Skip to content or view screen version

(US) "brand" - My Lai, Nicola, and the psychosis of genocide

Verite Sparks | 17.03.2005 08:59 | Anti-militarism | Repression

The concept of brand is the problem.
Viewing a nationality as a product goes to the core of the basic problem issue of a psyche that believes that ownership and marketing is all.
Ownership of responsibilty is surrendered.........

Second USUK Falluja massacre - AFP
Second USUK Falluja massacre - AFP

"brand" - a hot-iron marking inflicted on dumb animals denoting ownership...

Given their body levels of lead, PCBs, fluoride etc, who on earth would want to eat an American ?

The concept of brand is the problem.
Viewing a nationality as a product goes to the core of the basic problem issue of a psyche that believes that ownership and marketing is all.
Things exist only to be sold. A most serious case of Das Kapital on the brain that threatens our limited planet.

What the rest of the world sees is a deluded, uneducated people who have resigned their power to a corporation, usually part of the arms/oil cartel, where monetary profit is at any cost is the primary raison d'etre.
This resignation is aptly illustrated in the message from earlier today.. looking at the psychological mechanism of those who commit genocide for the industrialised killing machine of the USA and the part played by the US media.

Date: Thu, 17 Mar 2005 10:10:56 +1300

MEDIA LENS: Correcting for the distorted vision of the corporate media

March 16, 2005


How Do You Shoot Babies?

Facing execution for his role in the murder of more than 1 million people, many of them children, Auschwitz commandant, Rudolf Hoess, reflected on his life and works:

"Today, I deeply regret that I did not spend more time with my family." (Hoess, 'Auschwitz, The Nazis and the Final Solution,' BBC2, February 15, 2005)

Hoess of course lies at the extreme end of the spectrum, but his inability to recognise the extraordinary horror of what he had done is by no means exceptional. Mike Wallace of CBS News interviewed a participant in the American massacre of Vietnamese women and children at My Lai.

"Q. You're married?
A. Right
Q. Children?
A. Two.
Q. How old?
A. The boy is two and a half, and the little girl is a year and a half.
Q. Obviously, the question comes to my mind... the father of two little kids like that... how can he shoot babies?
A. I didn't have the little girl. I just had the little boy at the time.
Q. Uh-huh... How do you shoot babies?
A. I don't know. It's just one of those things." (Quoted, Stanley Milgram, Obedience to Authority, Pinter & Martin, 1974, p.202)

One of the delusions promoted by our society is the idea that great destructiveness is most often rooted in great cruelty and hatred. In reality, evil is not merely banal, it is often free of any sense of +being+ evil - there may be no sense of moral responsibility for suffering at all.

We are all familiar with the words that typically accompany the shrug of the shoulders when someone is asked: "How could you do it?" Time and again during the war on Iraq we have heard obviously well-meaning US and British military personnel insisting that they were just doing their jobs. A typical response is: "I'm just doing what I'm paid to do."

Repeated often enough, these responses can even come to seem reasonable. But consider, by contrast, these comments made by US soldier Camilo Mejia who refused to return to his unit in Iraq after taking leave in October 2003:

"People would ask me about my war experiences and answering them took me back to all the horrors - the firefights, the ambushes, the time I saw a young Iraqi dragged by his shoulders through a pool of his own blood or an innocent man was decapitated by our machine gun fire. The time I saw a soldier broken down inside because he killed a child, or an old man on his knees, crying with his arms raised to the sky, perhaps asking God why we had taken the lifeless body of his son. I thought of the suffering of a people whose country was in ruins and who were further humiliated by the raids, patrols and curfews of an occupying army.

"And I realized that none of the reasons we were told about why we were in Iraq turned out to be true... I realized that I was part of a war that I believed was immoral and criminal, a war of aggression, a war of imperial domination. I realized that acting upon my principles became incompatible with my role in the military, and I decided that I could not return to Iraq." (Mejia, 'Regaining My Humanity,'

Normally, the implicit assumption is that signing a contract and being paid to do a job absolves us of all further moral responsibility. We have signed an agreement to do as we are told - an ostensibly innocuous act. If the people with whom we made this agreement then choose to send us to incinerate and dismember civilians, that is +their+ moral responsibility, not ours.

The psychologist Stanley Milgram noted that this is a classic evasion used by people unwilling to accept responsibility for their own actions:

"The key to the behaviour of subjects [willing to torture and kill on command] lies not in pent-up anger or aggression but in the nature of their relationship to authority. They have given themselves to the authority; they see themselves as instruments for the execution of his wishes; once so defined, they are unable to break free." (Milgram, op., cit, p.185)

Other studies, on the psychology of torturers, have come to similar conclusions. Lindsey Williams, a Clinical Psychologist, notes:

"...apart from traits of authoritarianism and obedience, and ideological sympathy for the government, there is little evidence that torturers are markedly different from their peers - at least, until the point where they are recruited and trained as torturers." (Williams, Amnesty, May/June 1995, p.10)

The +fundamentally+ immoral act, then - the disaster that clears the way to vast horrors in the complete absence of a sense of responsibility - is the simple one of accepting that we are obliged to 'do as we are told'.

But in our society exactly this self-surrender is promoted and affirmed by the fact that it is demanded of us by every corporation that 'employs' us (like a tool), requiring us to sign our agreement to strict terms and conditions, and by the fact that massive costs are imposed on those of us unwilling to be 'team-players'. In 1937, Rudolf Rocker wrote:

"It is certainly dangerous for a state when its citizens have a conscience; what it needs is men without conscience, or, better still, men whose conscience is quite in conformity with reasons of state, men in whom the feeling of personal responsibility has been replaced by the automatic impulse to act in the interests of the state." (Rocker, Culture and Nationalism, Michael E. Coughlan, 1978, p.197)

The "Gushing" Phenomenon

Like military personnel, corporate journalists also sign themselves over to authority. Individuals may come and go but, year after year, in an all but unvarying pattern, reporters end up demonising official enemies and prettifying their own government's crimes. Like military personnel, they view what happens next as someone else's moral responsibility.

In January 2003, Media Lens wrote to BBC presenter Fiona Bruce asking her why she had described the build-up of troops in Kuwait as being "to deal with the continuing threat posed by Iraq". Bruce replied simply: "I'll forward your point to the news editor - thank you." (BBC 18:00 News, January 7, 2003. Bruce, email to Media Lens, January 7, 2003)

But if we refuse to accept responsibility for the very words that come out of our mouths, have we not lost our humanity? The result, very often, is that other people lose their lives.

ITN's John Irvine recently reported on "the hermit state" of North Korea where people celebrated the birth of the country's leader in a "display of people in perfect unison - cynics might call it Come Dancing, or else!" (Irvine, ITV 22:30 News, February 16, 2005)

The North Korean people, it seems, had been "treated to hours of gushing television" in honour of the leader. "When it comes to propaganda", Irvine concluded, this is a broadcaster beyond comparison."

There are ugly ironies here. The first, of course, is that British TV viewers are also familiar with the "gushing" phenomenon. When Baghdad fell to US tanks on April 9, 2003, British journalists gushed uncontrollably. The BBC's Rageh Omaar, for example, reported his first sight of the invading army:

"In my mind's eye, I often asked myself: what would it be like when I saw the first British or American soldiers, after six years of reporting Iraq? And nothing, nothing, came close to the actual, staggering reaction to seeing American soldiers - young men from Nevada and California - just rolling down in tanks. And they're here with us now in the hotel, in the lifts and the lobbies. It was a moment I'd never, ever prepared myself for." (BBC News At Six, April 9, 2003)

It was to these same young men that ex-Marine Staff Sergeant Jimmy Massey was referring when he said:

"It sickened me so that I had actually brought it up to my lieutenant, and I told him, I said, 'You know, sir, we're not going to have to worry about Iraq - you know, we're basically committing genocide over here, mass extermination of thousands of Iraqis...'"

An hour after Omaar's report, the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, told Channel 4 news presenter Jon Snow that he had met with the French foreign minister that day: "Did he look chastened?" Snow asked, wryly. (Channel 4, April 9, 2003)

On the same programme, Washington correspondent David Smith pointedly ended his 'piece to camera' on the fall of Baghdad by quoting "a leading Republican senator":

"I'm just glad we had a commander-in-chief who didn't listen to Hollywood, or the New York Times, or the French."

John Irvine, himself, declared: "A war of three weeks has brought an end to decades of Iraqi misery." (Irvine, ITN, 18:30 News, April 9, 2003)

This at the height of an illegal invasion based on a set of outrageous lies in which literally tens of thousands of Iraqis were being killed.

The deeper irony is that Irvine's comments on North Korea were made from the heart of the West's own propaganda system - a system that consistently demonises official enemies in exactly this way. In April 1950, a US National Security Council Directive stated:

"The citizens of the United States stand in their deepest peril," being threatened with the "destruction not only of this Republic but of civilisation itself" by "international Communism". (Quoted, Mark Curtis, The Ambiguities of Power, Zed Books, 1995, p.43)

The threat was a fraud. Privately, former Under-Secretary of State and future Deputy Secretary of Defence Robert Lovett pointed out (March 1950): "If we can sell every useless article known to man in large quantities, we should be able to sell our very fine story [regarding the communist 'threat'] in larger quantities." (Ibid, p.44)

In May 1985, Ronald Reagan declared a "national emergency" to deal with the "unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States" posed by "the policies and actions of the Government of Nicaragua". (World Court Digest,

Nobody laughed!

In September 2002, Tony Blair declared in his foreword to "the British dossier assessing weapons of mass destruction in Iraq":

"It is unprecedented for the Government to publish this kind of document. But in light of the debate about Iraq and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), I wanted to share with the British public the reasons why I believe this issue to be a current and serious threat to the UK national interest." ('Full text of Tony Blair's foreword to the dossier on Iraq,' The Guardian, September 24, 2002)

John Morrison, an adviser to the parliamentary intelligence and security committee and a former deputy chief of defence intelligence, told the BBC: "When I heard him using those words, I could almost hear the collective raspberry going up around Whitehall." ('Official sacked over TV remarks on Iraq,' Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, July 26, 2004)

Morrison was sacked for his honesty. A year later, Blair is up for re-election, while his 'retired' spinmeister Alastair Campbell recently appeared on the quiz show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Campbell has also been quietly 'welcomed back' into the New Labour fold.

Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh, Panama's Noriega, Nicaragua's Ortega, Cuba's Castro, Haiti's Aristide, indeed any leader or movement obstructing Western corporate or strategic interests, have all been reflexively demonised by journalists who are always happy to rally to their leaders call without a second thought.

The companion to media demonisation is the hagiolatry of Western leaders and apologetics for their crimes. Thus Simon Tisdall writes in the Guardian:

"Groundbreaking elections in Afghanistan, Ukraine, Palestine and Iraq, extolled in President Bush's 'dawn of freedom' inaugural address, have encouraged western hopes that democratic values are gaining universal acceptance." (Tisdall, 'Bush's democratic bandwagon hits a roadblock in Harare,' The Guardian, February 16, 2005)

On the BBC's main news, Clive Myrie describes America as "the champion of democracy", referring to "a role call of newly-minted democracies." (Myrie, BBC1, 13:00 News, February 23, 2005)

A Warning To The Curious

We need to be clear that the commandant of Auschwitz did not for one moment see himself as evil or destructive. Nor did the troopers at My Lai. And nor, of course, do our well-heeled, well-educated, Oxbridge journalists. They may have tempers and egos - they are surely not mass murderers.

But journalists who reflexively reinforce an authorised, Manichean view of the world - a world made up of "humanitarian interventionists" ('Us') and "Monster States" {'Them') - +are+ utterly vital cogs in the machinery of industrial killing. It makes not one jot of difference that no actual blood is visible on their hands.

The 2nd century sage, Nagarjuna, made the points that matter:

"Not doing harm to others,
Not bowing down to the ignoble,
Not abandoning the path of virtue -
These are small points, but of great


The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. In writing letters to journalists, we strongly urge readers to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.

Write to Simon Tisdall

Write to John Irvine

Please also send all emails to us at Media Lens:

This is a free service. However, financial support is vital. Please consider donating to Media Lens:

Visit the Media Lens website:


And further illustrated by a message from yesterday....

Original Message -----
From: David Broatch
Sent: Wednesday, March 16, 2005 11:54 AM
Subject: Fw: Avoiding a My Lai moment.. the attempted killing of Giuliana Sgrena

"The My Lai massacre, which took place on the morning of March 16, 1968, was a watershed in the history of modern American combat, and a turning point in the public perception of the Vietnam War. "
( )

With the attempted murder of the freed Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, as the US tries to admit that chaos rules in Iraq, whereas we must consider that there was a concerted attempt to avoid a My Lai moment .... where more horrific evidence of the USUK Falluja massacres would be unleashed on the anti-war majority in the home of Berlesconi - one of Bush's Prime Poodlers. The next logical step is to consider if the kidnapping was actually a rogue or worse, a non-rogue US contractor/mercenary P2OG type action in itself, that would take the ransom and still achieve its end of silencing the reporter.

In December 2004, as Christians as usual were diverting themselves with Christmas, USUK forces were preparing for an episode that will live in human history as a crime which exceeds the mindless murder, torture and rape that took place at My Lai, Vietnam, on March 16th, 1968, unleashing a sophisticated armoury of DU, cluster bombs and other WMD. This is the great USUK war crime that Sgrena had written about.
This was to be the second USUK massacre at Falluja, a city originally home to approximately 300,000 people.
The horrific history is comparitively well recorded and speeds around the globe via the internet. Now, in the days of digital media, we already know what happened.
With My Lai, it took about a year for the truth to fully emerge and longer still for middle America to come to terms with the reality of how their hard earned tax dollars were being spent and ending up as profits for the arms/oil cartel that runs US "foreign policy."

With the USUK Falluja massacres, we still wait for the psychological protection of denial to wear through.

The other noteworthy difference........
My Lai was a revenge for a few US troop deaths in the area, as was Falluja, for the well documented slaughter of four US mercenaries there - but the elevated level of the commanding personel responsible and associated planning at Falluja cannot be denied. The scale of operations, the forethought, such as the restrictions placed on allowing Iraqi native males between 16 and 60 years of age to leave prior to the opening of the full scale attack on this civilian target cannot be hidden......
whereas at My Lai there seems to have been some protection for commanders in the belief that the My Lai savagery was somehow a spontaneous, mass hysteria on the part of field troops at the bottom of the ladder. There are reports that some US marines managed to avoid taking part.

Only one US minor officer eventually faced charges and was jailed for 3 months.
Now the scene of this US attrocity on th South Central coast of Vietnam attracts visitors from all over.
See some photos at

I wonder how long before we have package tours to the scene of the USUK massacres at Falluja, and if those survivors too are waiting still for compensation.

As a Vietnam veteran, TIM O'BRIEN has written in his essay written in 1994, The Vietnam in Me, we are reminded that the second USUK Falluja massacre is not that much greater in scale, if we look at the bigger picture of what was happening in Vietnam, and we are reminded of the conditions of a native guerrilla war that promote the insane responses..........

" like most other grunts in Alpha Company, I knew next to nothing about this place -- Vietnam in general, Quang Ngai in particular. Now I'm learning. In the years preceding the murders at My Lai, more than 70 percent of the villages in this province had been destroyed by air strikes, artillery fire, Zippo lighters, napalm, white phosphorus, bulldozers, gunships and other such means. Roughly 40 percent of the population had lived in refugee camps, while civilian casualties in the area were approaching 50,000 a year. These numbers, reported by the journalist Jonathan Schell in 1967, were later confirmed as substantially correct by Government investigators. Not that I need confirmation. Back in 1969, the wreckage was all around us, so common it seemed part of the geography, as natural as any mountain or river. Wreckage was the rule. Brutality was S.O.P. Scalded children, pistol-whipped women, burning hootches, free-fire zones, body counts, indiscriminate bombing and harassment fire, villages in ash, M-60 machine guns hosing down dark green tree lines and any human life behind them.
In a war without aim, you tend not to aim. You close your eyes, close your heart. The consequences become hit or miss in the most literal sense.

With so few military targets, with an enemy that was both of and among the population, Alpha Company began to regard Quang Ngai itself as the true enemy -- the physical place, the soil and paddies. What had started for us as a weird, vicious little war soon evolved into something far beyond vicious, a hopped-up killer strain of nihilism, waste without want, aimlessness of deed mixed with aimlessness of spirit. As Schell wrote after the events at My Lai, "There can be no doubt that such an atrocity was possible only because a number of other methods of killing civilians and destroying their villages had come to be the rule, and not the exception, in our conduct of the war." "

( "

It is the close up and personal killing, the deliberate aim and the specific instance that makes Falluja the high risk My Lai moment that could endanger the prime raison de guerre, the flow of profits to the arms cartel.

Verite Sparks. 13 mars 05
Checkpoint or no checkpoint ?

The Guardian seems to be sure there was.,2763,1438372,00.html
The news comes amid a continuing row over the death of Italian secret service agent Nicola Calipari, who was shot dead by US troops at a checkpoint in Iraq on March 4. Calipari was accompanying a freed Italian journalist, Giuliana Sgrena, to Baghdad airport when US soldiers fired on their car. The US troops said the car had been speeding towards the checkpoint; Ms Sgrena and the car's driver denied this.

Claims that the USUK forces had no knowledge of the rescue is contrary to the information given in this item
Targeting Guiliana
Former US Air Force Intelligence officer

The top U.S. general in Iraq, Army gen. George Casey, has stated that the US had no indication that Italian officials gave advance notice of the route of the vehicle in which Giuliana Sgrena and slain officer Nicola Calipari were riding. As a former Air Force intelligence officer, I would argue that this statement is absolutely ludicrous. Based upon intelligence collection capabilities of even 3 decades ago, it is reasonable to assume that the US intercepted all phone communication between Italian agents in Iraq and Rome, monitored such traffic in real time and knew precisely where Sgrena's vehicle was at all times, without advanced notice being provided by Italian officials.

During the early 1970s, it was my job to monitor intelligence collected on the Korean peninsula. It was my responsibility to report serious anomalies to the White House by means of a secure phone.

At that time, satellite photographic collection capability was in its infancy; however, the joke, often told at briefings, was that while "we can identify a golf ball anywhere on planet earth, we cannot tell you the brand." In addition to satellite photography, I would assume, as in Korea, that there would be numerous other sources of photography from "manned" and "unmanned" aircraft that are regularly positioned over key areas, such as the airport in Baghdad, which are capable of providing real time imagery of vehicle traffic.

Work was also being conducted to monitor voice conversation, in real time, by detecting the vibrations that the human voice creates in window panes in a particular room or more easily, in an automobile. But most important, the US, by 1974, had the capability to intercept any and all ground to air phone conversations. It is inconceivable to me that the US would not be monitoring all conversations between Italian agents and Rome, particularly cell phone conversations in a hostile environment where cell phone communications are used to trigger explosives. Are we to believe that in an area near the airport, an area that is intensely hostile according to the US, that they would not be monitoring cell phone signals? Even if such conversations were electronically "scrambled," the position of such signals would be of enormous intelligence value.

One can only assume that the intelligence capability of the US during the past 28 years has improved significantly. Thus, the wrong questions are being asked. It is reasonable to assume that 1) satellite and aircraft intelligence (photographic and electronic) intelligence was being collected in real time and 2) that my contemporary counterpart in Iraq was monitoring this intelligence and vehicular traffic (and possibly the conversations within such vehicles) within a radius of several kilometers around the airport if not the entire city. Anomalies would be reported immediately to those in command. The question, then, becomes what communication occurred between those in command and those who fired upon Sgrena's vehicle.

I also believe that a clear motivation for preventing Sgrena from telling her story is quite evident. Let us recall that the first target in the second attack upon the city of Fallujah was al-Fallujah General Hospital. Why? It was the reporting of enormous civilian casualties from this hospital that compelled the US to halt its attack. In other words, the control of information from Fallujah as to consequences of the US assault, particularly with regard to civilians, became a critical element in the military operation.

Now, in a report by Iraq's health ministry we are learning that the US used mustard, nerve gas and napalm ­ in the manner of Saddam ­ against the civilian population of Fallujah. Sgrena, herself, has provided photographic evidence of the use of cluster bombs and the wounding of children there. I have searched in vain to find these reports in any major corporate media. The American population, for the most part, is ignorant of what its military is doing in their name and must remain so in order for the US to wage its war against the Iraqi people.

Information, based upon intelligence or the reporting of brave journalists, may be the most important weapon in the war in Iraq. From this point of view, the vehicle in which Nicola and Giuliana were riding wasn't simply a vehicle carrying a hostage to freedom. It is quite reasonable to assume, given the immorality of war and of this war in particular, that it was considered a military target.

Jerry Fresia is a former US Air Force intelligence officer. He now lives in Italy.

Verite Sparks