16 March 2008

Repeating History

Forty years ago today, American troops slaughtered 500 or so — nobody will ever know the exact number — civilians in the midst of an undeclared war in a nation in which almost none of the troops spoke the language; in which it became increasingly difficult to tell friend from foe; in which we had no clear political or military objectives. That the best (but by no means definitive) evidence indicates that the company commander and platoon leader had been told to do so by higher-echelon commanders who later died before they could be called to account, or even properly interviewed, is really beside the point; the law of war was unmistakeably clear, and neither Capt Medina nor Lt Calley fulfilled their duties before and at My Lai of ensuring that soldiers under their leadership followed the law of war.

It is a sad, and deeply disturbing, coincidence that the Supreme Court will be considering allegations of other breaches of the law of war by Americans just after this shameful fortieth anniversary. It is also sad, and deeply disturbing, that the media has not really seen fit to comment upon any of this.