#32 Kronos Quartet, Rinde Eckert, Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ: Mỹ Lai

God, the Vietnam war was so cool, wasn’t it?? Cool, young, handsome Americans taking drugs to the strains of The Doors?? Yes please! Gooooooooood moooooooorning the 1960s! Aww, but it made the American soldiers a bit sad though, so make some movies out of that as well. But it was still the coolest war, it had the best soundtrack and it made the best movies. Didi mao! Didi mao! Who were the Americans actually fighting again? . Were they fighting Marlon Brando? Because, trust me, you’re gonna need some heavy artillery to take down that sizable landmass. Doesn’t matter – they were fighting the bad guys, and it made them sad. The end. Pretty sure Mỹ Lai’ – the soundtrack to an opera of the same name – just tells that story. And tells it very well!

The invasion and attempted colonisation of Vietnam was was one of humanity’s darkest periods of the late 20th century, and one that the imperial forces should never have been allowed to live down. It’s more than fifty years afterwards – in that time we’ve had Chile, Argentina, Salvador, Afghanistan, Angola, Nicaragua, Chad, Iraq, Syria… or many more. If you define the term properly, there are only three countries that haven’t been militarily occupied by the US – and the general consensus is still that the USA are the force for good in the world??

It started with the Vietnamese Communist Party winning back the north of the country from their French colonisers. Communism, you say?? The USA obviously got a genocide boner and stuck its oar in. Once it became clear that Ho Chi Minh was likely to win the upcoming election, well, we can’t have democracy if it goes against capital’s interests, can we? There was the Gulf of Tonkin incident, where US vessels were carrying out covert operations near the Communist North Vietnam and claimed that they were fired upon. Now, we can argue about the ethics of the situation, considering that the US was entering territory illegally at a time of war, and also that the US (even according to their reports) shot first, but at the same time that doesn’t even fucking matter because they basically made it all up anyway. Wa-hay! War! Let’s just make sure that these foreign people don’t get the government they want by killing a lot of them! It’s as American as killing civilians with drone strikes.

So yeah, the US turned up and did their thing. ‘Their thing’ being, then as it is now, ‘horrific war crimes‘. It’s fine though, if you live in a majority white country under a government that slavishly adheres to the American neoliberal capitalist consensus, you’ll probably be fine. Well, more than likely not, as such insane devotion to capitalist accumulation will eventually kill off the majority of you. But it’ll be a slow and painful death – slower even than being firebombed from above by chemical weapons and having your skin melt off! – and that’s much preferable, right?

Anyway, I don’t have time to go through every horrific and inhumane war crime committed by the Land of the Free during its #EpicBantz roflcopter tour of Vietnam (hey! Have a little read of all the war crimes committed by the Tiger Force division alone! Hope you’re not eating anything right now!), but I guess a little introduction to Mỹ Lai is kinda appropriate?

Mỹ Lai is a tiny village in the Quang Ngai province of Vietnam. The USA believed Quang Ngai to be a stronghold of the communist National Liberation Front (NLF) and the Viet Cong (VC). So, naturally, they would frequently pepper the area with a shitload of Agent Orange chemical warfare. Standard, no? Oh, and this isn’t the war crime I’m even going to talk about. They had heard rumours that the two hamlets that made up the Sơn Mỹ village – Mỹ Lai and Mỹ Khê – were under control by VC guerrillas, and were sent there with the instructions to destroy the village.

When they got there though, there were no Viet Congs, there were none of those baddies in those hats screaming words in gibberish. The village was pretty much entirely made up of children, women, and old men.They nonetheless arranged all the villagers into groups while they searched all the houses, but fund nothing. Ah well, said the US army, kill them all anyway.

I saw them shoot an M79 (grenade launcher) into a group of people who were still alive. But it was mostly done with a machine gun. They were shooting women and children just like anybody else.

We met no resistance and I only saw three captured weapons. We had no casualties. It was just like any other Vietnamese village—old papa-sans [men], women and kids. As a matter of fact, I don’t remember seeing one military-age male in the entire place, dead or alive

Sgt. Michael Bernhardt to reporters

And so the massacre began. Mothers who were shielding their children were shot. When their children tried to run away, yep, they were also shot. Huts were set on fire, and anyone inside who tried to escape was gunned down. In addition to killing unarmed men, women and children, the soldiers also slaughtered countless livestock. The soldiers raped as many women as they felt like (and they felt like a lot), and burned the village to the ground. 504 people were murdered. 182 women, 173 children. 56 of those children were infants. 17 of those women were pregnant. Upon learning of the atrocity, the US military responded immediately… by trying to downplay it and stop word of it getting out. They did an internal investigation, conducted by -well hello there! – one Mr Colin Powell, and came to the conclusion that it was all a silly little misunderstanding, and that the Thais were snowflakes with no sense of humour.

Although there may be isolated cases of mistreatment of civilians and POWs, this by no means reflects the general attitude throughout the division… In direct refutation of this portrayal is the fact that relations between Americal Division soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent

Colin FUCKING Powell

It was successfully covered up for a year, before the media got hold of it. From the 100 strong division that conducted the mass murder, 14 men were charged. All were acquitted apart from the officer William Calley, who was given a life sentence. This was reduced 20 years on appeal. Then to 10. He was paroled in 1974, eight years after the massacre and only three years after being sentenced.

The moral of the story? The USA still won. Yeah, they lost the war, but they won the ideological battle. We live under American dominance, we are now all slaves to capitalism. These are your heroes.

Seriously, join the fucking Communist party, yeah? Or do something!


2019 #70

(with Mahsa Vahdat & Marjan Vahdat)

2018 #46

(with Laurie Anderson)

2 thoughts on “#32 Kronos Quartet, Rinde Eckert, Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ: Mỹ Lai

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