December 2, 2019 9:40:19 AM
Wartime atrocities shouldn't be accepted
In 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea. The U.S., acting through the U.N., sent forces to expel them. They quickly pushed into northeast Korea, near China. The Chinese 9th Army infiltrated Korea and surprised the U.S. forces near the Chosin Reservoir. The surrounded U.S. troops executed a legendary retreat and preserved most of their forces, but they abandoned North Korean territory.
We learned our lesson: Leave China alone. So, 25 years later, when we came to the aid of South Vietnam, we did not set foot in North Vietnam, which, like North Korea, borders China (although we did do some bombing and harbor mining). Our strategy became a sort of "occupy and defend." The conflict quickly became a guerrilla war. For U.S. troops, this meant that any Vietnamese could be an enemy. Self-preservation required that everybody be assumed to be a Viet Cong. It was not long before My Lai became the most famous example of the consequences of that thinking.
Now we are in the desert, fighting another enemy without uniforms. Once again, the enemy is culturally alien. Once again, we have no clear path to victory. It is hardly surprising that the slaughter of non-combatants is happening again.
Such actions are unsurprising, but cannot be condoned. Lt. William Calley, Jr., was convicted back then, a scapegoat who only served a short house arrest. Now, Navy Chief Edward R. Gallagher has been charged with fatally stabbing an already wounded fighter, posing for a picture with the dead body, and shooting two non-combatants as a sniper. One of his text messages reads, "I've a got a cool story for you when I get back. I've got my knife skills on." Then, "Good story behind this. Got him with my hunting knife." He was only convicted for the photo.
Mr. Trump has ordered the Navy to restore Chief Gallagher's status as a SEAL. Apparently, atrocity is condoned. It is even applauded. And it should not be.
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