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Archive for March 16th, 2008

My Lai, Abu Ghraib – the devaluation of Human Life

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on March 16, 2008

Seymour Hersh, the journalist who exposed the massacre, said he sees parallels between My Lai and a more recent story that he has he reported on, the 2005 images of torture from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. But he says the public furor unleashed by My Lai was far greater.

My Lay Massacre, Detail

“It’s stunning how much impact My Lai had and how little impact Abu Ghraib had,” Hersh said by telephone from Washington. “We’ll have to leave it to historians to figure out why.”

Abu Ghraib Torture, Detail
I really don’t think it’s mystery why My Lai or Abu Ghraib happened, or why My Lai caused so much more out-rage than Abu Ghraib.
One thing is the fact that respect for Human Rights and Human Life has eroded significantly in 40 years, especially in the last two, three decades in which individuality and selfishness has been preached through-out the Land. Another is the Political Rhetoric around the two wars in which those two “incidents” took place. The Vietnam War was extremely unpopular due to the fact that soldiers were drafted into it, and had no choice, another is the timing – the Vietnam War took place in a time when there was an up-surge in emotional and philosophical “revolution” in which is was accepted and even encouraged to be anti-Government in general. The political rhetoric of the Cold War and Anti-Communism wasn’t based in real events inside US Borders.
Furthermore, the difference in who were the victims. In the My Lai Massacre, it was clear that the victims were innocent civilians, women and children. In the Abu Ghraib incident, the victims were grown men, who were thought to be “terrorists”. The term Terrorist is a very loose denotation, with very specific connotations, especially among the American public. “Terrorist” has become synonymous with blurry pictures of those thought to have carried out the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. Couple this with the strong but rather vague rhetoric of the American Government and it’s quite obvious why Abu Ghraib has had very little impact on American society.
Add to the above the idea of Justification. My Lai had no real justifications because the Vietnam War was a “Lost War”. However the very nature of the war in Iraq carries with it all sorts of justifications, fabricated mind you, but nevertheless justifications. Everything from pure retaliation for 9/11 2001 to the very vague idea of “defending the American Way and Freedom”. The “War on Terror” of which the war in Iraq is a part has not yet been conceded as lost, though I have no doubts it will be.
What is significant for both the My Lai Massacre and the Abu Ghraib Atrocities is that they were carried out with the disregard, disrespect and indifference for human rights and human life that seem to be part and parcel of the values imparted on American Soldiers during their training. A disregard, disrespect and indifference for human rights and human life, that is best expressed in the words of an American soldier: “They don’t think and feel like we do…”

Posted in War Crimes | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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