Re: [sixties-l] Making the Vietnam-Israeli Link ex

From: Ted Morgan (
Date: 10/14/00

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    A couple of quick comments on this exchange between Jerry West and Jeff
    Blankfort (and my earlier weigh-in re. My Lai):
    This coment by Jerry jumped out at me:
    "Rare [referring to My Lai] is not the same as sole, directly shooting down,
    as in specifically targeting children directly, is not the same as children
    being caught in the middle of a military action.  If you want to argue that
    a lot of children were harmed and that the war was wrong or even just the
    conduct of the war was wrong, then I will agree with you completely.  But,
    let's not try to spin every trajedy into an atrocity and devalue our
    criticism of the war."
    First, there is precious, and I do mean precious, little difference --and
    none at all in terms of the outcome-- between "directly shooting down
    children" and, well, not "children being caught in the middle of a military
    action" which adopts a neutral framing for looking at the larger work, but
    children inevitably being in effect a central 'target' in a policy of
    indiscriminate violence from the air and an inevitable target population in
    village sweeps where troops encountered "suspected VC activity" and went in
    "dropping grenades in the hooches" or spraying village huts with automatic
    weapons fire, or 'going ballistic' and emptying a few rounds into a family
    hiding in their huts (after getting hit by enemy fire from the vicinity of
    the village).  Both of these --the indiscriminate air bombardment, use of
    napalm, etc.; and the village sweeps with all they entailed-- were routine
    and inherent aspects in the American war against a nationalist guerrilla
    movement grounded in the lives of the civilian population, as guerrilla
    movements are.  VC atrocities are individually reprehensible, but one has to
    ask what fundamental "intervention" by the United States in 1954 (and
    France, again, in 1945-6) created the basis for this response.
    I understand what Jerry is getting at --the horror we sense observing a
    soldier aiming his rifle at a child and killing him --because there is the
    "clarity" about what the soldier is doing.  He is killing a child.  But, to
    make this difference seem significant borders on the obscene in my mind,
    because it, in effect, suggests a degree of "legitimacy" or "justification"
    for actions which do precisely the same thing --kill children by the
    thousands, in fact-- but 'hide' behind the 'screen' of 'distance' and
    'rationalization.'  That is ultimately the far more dangerous situation,
    and, of course, it's the one that increasingly characterizes "sanitized"
    American military interventions.
    Ted Morgan

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