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Investigation into the massacre at My Lai revealed the warped perceptions that enable soldiers to kill.


During the Vietnam War, American soldiers engaged in several massacres of the civilian population. The best known and most horrific of these, at the village of My Lai, was the subject of several judicial investigations. The interrogation records express in grotesque terms the soldiers’ perception that they were killing enemies. The following extract gives us a flavor:

  • A: I held my M-16 on them.
  • Q: Why?
  • A: Because they might attack.
  • Q: They were children and babies?
  • A: Yes.
  • Q: And they might attack?
  • A: They might have had a fully loaded grenade on them. The mothers might have throwed them at us.
  • Q: Babies?
  • A: Yes.
  • Q: Were the babies in their mothers’ arms?
  • A: I guess so.
  • Q: And the babies moved to attack?
  • A: I expected at any moment they were about to make a counterbalance.

— Harald Welzer, Climate Wars

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