News Release

Did the U.S. Commit War Crimes in Vietnam?


A disabled veteran of ten years active Marine Corps service in Korea, MacMichael was a Defense Department consultant from 1965 to 1969 in Southeast Asia. During most of that period he was attached to the office of the Special Assistant for Counter-Insurgency at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok. In that capacity he reviewed classified reports from the U.S. mission in Vietnam. MacMichael said today: “Some Vietnam veterans are outraged that presidential candidate Kerry in his 1971 Senate testimony spoke of atrocities reportedly committed by U.S. military forces in Vietnam. There is more than a little substance to the charge. The Toledo Blade won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize by revealing that in 1967 the 101st Airborne Division created a ‘Tiger Force’ ordered to kill all Vietnamese males in Quang Ngi Province. According to official U.S. Army records unearthed by the Blade reporters, Tiger Force killed many hundreds of Vietnamese and, yes, soldiers of that force did proudly ware necklaces of the ears they cut from their victims. The Army did investigate and identified the perpetrators of the crimes but chose not to prosecute them.”
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MacMichael added: “In 1968, Colonel George S. Patton III — son of the World War II general — then commanding a brigade in Vietnam, sent out Christmas cards showing dead Vietnamese stacked up Abu Ghraib-fashion with the message ‘Peace on Earth’ and signed by him and his wife…. And then, of course, there was My Lai. There, C Company of the 11th Brigade of the Americal Division in 1967 entered that village and methodically executed between 347 and 504 of its unarmed inhabitants, men, women and children. At least 100 of them were lined up in an irrigation ditch by Lt. William Calley and shot to death by his GIs. The slaughter only ended when the shocked crew of an Army helicopter gunship landed and forced C Company at gunpoint to cease and desist. My Lai was far from an exceptional case. In fact, it might never have come to light had not a troubled Americal Division mortarman, Tom Glen, who had not been present, heard about it and, after rotating out of Vietnam to the U.S., wrote to the U.S. commander in Vietnam, General Westmoreland. His letter only mentioned My Lai as ‘part of the abusive pattern that had become routine in the Americal Division.'”

Currently national president of Veterans for Peace and a longtime coordinator of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Cline is a disabled combat veteran. He said today: “After 30 years, some people are trying to whitewash what happened in Vietnam.”
Veterans for Peace
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Willson is a former Air Force captain who served in Vietnam. He said today: “As head of a 40-man USAF combat security unit in Vietnam, I was separately tasked to assess ‘success’ of targeted bombings. I discovered egregious war crimes — daylight terror bombings of undefended fishing and rice farming villages resulting in mass murders and maimings of hundreds of residents. Subsequently, in conversations with members of the 9th Infantry Division, I heard bravado about slaughter of 11,000 ‘enemy’ from ground operations, though the vast majority proved to be unarmed civilians.”
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Willson added: “The U.S. intervention into Vietnam ITSELF was an extraordinarily egregious war of aggression, a crime against peace no less than the current illegal U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, based on lies and gross violations of the U.S. Constitution. When honestly examined, conduct of the Vietnam War amounted to a systematic pattern of incomprehensible crimes — massive numbers of civilian murders and destruction of civilian infrastructures through years of ground actions, indiscriminate bombings, chemical poisoning, use of incendiary weapons and napalm, scorched-earth campaigns, forced transfers of civilians, and regular utilization of mutilation and torture. This litany of crimes violated virtually every rule of war ever formulated and can be found in the public record. Behavior in Iraq and Afghanistan is similar. It is a moral and legal obligation for those of us who witnessed and/or participated in war crimes to acknowledge them so that they might not be repeated. Impunity from accountability enables the pattern of war crimes to continue. Truth telling, as painful as it might be, is an indispensable foundation for personal and collective healing and enlightenment. Constitutional government collapses when its agents are not held legally accountable for their actions, from the top to the bottom.” Willson, a trained lawyer, wrote a chapter in the just-released anthology Genocide, War Crimes & the West: History and Complicity.

Valentine, author of the book The Phoenix Program about U.S. “counter-insurgency” operations in Vietnam, is available to assess U.S. military operations in both Vietnam and Iraq. He said today that the “unspoken motive for attacking Kerry for having denounced U.S. actions in Vietnam … is to silence U.S. soldiers from speaking out about the atrocities they are committing in Iraq today. Apart from indiscriminate bombing campaigns in Vietnam, which did nothing to ‘win the hearts and minds’ of the people, the U.S. had its Phoenix Program, which used ‘selective terrorism’ to force the people into complying with a government that represented U.S. interests, not their own. The Phoenix principle was to target individuals for assassination or kidnapping, and thus make each and every individual Vietnamese citizen believe that the government was so omnipotent that it could target them at any time.” Valentine authored the article “Bob Kerrey, CIA War Crimes, and the Need for a War Crimes Trial.” He added: “The U.S. government is following a similar Phoenix pattern in Iraq today. Al-Sadr is being incompliant, so he is targeted. It’s what Israel is doing to the Palestinians — any of them get out of line, Israel goes after them. What’s needed is for U.S. soldiers to tell the truth about what’s happening today. We cannot allow … this smear campaign against Kerry to silence today’s soldiers fighting in Iraq.”
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