The Pee Lai Massacre in Bullet Points
Your news media at work: first, obtain the authentic photo of the actual story;
THEN black out anything in the photo that would actually show anything;
THEN slap your video logos and bumperstickers all over it.
• No army that ever marched didn’t have douchebags like these. You know these guys. And so do I.
They were the dumbasses who put the frog on the train tracks; who shot a rabbit and then kept shooting until they were out of ammunition and beer. They were the guys who came out of high school with no prospects, or military service was their only path to college. They were jerks, sure, but they were part of the American landscape. What they did was wrong, but we really need to grow up and understand that just because you’re an American doesn’t mean that everything you do is right, or just because you’re a capitalist doesn’t mean that everything you do is automatically beatified and blessed by the Ghod of the Almighty Dollar.
• How we handle the incident will tell the world more about who we are than these jerks will.
The thing that makes democracies admirable and currently hip is that we deal with crimes, not as a President-for-Life dictator, with a show trial, foreordained and tightly scripted, but a real adversary trial, with the opportunity for a defense, AND the added advantage of filling weeks of talking head shows on the not-quite-state-controlled media.
Since I won’t be serving on the jury, I can state my prejudgment here: it was a stupid thing to do, but there are rules against doing it in the military because such stupidity too often costs human lives, needlessly. That kind of stupid behavior can be dominoes to murder and that’s why it’s a straight up violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
If these dorks get a fair trial and a fair sentence, that will be in keeping with our idea of Who We Are, and, more importantly, what the World thinks about Who We Are. If we let them off easy ‘cuz (insert defense here), or needlessly crucify them to palliate ruffled foreign feathers, etc. that may tell us Who We Are in a way that we probably don’t quite want to accept. That is the nature of trials: everyone is on trial.
Here’s an excerpt from a military trial a few years ago. (I’ll give you the link at the bottom):
Capt. John Riesenberg, assistant government trial counsel, told the jury that their sentence should be aimed at stopping other first sergeants and soldiers from doing what the Company A soldiers did.
“Send a message to the world that this is an army that recognizes that it is different, that American soldiers just don’t do this. They don’t execute detainees in the middle of the night by shooting them in the back of the head when they are bound and blindfolded and dump their bodies in a canal,” he said….
• Do the Afghans know that douches like this exist?
• What’s astonishing is that we still don’t.
That’s NOT a “Duh.” When the wars began, it was tantamount to treason to suggest that any American soldier would, at any time or for any reason, do anything stupid like that. In fact, the last time such images showed up on the internet, the web site operator was bullied out of business and the images of “crispy critters” from Iraq (that looks a lot like that urination video, come to think of it) vanished from sight as much as the collective memory of the internet would allow.
Or that trial I cited above.
• What did we expect when we stupidly went to an “all Volunteer” army? That the best and brightest would volunteer?
Another of Tricky Dick Nixon’s evil legacies, along with “The Postal Service®,” Amtrak™, it’s the All-Volunteer Army±. We have seen how the horrors of our longest wars have been hidden from us, as a steady stream of coffins has come back from the Middle East, and we have learned to tune it out, as we learned to tune out homelessness since it showed up in Modern America in 1983.
And, considering that I was born on the fourteenth anniversary of the LAST TIME AMERICA EVER DECLARED WAR (on Hitler and Mussolini), we now have undeclared wars fought around the world by unknown soldiers. And if that smacks more of the French Foreign Legion than the United States of America, well, it ought to.
• Or kids with zero prospects out of high school.
The problem with the “All Volunteer Army” is that the society is insulated from the effects of war. Draft a couple congressman’s kids, and you get closer scrutiny of the war. If things turn inhuman, craven politicians and mouthpieces say, “Hey! They VOLUNTEERED!” Thus is “stop-loss” neatly rationalized. At the beginning of the wars, a lot of average Joes signed up, for the same reasons they signed up after Pearl Harbor. But the wars dragged on, as forgotten legionnaires trek the far corners of the globe for reasons of empire, and forgotten goals of statecraft. The armed forces have had horrific problems in retaining qualified officers.
And the last time that the United States of America declared war was on December 11, 1941. (When it was still called the “War Department.”)
• You can tell they’re not that bright, just from them being stupid enough to video it, and then someone in their penumbra posting it on YouTube.
• Now, we will witness the whole breast-beating and the public example-making, as has been necessary since ancient Greece.
There is a reason for the ceremony and ritual of the courtroom, of the trial. Each time it is practiced with fidelity, we either renew our commitment to justice, or we betray our attempts to foil justice. This is a necessary adjunct to a civil and democratic society, and, even held in a military court, an important guarantee of the rights of the accused, and the just punishment of guilt by society.
Statue of Justice outside Bexar County Courthouse,
San Antonio, Texas
• Which is why I call it the Pee Lai Massacre.
We went through an infamous ritual many years ago called the “My Lai Massacre.” You might recall that John Kerry was loudly denounced after his Vietnam service, because he and other Vietnam veterans were revealing incidents every bit a horrific as Pee Lai, and to the order of My Lai, in which an entire village was taken and executed:
The My Lai Massacre was theVietnam War mass murder of between 347 and 504 unarmed civilians in South Vietnam on March 16, 1968, by United States Army soldiers of “Charlie” Company of 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade of the Americal Division. Most of the victims were women, children (including babies), and elderly people. Many were raped, beaten, and tortured, and some of the bodies were later found to be mutilated…. [Wikipedia]
And the America Right or Wrong crowd was out there to screech that Calley was a noble American soldier being scapegoated, etc. etc. Only then, they didn’t have Fox News (and, increasingly, CNN*) for a megaphone.
CNN political analyst Dana Loesch celebrated the U.S. Marines who appear to have urinated on the bodies of dead Taliban members during her radio show on Thursday.
“Now we have a bunch of progressives that are talking smack about our military because there were marines caught urinating on corpses, Taliban corpses,” Loesch said during her radio program on FM News Talk 97.1. “Can someone explain to me if there’s supposed to be a scandal that someone pees on the corpse of a Taliban fighter? Someone who, as part of an organization, murdered over 3,000 Americans? I’d drop trou and do it too. That’s me though. I want a million cool points for these guys. Is that harsh to say? Come on people, this is a war. What do people think this is?”
• Who will be “Lt. Calley”?
For various reasons, Lt. William Calley became the poster boy for Apocalypse Now-style excesses of our long national nightmare in Vietnam. He was eventually convicted, served time, and now runs a jewelry store near an army base in the South.
While 26 US soldiers were initially charged with criminal offenses for their actions at My Lai, only Second Lieutenant William Calley, a platoon leader in Charlie Company, was convicted. Found guilty of killing 22 villagers, he was originally given a life sentence, but only served three and a half years under house arrest…. [ibid.]
In certain circles, the recriminations and rationalizations continue, just as there are those, like Ann Coulter, who argue that the McCarthy Era and Vietnam were good and noble and honorable endeavors.
Just as there are still those who call the Civil War “The War of Northern Aggression.”
Second Lieutenant William Calley
• We’re about to find out.
You heard it here, first.
I seem to recall that the entire Rightie Blogosmear rose up in 2007 against a lone soldier in Iraq who anonymously chronicled such behavior.
Because, as we were continually screeched by the Industrial-Military-Media Complex: NO AMERICAN SOLDIER EVER DOES ANYTHING BAD EVER.
His name was Scott Thomas Beauchamp.
• That link I promised you at the top is to the Stars and Stripes story about his conviction: NCO gets life for slaying Iraqi detainees.
h/t Mac M.
A writer, published author, novelist, literary critic and political observer for a quarter of a quarter-century more than a quarter-century, Hart Williams has lived in the American West for his entire life. Having grown up in Wyoming, Kansas and New Mexico, a survivor of Texas and a veteran of Hollywood, Mr. Williams currently lives in Oregon, along with an astonishing amount of pollen. He has a lively blog His Vorpal Sword. This is cross-posted from his blog.