This book examines the response of American society to the My Lai massacre and its ambiguous place in American national memory. The author argues that the massacre revelations left many Americans untroubled. It was only when the soldiers most immediately responsible came to be tried that opposition to the conflict grew, for these prosecutions were regarded by supporters of the war as evidence that the national leaders no longer had the will to do what was necessary to win.
The My Lai Massacre Narrative in American History and Memory
This thesis uses the referent zMy Lai Massacrey to refer to the mythic memory of what happened in Son My on 16 March, 1968. It argues that it is a fitting name for the way it captures the ethnocentrism of the memory in the name by perpetuating an American misnomer rooted in ignorance. It also singularizes the scope of horrors of the day, and fails to differentiate 'the massacre' from the domestic turmoil with which it was conflated. The My Lai Massacre narrative as it currently exists in American history and memory is 'exceptionalist' in that it incorporates and excludes story elements in such a way that casts it as a highly exceptional occurrence. The main argument of this thesis is that American history and memory of the 'My Lai Massacre' have, to a large degree, been defined and shaped by conservative influences. In the time since the news of the atrocities became public this has manifested itself in a number of way and is not confined to conservative histories of the war. Despite the hold liberal orthodox scholarship has on the history of the war, there remains within it, this thesis argues, a conservative trend regarding the massacres in Son My. Reactions, explanations, and rationalizations that appeared in early conservative responses to news of the massacres have survived into a wider ideological spectrum of Vietnam scholarship and memory than that from which it came. Although it seems at first consideration an unlikely event from which a usable past might be constructed, the My Lai Massacre does get used in a didactic manner. This thesis examines some of the most prevalent ways the memory of My Lai functions as a usable past. The My Lai Massacre has been incorporated into a number of 'lessons of the past' that tend to be derived from conservative narratives of the war.
Over the centuries Americans have turned to torture during moments of crisis, and have debated its legitimacy and efficacy in defense of law and order. Tracing these historical attempts to adapt torture to democratic values, Fitzhugh Brundage reveals the recurring struggle over what limits Americans are willing to impose on the power of the state.
See firsthand how war photography is used to sway public opinion. In the autumn of 2014, the Royal Air Force released blurry video of a missile blowing up a pick-up truck which may have had a weapon attached to its flatbed. This was a lethal form of gesture politics: to send a £9-million bomber from Cyprus to Iraq and back, burning £35,000 an hour in fuel, to launch a smart missile costing £100,000 to destroy a truck or, rather, to create a video that shows it being destroyed. Some lives are ended—it is impossible to tell whose—so that the government can pretend that it taking effective action by creating a high-budget snuff movie. This is killing for show. Since the Vietnam War the way we see conflict—through film, photographs, and pixels—has had a powerful impact on the political fortunes of the campaign, and the way that war has been conducted. In this fully illustrated and passionately argued account of war imagery, Julian Stallabrass tells the story of post-war conflict, how it was recorded and remembered through its iconic photography. The relationship between war and photograph is constantly in transition, forming new perspectives, provoking new challenges: what is allowed to be seen? Does an image have the power to change political opinion? How are images used to wage war? Stallabrass shows how photographs have become a vital weapon in the modern war: as propaganda—from close-quarters fighting to the drone’s electronic vision—as well as a witness to the barbarity of events such as the My Lai massacre, the violent suppression of insurgent Fallujah or the atrocities in Abu Ghraib. Through these accounts Stallabrass maps a comprehensive theoretical re-evaluation of the relationship between war, politics and visual culture. Killing for Show offers: 190 photographs encompassing photojournalism, artists’ images, photographs by soldiers and amateurs and drones A comprehensive comparison of the role of photography in the Vietnam and Iraq Wars An explanation of the waning power of iconic images in collective memory An analysis of the failure of military PR and the public display of killing A focus on what can and cannot be seen, photographed and published An exploration of the power and limits of amateur photography Arguments about how violent images act on democracy This full-color book is an essential volume in the history of warfare and photography
Program of the Annual Meeting
Author: Organization of American Historians. Meeting
"Curating and Re-Curating the American Wars in Vietnam and Iraq is about looking for war knowledge in unexpected places, such as war memorials, museum exhibitions, war cemeteries, and novels and memoirs. What one finds there can contradict the prescribed understandings of a particular war or, say, endorse the tendency to treat military personnel as heroes to be thanked. Especially when 'ordinary curators' display memories of their war experiences through the objects left at memorials and graves, or through the words they curate in war novels, the observer/reader gets a glimpse of actual lives lost, futures cut short and even some of the dull noncombat jobs military do in war zones. The main point is that war is a social institution and its experiences are plentiful and decentralized. Many scholars and other interested readers look for war in the decisions and movements of militaries and states, but this book's difference is that it focuses on how a variety of formal and informal war curators present the American wars in Vietnam and Iraq at a moment of American militarism"--
The latest edition in the overwhelmingly popular Great Events from History series, Modern Scandals examines over 400 of the most important and most publicized scandals throughout the world since the beginning of the twentieth century. The essays in this set are 3-5 pages long and follow the same reader-friendly format that users have come to expect from the Great Events from History series.