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The My Lai Massacre Just Got Worse

Tuesday, March 25, 2014 By William J. Astore, The Contrary Perspective | Op-Ed
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CBS News has an article that shows that President Richard Nixon sought to cover up the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War.  The article draws from notes taken at the time by H.R. Haldeman, Nixon’s chief of staff and hatchet man.  The notes suggest that Nixon ordered “dirty tricks” to discredit the testimony of the true Army heroes who intervened to stop the massacre.  It further suggests neutralizing the gory details of My Lai by playing up atrocities committed by communist forces at Huế (“You think we’re bad in massacring innocents at My Lai?  Well, the commies are a lot worse”).

Here are Haldeman’s notes from his meeting with Nixon:

Credit: Richard Nixon Presidential Library and MuseumCredit: Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum

Note that My Lai is treated as a problem in public relations, not as a war crime.  It’s to be managed by dirty tricks and the exploitation of a senator or two.  As long as we all stay on the same page and spout the same message (while suppressing the facts and intimidating and discrediting witnesses), My Lai and the 504 Vietnamese killed there in 1968 can just be made to disappear.  That’s the gist of Haldeman’s notes.

Haldeman’s notes are further evidence of what The Contrary Perspective argued previously on the Vietnam War: We lost more than a war in Vietnam.  We lost our humanity.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

William J. Astore

William J. Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF), is a TomDispatch regular. He has taught at the Air Force Academy and the Naval Postgraduate School, and now teaches history at the Pennsylvania College of Technology. Email him: wastore@pct.edu.


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The My Lai Massacre Just Got Worse

Tuesday, March 25, 2014 By William J. Astore, The Contrary Perspective | Op-Ed
  • font size decrease font size decrease font size increase font size increase font size
  • Print

CBS News has an article that shows that President Richard Nixon sought to cover up the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War.  The article draws from notes taken at the time by H.R. Haldeman, Nixon’s chief of staff and hatchet man.  The notes suggest that Nixon ordered “dirty tricks” to discredit the testimony of the true Army heroes who intervened to stop the massacre.  It further suggests neutralizing the gory details of My Lai by playing up atrocities committed by communist forces at Huế (“You think we’re bad in massacring innocents at My Lai?  Well, the commies are a lot worse”).

Here are Haldeman’s notes from his meeting with Nixon:

Credit: Richard Nixon Presidential Library and MuseumCredit: Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum

Note that My Lai is treated as a problem in public relations, not as a war crime.  It’s to be managed by dirty tricks and the exploitation of a senator or two.  As long as we all stay on the same page and spout the same message (while suppressing the facts and intimidating and discrediting witnesses), My Lai and the 504 Vietnamese killed there in 1968 can just be made to disappear.  That’s the gist of Haldeman’s notes.

Haldeman’s notes are further evidence of what The Contrary Perspective argued previously on the Vietnam War: We lost more than a war in Vietnam.  We lost our humanity.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

William J. Astore

William J. Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF), is a TomDispatch regular. He has taught at the Air Force Academy and the Naval Postgraduate School, and now teaches history at the Pennsylvania College of Technology. Email him: wastore@pct.edu.


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blog comments powered by Disqus