocide?
However, looking forward, not to evade the truth, not to hide from the truth, rather to ponder what sane, humane, and sustainable future might be possible, is it not time to consider what forms of society and government might best ensure those things, BEFORE we rush into the streets?
For example, do we want participatory group decision-making or elite “deciding”?
Do we want a military empire, with all its destructive excesses and brutalities, its massacres, or something different?
Do we want our young taught to be killers, to the advantage of those who profit from war?
Do we want chest-beating and swaggering “suck it up, it’s just a thing” policies toward other human beings, or something else?
What we have been taught to accept is not working except for the pathological few and their managerial class.
The new “normal” our betters are so very anxious to return will be very much more nasty and brutal.
How many here wish to go “back” to “more of the same” simply more cruel and vicious?
How many here imagine that “things” are going to get better all by themselves?
Is it not time to imagine and consider how things can be changed, by the people, for the better, common, good?
For that to happen, we have to think and talk and listen to others.
That requires courage, tolerance, and understanding.
Consider the alternatives.
He could not have made the comparison better than showing the different out come from these 2 war crimes . I believe we have had a serious drop in morality .and it is hurting the whole country
I think the MSM was much less controlled during the Vietnam era. They were still under the thumb of the CIA, but the control was not as solidified as it is today. The evil ones have learned much about propaganda in the last half century, and much about using “infotainment” as distraction. There are very few critical thinkers among the masses nowadays, and the “all volunteer” army has kept the majority of the sheeple from having to face the evil realities of our war machine. They just say “thank you for your service” and go back to sipping on their lattes.
polls made around this time showed most Americans simply did not believe Mi Lai had even happened and old Vietnam hands argue there were many more unreported covered-up Mi Lais …. what Assange helped illustrate was the banality of the evil done ( to use Hannah Arendts phrase),that it was just in a days work,normal,ordinary,expected and merely the morally correct consequence of US Militarys superior status which taken for granted…. this is why Assange is such a threat,as he offers the US public a window into an obscenity of attitude and racism they so wish to hide,hide,hide …..
Well, fifty years of practice in killing ad lying has honed the country’s skills.
This is what America is really good at doing now.
And it has become so acceptable and ordinary that barely anyone raises an objection.
Just look at what you are doing, America, to sick people and children in Yemen and Iran and Venezuela,
Done right out in the open. No shame. Almost a sense of pride in the White House.
The abolition of the Draft by Nixon and Kissinger removed America’s real involvement in War. Under the Draft, everyone had skin in the game. The Rich and politicians’ children were protected of course, but they had to work the system hard to get all those deferments or appointments in the National Guard (which at the time stayed in the US).
The “economic draft” results in a siloed effort, protecting any “decent” Americans from having to kill or be kill, unquestioningly. War no longer touches most Americans’ lives (except for those big paychecks from the MIC.) Obama suckered Blacks into the military, something the Black community had generally looked down on; Colin Powell became the model. We no longer have a “citizen soldier” military. It’s more a mercenary army, with a different ethos and morality.
Horrifically, whenever I mention Assange’s appalling treatment, his being locked up and the key being chucked over nothing-burger charges (the Swedish ones) and the dangers that this arrest, never-ending detention and atrocious (torture) treatment of him and the likelihood that he will be extradited to the US where he will disappear never to be heard of again (we already have political prisoners such as Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu Jamal about whom the MSM are consciously silent whenever the political prisoners in China, Russia and Iran are discussed, who have been in stir for decades and, I believe, in solitary confinement – torture), my late husband’s American FB friends raise those Swedish sex charges. They say things like: well, he sexually assaulted/raped two women (not so – but hey, why let the truth get in the way?) therefore I don’t care what happens to him, he deserves all he gets.
Not a word about what that video revealed (and surely only a tiny segment of the atrocities, murder committed by our military in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya etc.), the murders of innocent people – for the heck of it. No – a shrug of the shoulders. What matters is the accusations that he was a sex offender (despite these so-called accusations being revealed as not such, as created out of thin air in order to get Assange extradited to the US via Sweden which is even more of a US lapdog than the UK) and as such – ANY punishment is OK.
There is no aspect of this whole affair that is not appallingly immoral, unethical and inhuman – and beyond comprehension. Least of all the uninterested unconcern of even the educated, Vietnam war era generation (my gen). Is it the lack of a draft? Is it all of the tens of years of US led mayhem around the world that has innured Americans to what is being done in their name?
Maybe it has more to do with the people who grew up in a generation that was different, raised by parents who lived through difficult times, and had the black and white TV tuned into the news. A time when real reporters presented the news in a journalistic style rather then as a source of entertainment that plays up one side as good, and the other bad. It creates a black and white world, and in that world no one thinks very much. Nothing is real. I asked someone on Facebook why she puts a lot of political stuff on her site, but never references our wars and the millions we’ve killed, maimed, and displaced and her answer was as simplistic as all countries do sneaky things. She is no idiot, she’s got a masters degree, but in her upper class encapsulated world it comforts her to think in such shallow terms.
I couldn’t agree more with your assessment of how (even) the well-educated, bourgeois, comfortable strata of American society (though not only them – equally true of all too many in the same and higher income brackets across the western and westernized segments of most societies) view what we have done for decades, the admin’s and Congress’s face of the duopoly party notwithstanding, and are still doing to peoples, societies, countries across the world (though most particularly in West Asia/Middle East/North Africa).
Basically, they shrug their shoulders. Not their interest, focus, problem. It’s all the Strumpet and getting rid of him – as if that will, fundamentally change anything either within this country’s borders or beyond them. And if it’s not the Strumpet per se it’s Russia, or China…
My late husband’s US FB friends all fall into this bourgeois, navel gazing, over there not here, TDS bracket or to some extent the kindred overseas bracket. Having lived in some twelve countries on all but the Antipodean continents, I cannot wrap my mind round this profound parochialism – a parochialism that first struck me when I lived in Denver back in the early 1980s. If it’s not happening here, not damaging, destroying the lives of the comfortably off here, then it’s not worth a candle of thought.
All the soldiers who partook in this massacre should have been given life sentences or death. Not in my name, heaven forbid!!! These Americans who have a knee jerk reaction IN SUPPORT of EVERYTHING the USA military does are utter and contemptable morons! Those people around the globe who have had their friends and loved ones slaughtered by US forces must have a vile view of Americans when they start that childish “USA, USA, USA!” chant. It could just as easily be “Sieg Heil!”
“My country, right or wrong,” is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, “My mother, drunk or sober.” ? G.K. Chesterton
This article makes clear the decline of the US is in an advanced state of decay.
“Truth doesn’t need law to defend it; when laws are used to protect against speech or inquiry, it is safe to assume that the laws defend lies. When you find law defending a narrative, it is only proper to believe the exact opposite.” – Bionic Mosquito
“When the law no longer protects you from the corrupt, but protects the corrupt from you – you know your nation is doomed.” – Ayn Rand
“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities” – Voltaire
Thought-provoking and well-drawn parallels, Mr. Lauria.
A case can be made that a coarsening of culture took place over the decades that may have lowered the general quality of our “sensibilities”, shall we say? Perhaps it is harder to shock the sensibilities of a people who have lost a not insignificant degree of such? Are people generally more inured to violence?
The Vietnam War was still raging in ‘69. The draft was still in effect and public opinion had markedly turned against the war. People were paying attention. The 24 hour news cycle was not yet a thing, and journalists were more focused and enduring in their choice of topics. Communism was the supposed demon of the day—not the
Vietnamese people. The photograph from the My Lai massacre truly shocked the sensibilities of many Americans of the time and couldn’t be easily dismissed or ignored.
In 2010 the occupation had been drawn down and Obama had implored the nation to basically ignore and forget the messy past of Bush-Cheney and “look forward” (to more of the same it turned out). Middle-Easterners had been demonised and loosely characterised as extremist haters of Americans and our “freedoms”. The War of (um, “on”) Terror was considered legitimate by many still blinded by 9/11. “Collateral Murder” was given short attention—quickly dispatched to the great non-memory hole otherwise known as American Consciousness. Speak, hear, and see no evil—at least when it comes to “us”.
Perhaps another parallel might be drawn—Americans in ‘69 were assured that My Lai was a one-off event. Of course exposure of the Phoenix Program and other testimony tells us differently. Apologists for the Iraq War likely would, when confronted, would say the same about Collateral Murder—similar to Rumsfeld’s claim about the torture at Abu Ghraib.
Gregory right you are on so many points but allow me to add that the Vietnamese did not attack New York City nor even DC for that fact. Taking that into consideration Americans were in Disney land by degree as revenge is best when it is brutal. So we slapped vinyl yellow ribbons on our cars and vowed to never forget hoorah!
The corporate world, mainly the US demonizes the so-called Communism/Socialism not because it denies freedom to it’s respective people but it opposes the unfettered capitalist exploitation. After all who are the US/West to prevent other people’s aspirations of communism or any other social system if they want for that matter?
I’ll never forget the time right after 9/11 when every American was asking what they could do to help the war effort that George W Bush told his citizens to go too Disney world. Although his recommendation was taken as a way to maintain a normal American lifestyle this in my regard was really meant to say ‘nothing too see here so move along’. Shame on those of good conscience and damn the peacenik for their protest we got a war to fight here dawg gone it. And now here we Americans are complacent as complacent can be. No need to look behind the curtain cause doing that is not being a good American. The sin of omission is punishable by the truth.
Notwithstanding the conviction of Calley, the Army senior command generally rejected its own soldiers’ claims of brutality perpetrated against the occupied population and covered up, or whitewashed such incidents. See, for example, Bob Parry’s and Norman Solomon’s 1996 Consortium News article on Vietnam and Colin Powell, reposted in CN on March 17, 2018.
An obvious point that in no way mitigates the difference between then and now. — Joe Lauria
This is a reply to Joe’s response, in which he is absolutely correct- but I would like to expand further.
Recall that during the Vietnam War (at a time when I was still in college), we had the draft and many participated in multiple teach-ins and mass demonstrations. Moreover, journalists were not imbedded in the military in quite same way as they later became during and after Gulf War I, so the reporting was sometimes more independent, nor were graphic images always suppressed even though the major media still pulled its punches, and both parties of Congress had endorsed and were supportive of the War – (William Fullbright, George McGovern Wayne Morse, Ernest Gruening, and later Mike Gravel (who defeated Gruening with a circumspect position on the War, but turned out to be a strong antiwar voice and advocate for abolishing the draft- and, who, in June, 1971 read the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record)- these were outliers at the time).
However, some years ago I spoke with a fine sociologist who had carefully studied the impact of the draft with respect to the public’s response to the war and concluded that once it had been eliminated, student interest in, and resistance to, the War evaporated.
That was the result of thousands of draftees replaced by a volunteer army and mercenary armies, and later foreign proxies.
So, while I agree that “these fundamentally different outcomes to a strikingly similar situation show how far American society has sunk into the mire of authoritarianism and obedience”- and while it is true that demonstrations during and since the Iraq War have been been met with more and more legal barriers and restraints, dragnet surveillance, and militarized police repression- recall Bloomberg’s mass arrests and incarceration of the anti-Iraq War demonstrators in NYC who had been set up by the police, followed the City’s violation of its 24hr arraignment requirement- I wonder also if being isolated from the crimes and free of their consequences, reveals something else about our own society- not only that we have become more obedient to authority, but also more self absorbed, and more easily propagandized by the media and academia – and, as a result, unable to think critically or take a strong stand- since someone else is doing the dirty work.
In this regard I recall that, while attending a young relative’s graduation at a highly regarded women’s college 8 or 9 years ago, the speeches by graduates and faculty were all about women’s rights, identity politics, self actualization, and a sop to past unionism, but NOTHING about our wars of aggression, nor of the terrible destruction they wreaked on innocents, nor of the negative impact on our own society which has led to the disintegration of its values, rule of law, and much more. When I commented about it to fellow parents, a few understood, but the rest seemed clueless.