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viernes, marzo 16, 2012

A Grim Anniversary

Today is the 44th anniversary of the My Lai Massacre.

The My Lai Massacre (Vietnamese: thảm sát Mỹ Lai [tʰɐ̃ːm ʂɐ̌ːt mǐˀ lɐːj], [mǐˀlɐːj] ( listen); English pronunciation: /ˌmiːˈlaɪ/, also /ˌmiːˈleɪ, ˌmaɪˈlaɪ/)[1] was the Vietnam 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. Some of the bodies were later found to be mutilated.[2] While 26 US soldiers were initially charged with criminal offenses for their actions at Mỹ 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.

The massacre took place in the hamlets of Mỹ Lai and My Khe of Sơn Mỹ village.[3][4] The event is also known as the Sơn Mỹ Massacre (Vietnamese: thảm sát Sơn Mỹ) or sometimes as the Song Mỹ Massacre.[5] The US military codeword for the "Viet Gong [sic] stronghold" was "Pinkville".[6]

When the incident became public knowledge in 1969, it prompted widespread outrage around the world. The massacre also increased domestic opposition to the US involvement in the Vietnam War.

Three US servicemen who had tried to halt the massacre and protect the wounded were later denounced by several US Congressmen. They received hate mail and death threats and found mutilated animals on their doorsteps.[7] It was 30 years before they were honored for their efforts.[8]

More here from the New York Times today. And all of the original reportage by Seymour Hersh here (warning: graphic photos).

How hard it is, even now, to think about this event. Or to look at the photos. Or to imagine it from the perpetrators' or the victims' sides. And that's probably why today could easily come and go with little mention of it. Unfortunately, complete, collective forgetting just doesn't seem possible. Or wise. So there's the inevitable, personal struggle to remember, to recognize this event for what it was, to hold it, to feel it, and eventually to seek amends, forgiveness. A truly daunting, completely staggering task.

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