Was My Lai a war crime?

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aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,813
USA
If you're going to drag your country to war, than military considerations rule. Otherwise conduct "war" by other means. If Nixon's air war was so effective why wouldn't a combined all out naval, air and ground assault on Hanoi break the back of the North? Political risk comes from a war that drags on and on with no obvious progress. Yes that's the war Johnson waged. I'm just saying it's not the war he should have waged
War is an extension of politics, by other means. In layman's terms, its just another chapter of the same book, not an entirely new book. The same political considerations matter.

For the Vietnam War, a combined air, land, naval attack on the North might have triggered a Chinese response. China had nukes. Russia had nukes. It could literally have triggered WW3, with all the horribleness of what a global thermonuclear war would present. How can we be sure it would? We can't. So it comes down to risk.

Limited war is about limited risk. LBJ was clearly willing and able to fight a limited war without risking escalating it. But he wasn't willing to risk much. He could have done more. How do we know? Because Nixon stepped it up and did far more than LBJ, and while PRC and USSR weren't happy wiht the US escalating the war they never had the provocation to intervene. Besides that, it was grossly apparent just by watching the American evening news that regardless of whatever Nixon did, America's days of supporting the South were very numbered.

The Korean War was the same way. Had we done more, it might have triggered WW3, at a time when the USSR had nukes and the force composition to rather easily overrun Europe. Would our nukes have won that version of WW3? Probably, but it would have been very costly. So Truman, Bradley, Marshall, then Ike, none wanted to deal with that threat, so they kept it limited.
 

Code Blue

Ad Honorem
Feb 2015
4,401
Caribbean
What exactly do you think a war crime is?
Generally, it is what the victor says it is.

This fellow seems to understand it.
"The allies have done and are doing some the very things we are prosecuting the Germans for. The French are so violating the Geneva Convention in their treatment of prisoners of war that our command is taking back prisoners sent to them for forced labor in France. We are prosecuting plunder and we are practicing it. We prosecute aggressive war is a crime and one of our allies asserts sovereignty of the Baltic states based on no title except conquest."
--Justice Robert Jackson to President Harry Truman
After the Natural Law

In Viet Nam, a war crime was wiping out a village with bullets instead of dropping bombs. :)

War is an extension of politics, by other means.
And vice verse, according to Witz-clause.
But this gives us another variant definition of war crimes. War crimes are just an extension of politics by other means.
 
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Jul 2010
107
Definitely. It was likely not treated as such because Western allies did not want to attack each other.
 
May 2018
888
Michigan
The people who were largely freaking out about My Lai to use as evidence that the US was evil are also the ones who quite often didn't really care what the communists did, either denying their crimes or ignoring them. Politics is politics.
People who ignore the realities of Communism (the overarching evil feared by policymakers at the time) and its very real negative effects such as war crimes, mass starvation, and gulags or at frighteningly fucked up parties held by Beria. I'm a firm believer that the U.S. should own the morally questionable things its done in the past. However, I get the sense that the intense partisanship that marked the Vietnam Era is...well...still alive and well today.


Let us remember that while the U.S. led "wars of extermination" against various Indian tribes, the Communists were conducting "wars of extermination" well into the 20th century. Stalin and Hitler probably told the same Polish jokes. Given Pol Pot, in the 70s, which wasn't that long ago, such fears of Communist "war of extermination" were apparently justified. This was the **** the ideology was doing in the 70s. While Americans were watching Star Wars for first time, a real genocidal war of extermination (Roman style) was going on between an evil empire and the U.S.
 
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Code Blue

Ad Honorem
Feb 2015
4,401
Caribbean
I'm a firm believer that the U.S. should own the morally questionable things its done in the past.
No citizen of whatever degree of patriotism should "own" things done by politicians. It is normal, good even, to be proud of or love you country, so long as you never forget that your politicians are just as wicked as everyone else's.

Let us remember that while the U.S. led "wars of extermination" against various Indian tribes, the Communists were conducting "wars of extermination" well into the 20th century.
Don't overlook the possibility that the worst ones are not in the past, but yet to come.
 
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May 2018
888
Michigan
No citizen of whatever degree of patriotism should "own" things done by politicians. It is normal, good even, to be proud of or love you country, so long as you never forget that your politicians are just as wicked as everyone else's.

Don't overlook the possibility that the worst ones are not in the past, but yet to come.
To your first point, that's silly: obviously, a responsible citizen would encourage their own nation to atone for perceived wrongdoings. Part of that responsibility is accepting that pretty much everyone is an *******, and my assholes should be better at being assholes than your assholes.

To your second point: Yeah, and with regimes actively pursuing nuclear weapons using rhetoric such as "Israel shall burn in hellfire!", you have to hope its all just idle talk meant to placate domestic masses.
 

Code Blue

Ad Honorem
Feb 2015
4,401
Caribbean
To your first point, that's silly: obviously, a responsible citizen would encourage their own nation to atone for perceived wrongdoings. Part of that responsibility is accepting that pretty much everyone is an *******, and my assholes should be better at being assholes than your assholes..
But where is the "silly" part of being specific and targeted about assigning responsibility, identifying its personal nature, and not making the mistake of shaming and blaming the innocent? That is part of what distinguishes justice from blind vengeance.

I don't see any sense - but I am willing to listen - in blaming the "nation." Blaming the nation instead of the politician is a predicate for the next extermination. The Gulf of Ton kin Incident was a hoax. It was not perpatrated by Charlie Company.
 
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May 2018
888
Michigan
But where is the "silly" part of being specific and targeted about assigning responsibility, identifying its personal nature, and not making the mistake of shaming and blaming the innocent? That is part of what distinguishes justice from blind vengeance.

I don't see any sense - but I am willing to listen - in blaming the "nation." Blaming the nation instead of the politician is a predicate for the next extermination. The Gulf of Ton kin Incident was a hoax. It was not perpatrated by Charlie Company.
As I learned in the U.S. Army, part of being a leader is accepting responsibility for whatever your unit does, or fails to do. Even if things genuinely are not your fault, as commanding officer or NCOIC (non-commissioned officer in charge) by virtue of the fact you were in charge, you bear at least partial responsibility, if not full responsibility as leader. This philosophy is not meant to recriminate leaders, but to encourage them to always be aware that they must always be vigilant when caring for those under their command, and their outcomes are in your hands, regardless of how "unfair" whatever the circumstance is.

Even if America does things I don't agree with, or previous generations did things in my name ("For our children, and future generations!") as a reasonable, responsible American, I acknowledge that my parent's generation may have done some ****, in my alleged name, that I don't agree with. Without accepting personal guilt (as i never shot a Vietnamese, nor killed an American Indian nor ever owned another human soul in servitude), I can at least acknowledge what my forebears did, "allegedly" in my name ("For future generations"), right or wrong.
 

fascinating

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
2,403
It is completely relevant: the North Vietnamese as many, if not more, more war crimes than the US, yet in popular memory Vietnam is a "US War Crimes Extravaganza" of villages being shot up while Ride of the Valkyries plays in the background.
Please give examples of where a whole village of unarmed civilians were raped and killed by North Vietnamese forces.
 
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