he was charged with investigating a detailed letter by Tom Glen (a soldier from the 11th Light Infantry Brigade), which backed up rumored allegations of the My Lai Massacre. Powell wrote: "In direct refutation of this portrayal is the fact that relations between American soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent." Later, Powell's assessment would be described as Whitewashing the news of the massacre, and questions would continue to remain undisclosed to the public. In May 2004 Powell said to Larry King, "I mean, I was in a unit that was responsible for My Lai. I got there after My Lai happened. So, in war, these sorts of horrible things happen every now and again, but they are still to be deplored."
Peck’s analysis of the Mylai massacre, its massive cover-up and the deceptions made by our government in the Viet Nam war should not be missed for its lessons for us today.
Peck wrote, “The cover-up was a gigantic group lie.” The troops of C Company of Task Force Barker killed between five and six hundred unarmed villagers. Significantly, a young officer by the name of Colin Powell participated in the cover-up.
Peck cites MyLai as an example of “group evil.” Writing twenty years ago, Peck told us back then: “Twenty years from now, when Vietnam has been largely forgotten, how easy it will be, with volunteers, to once again become involved in little foreign adventures. Such adventures will keep our military on its toes, provide it with real-life war games to test its prowess, and need not hurt or involve the average American citizen at all until it is too late.”
(M. Scott Peck, M.D. wrote a most important book for our times, People of the Lie, The Hope For Healing Human Evil)
MAM HuntsPowell did include, however, a troubling recollection that belied his 1968 official denial of Glen's allegation that American soldiers "without provocation or justification shoot at the people themselves." After mentioning the My Lai massacre in My American Journey, Powell penned a partial justification of the Americal's brutality. In a chilling passage, Powell explained the routine practice of murdering unarmed male Vietnamese.
"I recall a phrase we used in the field, MAM, for military-age male," Powell wrote. "If a helo spotted a peasant in black pajamas who looked remotely suspicious, a possible MAM, the pilot would circle and fire in front of him. If he moved, his movement was judged evidence of hostile intent, and the next burst was not in front, but at him. Brutal? Maybe so. But an able battalion commander with whom I had served at Gelnhausen (West Germany), Lt. Col. Walter Pritchard, was killed by enemy sniper fire while observing MAMs from a helicopter. And Pritchard was only one of many. The kill-or-be-killed nature of combat tends to dull fine perceptions of right and wrong."
While it's certainly true that combat is brutal, mowing down unarmed civilians is not combat. It is, in fact, a war crime. Neither can the combat death of a fellow soldier be cited as an excuse to murder civilians. Disturbingly, that was precisely the rationalization that the My Lai killers cited in their own defense.
But returning home from Vietnam a second time in 1969, Powell had proved himself the consummate team player.