Wednesday 14 June 2006


The unfolding scandal over the massacre of civilians by US Marines at Haditha in Iraq has been frequently compared to the massacre of civilians at My Lai in Vietnam in 1968. In scale, there is no comparison. At My Lai, somewhere between 300 and 500 civilians were slaughtered by a platoon of 30 US servicemen. In Haditha the number of civilian deaths is believed to be 24.

The President is promising justice at the end of the enquiry. We’d better hope that his conception of justice is more developed than that of President Nixon.

Despite extensive testimony from witnesses as well as graphic photo evidence, the 13 officers who were charged over the massacre at My Lai were later acquitted. Lieutenant William Calley was found guilty, court-martialled and sentenced to life in prison. He spent three days in prison before being transferred to house arrest. Three years later, he was pardoned by President Nixon - an extraordinary and infrequently cited action from a President with an impressive catalogue of infamy.

Perhaps this is where the young Messrs Cheney and Rumsfeld learned their regard for civilian life and justice. They both cut their teeth in the Nixon Whitehouse.

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