how common were US war crimes in Vietnam

Oh, of course. I mean, you wouldn’t want to be bothered with trying to put it in some kind of meaningful context, now, would you?

I think that’s right in certain instances. There can be circumstances where the mindset moves from ‘fighting a war’ to ‘fighting to stay alive.’ When that happens the rules probably change along with those circumstances.

So far as I am concerned, this is the meaningful context:

We call ourselves a democracy. We call ourselves a free country. We purport to respect human and civic rights. We purport to be better than others.

It doesn’t matter one whit what the other side is doing. We are responsible for our own actions. And we can do something about it. And that’s why I care more about whether and how often we committed atrocities than whether and how often the other guy did.

Otherwise, “America” is just so much talk.

The hell it doesn’t. You want to condemn My Lai? Then you need to know why My Lai happened. And you can’t understand that unless you understand that American troops in Viet Nam were in large part responding to the mind-boggling brutality of the enemy they were fighting.

If you want the truth, you have to look at the whole picture. You simpy can’t understand what happened there unless you’re going to take into account what the enemy was doing.

Actually, I think it’s the lefties who are the self-righteous hypocrites here. Any one who gets his panties in a wad over My Lai but doesn’t care about the massacre at Hue during the Tet offensive, is not someone whose views need to be take seriously.

Cite? :rolleyes:

I don’t need a cite. The massacre is well known. If you want to insist that it didn’t happen, you are placing yourself in the same league as Holocaust deniers.

You didn’t even bother to read all of the bolded part. Stop wasting our time.

Mind your manners.

I didn’t say I don’t care … period … what atrocities someone else has committed. Of course I care. But when it comes to judging and responding to what we did, it’s irrelevant. “They were worse” is not an acceptable consideration.

It certainly * is * an important and relevant consideration. Deprived of context, no event can adequately be assessed. It would be absurd to talk about Union atrocities against Confederate civilians while ignoring Confederate atrocities against Union civilians, as some Neo-Confederates are inclined to do. It is equally absurd to talk about American atrocities in Vietnam without talking about Communist atrocities as well.

If you are studying the history of the war, then it is important to have a full picture.

However, if you are in the position of a policymaker or a judge, when judging and deciding how to respond the actions of those individuals, what the other side did is not relevant.

If some Union soldiers committed atrocities, those individuals should be (should have been) condemned and punished. If some Confederate soldiers committed atrocities, those individuals should be (should have been) condemned and punished. When making these determinations, evidence of X’s bad acts is not relevant to judging Y’s bad acts.

I also immediately thought of pitching VC out of helicopters. I wonder what - if any - kernel of truth there was that caused this incident to gain such widespread acceptance as common practice?

I have no personal knowledge. But I used to have a good buddy whose dad was in one of the elite frontline anti-guerilla units. I forget the exact unit so I won’t run the risk of getting it wrong. According to my buddy, his dad had quite a collection of photos of them posing with mutilated dead VC, holding decapitated heads, etc. I never saw the photos myself, but my buddy was very matter of fact as to their existence, as well as how he thinks the experience fucked up his old man.

It does not strike me as entirely unbelievable that the frontline aspect in the jungle/swamps/tunnels of VN saw considerable ugliness by both sides. I can well imagine, tho, that the vast majority of US forces in VN were not involved in this type of exchange. JMO.

On the contrary, an unprovoked act of aggression is much less tolerable or excusable than a reaction to extreme provocation. If X was responding to Y, then it is obviously necessary to consider what Y was doing before we pass judgment on X.

The key question here is who is Y and who is X. In my example, X and Y are individuals whose bad acts occur at different places and at different times.

If you are positing that X and Y are face-to-face and X’s act directly and proximately precipitated Y’s act, then I would say that that’s a completely different matter and, yes, X’s acts are relevant to Y’s immediate reaction.

If, however, in your example X is not an individual, but is simply “the enemy” and his bad acts are not proximate to the bad acts of Y, the individual, then I would say they are not relevant.

North Vietnamese/Viet Cong atrocities were overwhelmingly committed against Vietnamese civilians. How do you spin that as a provocation that would cause US personnel to also commit atrocities against Vietnamese civilians? Because, if I read you right, you are essentially saying that My Lai (and similar) were as a reaction to NVA/Viet Cong massacres.

I agree with Lonesome that the seriousness of atrocities can be mitigated by fear of one’s life in a particular situation, or even as the result of a constant fear at witnessing of atrocities.

That doesn’t mean we should forgive them wholesale (just as we shouldn’t forgive a serial killer because he was spanked too much,) nor does it mean that everyone who decides to focus on U.S. actions in a particular thread without always giving the caveat that the enemy was worse is automatically a Jane Fonda-lovin’ Fellow Traveller.

lonesomepolecat, your entire point in this thread is that American soldiers committed atrocities in Vietnam, however, they just did it less often than the Communist forces.

Is that correct?


You can read about the throwing of Vietnamese from helicopters at the Winter Soldier site I linked upthread.

Your moral algebra is warped. You can’t judge the actions of our troops in isolation from the rest of the war. You can’t judge the moral character of any action divorced from context.

No, I am saying that, by any reasonable moral standard, the Communist forces in Southeast Asia were on the same moral level as the Nazis, and whatever wrongdoings American troops may have committed, they simply did not approach the evils committed by our enemies.