Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Mai Lai Massacre and Sgt Bates Killings in Afghanistan

The Mai Lai Massacre in Vietnam In 1970 is a case that shook America. A lieutenant William Calley of the US army lined up 175 Vietnamese villagers and shot them dead. The case was exposed by an intrepid reporter and the sordid facts of the war in Vietnam came out. It showed that the US army was scared of facing the Viet Cong fighters and many units avoided battle. There were cases of US soldiers shooting dead their own NCO’s. It was fratricide at its worst. It also divided America and a strong anti war lobby built up.
The result was inevitable; the US army withdrew after 10 years and heralded a massive defeat for US arms. Lieutenant Casey came back to the USA and was not immediately put on trial. He was treated with kid gloves and confined under house arrest. Finally he was brought to trial and faced a Court Martial. The court found the officer guilty of murdering 109 Vietnamese in cold blood and was sentenced to life imprisonment. The matter did not end there as the Lieutenant received a Presidential Pardon from Nixon and was released after 3 years. Small consolation for the 109 Vietnamese villagers shot in cold blood. It is worth pointing out that 26 US soldiers were charged with war crimes and only Calley was the sole conviction. All others were acquitted. Seen in this background the case of Sergeant Bates looks surprisingly similar. Lieutenant Calley was not tried in Vietnam, but in the USA. Similarly Sergeant Bates is also being tried in USA and not in Afghanistan; though US military law has a proviso of field trial and the court martial could have been conducted in Afghanistan. It is anybody’s guess whether the law will take its own course and the Sergeant will face any punishment. The US army is notoriously lax in action against its men and officers. Perhaps that is one reason the US is losing at most places in the world.