Earlier this week, the web site Wikileaks released a classified military video shot from an Apache helicopter in New Baghdad, Iraq in 2007. In the 17:47 video, US soldiers are shown taking aim at unarmed civilians from the air, allegedly slaying 10 unidentified men and 2 Reuters journalists, and wounding two children. “Look at those dead bastards,” one pilot says. “Nice,” the other responds.
"As with the My Lai photos 42 years ago, public sentiment is sharply divided over the Wikileaks video. The myth that soldiers took fire from My Lai and understandably went wild persisted for decades, and it's likely a similar myth will grow up around the Baghdad killings, despite the unvarnished video. Most, but not all, military bloggers and conservatives are sympathetic to the pilots, putting the killings in a "fog of war" context.
But as My Lai: The Tragedy, The Coverup, The Aftermath shows in a freshly wrenching detail, the soldiers who stuck to their lies for years finally gave in to the truth, that they'd murdered hundreds of innocent people.
Even William Calley, the feckless lieutenant who wasted 40 years insisting, falsely, that he was only "following orders" in My Lai, finally admitted he was wrong, and sorry, and in pain.
"There is not a day goes by that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai," he said on Aug. 19, 2009. I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry."
As the journalist Jonathan Schell says all these years later, My Lai, in the end, was as much a question of “what is it doing to us?” as what we did to them."
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Jen Holmes is a blogger for Inside AMERICAN EXPERIENCE and a member of the communications team.