my lai the struggle over outrage

my lai the struggle over outrage - O 2007 Publishing Inc...

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© 2008 Peace History Society and Peace and Justice Studies Association 90 Blackwel Publishing Inc Malden, USA PECH 0149-0508 © 2007 Peace History Society and XXX ORIGINAL ARTICLES XX My Lai: The Struggle Over Outrage by Truda Gray and Brian Martin The 1968 My Lai massacre, during the Vietnam War, and its aftermath can be conceptualized as a struggle over outrage. Examination of the events reveals that the perpetrators and their commanders took various actions that inhibited outrage over the unprovoked killing of civilians. These actions can be classified into five methods: covering up evidence; devaluing the victims; reinterpreting the episode as a military victory; setting up super- ficial investigations that gave the appearance of justice; and intimidating those who might speak out. These are the same five methods regularly used by perpetrators to inhibit outrage about other types of injustices. This case gives guidance on the sorts of techniques needed to raise concern about human rights violations during wartime. On March 16, 1968, U.S. soldiers in Charlie Company, part of Task Force Barker, entered a village named My Lai 4, in Quang Ngai Province in central Vietnam. Encountering no resistance, many of the soldiers in the company nevertheless went on an orgy of violence against defenseless villagers, killing hundreds—perhaps as many as 500—mostly women, children, and old men. Soldiers killed some villagers individually, others by herding them into ditches and shooting them. In addition, the soldiers raped many women, burned buildings, poisoned wells, and killed livestock. Upon publication of the news in late 1969, many people in the United States and beyond were shocked. For some, My Lai became a symbol of an unjust war; for others, though, it was simply an unfortunate episode, with the soldiers warranting congratulations for pursuing the enemy. The story of My Lai and its ramifications has been told many times. Our main aim in this article is to offer a new perspective, namely, to conceptualize the events as a struggle over outrage, with a focus on the tactics used in the struggle. The perpetrators and their allies took a range of steps to reduce the likelihood of awareness of and concern about the events, whereas some of those who were most disturbed by
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My Lai: The Struggle over Outrage 91 the massacre took action to foster awareness and concern. In other words, awareness of and concern about the massacre did not happen automatically or predictably; instead, they were the result of a lengthy struggle—indeed, one that continues even today. Furthermore, the tech- niques used in this struggle are the same ones used in other struggles over injustice. Our case study—My Lai—is historical, but our analysis draws more on sociology and political science. Psychologists, philosophers, and social scientists have studied
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This note was uploaded on 09/25/2011 for the course ENG 1 taught by Professor Lynch during the Spring '09 term at Santa Monica.

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my lai the struggle over outrage - O 2007 Publishing Inc...

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