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Talk:My Lai

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 Definition Hamlet in Quang Ngai Province, site of a massacre of several hundred women and children in March 1968, just after the Tet offensive. [d] [e]

My interest in this case, beyond mere humanitarian considerations of course, is its appearance in a US army training manual on military ethics which I read while on active duty in the 101st Airborne 31 years ago. I'm also interested in how the case came to light. I seem to recall that a helicopter pilot saw what was going on, told the US troops to stop by radio, and even stopped and used the threat of force to stop (or slow down) the killings. I think he hesitated to report the crime through official channels while on active duty but informed his congressman after discharge.

Ethical questions center on whether either side in the Vietnam War (or more generally, any war) were told by higher ups to massacre civilians (or other unarmed people or noncombatants). And if so, which countries are most guilty of these kinds of war crimes.

Other questions, perhaps more easily answered with respect to the (democratic) West, are the means available for individuals of conscience to protest illegal operations such as shooting unarmed detainees en masse.

A related question is whether the My Lai massacre proves that the US was "bad" (or worse than other parties in the Vietnam conflict), or whether it highlights how moral scruples can bring wrongdoing to light and therefore proves that the US is "good". Needless to say, but I'll say it any way, there is probably a big controversy about the meaning of the My Lai massacre.

Stop me if I'm writing too much on controversies, but I feel that learning about both sides of issues can teach us a lot. History is boring if it's nothing more than a recitation of facts and dates. --Ed Poor 20:08, 28 January 2009 (UTC)

Well, this was a stub, but if it's going to be a matter of interest, there's much detail that can be added. Some details from memory.
Yes, a helicopter crew intervened. There were reports through the chain of command, and, while Medina and Calley were the only formal criminal charges, internal military discipline did go up to and including the divisional commander, MG Samuel Koster. Incidentally, why remove the information on location? If anything, if the article progresses, the specific geography becomes important, as well as operations preceding it.
I have never seen any serious data suggested that the action was more than a badly disciplined unit, under an incompetent commander, snapping. If you are interested in where policies may have killed large numbers of civilians, there are better examples. You may want to look at the rewrite in progress on Vietnam related articles; see the partial move Talk: Wars of Vietnam, which explicitly does not yet contain the rewrite of the 1962-1975 section (although see draft in User: Howard C. Berkowitz/Vietnam War).
Before getting into the question of what specific countries did or did not do, it might be well to define the context. I've just not had the time to do an article on just war theory. Having some vocabulary to discuss "meaning" would be helpful, such as the literature on jus in bello. I'd much rather see some broad discussion than zooming in on controversial U.S. politics. Even there, the Yamashita doctrine really needs to be explained before one deals with the concept of command responsibility as it applied to My Lai.
It has been my intent less to deal with the abstractions of morality by both sides, and how the decisions were made. Some of the U.S. policies, discussed in part in Vietnam, war and the United States, came either from domestic politics, or some questionable theoretical models derived from Schelling's concepts of compellence, rather than any particular understanding of Vietnamese Communist grand strategy. The 1968 massacre at Hue really makes very little sense in terms of Communist objectives, but it happened. You may have noticed an extreme repugnance of current commanders to speak in terms of "body count", as the overemphasis on that may well have led to civilian casualties since bodies needed to be produced. Most serious analysts, incidentally, considered "enemy weapons recovered" to be a far more useful metric.
On the other side of the hill, the nature of dau trinh selected certainly affected civilian casualties. Truong Chinh, Vo Nguyen Giap, Ho Chi Minh, and others had views as different as Robert McNamara, William Westmoreland and Creighton Abrams. Howard C. Berkowitz 22:43, 28 January 2009 (UTC)