My Lai

War is the ultimate expression of our nihilism. 

There's something poignant about the native taboos on viewing images of their deceased, yet dismissed as quaintly primitive by us crass 'westerners.'

Apologies, then, for using a My Lai murder image* as navigation background to illustrate this article.

Why would I apologize?

Creating the artwork, viewing the stark untouched original image of women and children lying bloodied where they were heartlessly slain, produced a reaction of deep distress and sadness - a dreadful feeling of disturbing a grave, treading upon sacred ground, offending the tortured feelings of their families, and guilt for trivializing such a potent, sepulchral horror.

Were I one of their spirits I would fervently want that image seen until its sobering message impelled all, even coldest of intellects, to accept our blame.

Twentieth-century war repeatedly demonstrated that young males of apparent 'decent, normal' upbringing - taught and trained by governments to kill - will too often acquire a taste for murdering 'them', the citizens of foreign lands, in the moral wilderness of a weakly-managed (or cynically wielded) force of occupation.

To fix it is to merely and honestly admit a communal burden, to let the trivia fade from dissolute, daily, empty, habitual parades - to widen our world-view beyond selfish appetites and desires and release that stifled, buried, burning childhood need for fairness, cooperation, and fellowship.

To fix it means further admitting, as members of ruthless civilisation, our governments have no idea how to manage conflicts to avoid violence, and absolutely no intention of doing so.

The tentacles of My Lai

Raised in a society oozing righteous heroism in the aftermath of World War Two, I imagined nations-of-good always fought evil dictatorships.

Then My Lai muddied my moral water forever.

Nixon's disgrace, the Veterans fury at their Governments, Buddhist monks squatting in streets consumed by their gasoline pyre, outrage around the globe - and the last time a free press reported savagely on a war - all accumulated to a disconcerting crescendo.

And then the massacre at My Lai bespoke a modern horror, tolerable only in its apparent aberration, while probity joined the roll call of childhood notions quashed.

Now, researching these sad little essays, I learn intricacies and subtleties I'd rather not. If the film Apocalypse Now rang strangely true decades ago, the more I read, the more realistic that film grows.

I see the entire American army of half a million men increasingly in open revolt against orders, demoralized and undisciplined... or is that 'manipulated' into genocidal massacres as covert policy? - if not by government or military leaders, then by a cynical and powerful layer of 'agents' and 'advisers' who equate almost exactly to the frightful, self-indulgent morally-bereft German 'SS' that even the regular German army loathed.

Known as the Phoenix Program, the U.S. military were strategically directed in a numbers game that obliterated the worth of Vietnamese individuals and made the the firebombing of German and Japanese cities late in WW2 pale.

In Vietnam, a demoralized, confused and weary army was exactly the tool to implement the bizarre Phoenix policy. This was the strangest, cruellest, ugliest, and most pointless war ever fought - and they have all been cruel and ugly.

And what an astonishing irony that this covert wing of government directed the greatest military machine in history to a humiliation that dwarfed defeats of all time.  

* The image, created in 2007, was a background to a navigation menu for SheepOverboard's 'Dark Side' topics. The full image of the top section is still ever so disturbing whenever viewed. In doing so, it engenders all the massacres committed across the aeons and still, always, brings tears to my eyes and strikes fear in my heart.

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