Saturday, 24 April 2010

My Lai and Lockerbie Reconsidered

[This is the headline over a long article, dated 31 August 2009 but which has only just come to my attention, by Nick Turse in The Nation. It reads in part:]

A week ago, two convicted mass murderers leaped back into public consciousness as news coverage of their stories briefly intersected. One was freed from prison, continuing to proclaim his innocence, and his release was vehemently denounced in the United States as were the well-wishers who welcomed him home. The other expressed his contrition, after almost 35 years living in his country in a state of freedom, and few commented.

When Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the Libyan sentenced in 2001 to twenty-seven years in prison for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, was released from incarceration by the Scottish government on "compassionate grounds," a furor erupted. On August 22nd, ABC World News with Charles Gibson featured a segment on outrage over the Libyan's release. It was aired shortly before a report on an apology offered by William Calley, who, in 1971 as a young lieutenant, was sentenced to life in prison for the massacre of civilians in the Vietnamese village of My Lai.

After al-Megrahi, who served eight years in prison, arrived home to a hero's welcome in Libya, officials in Washington expressed their dismay. To White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, it was "outrageous and disgusting"; to President Barrack Obama, "highly objectionable." Calley, who admitted at trial to killing Vietnamese civilians personally, but served only three years of house arrest following an intervention by President Richard Nixon, received a standing ovation from the Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus, Georgia, the city where he lived for years following the war. (He now resides in Atlanta.) For him, there was no such uproar, and no one, apparently, thought to ask either Gibbs or the president for comment, despite the eerie confluence of the two men and their fates.

Part of the difference in treatment was certainly the passage of time and Calley's contrition, however many decades delayed, regarding the infamous massacre of more than 500 civilians. "There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai," the Vietnam veteran told his audience. "I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry." For his part, al-Megrahi, now dying of cancer, accepted that relatives of the 270 victims of the Lockerbie bombing "have hatred for me. It's natural to behave like this...They believe I'm guilty, which in reality I'm not. One day the truth won't be hiding as it is now. We have an Arab saying: 'The truth never dies.'"

Calley was charged in the deaths of more than 100 civilians and convicted in the murder of twenty-two in one village, while al-Megrahi was convicted of the murder of 270 civilians aboard one airplane. Almost everyone, it seems, found it perverse, outrageous, or "gross and callous" that the Scottish government allowed a convicted mass murderer to return to a homeland where he was greeted with open arms. No one seemingly thought it odd that another mass murderer had lived freely in his home country for so long. The families of the Lockerbie victims were widely interviewed. As the Calley story broke, no American reporter apparently thought it worth the bother to look for the families of the My Lai victims, let alone ask them what they thought of the apology of the long-free officer who had presided over, and personally taken part in the killing of, their loved ones.


  1. So I am not the only one to think about My Lai when seeing the American response to Al-Megrahi's release.

    Murders and atrocities committed by USA, outside USA, just do not count over there, apart from a tiny showcase here and there.

    - - -

    My Lai is on the smallest possible scale. Less than an hours of travel from where I live we have the infamous killing fields of Cambodia.

    Nixon's "Operation Menu", '69-'70, virtually ensured the success of Khmer Rouge. The US Army carpet-bombed Cambodia. Estimates of civilian casualties vary, '600.000' appears to be somewhere in the middle.

    I wrote the "US Army", not USA, because the campaign was conducted in secrecy, known by only a few.

    This aerial campaign against Cambodia - a neutral country - is nothing short of mass murder.

    The whistle-blowers, among these Major Knight who in '72 informed Senator Proxmire, naturally faced a ruined career.

    So, when it was all discovered, what happened to Nixon, Kissinger and the army generals?

    Tried in an international court for mass murder and crimes against humanity? Were they executed? Even jailed?

    Oh no - as we all recall, what was the end of Nixon was Watergate.

    Kill half a million innocent and defenseless peasants in a neutral country, ah, well...

    Spy on your political opponents in US - and you will face dire consequences.

    What consequences? You will have to resign from your job.

    - - -

    But Al-Megrahi being early released, and living longer than expected - what a horror! The case against him falling apart - rubbish, case is closed, we won't even listen!

    I would like to believe that Americans are worse than other people, giving hope for mankind elsewhere.

    That Duggan and his followers are more than ordinarily close-minded.

    But I am afraid that this is not the case.

    Unlimited hypocrisy appears to be an inseparable part of human nature, and it more than anything else threatens our co-existence.

  2. "Calley was charged in the deaths of more than 100 civilians and convicted in the murder of twenty-two in one village"

    Maybe a quote from

    gives a more precise description of the events:

    "My Lai Massacre...mass murder of ... 347 to 504 unarmed citizens in South Vietnam, all of whom were civilians and a majority of whom were women, children (including babies) and elderly people.

    Many of the victims were sexually abused, beaten, tortured, and some of the bodies were found mutilated"

    In contrast to the weak and now discredited evidence against Megrahi, Calley & Co were caught red-handed, literally.

  3. @sfm
    "So, when it was all discovered, what happened to Nixon, Kissinger and the army generals?"

    And let's not forget Zbigniew Brzezinski. I just came across the following quote only yesterday. This about says it all:
    "I encouraged the Chinese to support Pol Pot. I encouraged the Thai to help the Khymer Rouge. The question was how to help the Cambodian people. Pol Pot an abomination. We could never support him. But Chica could." -- Zbigniew Brzezinski, 1979

    And here is one from Kissinger:
    "You should also tell the Cambodians that we will be friends with them. They are murderous thugs, but we won't let that stand in our way. We are prepared to improve relations with them." -- Secretary of State Henry Kissinger discusses the Khmer Rouge regime with Thailand's Foreign Minister Chatichai, November 26, 1975