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by Posted by Gary Sudborough
Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2003 at 11:03 AM
The My Lai massacre in Vietnam was not an isolated incident. As this article illustrates, it is a strategy of counterinsurgency warfare, which intends to eliminate popular support for guerrillas by "shock and awe." The US continues to organize and finance death squads and paramilitaries around the world who use this method. The starkest example is in Colombia, where paramilitaries are using chain saws to dismember peasant farmers who support the guerrillas.
Vietnam killing spree revelations shock US
Useful link: Toledo Blade website
Paul Harris in New York
Sunday October 26, 2003
At the height of the Vietnam War, civilians were butchered by an army unit and the carnage was covered up. But this was not My Lai. This bloody massacre has only come to light in the past week - and not one of America's elite corps of reporters can claim the credit. It was a huge scoop. Yet the newspaper that uncovered the atrocity was not the venerable New York Times or the Washington Post, still resting on its Watergate laurels. Nor was it the New Yorker, famed for its in-depth journalism. It was The Blade, a daily newspaper with a circulation of just 150,000 that serves the Ohio city of Toledo, by Lake Erie. For four days last week, The Blade ran its tale of the massacre of innocent Vietnamese civilians by a US Army unit called Tiger Force. The story was immediately hailed as the discovery of a 'new My Lai', the infamous massacre of Vietnamese villagers that lifted the veil on wartime US brutality. America's larger dailies and TV networks were left scrabbling to make up the ground - no easy task. Two Blade reporters had spent eight months working solely on the scoop. Another had joined part-way through. Together, they interviewed more than 100 people, tracking down former soldiers in Tiger Force and finally traveling to Vietnam to interview survivors and witnesses. 'The reaction has been overwhelming. The attitude of the government for the past 36 years has been to keep this quiet,' said Ron Royhab, a Blade executive editor. The story began with a tip-off to the Blade's Washington bureau about some classified documents. The information was passed back to Ohio, where a reporter, Mike Sallah, began to dig. That process began to turn up references to a secret investigation into Tiger Force. Requests for army documents were repeatedly turned down, meaning The Blade's team would have to track down witnesses and victims themselves. The details of the scoop are harrowing, both for the Vietnamese survivors and many of the still-living US Army soldiers. Tiger Force operated out of control in the Vietnamese highlands for seven months in 1967. Moving across the region, the platoon of 45 paratroops slaughtered unarmed farmers and their wives and children. They tortured and mutilated victims. A litany of horror has emerged - a baby decapitated for the necklace he wore, a teenage boy for his tennis shoes. A former Tiger Force sergeant, William Doyle, told reporters of a scalp he took off a young nurse to decorate his rifle. The Blade investigation concluded that hundreds probably died. 'We weren't keeping count,' Ken Kerney, a former soldier who is now a California firefighter, told the paper. 'I knew it was wrong, but it was an acceptable practice.' Another, Rion Causey, then a 19-year-old medic and now a nuclear physicist, talked of how villagers were routinely shot: 'If they ran we shot them, and if they didn't run we shot them anyway.' The killing spree was either ignored or encouraged by army top brass, but when an inquiry did take place it lasted for four years. No one was charged. Details were not released to the public, and are still classified. Bill Carpenter, a former special infantryman with Tiger Force, believes the self-styled death squad's former commander, Lt James Hawkins, should be held accountable. He 'thoroughly enjoyed killing' and, now retired to Florida, still defiantly defends his platoon's wartime activities. 'I don't regret nothing,' Hawkins has said. But memories of the blood lust run deep in Vietnam. One farmer, Nguyen Dam, now 66, vividly remembered being attacked. 'Our people didn't deserve to die that way. We were farmers. We were not soldiers. We didn't hurt anyone,' he said. The Blade also found amazing stories from within Tiger Force itself. One soldier, Gerald Bruner, turned on his own men and ordered them to stop shooting civilians or he would open fire. For this, he was berated by a commanding officer and told to see a psychiatrist. Bruner was almost alone in resisting the killings. Yet the brutality left its mental legacy. Barry Bowman, a Tiger Force medic, told The Blade he is haunted by nightmares after witnessing the execution of one elderly Vietnamese man. Others described flashbacks and many have sought therapy to cope with their crimes. Others expressed no remorse. Moreover, criminal charges are unlikely to be brought. However, the series of stories about Tiger Force seems certain to put The Blade in contention for a Pulitzer Prize this year. In fact, the paper is no stranger to awards. The Blade is rare in modern America in being owned by a wealthy local family, the Robinson Blocks, who have a strong commitment to investigative journalism. That means money and time is available for The Blade's reporters to bring in a major scoop. 'We have the resources to do this. There are no shareholders to worry about,' said Royhab. Another Blade investigation - into the effects of a deadly industrial hazard - was shortlisted for the Pulitzer in 2000. 'The Toledo Blade is not just another American newspaper. We are much greater than that,' said John Robinson Block, the family's main representative on the paper. The Robinson Blocks have owned the paper since 1926 and are keenly aware that until the 1920s The Blade was a big player in the US newspaper industry, with a national circulation. 'I suppose we have the ghosts of that history still hanging around with us,' John Robinson Block said. That history was revisited spectacularly last week. And, as John added: 'As long as I am around, we will continue to try to do things like this.'
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