Laughin’, Cryin’, Livin’, Dyin’
Hee Haw! Who’s the jackass now?
[This article appeared in the June, 1970 issue of Vietnam GI, the most widely read anti-war GI paper during the Vietnam era. We are reprinting it because the Haditha massacre has raised exactly the same issues and the brass and the politicians are trying to pass the buck to the rank-and-file soldiers just as they did 36 years ago.]
Charlie Co. is the jackass. From Nixon and Abrams on down to all sorts of deluded fat ass lifers and self-righteous civi-pigs there is a feeling that Charlie Co. really blew it. They didn’t give candy bars to the kids of My Lai. They didn’t pass out soap to the women. Instead they blew off the village.
So the men of Charlie Co. fucked up.They didn’t act like your friendly neighborhood Peace Corpsman. They acted instead like the ordinary sons of ordinary people.
They acted like an outfit of short-timers and Purple Heart winners who’d been in the shit, who’d lived it and breathed it for a long time. They acted like men who were taught to believe in and respect officers like Lt. Calley, who awarded himself an extra 7 days leave while his platoon was being chopped to shit in a minefield. They acted like men who were given the bullshit line about getting their GED’s and going to an Army school and then were dumped into the infantry.
The men of Charlie Co. conducted themselves like men whose personal knowledge of the Vietnamese people came from encounters with whores, pimps, begging kids, black market operators, thieves, and of course the VC. They acted like men, a tight group of men, who for two months had seen their brothers getting mangled in mine fields and ripped off by snipers and who’d rarely seen anybody to shoot back at.
Sound familiar so far?
Then pay attention.
Charlie Co. is ordered by Lt. Col. Barker to hit My Lai 4. He tells Medina there’s a crack VC battalion in the village. They are supposed to destroy it, then burn out the village.
Next day they move in. No VC. But a few of the villagers panic and run. The men, fucked over, psyched up, looking for revenge, open fire.
A lot of people fall.
The rest of them are too scared to move.
Next we see Snot Calley ordering his men to herd the people into ditches and to start cutting them down. Some do and dig it. Some get pissed off and sickened by the whole thing.
Calley and Medina make a bullshit body count, find a few imaginary weapons, and pull out. A few days later Westmoreland commends Medina for doing a good job. The real story gets hushed up for the obvious reasons that nobody in the Army wanted the publicity.
But after 20 months word does get out. And as the story gets pieced together by the CID, the press takes it up. The Establishment is surprised, shocked and outraged... both because there was a massacre (“How could our boys have done such a thing?”), and because the Army covered it up.
After showing that their hearts were in the right place, they gave up the stage to the Brass with parting remarks to the effect of “well, if you are just men, you will not sweep this under the rug... you will see to it that the guilty are punished.”
Enter the Brass, anxious to prove that they are indeed, just men.
How do they do it?
They tell the ex-GIs of Charlie Co. that they want them to come to Washington, all expenses paid, to tell their version of the massacre so they can get the goods on Calley.
Half of the company gets sucked in. Now that the Brass has the whole story of My Lai, what do they do?
The two-faced bastards turn around and announce their intention to prosecute the whole company. But you say most of the guys are civilians now, so they are out of the reach of military “justice”? Well, not exactly... the latest is that the JAG is trying to find a way to extradite them to SVN for trial.
The Brass is really pissed at Charlie Co. But it’s not because they give a fuck about the killing of innocent people.
If that were true they’d be a little more careful where they ordered air and artillery strikes. They’d also find it a little harder to just shrug when they hit our own men and say, “Well, accidents happen you know.”
What they are pissed about is that news of the massacre has made them and their war look worse than they ever have before. So they know what they have to do. Put the screws to Charlie Co., to make it look to people back home and around the world that they believe in – fighting a good clean war.
At the same time they are making the GI’s of Charlie look like bloodthirsty freaks. While everyone is talking about what a terrible thing it is they completely forget who is really responsible.
Because when you come right down to it, the wrong people are on trial for atrocities.
Nixon, Westmoreland, Abrams and Mendal Rivers, the very bullshitters who are most eager to see Charlie Co. brought to justice, are finally the men most responsible for My Lai. They were the ones telling us that Ky and Thieu’s corrupt government is worth dying for. They are the ones who taught us to kill, who put us over here in this mind-fucking shit hole and told us to go to it. In short, they started the war and they know you never have a war without atrocities.
If you put men in the shit long enough, you’re going to have My Lai’s.
It’s as simple as that.
If they were really concerned about putting a stop to massacres like My Lai they’d stop the war.
But right now their concerns are very clear; easy promotions, soft civilian jobs for retired Brass, and money for the owners of the arms industry. If by making the men of Charlie Co. into the scapegoat they can keep the ball rolling a bit longer you can bet your ass they’ll do it.
If you’re looking for people to blame for the endless evil shit that happens in Iraq in this dishonorable Imperial war, blame the politicians that put the troops downrange, in an impossible situation.
Everything flows from the act of invasion and conquest ordered up by the greedy Imperial liars and traitors in Washington DC. They are the enemy.