Saturday, January 07, 2006

Fallen hero

News that Hugh Thompson Jr., who saved Vietnamese civilians from his fellow American soldiers during the My Lai massacre, died Friday brings to mind the stark contrast between that true American hero and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Early in the morning of March 16, 1968, Thompson, door-gunner Lawrence Colburn and crew chief Glenn Andreotta came upon U.S. ground troops killing Vietnamese civilians in and around the village of My Lai.

They landed the helicopter in the line of fire between American troops and fleeing Vietnamese civilians and pointed their own guns at the U.S. soldiers to prevent more killings.

Colburn and Andreotta had provided cover for Thompson as he went forward to confront the leader of the U.S. forces. Thompson later coaxed civilians out of a bunker so they could be evacuated, and then landed his helicopter again to pick up a wounded child they transported to a hospital. Their efforts led to the cease-fire order at My Lai.

In 1998, the Army honored the three men with the prestigious Soldier's Medal, the highest award for bravery not involving conflict with an enemy. It was a posthumous award for Andreotta, who had been killed in battle three weeks after My Lai.
I wonder if those medals would be awarded today, given Rummy's opinion about what to do in such a situation.

A reporter asked (Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) what U.S. commanders in Iraq are supposed to do if they find Iraqi forces abusing prisoners. Pace replied that if inhumane treatment is observed it is a service member's duty to stop it.

"I don't think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it — it's to report it," Rumsfeld said, turning to Pace.

Replied the general: "If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it."

Is there a medal for doing nothing in the face of abuse and later reporting it so it can be covered up by politicians at the top of the chain of command? What good would Thompson have been to those civilians if he thought like Donald Rumsfeld?

God bless Hugh Thompson Jr.


Blogger Fran Friel said...

Thank goodness it's not Rumey on the ground. I still think there are soldiers out there with great hearts and courage. It's just too bad those in charge aren't setting a good example for them to follow.

Thanks for this article. True patriots. True Americans.

Yada Feast

1/07/2006 11:19:00 PM  

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