How to deal with the Agent Orange tragedy

A new must-read book for decision makers, donors and everyone else dealing with one of the worst man-made disasters in modern history.

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How do you cope with a tragedy of epic proportions – a tragedy engulfing some four million people, who have been exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam? How do you bring an end to a manmade disaster, which erupted five decades ago and still claim victims among the poorest of the poor in Vietnam as well as among veterans and their families from the US and other foreign troops serving during the war in Vietnam?

The answers to these complex questions are now at hand from two key actors in the efforts to secure assistance to victims as well as cleaning up the remaining dioxin hotspots in Vietnam.

Vietnamese toxicologist Le Ke Son and US Dr. Charles R. Bailey have joined hands in producing the most comprehensive account so far of the Agent Orange issue in their new book: “From enemies to partners – Vietnam, the U.S. and Agent Orange.”

During the war,  some 72 million liters of herbicide were sprayed by the US Airforce in order to defoliate the jungle and destroy the crops in areas, where the farmers were suspected of supporting the insurgents and the North Vietnamese troops operating in the South.

Son and Bailey have been deeply involved in the efforts to deal with all aspects of the deadly legacy of Agent Orange – Dr. Son as a leading medical expert on the Vietnamese side, Dr. Bailey as director of Ford Foundation Vietnam, distributing millions of dollars in support of Vietnams Agent Orange victims.  Bailey is also well known for his successful lobbying efforts in the US congress to secure financial assistance to deal with the Agent Orange issues.

So far the US has provided USD 231 million in direct financial assistance, since Agent Orange ceased to be a taboo issue in the relations between the US and Vietnam. Most of the funds have been spent on cleaning up two of the three heavily contaminated hot spots, the former US air bases in Phu Cat and Da Nang.  The worst and biggest hotspot at the former airbase in Bien Hoa remains to be dealt with.

In 10 chapters Son and Bailey provide well founded answers to the questions, most often asked about Agent Orange. Here are some of them:

  • Is there still dioxin pollution in Vietnam?
  • Does dioxin exposure lead to birth defects and reproductive failures?
  • What have the US and Vietnam done so far?
  • What do the Agent Orange victims need?

The approach of Son and Bailey is factual and somber – no pointed fingers or dramatics are needed here. The facts themselves are frightening, indeed.

Daunting task ahead

The book stands out as unique and important documentation how Agent Orange is being dealt with in Vietnam and in the US.  The cleanup of Phu Cat and Da Nang has been succesful, and some assistance has reached victims, primarily in the more easily accessible urban areas of Da Nang and elsewhere.

Ahead lies the daunting task of cleaning up Bien Hoa, now a densely populated area,  including 20 lakes with persistent high levels of dioxin contamination in the food chains. The US has committed to assist in the clean-up, which is expected to take a decade at a cost of USD 800 million.

Son and Bailey also point out a very important shortcoming in the assistance: That little or no assistance reaches the most vulnerable victims in remote rural areas in the Central Highlands. I saw exactly the same during a number of visits I have made over a recent five year period to the victims.  More info on this aspect is available in my essay: Letter to Obama.

With their book, Son and Bailey have not only delivered very important documentation on the tragedy of Agent Orange. They have also included suggestions for future systematic action to deal efficiently with the aftermath of the ecocide, which descended on Vietnam during the war.

Therefore, “From enemies to partners” deserves the widest possible reading among decisionmakers in Vietnam and the US, the donor community and everyone else for that matter.

THE ‘LAST VISIT’ OF A GREAT POET

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John Balahan/Tao Te Ching: “Be as careful of the end as you were of the beginning.”

John Balaban is back in town
One of the greatest things about living in Hanoi is the fascinating visitors who come back again and again. Yesterday, American poet John Balaban stopped by at Nguyen Qui Duc‘s Tadioto on ‘his last visit’ to Vietnam.
“I am in reasonably good health, but I got one machine now running my heart and another one running my knee,” John said with a very healthy grin and added a quote from Tao Te Ching: “Be as careful of the end as you were of the beginning.”
Like most of us in the audience, John got Vietnam under his skin as a young man, starting with being a conscientious objector to the war in Vietnam. He went on to become a relief worker during the war, taking care of wounded children, getting himself wounded in the process.
Balaban also set out to collect and preserve the Vietnamese folk tales, which have been handed down verbally from generation to generation. Through Balaban’s translations some of Vietnam’s finest poetry have become available to all of us.
His own 12 works of prose and poetry are legendary gems in world litterature. ‘Remembering Heaven’s Face’, and ‘After Our War’ just to mention a few.
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John and Duc co-edited ‘Vietnam – A traveler’s Literary Companion´.

At Yesterday’s Hanoi event, John’s long time friend, journalist et al, Nguyen Qui Duc displayed his excellent interviewing skills in prompting John on a far reaching adventure into war, peace and poetry of the finest kind, throwing in some Gloria Emerson and her love for Graham Greene – and a spice of sexual connotations in fluent Vietnamese.
Romania encounter
My personal clue yesterday flashed like a tracer round, when John spotted me with a “We have met before!”
We had indeed met, 29 years ago during the Romania revolution (or whatever it was).
John and I had ended up in the city of Cluj, where angry people were stringing up members of Securitate, dictator Ceausescu’s hated security forces. I still have the shoulder strap from one of the Securitate uniforms, given to me by one of the anti-Ceausecu activists ‘as a souvenir’.
John and I bumped into each other in front of the house of a famous Romanian writer, who had just been released from jail. We must have exchanged a few words, but I only remember how it incredibly cold it was that day in Cluj, and how good half cooked potatoes taste for dinner, when you have not eaten anything serious since yesterday morning.
John collapsed a little later and ended up in surgery at the hospital in Cluj.
“I got the best of care, because the doctors were too scared to have an American die at the hospital,” John says with that healthy grin, he is wearing these days.
Yesterday, John Balaban offered this exit advice, a quote from Vietnamese poet, Hồ Xuân Hương: “Where is Nirvana? It is here – 9 times out of 10.”

VIETNAM’s CRYSTAL CLOUD

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A manmade, magic cloud has descended in Yen Bay, among the mountains in a remote province in Northern Vietnam.

It was like the ancient rainbow legend come true: At the end of a long, dusty drive through northern Vietnam the Crystal Cloud was waiting for us on a plateau, built on Mam Xoi Hill.

The beauty of the landscape itself is absolutely breath taking – so much that the manmade Crystal Cloud has become a subject of controversy.

“Why spoil the beauty of our homeland with this kind of foreign invasion?” That’s just one of many facebook comments, after the Crystal Cloud became accessible to the public this weekend.

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The Crystal Cloud is created by two young landscape artists,  Vietnamese-American Andy Cao and French born Xavier Perrot.

After exploring the Crystal Cloud in early morning and late afternoon, I see it differently.  I see it as a gift to Vietnam, a token of admiration for nature itself, given with respect for the Vietnamese people, including the Hmong tribes who have cultivated and shaped these mountains for centuries.  In a sense, the Crystal Cloud is not the first manmade intervention in Nature’s beauty, it is a continuation of a long Hmong tradition.

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The Crystal Cloud is created by two young landscape artists,  Vietnamese-American Andy Cao and French born Xavier Perrot.  They used galvanized wire mesh, adorned with 58.000 Swarowsky crystals. Whenever the sun rays hit the crystals they set off a firework of colors.  So beautiful that it brings tears to your eyes.

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The Crystal Cloud came into being with support from Vietnamese architect Pham Duong and the Architects Association of Yen Bai province.  According to the local villagers, it took about a month to build the installation.

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My Nikon and I have no chance to recreate the beauty, but I did what I could with these images. I hope they can inspire you to go see for yourself.  The Crystal Cloud will be waiting for you until 5 October. Then it will move on to a new destination.

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THE AMBASSADOR SPEAKS OUT

Today, I hand over my blog to Ted Osius, former US Ambassador to Vietnam. Here is why he decided to leave the foreign service  after a distinguished 30 year career – and found a new way to contribute to the development of US-Vietnamese relations. 

BY TED OSIUS

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Ted Osius being sworn in by Secretary of State, John Kerry as ambassador to Vietnam. Center is Clayton Bond, the ambassador’s spouse. 

When John Kerry swore me in as U.S. ambassador to Vietnam in 2014, I said it was a “dream come true” to be able to serve as America’s representative in a country I have loved for more than two decades.

A three-year tour as ambassador in Hanoi was the high point of my 30-year career in the Foreign Service and the honor of a lifetime. The high-water mark of that tour was hosting President Barack Obama during a history-making visit to Vietnam. In Ho Chi Minh City one million people turned out to welcome him, and I knew we had done something right.

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Millions of the  Vietnamese took to the streets to welcome President Obama on his historic 2016 visit.

I am deeply grateful to the Foreign Service, not only for the privilege and joy of three decades of adventures (mostly in Asia), but also for my family. Thirteen-and-a-half years ago I met my future spouse in a business meeting of GLIFAA (formerly Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies), an employee affinity group. By extension the Foreign Service gave us our 4-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter.

A diplomatic career also allowed me the great privilege of serving something bigger than myself: the United States of America. So it was with mixed emotions that I decided in 2017 to resign and join a number of other senior Foreign Service officers headed for the exit. While each of us has a different reason for departing, many of my friends and former colleagues are deeply worried about the policy direction of the current administration, as am I. I fear that some policies are diminishing America’s role in the world, and decided that I could not in good conscience implement them.

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Osius on the TPP: “Many of us who were determined to strengthen America’s role in Asia considered that abandoning the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement was a self-inflicted wound. “

Many of us who were determined to strengthen America’s role in Asia considered that abandoning the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement was a self-inflicted wound. America left the playing field to those who do not share our values, and left American jobs there, too. Others grieved the U.S. abdication of responsibility regarding climate change, especially in a year marked by multiple storms so immense that they are supposed to happen only once in 500 years. A large number of colleagues voiced their dissent regarding the so-called “Muslim travel ban,” abhorrent in a country whose true strength derives from its diversity. What happened to the nation that welcomed “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”?

Closer to Home

And then the outrages came even closer to home. I was asked to press the government in Hanoi to receive from the United States more than 8,000 people, most of whom had fled South Vietnam on boats and through the jungle in the years immediately following the war.

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 Osius: I was asked to press the government in Hanoi to receive from the United States more than 8,000 people, most of whom had fled South Vietnam on boats.”

The majority targeted for deportation—sometimes for minor infractions—were war refugees who had sided with the United States, whose loyalty was to the flag of a nation that no longer exists. And they were to be “returned” decades later to a nation ruled by a communist regime with which they had never reconciled. I feared many would become human rights cases, and our government would be culpable.

I assessed that this repulsive policy would destroy our chances of success in pursuing President Donald Trump’s other goals for relations with Vietnam: reducing the trade deficit, strengthening military relations and coping with regional threats to peace such as those emanating from North Korea. I voiced my objections, was instructed to remain silent, and decided there was an ethical line that I could not cross if I wished to retain my integrity. I concluded that I could better serve my country from outside government, by helping to build a new, innovative university in Vietnam.

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The Osius-Bond family is staying on in Vietnam. 

At a ceremony in the Treaty Room at State, with a portrait of Thomas Jefferson looking on, I had the opportunity to reflect on three decades of service, behind me the flags of countries where I had served as a junior-, mid-level and senior officer. My spouse, an African American man, stood at my side. Our children, Mexican-American, rode on our shoulders while Deputy Assistant Secretary Constance Dierman acknowledged the sacrifice of service, including the sacrifices that families make. My mentor of 26 years, Ambassador (ret.) Cameron Hume, presented a U.S. flag to my spouse.

I reminded the mentors, mentees, colleagues, friends and family members attending of what another departing diplomat, Tom Countryman, said at his retirement: “We [must be] firm in our principles, steadfast in our ideals, and tireless in our determination to uphold our oath—to ‘defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.’”

Now more than ever. The challenges to the Foreign Service, and to our democracy, are existential. Some who remain at State feel besieged and demoralized. Yet I urge those Foreign Service officers who believe in making a difference to remain, if possible, because it is still a privilege to serve our country. I continue to believe the experienced diplomat’s language, regional expertise and deep understanding of a global challenge will pay off, and give that individual the chance to change a bit of history.

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Osius: “A three-year tour as ambassador in Hanoi was the high point of my 30-year career in the Foreign Service and the honor of a lifetime.”

The Power of Respect

For those who choose to remain and who love diplomacy as I do, I offer a few thoughts on what can be done to best serve the United States, even in difficult times. I learned in my last three posts—India, Indonesia and Vietnam—about the power of respect, trust and partnership. The United States casts a long shadow, and when we show respect it has a big impact. Showing respect means figuring out what is really, truly important to our partners and taking that seriously. It costs America almost nothing and gets us almost everything.

Showing respect builds trust. Real, powerful partnership comes when you build trust. And you build trust by finding where interests converge, and then doing things together. The diplomat’s job is to find those shared interests and make them the bases of our actions. All those cables, all that contact work, the outreach—all of it should lead to action.

India. India’s nuclear tests put it outside the nonproliferation regime. A real partnership was only possible if we ended the ostracism. So the United States showed respect and built trust by pursuing a civil-nuclear initiative with India.

Indonesia. Indonesian special forces committed atrocities during the Suharto regime, so we didn’t engage them. A real partnership was only possible if we ended the ostracism. We showed respect and built trust with Indonesia by re-engaging with the special forces, while respecting international human rights norms.

Vietnam. The war left massive scars. A real partnership was only possible if we dealt honestly with the past. We showed respect and built trust with Vietnam by pursuing the fullest-possible accounting of those lost, removing unexploded ordnance and cleaning up dioxin. And we were honest and respectful about even our most profound differences over human rights.

Building a Partnership

When I first visited Vietnam in 1996, the year after we normalized diplomatic relations, our countries could hardly envision a partnership. The past was a heavy burden, and the differences in our political systems were irreconcilable. But Vietnam had, and still has, leaders who are committed to finding where interests converge and then doing things together. And the United States had leaders like Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), former Secretary of State John Kerry and, later, President Obama, who were also committed to our comprehensive partnership.

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Osius: “The United States had leaders like Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), former Secretary of State John Kerry and, later, President Obama, who were also committed to our comprehensive partnership.”

So, together, our two countries deepened trade and security and people-to-people ties. During my tour as ambassador, we prepared for not one, but two presidential visits to Vietnam, as well as visits to the United States by Vietnam’s General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

Building trust wasn’t easy, because we had to keep earning it. We had to do what we said we’d do. For example, we promised the Vietnamese people we would continue cleaning up dioxin, also known as Agent Orange, left from the war. Because the process for cleaning up dioxin is very expensive, it took three years to find the resources to remediate the largest, worst hot spot. That we are proceeding is a result of determined, persistent leadership spanning several administrations. And by keeping our promise, we strengthen trust, to the benefit of Vietnam, the United States and the world.

Respect and trust are not zero-sum, nor are they transactional. They involve relationships, not just money and power. Military dominance alone won’t build the strong alliances and partnerships that we need in the Indo-Pacific region.

Those partnerships provide real, tangible benefits to the United States. Strong partnerships with India, Indonesia and Vietnam create jobs for Americans, contribute to regional stability and help us address global challenges to human health, the environment and international security.

When we commit to these partnerships—and I have seen this again and again—we facilitate commercial deals worth hundreds of billions of dollars and boost educational exchange, creating or supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs in the United States. We form security partnerships with countries that share our interest in open sea lanes and upholding international law. We create a more prosperous and safer America.

Don’t Give Up

Before leaving post, I urged my embassy colleagues not to give up. Even if as ambassador (and therefore the president’s personal representative) I could not in good conscience implement certain policies, I thought my younger colleagues might face a different choice. Early in my career, I had considered leaving State when, serving on the Korea desk, I disagreed strongly with the administration’s approach to North Korea. But I held on, believing that the pendulum would swing again and that I could do more good by remaining with the department than by quitting. There have been many difficult periods for the Foreign Service, and we have ridden through the ups and downs.

Now, from the perspective of a former FSO, I offer the following suggestions to those who continue to pursue diplomacy:

• As long as you can remain true to your beliefs and ethics, don’t give up. We’ve been through tough cycles before. This will end.

• Develop language and regional expertise. It continues to matter.

• Show respect in ways large and small. It matters when a representative of the United States—no matter what rank—shows respect.

• Build trust by engaging with counterparts in endeavors that are of mutual interest.

• Build partnerships based on respect, as they are essential for America’s future and will enable us to recover when the clouds pass.

• Keep relationships going. Those who argue that only interests matter, and that relationships don’t, have been proven wrong by history before and will be proven wrong again.

When the United States shows respect and builds trust, we build relationships that benefit enduring shared interests. After 30 years in Asia, I know that is the only way to make America even greater.

Ted Osius is the vice president of Fulbright University Vietnam. He served as U.S. ambassador to Vietnam from 2014 to 2017. A founding member of GLIFAA, he was a U.S. diplomat in Indonesia, India, Thailand, Japan, the Vatican and the Philippines, and worked on Asian challenges from the White House, the United Nations and the State Department.

Ted Osius’ reflections has previously been published in the journal of The American Foreign Service Association. 

My Lai survivor: I WISH I HAD DIED WITH MY FAMILY

On 16 march, the 50th anniversary of the My Lai massacre is commemorated around the world.

In March 1985, fellow reporter Jørn Ruby and I along with photographer Ole J. Sørensen located one of  a handful of survivors in Son My, the Vietnamese name for the village, where the carnage took place.  

She told us her story, breaking down in tears again and again, as she took us back to that fateful morning, when her life was shattered.    

Here is the story of  our encounter with Pham Thi Trinh – and how Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld got involved in the cover up of the atrocities during the war in Vietnam. 

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Pham Thi Trinh: “Some people told me to try and think of how lucky I was to survive. Mostly I believe, it would be better if I had died with my family that day.” Photo: Ole Johnny Sørensen.

Under the blue sky, through the heat haze, Son My looks like a typical Vietnamese countryside village.  We drive slowly down the dirt road, passing the farmers moving even slower with their bent backs through the incredibly green rice fields.

In front of us, half grown boys are pushing the water buffaloes, whipping up clouds of red dust.  Insects are gently humming, children are screaming with joy, while they cool down in the small lakes at the outskirts of Son My.  Inside the bamboo sheds, the women are sitting in the dark, cutting vedgetables and herbs. It is all so peaceful.

For a young woman in the village, Pham Thi Trinh (27),  the tranquility of rural  life is still giving in to daytime flashbacks and nightmares bringing her back to that spring morning in 1968, when her entire family was massacred by frustrated US soldiers chasing the elusive guerillas – The Viet Cong as they called them, a derogatory term attributed to the South Vietnamese President.

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My Lai villagers just minutes before, they were killed. 504 people lost their lives 16 March 1968.

“They killed all my family and our relatives – we were eleven people in all. Only I survived. My baby brother of seven months, his  head exploded from the bullets.  My mother had him on her arm, she was mortally wounded in that very first round of fire.  We fell to the ground, and my mother whispered…”

Pham Thi Trinh  is unable to go on. She collapses in front of us in tears.  Phuong, our interpreter, is overcome with emotion and whispers between her own sobs, that we should stop the interview.

“No”, says Trinh. “I want to tell my story,  I want you to know what happened to my family and all the other people of Son My.

Her family was having breakfast, when they heard the sound of the approaching helicopters from Alpha, Bravo and Charlie Company.  In the preceding months, the three companies had suffered serious losses.  Charlie company was the worst hit with 28 casualties, all from mines and booby traps.  The troops had not managed to engage the guerrillas in direct combat.  Frustrations and anger was running very high among the soldiers.

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This photo surfaced a year after this woman was killed in My Lai.

“I want nothing left alive”

The evening before they had been briefed by their commanding officer, Captain Ernest L. Medina, who told the troops that military intelligence had  located the hideout of a major Viet Cong battalion. Finally, they had the chance to strike a devastating blow against the enemy.

“I want nothing left alive,” Medina reportedly said to his men. He later denied in court to have said so, when he was confronted with the ensuing mass killing of 504 unarmed men, women and children.

The next morning the 200 US soldiers took off on ‘Operation Pinkville’, adrenalin running wild, as the choppers approached Son My for the showdown with the enemy.

“When we heard the soldiers coming, my mother told us to lie down on the floor and be quiet. She greeted them politely and told them we were just farmers. The soldiers shouted at us and pushed us out of the house.

There were three of them pointing their heavy weapons at my family, and they  started shooting without asking questions.  We fell down in a heap and they just kept shooting. My mother was lying on top of me with my dead baby brother in her arms. The blood from both of them was all over me. I was only hit in my arm with one or two bullits.”

My mother whispered in my ear: “Stay quiet, do not move, until they are gone. Make them think you are dead.” My mother was bleeding from all over her belly and her arms.  She was in so much pain, it took her so long to die. I stayed completely still, as my mother had told me.”

“I was half unconscious from fear and exhaustion, when sudden  screams made me open my eyes.  Two soldiers were dragging our neighbors through the dirt, a woman and her teenage daughter with the youngest son of three years running after them. I could not see the father anywhere.

One of the soldiers ripped the shirt of the young girl and threw her down on the ground.  Her mom struggled free and dropped down to protect her daughter. Then the two soldiers opened fire and killed both of them.  The little boy tried to run away, the soldiers laughed and shot him dead.”

“It was very hard just to keep still and just lay there next to my mother and my headless baby brother.  I do not know how a 10-year old girl could do that.  Later that day, when the soldiers had left, people from one of the other villages came to see, what had happened to us. They buried my mother, my brothers and sisters, my aunt, my cousins, my grandmother. They were all dead except me.  We burned incense and prayed, and then a family from the other village took me home with them.

I quickly healed from my small wounds, but somehow these wounds are still with me, and they get deeper and deeper in my soul and heart.  The doctors told me many times that I am fine. I do not think I will ever become a healthy and happy  human being. Some people told me to try and think of how lucky I was to survive. I believe, it would be better if I had died with my family that day.”

A memorial in Son My has listed the names of the 504 villagers, who were killed that morning in the village: Among them were 60 elders, 17 pregnant women and 210 babies and children under the age of 13.  Pham Thi Trinh spends her time maintaining the memorial grounds.

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Colin Powell reported to his superiors that there was no evidence of a massacre in My Lai.

A military victory

At first, Operation Pinkville was recorded as a major military victory, the dead villagers – big and small – were counted as enemy casualties.  Only one US soldier was wounded, when he shot himself in the foot by accident.

Soon rumors started circulating among the American troops in Vietnam. A courageous helicopter pilot, Hugh Thompson and his gunner Lawrence Colburn had threatened to shoot their fellow soldiers, when they saw from the air what was going on the ground in Son My. They managed to get  a small group of survivors on board and flew them to safety.

A young officer, Colin Powell (later to become US Secretary of State under President George Bush) was dispatched to investigate the rumors.  Powell reported to his superiors that he did not find any evidence to substantiate the rumors of a massacre in My Lai. On the contrary, he pointed out that “relations were excellent” between the local people and the American soldiers.  In reality, Powell only interviewed one of the commanding officers at regional headquarters.  No real investigation took place at the time.

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Lieutenant William Calley got a life sentence for his role in the My Lai killings,  personally killing 22 villagers and ordering his men to join the massacre. He only served 3,5 years in house arrest and was then released.

A year after the massacre, irrefutable evidence showed up. A military photographer, Ronald Haeberle, had brought his own private camera along with the army equipment. Haunted by feelings of remorse and guilt, he handed his private photos over to a fellow soldier, Ron Ridenhour, who interviewed several soldiers participating in the My Lai massacre. Ridenhour presented his findings in a letter to the US Congress, and subsequently tipped off  US freelance journalist Seymour Hersh, who broke the story of what really happened in My Lai.

“Murder in the name of war”

After a military investigation, 24 soldiers were court martialled and charged with various criminal offenses, including manslaughter and rape. Only one of them,  lieutenant Willam L. Calley was convicted with a lifetime jail sentence for the killing of 22 people and ordering his men to shoot at the villagers.  Calley’s sentence was subsequently commuted to house arrest, and he became a free man 3,5 years later.

The My Lai massacre has since been called “murder in the name of war” by critics of the American role in Vietnam.  Even worse, additional evidence has later surfaced that the events that morning were by no means an isolated atrocity, committed by desperate soldiers.

In 2006, US journalists Michael Sallah and Mitch Weiss disclosed that systematic killings took place on a much larger scale in numerous other villages in Quang Ngai province, in the same area where the My Lai massacre took place.

According to Sallah and Weiss it was a systematic terror campaign to force the farmers in Quang Ngai to leave their villages, because they were suspected of sharing their crops with the guerillas.

These massacres were carried out by the socalled Tiger Force. The numerous reports about the atrocities led to an internal army investigation by CIC, the Criminal Investigation Command.  The report was rejected by senior Pentagon officials, one of them was Donald Rumsfeld, later to become Secretary of Defense under President Bush, overseeing the war in Iraq.

The head of the CIC investigation team, Gustav Apsey, resigned in frustration and brought home a copy of his report.  The other investigation team members were re-assigned to US military bases in Korea and Germany.

After Apsey’s death, his son found the incriminating report in his father’s basement and handed it over to the two journalists, who launched their own extensive investigation to verify the report.

Sallah and Weiss documented it all in a Pulitzer Prize winning journalistic investigation for the Toledo Blade newspaper. Their reports were later published in the book: “Tiger Force – The shocking true story of American soldiers out of control in Vietnam”.

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