Saturday :: Jan 7, 2006

A Hero and a Toady

by Marie

It was 1968. Lt. Calley and his troops were raping and killing the peasants in the village of My Lai, South Vietnam. The pilot of a US helicopter, Hugh Thompson Jr., couldn’t believe the scene he and his crew witnessed from the air. Thompson set his bird down on the ground in between defenseless Vietnamese women, children and old men and a murderous gang of American soldiers. He demanded that Calley and his men put down their weapons or Thompson and his crew would open fire on them. He then rescued the wounded in My Lai and took them for medical treatment. Thompson stopped the carnage that day, but not before “America’s finest” had killed 500 people in cold blood.

Thompson put his body on the line that day to save innocent people. He put his reputation on the line by reporting the massacre to his superiors. Superiors who did nothing. One of those superiors was Colin Powell who did his best to cover-up the massacre. If not for the best investigative journalist in America for the past forty years, Seymour Hersh, the Powell cover-up might have succeeded and the village of My Lai would have remained as anonymous as all the other villages in Vietnam.

Calley and three others were court-martialed. Thompson was one of the witnesses called by the prosecution. He was treated like dirt by the military. Branded a traitor until 1998 when he was finally officially honored as a hero. It only took thirty years for our Pentagon to recognize that Thompson was a hero. Maybe the only real hero in the Vietnam War. But he wasn’t the hero that received public acclaim and respect. It was the toady in the office that never put his butt in harm’s way for anybody and defined patriotism in terms of what could be hidden from civilians in America.

Abu Ghraib (and Sy Hersh again) reminded us that our military hasn’t changed. Reminded me of why I distrust and mostly loathe our military. A military that could only convict one man for the slaughter of 500 people and sentence him to a mere few months of house arrest. A military that can exalt the likes of a toady like Colin Powell that assisted in sending a new generation to their deaths in the sands of Iraq for another lie. A military that embraces death, violence and a code of silence. I trust no man or woman that to this day cannot speak ill of the US involvement in Vietnam -- that includes John McCain and Wesley Clark -- because they will always err on the side of overusing military solutions. (If Kosovo was such a success, why the hell do we still have troops there ten years later?)

A real American hero died yesterday. At the age of 62 in a VA hospital in Louisiana. Too young. Too unknown. A man who knew the difference between right and wrong down to the core of his being. A man who needed no official regulation to tell him that an unlawful order should never be obeyed. A man that needed no regulation from Congress that prohibits torture of civilians and prisoners in a time of war. A real man that didn’t hesitate to stand up to gun wielding bullies engaged in slaughtering hundreds of people. Thompson had the right stuff that we embrace in our movies, but in real life, we don’t much like real men, whistleblowers that attempt to put an end to the despicable actions of the powerful in our institutions. In real life we prefer to ignore the Thompsons and celebrate powerful toadies, pretending that they possess the character of a hero without ever having exhibited heroism. From My Lai to the UN, Colin Powell demonstrated that he is nothing but a toady. That cares not for others but only for himself. That exemplifies what is so very wrong with America in the 21st Century.

Hugh Thompson, Jr. was on the side of the angels. He passed with little notice from this world. A world too consumed with a vigil for a mass murderer that has been labeled a “man of peace” to bother with the death of a man like Thompson. When we start properly honoring the lives and deaths of real heros like Thompson, the future of the world will be brighter.

Marie :: 10:29 AM :: Comments (29) :: TrackBack (1) :: Digg It!