Friday, May 21, 2004

My Lai 4 - Ramadi 2004 (?) 

A long time ago, in a small village, many miles from "the nearest civilization."

Dear Mom and Dad:
Today we went on a mission and I am not very proud of myself, my friends, or my country. We burned every hut in sight!
It was a small rural network of villages and the people were incredibly poor. My unit burned and plundered their meager possessions. Let me try to explain the situation to you.
The huts here are thatched palm leaves. Each one has a dried mud bunker inside. These bunkers are to protect the families. Kind of like air raid shelters.
My unit commanders, however, chose to think that these bunkers are offensive. So every hut we find that has a bunker we are ordered to burn to the ground.
When the ten helicopters landed this morning, in the midst of these huts, and six men jumped out of each "chopper", we were firing the moment we hit the ground. We fired into all the huts we could....
It was then that we burned these huts....Everyone is crying, begging and praying that we don't separate them and take their husbands and fathers, sons and grandfathers. The women wail and moan.
Then they watch in terror as we burn their homes, personal possessions and food. Yes, we burn all rice and shoot all livestock.

Ramadi - May 2004:
[excerpt:] Late in the evening the guests heard the sound of jets overhead. Then in the distance they saw the headlights of what appeared to be a military convoy heading their way across the desert.

The party ended at around 10.30pm and the neighbours left for their homes. At 3am the bombing began. "The first thing they bombed was the tent for the ceremony," said Mr Nawaf. "We saw the family running out of the house. The bombs were falling, destroying the whole area."

Armored military vehicles then drove into the village, firing machine guns and supported by attack helicopters. "They started to shoot at the house and the people outside the house," he said.

Before dawn two large Chinook helicopters descended and offloaded dozens of troops. They appeared to set explosives in the Rakat house and the building next door and minutes later, just after the Chinooks left again, they exploded into rubble.

"I saw something that nobody ever saw in this world," said Mr Nawaf. "There were children's bodies cut into pieces, women cut into pieces, men cut into pieces."

[excerpt:] "We went out of the house and the American soldiers started to shoot us. They were shooting low on the ground and targeting us one by one," she said. She ran with her youngest child in her arms and her two young boys, Ali and Hamza, close behind. As she crossed the fields a shell exploded close to her, fracturing her legs and knocking her to the ground.

She lay there and a second round hit her on the right arm. By then her two boys lay dead. "I left them because they were dead," she said. One, she saw, had been decapitated by a shell.

"I fell into the mud and an American soldier came and kicked me. I pretended to be dead so he wouldn't kill me. My youngest child was alive next to me."

[excerpt:] "We took ground fire and we returned fire," said Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of operations for the US military in Iraq. "We estimate that around 40 were killed. But we operated within our rules of engagement." -- US Soldiers Started to Shoot Us, One by One Survivors describe wedding massacre as generals refuse to apologize - by Rory McCarthy in Ramaldi, May 21, 2004 by the Guardian/UK

My Lai - March, 1968:
The story of the battle, as told by Lieutenant Colonel Frank Barker, leader of the task force bearing his name, detailed sniper attacks from the village, fierce fighting, booby traps, the killing in action of 128 "VC" and the capture of thirteen "sympathizers." Later he changed his report and said the residents of My Lai had been killed either by artillery or gunship fire. Both versions of events were false, but Barker would not have to answer for them. He died in an air crash soon after My Lai. ~ Source: The Wound Within; America in the Vietnam Years 1945-1974, by Alexander Kendrick - Little Brown, 1974.

May, 2004:
Major General James Mattis, commander of the 1st Marine Division, was scathing of those who suggested a wedding party had been hit. "How many people go to the middle of the desert ... to hold a wedding 80 miles (130km) from the nearest civilization? These were more than two dozen military-age males. Let's not be naive." -- Gaurdian/UK

"Let's not be naive." - Yeah, I'll remember that.
What really happened in Ramadi, in "the middle of the desert,... 80 miles (130km) from the nearest civilization?"

Notes: "Dear Mom and Dad" letter above was written by a GI in Vietnam and mailed home to his parents. The letter was also reported by Seymour Hersh and is republished in A People's History of the United States, by Howard Zinn - chapter 18, The Impossible Victory: Vietnam

Also see: Seymour Hersh, My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and its Aftermath, NY, Random House, 1970. And: Hersh/My Lai 4 - 1970


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