I read an interesting tweet recently. It said
With Obama Administration, you’re better off committing a war crime than exposing one: http://bit.ly/i05yzi #Manning #Wikileaks
And it's true. Nixon didn't put Daniel Ellsberg in jail, but Bradley Manning is being tortured for revealing the truth about war crimes, among other things. Before the 2004 presidential election, there was some controversy around John Kerry and his role in the investigation into war crimes in Vietnam. I wrote this piece and published it as a Slashdot journal entry. I think it's still relevant:
The small farming village in the midwest, let's call it Backwater because that's as good a description as any, had just woken up and gone to work when the villagers heard the choppers. The invaders had finally come for them. Most of the farmers were already out in the fields, breaking their backs tending their crops when they landed and the soldiers poured out. Two companies threw a ring around the village while C company went in. Phil Johnson and his wife hid out in the fields when they heard the first shots, afraid not so much for themselves as for their children - they had left their 7-year old daughter Mary and the small boys Tommy, 5 and John, 4 in the village. They didn't dare return to their house until nightfall, long after the soldiers had left.
The leader of the soldiers were a man named Mohammed Al-Tikrit, a regular joe in his civilian life before the war. A stable family background, no known psychological issues, no problems. Well, except his fear of the Americans - the difference in his and their culture was too great so Mohammed and his CO had built a sense of distrust and hate against the natives among their soldiers. Today, that strategy would pay off. They had begun by killing captured enemy soldiers, went on to kill captured enemy civilians suspected to be guerilla soldiers and finally they killed anyone with white skin they could find. If they weren't soldiers, they probably helped the guerilla movement or was thinking about it. Formally, this was prohibited by the invading force, a punishable offense. In reality, noone cared. The whiteys weren't really people. The American Freedom Fighters, as the resisting guerilla called themselves, were just animals that should be slaughtered before they could slaughter you.
It began as soon as the soldiers came out of the helicopters. A farmer in a nearby field waved and got a short burst of bullets in the chest for his troubles. The villagers ran for cover and the soldiers all started shooting them as they fled. One of the first to go down was young Sarah Hansen with her infant brother Chuck tightly clutched in her arms. Pumped up on adrenaline, the soldiers broke up into small bands of looters roaming the village, dragging people out of their houses, screaming at them in a foreign language and then, frustrated when they didn't get a coherent reply, shot them on the spot.
One invading soldier chases a duck with his bayonet. Another shoots a pig. A group starts pumping lead into a cow, watching it disintegrate before their eyes as the carcass slowly sinks to the ground in a pool of blood. An old woman looks in despair from behind a bush and when the soldiers see her, they all turn to her, ripping her frail body to pieces. Bits of bone flies through the air. One of the soldiers only has a grenade launcher and desperately tries to trade it for an AK-47 so he too can take part. He finally gets one and shoots the head off old Jack Pearson, watching him fall as his brains spill out on the ground and the gushing blood forms a red cloud around him. One of the invaders vomit, but most of them are like robots. Killing indiscriminately without showing any emotions, even laughing. Another opens fire at Courtney Jackson, but he's 25 yards away and only manages to shoot the face off the baby in her arms. She slips into the Post Office and the order is screamed to find and kill her.
Some soldiers finds the time for other activities. One stops Jenny McCabe and puts his pistol against the head of her baby sister to make her suck his cock. After he's done, he kills them both with shots to their heads. One girl gets gang-raped and is rewarded by getting a stream of bullets up her vagina.
A group of women and children are brought out of their shelter near the gas station, by a small grove of trees. Anne Rich, one of the few survivors, tells the harrowing tale: "17 of us hid from the soldiers, but we were dragged out in the morning sun. My sister-in-law and her five-year old son stood in the front of the group and when the soldiers ripped off her blouse and started touching her breasts, she tore free. They didn't like that so the shots started to ring out. They aimed for the heads. I stood to the back, clutching my 3-month old baby to my chest as my friends started to fall. I was lightly wounded in the head and fell under the bodies, holding my hand over little George's mouth to keep him from screaming. They left us for dead, awash in the blood of our neighbors."
A few soldiers tried to fight against the massacre. One tries to bandage wounded Americans. Others let villagers flee. Some refuses to kill the women and children, break down crying or simply walk away. A helicopter pilot sees the killing from above and lands, seething with rage, threatening to kill his fellow countrymen if they don't stop the slaughter - saving a few villagers while keeping his own kind at gunpoint. Some soldiers perform mercy killings; a 5-year old boy with a puzzled look on what's left of his face runs into a group of soldiers, not far from the Texaco gas station. His left hand has been shot off and he's bleeding profusely. One of the soldiers walk up to the boy and turns his head away as a three-shot burst from an AK-47 is heard.
The grand finale took place at the outskirt of town, by Jake Williamson's farm. He had this big old irrigation ditch there and the soldiers, led by Mohammed Al-Tikrit, pushed the remaining villagers there and stood them up in a line by the edge of the ditch. He gave the order to kill all of them and started pushing them into the ditch. Some cried and screamed. Tommy and John started running, but a soldier got John with a bullet in the back and he was lying slumped on the road when his brother, who had gotten away into shelter behind some rocks, ran back to cover him with his own body. The invaders shot them both where they lay and threw their small bodies in the ditch where Phil Johnson found them, long after the soldiers had left.
Mohammed started shooting into the heap of people in the ditch. First one, and then more and more soldiers helped him. Bodies twitched in spasms as the bullets rended their flesh. Blood gushed in clouds. Pieces of brains, tissue and bones flew through the air. A few granades was tossed in, for good measure. Then all was still, except for a small boy of two. It was Jake's son, Charlie. Like a bloody apparition, he dragged himself out of the ditch crying silently and started to run for his father's house nearby but Mohammed catched up with him, carried him back to the ditch, tossed the toddler back in the heap of bodies and shot him.
This is a true story. This is what really happened on the morning of March 19, 1968. But the village wasn't really called Backwater, USA. It was Song My, Vietnam. Mohammed is a man named Calley. Tommy and John were really a pair of gooks named Ba and Cu. The AK-47s were M-16s. Anne Rich is a woman named Le Thi Huynh.
The invading soldiers were Americans. Four of them would stand trial for their actions. One of them, William Laws Calley, was convicted and spent all of three days in prison before being confined to his house and then subsequently pardoned.
When John Kerry testified in front of the senate, he was trying to restore the honor of all the thousands of American GIs that didn't take part in the Song My massacre or any of the other atrocities that occur in wartime. He did not steal anyone's honor, no more than that helicopter pilot did when he tried to stop the massacre. They tried to give honor back to the ones worthy of it. The real blame lies on the politicians and military top brass that swept the crimes under the rug, bundling all the honorable soldiers with a few war criminals instead of clearly separating the two. Those are the real thieves here.
The movie Stolen Honor isn't about John Kerry stealing anyone's honor by telling the truth. It's about stealing an election by trying to, once again, sweep war crimes under the rug. Pretending they didn't exist and thereby painting all Vietnam veterans with the same blood-stained brush normally reserved for psychopatic war criminals. And that's the real theft of honor here.