Vietnam’s History Reveals the Banality of Systemic Violence
by Jerry Elmer
MY LAI, Vietnam — My Lai is known to Americans as the site of a massacre of Vietnamese civilians by American troops. On the morning of March 16, 1968, American forces entered the village and gathered up all living things: elderly men and women, infants in mothers’ arms, pigs, chickens, and water buffalo. Then, the Americans proceeded to kill them all, slowly, carefully, methodically. It took four hours (this was no sudden outburst of passion), until all 504 people and all the animals were massacred. Fifty-six of the people killed were under seven years old; some of the infants were bayoneted to death. Women were raped before being shot.
After the killing orgy, two of the American soldiers (one a religious Mormon) sat down to lunch nearby. Unfortunately, their meal was interrupted by the moans of a few villagers shot and left for dead, but not yet fully dead. The two soldiers, disturbed by the interruption, finished off the few villagers still alive, and then went placidly back to their meal. (more…)