Colin Powell Started War Criminal Career as Staff Officer for the Americal Division Covering Up Its Slaughters

The consummate "team player"

On March 16, 1968, a bloodied unit of the Americal division stormed into a hamlet known as My Lai 4. With military helicopters circling overhead, revenge-seeking Americal soldiers rousted Vietnamese civilians — mostly old men, women and children — from their thatched huts and herded them into the village’s irrigation ditches.

As the round-up continued, some Americans raped the girls. Then, under orders from junior officers on the ground, soldiers began emptying their M-16s into the terrified peasants. Some parents desperately used their bodies to try to shield their children from the bullets. Soldiers stepped among the corpses to finish off the wounded.

The slaughter raged for four hours. A total of 347 Vietnamese, including babies, died in the carnage that would stain the reputation of the U.S. Army. But there also were American heroes that day in My Lai. Some soldiers refused to obey the direct orders to kill.

A pilot named Hugh Clowers Thompson Jr. from Stone Mountain, Ga., was furious at the killings he saw happening on the ground. He landed his helicopter between one group of fleeing civilians and American soldiers in pursuit. Thompson ordered his helicopter door gunner to shoot the Americans if they tried to harm the Vietnamese. After a tense confrontation, the soldiers backed off. Later, two of Thompson’s men climbed into one ditch filled with corpses and pulled out a three-year-old boy whom they flew to safety.

A Pattern of Brutality

While a horrific example of a Vietnam war crime, the My Lai massacre was not unique. It fit a long pattern of indiscriminate violence against civilians that had marred U.S. participation in the Vietnam War from its earliest days when Americans acted primarily as advisers.

In 1963, Capt. Colin Powell was one of those advisers, serving a first tour with a South Vietnamese army unit. Powell’s detachment sought to discourage support for the Viet Cong by torching villages throughout the A Shau Valley. While other U.S. advisers protested this countrywide strategy as brutal and counter-productive, Powell defended the “drain-the-sea” approach then — and continued that defense in his 1995 memoirs, My American Journey.

After his first one-year tour and a series of successful training assignments in the United States, Maj. Powell returned for his second Vietnam tour on July 27, 1968. This time, he was no longer a junior officer slogging through the jungle, but an up-and-coming staff officer assigned to the Americal division.

By late 1968, Powell had jumped over more senior officers into the important post of G-3, chief of operations for division commander, Maj. Gen. Charles Gettys, at Chu Lai. Powell had been “picked by Gen. Gettys over several lieutenant colonels for the G-3 job itself, making me the only major filling that role in Vietnam,” Powell wrote in his memoirs.

But a test soon confronted Maj. Powell. A letter had been written by a young specialist fourth class named Tom Glen, who had served in an American mortar platoon and was nearing the end of his Army tour. In a letter to Gen. Creighton Abrams, the commander of all U.S. forces in Vietnam, Glen accused the Americal division of routine brutality against civilians. Glen’s letter was forwarded to the American headquarters at Chu Lai where it landed on Maj. Powell’s desk.

“The average GI’s attitude toward and treatment of the Vietnamese people all too often is a complete denial of all our country is attempting to accomplish in the realm of human relations,” Glen wrote. ”Far beyond merely dismissing the Vietnamese as ‘slopes’ or ‘gooks,’ in both deed and thought, too many American soldiers seem to discount their very humanity; and with this attitude inflict upon the Vietnamese citizenry humiliations, both psychological and physical, that can have only a debilitating effect upon efforts to unify the people in loyalty to the Saigon government, particularly when such acts are carried out at unit levels and thereby acquire the aspect of sanctioned policy.”

Glen’s letter contended that many Vietnamese were fleeing from Americans who “for mere pleasure, fire indiscriminately into Vietnamese homes and without provocation or justification shoot at the people themselves.” Gratuitous cruelty was also being inflicted on Viet Cong suspects, Glen reported.

“Fired with an emotionalism that belies unconscionable hatred, and armed with a vocabulary consisting of ‘You VC,’ soldiers commonly ‘interrogate’ by means of torture that has been presented as the particular habit of the enemy. Severe beatings and torture at knife point are usual means of questioning captives or of convincing a suspect that he is, indeed, a Viet Cong…

“It would indeed be terrible to find it necessary to believe that an American soldier that harbors such racial intolerance and disregard for justice and human feeling is a prototype of all American national character; yet the frequency of such soldiers lends credulity to such beliefs. … What has been outlined here I have seen not only in my own unit, but also in others we have worked with, and I fear it is universal. If this is indeed the case, it is a problem which cannot be overlooked, but can through a more firm implementation of the codes of MACV (Military Assistance Command Vietnam) and the Geneva Conventions, perhaps be eradicated.”

Glen’s letter echoed some of the complaints voiced by early advisers, such as Col. John Paul Vann, who protested the self-defeating strategy of treating Vietnamese civilians as the enemy. In 1995, when we questioned Glen about his letter, he said he had heard second-hand about the My Lai massacre, though he did not mention it specifically. The massacre was just one part of the abusive pattern that had become routine in the division, he said.

Maj. Powell’s Response

The letter’s troubling allegations were not well received at American headquarters. Maj. Powell undertook the assignment to review Glen’s letter, but did so without questioning Glen or assigning anyone else to talk with him. Powell simply accepted a claim from Glen’s superior officer that Glen was not close enough to the front lines to know what he was writing about, an assertion Glen denies.

After that cursory investigation, Powell drafted a response on Dec. 13, 1968. He admitted to no pattern of wrongdoing. Powell claimed that U.S. soldiers in Vietnam were taught to treat Vietnamese courteously and respectfully. The American troops also had gone through an hour-long course on how to treat prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions, Powell noted.

“There may be isolated cases of mistreatment of civilians and POWs,” Powell wrote in 1968. But “this by no means reflects the general attitude throughout the Division.” Indeed, Powell’s memo faulted Glen for not complaining earlier and for failing to be more specific in his letter.

Powell reported back exactly what his superiors wanted to hear. “In direct refutation of this [Glen’s] portrayal,” Powell concluded, “is the fact that relations between American soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent.”

Powell’s findings, of course, were false. But it would take another American hero, an infantryman named Ron Ridenhour, to piece together the truth about the atrocity at My Lai. After returning to the United States, Ridenhour interviewed American comrades who had participated in the massacre.

On his own, Ridenhour compiled this shocking information into a report and forwarded it to the Army inspector general. The IG’s office conducted an aggressive official investigation and the Army finally faced the horrible truth. Courts martial were held against officers and enlisted men implicated in the murder of the My Lai civilians.

But Powell’s peripheral role in the My Lai cover-up did not slow his climb up the Army’s ladder. Powell pleaded ignorance about the actual My Lai massacre, which pre-dated his arrival at the Americal. Glen’s letter disappeared into the National Archives — to be unearthed only years later by British journalists Michael Bilton and Kevin Sims for their book Four Hours in My Lai. In his best-selling memoirs, Powell did not mention his brush-off of Tom Glen’s complaint.

MAM Hunts

Powell 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 American’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.

Source: Consortium News

Originally ran in 1996.

  1. john mason says

    John Kerry shot Vietnamese civilians from his patrol boat and ended up as US Secretary of State. Who says that crime doesn’t pay. Kerry, Powel and quite a few others should have faced the gallows.

    1. Annr says

      Kerry is a jew. Jewish satanists control US military. Ref Colonel Aquino incharge of psychological operstions at The Presidio. A high priest of satanism and the temple of Set. The US of Israel is a vehicle for jewish supremists.

      1. Tzvi says

        silly person J. Kerry is not Jewish. He would hover not be accepted into your ugly SS division because he is not pure “aryan” stock:

        “John’s paternal grandparents were Austro-HungarianJewish immigrants who converted to Catholicism”

        Are some Jews evil? H3ll yes, and I say this as a Levite, look at many Atheist/ communist Jews and the Reform Conservative fake jews and real Apostates…

        When God sorts this out, not many of the evil ones will be left, ( the wars before Gog and Magog) not as many of our non-jewish bothers and sisters will survive either. Then we have a nice final battle, and then finally SHALOM. ( wholeness, real peace, a nickname for God, not PAX).

  2. ken says

    Soldiers from ALL nations commit atrocity. Buddies get killed in battle and the rest go nuts. It turns from war to mass murdering revenge.

    Put men into a war and shit is going to happen. In every war you got the clowns like Powell that want to use it to advance their positions. They egg the rest into doing things they might never have done.

    The ones to blame are those that sent them to fight a war that was a lie. Kids out of high school that could not even vote or legally drink alcohol were whisked off to the killing fields by corrupt politicians and corporations making dollars off of lives. They’re still doing it. Back them it was the Reds,,, today its the terrorists.

    The civilian population in the US for the most part just ignored what the politicians were doing. Completely brainwashed by the media they allowed their sons and daughters to march off and be killed. Only the student protests helped stop the war. Even when it was finally public that the Gulf of Tonkin was a lie,,, Americans did nothing to punish Washington.

    It was the same in NA/ME. Lies and more lies to march kids off to war. The FF Nine Eleven was the lie that again killed thousands of Americans and “the new enemy”.
    Americans beguiled by the media whores stand by and let government kill their sons and daughters telling them they fought for their freedoms. Look around folks,,, See any of your freedoms in this now covid fascist country.

    And today the pump is being primed to war with China and maybe Russia. Same old shit. Same folks in Washington. Same story,,, Americans fighting for their values and freedoms which today they have very little of either.

    You want to stop it,,,, Stop sending men to battle. Shit will happen. Stop believing every damn thing government says. Send the damn politicians to battle. I remember Saddam Hussein offered to fight baby Bush and he allowed Bush to choose weapons. Of course cowardly Bushed just laughed him off as did America that sent their sons and daughters to die and be maimed. Saddam manned up,,, Bush the coward slithered away.

    As I say,,, The best government is no government….

    1. dr. Jack V. Banks says

      Since 1776 the U.S. have been involved 90% of time in different WAR’s. All on foreign land, so you can call this zionist traitor regime a “WarMonger”…

  3. guest says

    In 1960 South Vietnam was an independent country. Then America decided to help South Vietnam. After enduring 15 years of help from America, South Vietnam ceased to exist.

    To this day many of these Vietnam thank-a-veterans are proud of themselves for participating in tuning South Vietnam into a communist country. (go figure)

    1. Dark Heart says

      Name one. Before you start, I was there too.

      1. TZVI says

        My father (a Gulf of Tonkin Yaht Club member ’72-’73) always told me stories of how the politicians messed everything up. Drafting barely functional humans with mild retardation, playing politics with civilian and military lives alike, the South Korean answer to interrogating captured “vietcong”, etc.

        A FUBAR war led by FUBAR people. Proud of his service, yes, proud of the war, heck no!

  4. nnn says

    There is a warm place for him in hell

  5. steve kastl says

    West Point sociopath like all our generals. Normal people don’t want to kill civilians, just our military academy graduates, like Austin, Miley, Powell, ……..

  6. Rebel Forever says

    CP should have died in prison, and should have shared a cell block with Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Hillary, Albright, Rice, Obama, Biden, et al. But these cockroaches (other than the dead Rumsfeld), continue to enjoy life on lavish government (on the backs of taxpayers) pensions and get paid $50k to $200k per speech, bragging on themselves. Oh well, the next life for them won’t be too cushy.

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