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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Gareth Porter, "My Lai probe hid policy that led to massacre,", March 16, 2008.

According to a new article by historian Gareth Porter, the actual text of Directive 525-3, which was only paraphrased by General William Peers' investigation into the My Lai massacre, but a copy of which has obtained from the US Army Military History Institute in Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania,

the U.S. military command's policy was to consider the civilian population in long-term Communist base areas as the enemy which could be subjected to the same treatment as Communist military personnel. The Peers report description – which avoided quoting directly from the document – effectively covered up the actual intention of the command's policy toward noncombatants in places like My Lai.
Directive 525-3 is not the only piece of evidence pointing to a military command policy of treating noncombatants in Viet Cong base areas as subject to indiscriminate violence. In his own memoirs published in 1976, General Westmoreland himself wrote that, once the "free fire zones" were established, "anybody who remained had to be considered an enemy combatant," and operations in those areas "could be conducted without fear of civilian casualties."

Westmoreland was even more explicit in a visit to a unit of the 101st Airborne Division called the Tiger Force in Quang Ngai province in 1967. As recounted by members of the Tiger Force who were present, and reported by Pulitzer Prize-winning Toledo Blade journalists Michael Sallah and Mitch Weiss, Westmoreland told them, "[I]f there are people who are out there – and not in the camps – they're pink as far as we're concerned. They're Communist sympathizers. They were not supposed to be there."

That message gave the Tiger Force officers the idea that they were authorized to kill anyone who chose to remain in Viet Cong base areas. Sallah and Weiss found that Tiger Force had carried out no fewer than 19 killing sprees against civilians in "specified strike zones." The unit commanders justified the wanton murder of civilians to Army investigators by explaining that the creation of a free fire zone gave U.S. troops the right to "kill anything that moved."
Read the whole article =>

Gareth Porter's latest book is Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam, (U of Cal Press, 2006).

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