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April 06, 2010

Death From Above, Then and Now

Say what you will about Apache attack helicopters mowing people down in Baghdad, at least it wasn't U.S. generals directly pulling the trigger. This is from a great Consortium News article by Robert Parry and Normon Solomon:

To this day, [Colin] Powell has avoided criticizing the Vietnam War other than to complain that the politicians should not have restrained the military high command. Powell also was not one to blow the whistle on wayward superiors.

Powell even sided with one Americal Division general who was accused by the Army of murdering unarmed civilians while flying over Quang Ngai province. Helicopter pilots who flew Brig. Gen. John W. Donaldson alleged that the general gunned down the civilian Vietnamese almost for sport.

A senior investigator from the Donaldson case told The Consortium recently that two of the Vietnamese victims were an old man and an old woman who were shot to death while bathing. Though long retired from the Army -- and now quite elderly himself -- the investigator still spoke with a raw disgust about the events of a quarter century earlier. He requested anonymity before talking about the behavior of senior Americal officers.

"They used to bet in the morning how many people they could kill-- old people, civilians, it didn't matter," the investigator said. "Some of the stuff would curl your hair"...

For eight months in Chu Lai during 1968-69, Powell had worked with Donaldson and apparently developed a great respect for this superior officer. When the Army charged Donaldson with murder on June 2, 1971, Powell rose in the general's defense. Powell submitted an affidavit dated Aug. 10, 1971, which lauded Donaldson as "an aggressive and courageous brigade commander." Powell did not specifically refer to the murder allegations, but added that helicopter forays in Vietnam had been an "effective means of separating hostiles from the general population"...

[T]he investigator claimed that "we had him [Donaldson] dead to rights." Still, the investigation collapsed after the two pilot-witnesses were transferred to another Army base and apparently came under pressure from superiors already stung by the negative P.R. from the My Lai massacre. The two pilots withdrew their testimony, and the Army dropped all charges against Donaldson.

"John Donaldson was a cover-up specialist," the old investigator growled.

So, you know, progress.

P.S. This is from Colin Powell's autobiography:

Many of my generation, the career captains, majors, and lieutenant colonels seasoned in that war, vowed that when our turn came to call the shots, we would not quietly acquiesce in halfhearted warfare for half-baked reasons that the American people could not understand.

Har har har.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at April 6, 2010 01:10 PM

Ever have I viewed Powell as Clinton's matchless grovelling to the black population - he sure as hell didn't earn his ascendancy on the merits, and he is a blot on American history.

Posted by: Jesus B Ochoa at April 6, 2010 03:25 PM

Powell certainly did manage to distinguish himself from Malcolm X or MLK quite effectively.

My Lai was nothing aberrational, either with respect to what else happened in Vietnam or as compared to the rest of our Asian Wars. The Phillipines, WWII, Korea Vietnam--they were all full of unspeakable viciousness. Usually Generals just gave orders, rather than murdering people with their side arms, but orders are direct. Here's a ittle excerpt I recently ran across in a fine new book from a fine slightly older book:

“Early in the war, Filipinos shot and cut open the stomach of a U.S. soldier. General Lloyd Wheaton ordered a massacre of civilians in retaliation. In a letter home, a soldier from Kingston, New York, recalled: "Immediately orders were received from General Wheaton to burn the town and kill every native in sight; which was done to a finish. About 1,000 men, women, and children were reported killed. I am probably growing hard-hearted, for I am in my glory when I can sight my gun on some dark skin and pull the trigger.”

Bradley, The Imperial Cruise (2009), Chapter 4 at 104 and note 27, citing Miller, Benevolent Assimilation at 88.

I note that unlike Romans, wolves hold no such view of glory.

Posted by: N E at April 6, 2010 04:45 PM

Powell speaks very well, and cuts a fine figure in either his uniform or his well-made suits. He is well received in the highest circles. He is also Malcolm Gladwell's cousin.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at April 6, 2010 06:50 PM

mistah charley, that's too weird! And unlike all the other lies on the internet, there might be some truth to it. At least per Malcolm himself maybe: (see the bio section and, per his instruction, look at his picture!)

But I think Colin's son, formerly of the FCC, is the real prize of the family. I am reminded of that because the DC Circuit gave the internet to Comcast today. So long blogging, hello advertising!

Posted by: N E at April 6, 2010 08:24 PM

Every time someone mentions Powell I think of General Casey from Mars Attacks!.

"But didn't I always tell you honey, if I just stayed in place and never spoke up, good things are bound to happen."

(Jesus Christ, that flick is thirteen years old!)

Posted by: weaver at April 6, 2010 10:59 PM

Comrade Ochoa considers Gen. Powell "a blot on American history" - that's not a flaw, mi hermano, it's a feature.

And I invite you to expand your view to include Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas's appointment by George H.W. Bush to replace Thurgood Marshall. There's a remarkable event.

May the Creative Forces of the Universe stand beside us, and guide us, through the Night with the Light from Above (metaphorically speaking.)

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at April 7, 2010 07:33 AM

What can I say? cream rises, I guess, or something.

Posted by: Jesus B Ochoa at April 7, 2010 02:46 PM

mistah charley:

David Brock in his memoir about his seedy past at the heart of darkness (no obnoxious pun intended) before he became a mostly irrelevant atoner at Media Matters discusses the fun of the Thomas appointment, which he knew from abundant personal knowledge was cynically carried out to make it politically hard for some of those "liberal" bastards in the Senate to oppose the nomination after what happened to Bork. So yes, it was a remarkable event.

I know someone who attended law school in Kansas, and Justice Thomas visited the law school, but Thomas declined to talk about his job as a Justice on the Supreme Court, preferring to talk about something more interesting. I think it might have been golf, but something like that.

The fruit of cynicism is bitter.

Posted by: N E at April 7, 2010 04:04 PM

Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher!

Posted by: forex robot at April 8, 2010 06:01 AM

Wow this is a great resource.. I’m enjoying it.. good article

Posted by: pharmacy technician at April 10, 2010 04:00 AM

Well Powell had done such a nice job assisting on the My Lai coverup he was naturally the go-to guy for this.

Posted by: fish at April 12, 2010 11:42 AM