Monday, June 14, 2010

A sad history

"American Experience: My Lai" is an excellent documentary about the My Lai massacre. Since it was before my time it was very informative watching the original footage from the senate investigation and following trial. Also, it was very sad to see those young soldiers now older men recounting that time. I was struck by the horrible pictures of the dead, but then war is full of the dead much of it civilian. I was also struck in another way by Lt. Calli's self serving defense which was, "Gee my only crime was caring for my own men, God knows those children could have been hiding machine guns in their shorts."

But I paraphrase.

Beyond it's historical importance, we are still trying to get our heads wrapped around the central problem of what can we do or not do and still be the 'good guys.' In today's conflict we fight an enemy that wears no uniform, will target civilians, will torture and behead prisoners. We in turn agonize about when we find pictures of our troops putting panties on prisoners head, and of coure the whole gitmo situation.

There's one school of thought that evil/good is like a dimmer switch. That our bad actions are still bad even though we are mostly on the side of good. The question then is just how much bad can we do and be considered good. Is a simple majority enough or is it 2/3rds?

The other school is basically evil is like a boiling point. So since Jack on 24 is the good guy he can torture the bad guy to the ninth degree to find the nuke cause he's the good the guy.

The third school is that good/evil doesn't matter. We just need to win. War is hell, and we might as well become the devil.

And so it goes.

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