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October 29, 2013

My Lai, Sexual Assault and the Black Blouse Girl: Forty-Five Years Later, One of America’s Most Iconic Photos Hides Truth in Plain Sight

Looking back at the Vietnam war and the iconic photographs that mark that era, how is it that the American public knows about the “Napalm Girl” but no one knows or speaks of the My Lai “Black Blouse Girl?” And what does it mean that, forty-five years later, even though her experience was publicized by investigative reports and Congressional testimony, what happened to her – reflected in this famous photo – remains hidden in plain sight?

The My Lai Massacre captured public awareness largely due to the 1969 public release of graphic photographs taken by Army Photographer Ronald Haeberle. Since the release, viewers have been captivated by the visceral emotion expressed on the face of the woman in the foreground of the photo below (published in 1969 by Life magazine). According to Life’s caption of the photograph, these villagers were “huddle[ed] in terror moments before being killed by American troops at My Lai.”

While the My Lai Massacre is widely recognized as a military atrocity and an act of mass murder committed on civilians and non-combatants, true appreciation of the event as an act of mass rape and sexual abuse has never clearly materialized in the American consciousness, in spite of public data and testimony shortly after the massacre happened. Media presentation of the photograph of the Black Blouse Girl mirrors this amnesia.

By reading the image closely, you can see that the teenager in the right background is buttoning up her blouse. It’s a curious action. Why would she be preoccupied with a button while the other people in the photograph were terrified of being killed? Why was the button undone to begin with?

Testimony from the 1969-1979 Peers Inquiry solves the mystery of the button: the image actually captures these women and children in the moments between a sexual assault and mass murder. In his inquiry testimony, Haeberle explains that a group of soldiers were trying to “see what she was made of,” and that they “started stripping her, taking her top off,” Additional testimony from the investigation confirms this.

According to testimony of Jay Roberts, the Army Journalist who had accompanied Haeberle that day, the soldiers were calling the teenager “V.C. Boom Boom”—the colloquial term for a Vietcong prostitute during Vietnam. Continuing, Roberts revealed that the older woman appears so anguished because she was trying to protect the girl from being assaulted by the soldiers. Roberts stated that the older woman, who he presumed to be the girl’s mother, had been “biting and kicking and scratching and fighting off” the group of soldiers. The emotion on the face of the older woman in the foreground is not one of passive terror.

Once the soldiers noticed the photographer and journalist, they ceased the assault. Haeberle later recalled that after walking away, “I heard an M-60 [machine gun] go off, and when we turned back around, all of [the women] and the kids with them were dead.”

The 1969 Life magazine article confirms the testimony of Haberle and Roberts, but the article minimizes the sexual violence reflected in the photograph by captioning it on the first page with reference only to the killing. Details of sexual assault and rape only appear on the second to last page of the accompanying article, six full pages away from the photograph.

The article states that Haeberle and Roberts “watched while troops accosted a group of women, including a teen-age girl” (italics ours).  The article notes that one GI started stripping the girl, that another was telling her that “she was a whore for the Vietcong,” and that a third was saying, “I’m horny.” The description also provides context for the behavior of the older woman in the foreground, relating that she tried to help the girl by “scratching and clawing the soldiers.”

News coverage of the massacre and Haeberle’s photographs during the Vietnam War era included reference to the sexual assault. Based on interviews with Jay Roberts, Seymour Hersh described the details of the assault in 1972, noting that GIs singled out the girl in the black blouse, “started to pull at her blouse” and “attempted to fondle her breasts.” He describes the presumed mother as “fighting off two or three guys at once” to try to protect the girl.

To understand why the photo has become generalized, one needs to understand how the role of rape and sexual violence at My Lai has been downplayed and noted only generally, the significance slipping away with the years.

What happened to the Black Blouse Girl was not the only incident of sexual violence that happened at My Lai. In their historical overview of the massacre, James Olson and Randy Roberts compile information about sexual violence from the Peers Inquiry to produce a list of 20 acts of rape based on eyewitness testimony. The victims documented on this list ranged from age 10-45. Of these women and girls, nine were under the age of eighteen. Many of these assaults were gang rapes and many involved sexual torture. This list does not even include attempted rapes, such as the assault of the girl in the black blouse, and given that most witnesses were killed during the massacre, we may only guess at how many other women and girls experienced sexual violence in the final minutes before their deaths.

Despite the prevalence of sexual violence and ample documentation, not one of these rapes was prosecuted, according to Susan Brownmiller, who has written a history of rape and rape laws in U.S. culture. Perhaps the failure to prosecute is one reason that the traditional media has increasingly downplayed or omitted sexual assault at My Lai, mentioning it only in passing or not at all.

The two prominent PBS documentaries made about the massacre, the 1989 Frontline episode, “Remember My Lai,” and the 2010 American Experience episode “My Lai,” do not make the connection (though a Vietnamese woman in the Frontline episode mentions rape). Both of these documentaries include extensive interviews with Haeberle talking about the photograph.1 However, he never mentions the sexual assault. He simply describes the soldiers gathering the women and children together and their subsequent murder. This is despite the fact PBS had access to the Peers Inquiry final report.

More specifically, there isn’t one instance where the photo has been captioned to reflect the assault and, apart from the original LIFE article, there hasn’t been one instance where the photo has been both presented and explained to include the sexual assault. The Cleveland Plain Dealer, in the first publication of the photo, omitted any reference to it. The 2010 American Experience episode neglected it in its accompanying web-based slide show. The My Lai Massacre Wikipedia caption of the photo ignores it. And even the caption to the photo in the My Lai Museum in Vietnam fails to address it:

“The last moment of life of villager women and children under a silk cotton tree before being murdered by the U.S. soldiers.

Bag Caption: Here is the photo as it appears in the gallery accompanying the 2010 “American Experience” documentary, “My Lai.”

The U.S. media has continued to reference the photo generically right up to this year’s forty-fifth anniversary of the massacre this past March. In fact, featured the photo prominently again this Spring as part of an anniversary feature. The caption?

Vietnamese villagers, including children, huddle in terror moments before being killed by American troops at My Lai, Vietnam, March 16, 1968.

Given the known sequence of events surrounding the picture, what the photo appears to show (with the exception, apparently, of the young girl back left) are the villagers traumatized but seeming to ease slightly from the immediate aggression of the assault and the fight between the older woman and the soldiers.

A woman is holding the older woman from behind, but she is less restraining her than she is holding, protecting, and perhaps attempting to comfort her. Notice her hands are not tight, but slack. In the background, someone (it seems like a man if that is, in fact, a bald spot) is touching, maybe stroking and trying to comfort the young girl clutching to him. The fact he looks down at her also suggests the tension has eased for an instant.  As for the older woman herself, her eyes seemingly still angry, she appears more filled with anguish than anger now, her arms retracted into her body and her attention, along with several of the others, directed to our left, as if trying to re-orient her attention. And of course, there is the Black Blouse girl, behind and protected by the others from whatever is happening to our left, buttoning her blouse back up.

So we ask again: what are we to make of the informational erasure surrounding this iconic artifact of US history, one that indicates sexual violence in the plain light of day? And why is it that most Americans readily recognize the “Napalm Girl” but not the “Black Blouse Girl?”

– Valerie Wieskamp

Valerie Wieskamp is a PhD Candidate in Rhetoric and Public Culture at Indiana University, Bloomington. Her research focuses on issues of power, gender, violence, and social movements in visual, media, and political culture.


[1] Valerie Wieskamp “Sexual Assault and the My Lai Massacre: The Erasure of Sexual Violence from Public Memory of the Vietnam War,” in Mythologizing the Vietnam War: Visual Culture and Mediated Memory, eds, Jennifer Good, Val Williams, Paul Lowe and Brigitte Lardinois (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Forthcoming December 2013).

  • BamaGuy1024

    Seeing and reading this just devastated me. It brought the full horror of My Lai and the Vietnam war back to me. I was 16 years old when this happened and could not believe America, my country, was doing these things. It propelled me into being an activist and protester of the Vietnam war and (facing the draft) I was determined not to be a part of it. And here we are today, as Ike Eisenhower feared, dependent upon war for our economy – involved in insane wars not unlike Vietnam but with an all volunteer military force that uses remote controlled drones which is even more obscene than Vietnam. Where is the outrage today? We need the draft back so that members of Congress children, and the children of the wealthy have to go fight and die along with the underprivileged and unemployed and poor. Where is Jane Fonda when we need her?

    • Alchemist

      I have a simpler solution…what we “need” is to stop war. Period. Glorifying war and soldiering has become a full-time obsession, preoccupation and 75% of the American budget. For what?

  • Marie

    Thank you for bringing this image to our attention. I was the age of one of those toddlers when this picture was taken, but I don’t remember having seen it before. It’s a stunning piece of documentation. It’s a punch in the gut to imagine their experience witnessed by the image. It needs to be seen (and correctly seen) more widely.

    I sometimes despair that sexual assault will be taken seriously. It’s “only” violence against women, so “who cares?”, right? It’s hard enough for society to take rape seriously when it happens to a young girl at a party. It’s even harder when it’s surrounded by other atrocities. It’s a uniquely personal and devastating experience for the person(s) suffering it, but seems to be so much a part of the larger sweep of war that we often don’t even see it or acknowledge it. But it’s a part of our history (and present). We need to see it.

  • Janis Edwards

    I have no doubt that sexual assault was widespread and has been implicated in this My Lai depiction. But I can think of at least three reasons the connection has been downplayed in contrast to the Trang Bang photo that you mention. First, the photo of villagers running from Trang Bang was printed immediately in many daily newspapers with a clear story about U.S. malfeasance. The My Lai photo came long after the event and was not so widely published while we were immersed in events. (Not to mention the rersistance to believing the event actually happened.) Second, I have to say the blouse buttoning is rather ambiguous. It could be read a number of other ways, including non-sexual manhandling from being “rounded up,” So, I’m not sure I agree with the tone of outrage. But I appreciate the background information. Third: Clearly, dropping napalm on a friendly village fits a narrative of the failures of national leadership in Vietnam (Trang Bang is often identified as a picture that turned public sentiments against the war.) A story about rape by servicemen–the “bad apple” idea– does not fit this narrative at all. Nor does it fit the alternate narrative of Vietnam that values the soldiers and derides the anti-war movement. The only place for it is a larger, anti-war narrative, which, sadly, hardly anyone embraces at this time, and which hold our “hero” soldiers responsible for atrocities…again, the “bad apple.” Until a connection can be found where the story of this photo fits an acceptable prevailing narrative, it’s likely to stay submerged, especially compared to Nick Ut’s Trang Bang photo.

    • Branan Edgens

      Very well put. I’d add a fourth reason: Whether you agree or not most people were more shocked by the allegations of murder which, for many people, trumps rape in terms of it’s evil. IOW, the murders which punctuated this series of waking nightmares was worse than anything proceeding it. Agree or disagree it is how many people will respond, the logic being, “at least a rapist leaves you with your life”.

    • My War Too

      eyewitnesses reported that the girl had been sexually assaulted. so much for ambiguity. not agreeing with the “tone of outrage” indicates that maybe the dumbing down and numbing up of americans has succeeded. your calm evaluation of these atrocities is nauseating. sorry to say- and the fact that you are a woman makes it even less imagineable.

  • pinkville

    I was part of the same unit — the 31st Public Information Detachment, 11th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division — in 1968-69 that Haeberle belonged to. This kind of disgusting abuse of civilians was not isolated, it happened many times. I suggest that the author of this excellent article look up CWO Hugh Thompson on Wikipedia. In addition, the brigade commander, Col. John W. Donaldson and his peers in Chu Lai murdered civilians from helicopters just for sport. I have photos of this. Colin Powell (name sound familiar?) was at our base, LZ Bronco, while a lot of this was going on.

    • Valerie Wieskamp

      Thanks so much for your feedback. I’ve actually come across Hugh Thompson elsewhere in my research. He truly was amazing — especially since, as you mention, abuse of civilians was so common. I hadn’t come across the Chu Lai incident yet. I’d be interested in hearing more about your experiences, if you’d be willing. Would it be okay if I contacted you?

    • tskiens

      I was a grunt in the 11th LIB. On march 16, 1968 I was on patrol with C 4/3 approx. nine to twelve miles west of the village complex. I have walked that ground on more than one mission during my tour. I share the pain for the Brigade responsible for that massacre if for no other reason than I served under her colors. It is best here to deal with facts; this site has over 24 hours of documents, videos and grunt speak on the subject of My Lai. Please study before you decide who was to blame.

    • Jon Adams

      Noam Chomsky said the same thing. He said that anti war groups did not descend upon the My Lai incident because such incidents were COMMONPLACE.

    • B Caracciolo

      Many veterans are hiding/covering up the truth of these commonly occurring atrocities- it’s the “Big Secret”. However, many have spoken out- it began with the returning veterans who organized VVAW (Vietnam Veterans Against the War)- with their Winter Soldier and Dewey Canyon hearings. But they were essentially silenced/ignored. A good read on this is “Home to War” by Gerard Nicosia.
      Americans MUST be better than all this…one way is begin protesting war with a vengeance and dissuading our children from joining. Period.

    • My War Too

      Thank you for stepping out and correcting some of the ongoing misinformation and cover-up involving, not only My Lai, but the sexual abuse of non-combatants during the American war in Vietnam in general. Welcome home.

  • Stan B.

    Is it really that surprising when we still have so much denial about sexual assault within our own ranks to this very day over four decades later? If we don’t even value the White women in our own military, how are ‘enemy’ women of color on the battlefield going to stand any chance?

  • aSouthernMan

    Like BamaGuy, I recall trying to figure out how American soldiers could even

    accept this horror – And if it was really true. Sadly it was. The people I

    knew that returned – the ones that saw combat – never wanted to talk about
    any detail – just that they had seen “a lot”. Not that they could have been
    the type of person who would participate in something as terrible as My Lia,
    but how could _anyone_ ? Still no answer for that, but ‘Hello Vietnam’ eased
    the pain somehow – it was just a screwed up world I guess. To me, Jane was

    not helpful – the VC were from the North and were raping / murdering civilians

    (women, children) in the South at will at the very same time. One quote from

    that time really stood out: “What if they gave a War, and nobody came?”
    One can wish. Thanks for the story, it’s still hard to look at even now.

    • aSouthernMan

      pls excuse My Lai typo

    • Anh

      “To me, Jane was

      not helpful – the VC were from the North and were raping / murdering civilians

      (women, children) in the South at will at the very same time”

      Honestly It’s really Ridiculous.

  • Nina Berman

    Thank you Valerie and Michael.

  • quax

    Maybe it is because “Napalm Girl” girl survived and the Napalm bombing is a less personal crime, one that doesn’t so clearly indict US soldiers as barbaric killers.

    • Alchemist

      Napalm is 2000 degress of jelly that burns through skin to bone through skin. If that isn’t “barbaric” I’m not sure what is. Whether from the sky or the barrel of a rifle- it’s murder and it’s personal.

  • Christine Lorenz

    Link to Cleveland Plain Dealer image is broken.

  • John R Brodie JP

    Politics is the route to evil and it hastens that role with the constant corruption of justice.

  • stevelaudig

    american exceptionalism, in deed. Indeed.

    • Jon Adams

      that term just makes me gag. It is so obscene.

  • GPR3million

    Leads you to wonder how many assaults like this happened during the campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    The American public gets up in arms over gang rape incidents that happen in places like India, but seems to be perfectly content to just sweep those same kinds of incidents under the rug when they occur at the hands of the US military.

    • Jon Adams

      I was in Iraq in 2004 with my national guard unit. We had a lot of access to the internet. For some assinine reason Blackwater mercenaries thought it was just peachy keen to put up videos on youtube —- showing how they murdered Iraqis on the highway for sport.

  • Jon Adams

    Noam Chomsky has stated that anti war groups did not make a big deal about My Lai, because they ALREADY KNEW that these rapings and killings by American soldiers were commonplace in Vietnam.

    • Alchemist

      “Already knew”? Then there is more support for what they were doing, right? Their objective was to topple Nixon’s war machine- end the war- bring Americans home.

  • tangenjill

    Shine the light.

  • freedom71

    Its just heart breaking that man creates war, and we all suffer because of it, how can sit in our counties and allow our governments to support war’s. Seems like all governments are just out to get their own needs and not for the best of the people. Sexual abuse I believe can be the leading reasons why there are so many social issues, and the scary part is, if there is so many, who are the abusers, these American soldiers would of went home heroes, how can they live with themselves. Americans werent the only ones…War is a waste of space and time. Come on our next generations bring some peace and humanity to this world…I know one thing, i’ll do my best to help them….

  • TheRealThunderChild

    I hope whoever brutalised and killed these people see those faces , every night, and in every waking moment, until they die.
    I hope NOTHING assuages their guilt. Nothing.
    If he will not stand up, and confess , then it is the very least he deserves.

    • Alchemist

      You are right about that. Somewhere in that mess that is the life of a Vietnam veteran, is the knowledge that these atrocities indeed occurred AND that they may have very well participated- the “pack” mentality. It isn’t any wonder most do not wish to “talk about it”. Ghosts.

    • pennyroyal

      yeah, read Robert McNamara’s maunderings. He never took responsibility. Any more than Bush/Cheny/Rumsfeld

  • rolsonnm

    When we fully understand that “War is Institutionalized Rape”
    We may be able to curb one of our most base pathos.

    The need to forcibly dominate has become sanctioned by the society.
    And our collective media memory, like a mirror of the mind,
    erases that which it cannot admit too.

    Thank you for the article.

  • Giselle62

    I don’t read or see a lot about war; but it’s clear that war and rape go hand in hand; but almost anytime a man kills a woman, he rapes her first, even in “peacetime”. That sounds kinda harsh, I know.. Humans have a long history of this, what’s really weird is that’s probably how much of the human population spread so quickly all over the globe!
    War is rape is violence is war. And I wanted to say how Agent Orange was a rape of the land that the soldiers carried back with them, in their bodies. I blame greed, hate, and obedience to those in power.

    • watermelonpunch

      It’s not harsh, just reality. But it’s more apt to say that sex is unfortunately biologically linked to violence, and there’s a very good evolutionary reason for this.
      Just go to a search engine & type in the words violence sexual arousal evolution, and see how there’s been much research on the subject. And it completely makes sense that reproduction would skyrocket to the top of immediate biological priorities, when faced with potentially imminent mortality.

      Obviously this does not excuse violence of any type, and certainly not rape.
      But until we can discuss it as a society, in a scientific manner, the issues involved in basic physical issues of human sexuality, it will remain a pitfall of armed conflict, which nobody wants to discuss — ever.

      Much like the fact that people don’t talk about the real reason most victims of child molestation “don’t tell”, and why many rape victims feel such profound shame.

      Until we can, as a society, discuss morality in context of PHYSICAL sexual responses, we will be stuck in this position of always framing everything sexual in a purely moral context, and never addressing the reality of the human experience.
      As long as people continue to believe that what arouses them sexually, or gives them an orgasm, is a purely spiritual & moral defining of them, we will continue to have ordinary people who insanely commit extraordinarily awful acts in horrible situations, and ordinary people who are victims of sexual crimes who feel completely on the outside of normal humans.

      I truly believe we can prevent a lot of sexual crime by acknowledging human biological responses and feelings as SEPARATE from criminal acts.

      When I read this part:
      “and that a third was saying, “I’m horny.”

      My first thought was that most people reading that sentence are going to be blinded by anger, disgust, and abhorred beyond belief.
      My second thought was that most people reacting that way don’t know that that is actually PERFECTLY NORMAL human response to being in a highly violent situation.
      And that it’s superbly sad that we can’t talk about this openly.
      That it has to be hidden in plain sight, but never analyzed outside the context of what happened, and assigning moral blame to individuals.

      I can’t help but wonder how many rapes in the context of war could’ve been prevented by someone in charge telling young soldiers that the sexual arousal they experienced was normal, at the same time making it clear that criminal acts were not acceptable.
      My guess is that many ordinary soldiers behaved in extraordinary ways they didn’t themselves understand, because of issues of their own bodies that they were not even aware of, and no one cared enough or had the sense or understanding themselves, to address these issues as what should be part of basic military training.

      Rape is not a women’s issue. It’s a societal problem of the human species.

  • Kathy Shaidle

    The “girl in the picture” was napalmed by the Vietnamese Air Force. It was a Vietnam vs Vietnam “battle” — no Americans were involved.

    • Mark Halfmoon

      It was American napalm that was dropped on these people. The planes that dropped it were American made and supplied to the Vietnamese Air Force, who were also trained by Americans and were led to their targets by American radar and intel.

    • pennyroyal

      who supplied the training and jets and jet fuel for the napalm drops. Who supplied the napalm?

  • rolsonnm

    Kathy…followed your link to your self professed conservative web page full of the glen becks of the world with their goebbels/limbaugh.

    Obfuscating the dialog with “no Americans were involved” is really rather disgusting. These Euphemisms, like “collateral damage”, are the language of the rapist/war monger to avoid their victims. The victims know very well their names and the names of those in their communities.

    3 choices for Trauma…heal, internalize, or externalize.
    Face Facts and work at Healing,
    Avoid Truth through Internalization, the path of the neurotic. (re-traumatize myself)
    Avoid Truth through Externalization, the path of the perpetrator. (re-traumatize others)

    The Giant Pink Elephant in the Room is…America too frequently chooses the path of re-perpetrating our societal & personal trauma on others.
    Read up on the Psychology of Boot Camp and examine the tools being used to change the minds of our bravest and finest. Hardly Healing. There is a reason they draft at 18.

    • pennyroyal

      Why is the US the only nation to have dropped not one but TWO nuclear bombs in wartime??
      Even now the military and conservatives insist it was necessary, although more recent findings of that time in Japan, undercut this argument.
      What’s the effect on our young people growing up now seeing a president oversee killings using drones. A family with children just was in DC this week, with the daughter and son asking why their innocent mother in a field was assassinated. Won’t our young people be inured to violence and willing to do what they are told?

  • eliz77

    War is state organized terror. War trainers brainwash the young and susceptible into killers. That destroys morality. How can anyone condone sending in our teens to rape and kill for the weapons manufacturers? But we do. How can anyone who claims to be religious kill? It is against all the teachers. Some of the books talk about killing heretics, but not the teachers. For example, the Old Testament is full of righteous killing and rape, while in the New Testament, Jesus teaches to love your enemies and don’t kill or be judgmental. Not a lot of so called Christians paying attention to that one around here.

  • Michael Shaw

    I’m asking that the comments not lose focus on the photo.

  • jakiken

    The same thing is going on today in the Middle East; in fact, any place where troops are deployed, you will find incidence of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation. Rape is just the tip of the iceberg. And while we associate these types of crimes with men, I’m sure there are female troops who are just as guilty of exploitation, if not actual rape and abuse.

  • Iconoclast

    Never trust a military force. People who join the military (of any country) are those who have no other choices. They are poorly educated, mentally unstable, sadists or egoists and they are the ones who we tell to shut up and obey and we’ll take care of you the rest of your lives. The USA had better stop pulling up the dregs of society and giving them guns because we will see the day they turn on us with those weapons.

  • Fanna

    They get away and have gotten away with so much…………..but they’re time will come ….as God is most Just and forever watchful!

  • thetruth

    the truth of the matter is that this type of things still goes on with the US occupying any country. the fact is you will not know the true extent until 40 years later when everyone involved is dead or beyond the reach of justice

  • Erica

    If it’s any consolation, I don’t know who Napalm girl is either. I was born in 88…

  • wildthang

    War is a rape of one country by another, Iraq is such a case. Nick Turses’s book “Kill Anything That Moves” has more such incidents all in the military report he uncovered and never mentioned or dealt with at all and various witness follow up interviews by the author yet Bush told the Vietnamese we should have stayed there fighting valiantly on for what again? And where was he hiding at the time? Accountability for Abu Graib didn’t go any higher than the lowliest low hanging fruit as scapegoats not much different than My Lai Then there is the many lies for war to also be accounted for.(kind of like the rapes of Nanking?)

    wait, wait there is more: 148451/surprise_–_the_very_dark_side_of_u.s._history


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  • ibi sum

    The assumption is made that the blouse is being buttoned up. I believe it may as well have been otherwise. Presumably the photographer is the source of information about what is actually happening, but the one thing that strikes me most about this photo, and the subject it invokes is that this womans simple gesture need not strike further pain.

    Her hands, covering herself, and the association of this particular human act, that of using clothing, may as well be the imprint of rape if we are honest.

    In the fight against rape culture, we can of course make new enemies towards we direct our ire .. right here and now, my opinion is that if something consequential is to happen about rape culture, the elephant in the room is going to have to be the fashion world, and the marketing world, and how stimulative response at the cultural level needs to be addressed by individuals working socially.. all of this can be seen in a set of hands, some rag, and skin.

    The fact is, social institutions which encourage violence of any and all forms, need to be dissuaded from maintaining the attention of our youth. Life is violent. Life is also non-violence. Only the living can agree on this truth. If we want rape culture to go the way of typhoid, we must address the malls, shopping streets, tv commercials, and many other so-called ‘essentials’ of the modern western experience, such as .. say .. hard-core pornography .. where the virus breeds.

    • 37 Pieces Of Ric Flair

      If we want to address rape culture and war rape, we need to go beyond blaming the marketing and indulgence in fashion, shopping, etc, and get to the root of why men need to aggressively dominate, commodify, sexualize, and pornographically fetishize everything having to do with girls, women, and femaleness. We need to allow women to be human beings, without any of the burdensome male sexual perspective forced to the forefront of our lives. Women and girls should live as people, without so much of the male desire and sexual requirements thrust violently and pervasively onto us. So much so that, whatever about us a man wants to fuck takes precedence over our every decision, big or small.

      Our sexual appeal to men ALWAYS has to be at the forefront of our minds, every single fucking day, from the time we are young girls. Show me a girl of any age in any part of the world who has been permitted to walk around alone for longer than a few days, and I will show you a girl who has been sexually intruded upon by a man or boy, or several. Those are your fellow male humans, and they are predatory beings to women and girls in ways you can only imagine. And it begins in our childhood. Most of them do it openly, and the rest do it behind your back. Men’s job to change this is to tell other men to stop. Tell them over and over until they do. Then have them tell other men.

      Whether it’s by revolution, violence, or a peaceful truce, men dominating women/defining our sexuality for us/dictating our lives via threat of violence and rape is going to end. How is entirely up to men.

      It’s exhausting for women and girls to live their lives defined as “non-males”, and it is going. to. end. It is ending now. Men cannot watch the news and claim not to see the awareness of rape culture growing. Men cannot say they weren’t warned, and I think they ought to prepare one another for what is coming. The lives of women will less and less be defined by the human male genitalia.

      TL;DR: Men can either be part of the problem or part of the solution.

  • terryshiau

    Ho Chi Min told a captured U-2 pilot to go back and tell your president ‘why are you fighting us when we are doing what you did 200 years ago fighting for your independence and unifying the north and south.’ He made a declaration of independence of Vietnam in the jungles in the presence of the pilot. Ironically, it was based on the American Declaration of Independence.

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  • kneesus

    We’re trying Nazi’s still, where’s the justice for these people?

  • hiko73

    TIL it’s the little things in photos you miss that can actually help you understand what is going on, this photo is so heartbreaking. RIP

  • nanabuuui

    Reading about the history of the massacre on Wikipedia. A lot of the people directly responsible for the massacre and killings had the charges dropped, or they were acquitted. Oh, to be a privileged white male, fighting a war in a third-world country. Let them lie about their intentions and orders. Yes, that whole, “let’s be a badass” mentality. I hope they burn for the crimes they have committed. And you know what? I don’t feel bad for the men who committed suicide. Good for them. They recognized their mistakes.

  • guess

    @8f4e04d013bfdf5610724de5cb7f93a2:disqus Yes what we need to do is stop war. But I believe war is never going to end. Its a part of the human race. The leaders of the world loves it because without war the world would be over populated. Without war there would be no news to distract us normal living people from the real stuff and things that our leaders are really doing.. basically everything is about $$ and our leaders dont give a f**k because they are not the ones going to war, they are not the ones losing any $$, etc… the ones that are losing is the working class. we are losing our loved ones, $$, everything just so the rich can get richer…. and they dont give a f**k about nobody else

    • guess

      Oh, also without war the rich and the world leaders wont be able to control us.. they use war in order to control us, to make the people want to go to war.. they use words and symbols to control us all….

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  • Shilo Rives

    This just goes on and on. I’ve been through 4. I can pretty much be sure that it never happens the same way twice, but it sure happened a lot.

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  • beachhutman

    Now perhaps Old Etonian historians will look into whether the Americans would sacrifice a good percentage of future generations of children under Monarch programming. And Why they would do that. And then why the Brits would do it too. We had a chance of peace and sentience but someone found a way we would HAVE TO do this. or else anyone for all we know could do this to us. Mobius strip. “beachhutman” on twitter explains.

  • scratchy888

    Of course there is always more violence present than any picture or story can tell.

  • bookish

    I had no idea this had occurred.

  • Edgie

    It’s Ok because they wrote Miss Saigon which is “historically” accurate, so what more do they need to hear? All is forgiven. eye rollllllll….

  • TattooedLittleMiss

    It disgusts me when journalists stand by while stuff like this happens. Incidents in Rwanda, the Congo, Vietnam, etc proved that when journalists watch, when cameras are pointed at them, soldiers and even genocidal mobs hesitate. Journalists can save lives by being vigilant and keeping cameras trained on the right people.

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  • Nguoi Viet

    Dont forget the communist has been the master of telling lies! I have doubt that sexual assault or gang rap covered on the black blouse gỉl. You guys look at her… If she was suffered from sexual assault or gang rap, how can she keep her blouse and…pants intact? Didnt she put up any resistance and soldier (or soldiers) politely undressed her to satisfy their lustful hunger?
    The photo is sheer political propaganda.

  • Dale

    I really appreciate this article. Thanks to the author.

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  • Edookator

    What happened in My Lai was not the first time the US Army committed such evil act. It’s become a “proud” tradition of the US Army. Remember the massacre in Sand Creek CO on Nov 29 1864? More than 100 women, infants, children were raped, scalped, and slaughtered by nearly 700 soldiers under the command of Col. Chivington, an ordained Methodist minister!

    So, why a “Godly” man like Chivington committed such an evil act against the innocent. Did the church teach him that? While the question remained unanswered, we know one thing: the US government has NEVER held those committed atrocity accountable. In the contrary, the government has done everything possible to cover up these evil acts as if it is condoning or promoting atrocities against non-white people. After all, to those white Americans, the Vietnamese were only a bunch of gooks and their lives means nothing to them.

    Atrocities committed by the US armed forces carry a strong component of racism in them. To this extent, the US armed forces have committed government-sanctioned ethnic cleansing acts. But the level of hypocrisy in the American society is so deep, American people don’t even know what the meaning of “moral” is. They go to church but their souls are soaked in the pool of blood of the innocents they have killed, directly or indirectly!

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  • beachhutman

    I understand the photographer of the napalm girl iconic photo later married her.
    I am in the yoke of a similar asymmetric battle against the nazification of the intelligence world with Monarch programming. I have the perfect poster girl for the story I have uncovered, but the subject is toxic enough already, and to use someone for a story is almost as bad as not using someone for a story. Sometimes the rise or fall of human values remains in the minds of truly white knights who would sacrifice themselves or their story for their families, loved ones or just another human being. To make a story of a dead person these days can betray a person, a family, a connection, a source, a reputation,
    a time or a place which given a moments thought might not or would not have happened.
    And when it comes to culpability of the actors at the time I can make a fair argument after a decade of thought that Mengele, whom I met in context with Monarch programming in the UK, being himself programmed to fit the need for trauma based research, must surely have lacked then and whenever used , his men srea . WE as consumers of images need to know a significant percentage are bogus, deliberately so by Monarch Programming.
    I have examples, it would stand as proof if considered with an inelegant heaviness of being. I apply an image found by searching through a film frame by frame that I knew an Ambassador anxious about his daughter would see. I have mentioned this elsewhere, the important point is there is an almost infinite stock of such images that can be pressed into service to inhibit or disinhibit another person and the orchestration of this is Monarch programming..the name anyway by which I know it. There is only one word visible in this Balthus inspired frame…which for cover presumably occurs in another innocent film from the same source, that word is “Pat” which whilst not giving anything away, shows the picture with photoshop can be used for any such balkanisation or reverse of an Ambassador. Or whatever. I am not a mind reader.

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  • Alchemist

    Those who raped and tortured, pulled the triggers are to blame. Abusing and murdering unarmed civilians in cold blood is a choice.

  • AnaK

    I hope by ‘who was to blame’ you don’t suggest the villagers were.

  • Alchemist

    Frankly, I find that odd. Chomsky was involved somewhat peripherally with the VVAW (Vietnam Veterans Against the War) when it was organized- much of their objective was to bring these atrocities to light in the Winter Soldier and Dewey Canyon “hearings”. Maybe the civilian “anti-war” groups like SDS- but certainly not returning veterans. However, they were marginalized/ignored/blown off and received little or no press. They were terribly underfunded and many, sadly, were unwell having received NO treatment or care from the VA or the government that sent them there.

  • Alchemist

    The VC were not raping and murdering civilians in the South! Their objective was to liberate their sourthern brothers and sisters form the invaders- Americans!! Yes, collaborators got a rough ride, but the objective of the NVA and VC was to run the Americans out of their country. WE were the bad guys! Get it?

  • quax

    It’s a barbaric weapon, no doubt. But if applied from afar it’s similar as with all the US drone strikes. The ‘operators’ don’t actually have to look at their victims faces. Shooting women and children from close proximity is yet harder to stomach and requires even more dehuminization.

  • Jon Adams

    I believe Chomsky was referring to the Quakers and a few other groups. But I do remember that statement. He was underlining the fact that people knew that “My Lai” was commonplace during the Vietnam War.

  • Kathy Shaidle

    Oh bruther.

    The US spends 20% of the budget on defense, not 75%. Step slowly away from the Chomsky aisle in the bookstore.

  • Joseph A. Clark

    Yes, it’s so simple that it’s ridiculous. The League of Nations outlawed war, you see what the result was? Japan, Germany, Italy, all ganged up on the rest of their spheres of influence. 1931, Japan annexed Manchuria, then Korea, bombed the hell out of China, and continued to expand. Germany started annexing the smaller countries in Europe before they attacked Poland in 1939. So, how are you going to enforce this “stoppage” of war? What makes you think that just because everyone lays down their weapons, sits around the campfire and sings “Kumba Ya” together, that there aren’t wolves out there still planning to take over this new group of sheep. Peace would be wonderful, but it won’t happen as long as there are people out there who will rise up to take power where they can. That’s how Lenin did it, how Hitler did it, and how every other tin-pot dictator the world has seen has done it.

  • Guess

    Yes, war needs to end, but war is not going to end. Its a part of life, or you can say its a part of the human race. The leaders of the world uses war in order to control the the minds of the people. maybe they use it to kill off the population because we are over populating. But really I think war is just used as an excuse to take all our $$ and control us all…

  • Dirty Hippy

    Check out Death and Taxes. Then realize that you need to add in the costs of things like Veterans Affairs, GI bill, domestic nuclear deterrence and you will see it starts to become about 52% of our budget is dedicated to the practice of war.

  • pennyroyal

    the United States of Denial has trained our brains not to see, not to admit, not to do critical thinking. Kathy, you might try looking at the evidence with an open mind.

  • Guest

    That chart includes entitlements. We pay into those via FICA and are not part of general revenues and the discretionary spending those fund…. despite the fact that congress effectively borrows from it to pay for everything else. The defense budget is over half of the discretionary budge, so 75% is definitely a stretch…. HOWEVER, given that the U.S. spends nearly 40% of the TOTAL military spending of the planet, and that the our only serious potential rivals, Russia and China have a COMBINED defense budget of less than half ours…. and when you consider that the majority of the big defense nations are actually our ALLIES and the total of their defense spending is more than 3 times the spending our our rivals…. well, the exaggeration seems excusable. Arguably, we could cut our defense budget in half and still be completely secure, but we’ll never do it because it is our biggest corporate welfare program.

  • leehester

    The defense budget is over half of the discretionary budget, which is what really matters, so 75% is definitely a stretch…. HOWEVER, given that the U.S. spends nearly 40% of the TOTAL military spending of the planet, and that the our only serious potential rivals, Russia and China have a COMBINED defense budget of less than half ours…. and when you consider that the majority of the big defense nations are actually our ALLIES and the total of their defense spending is more than 3 times the spending our our rivals…. well, the exaggeration seems excusable. Arguably, we could cut our defense budget in half and still be completely secure, but we’ll never do it because it is our biggest corporate welfare program.

  • jrleftfoot

    should we join you in the Calley aisle?

  • pennyroyal

    yes, some of us have long memories and will never forget that ‘gooks’ were subhuman and could be raped, imprisoned, tortured and slaughtered with impunity. Power corrupts and total power corrupts.
    Look up the Stanley Milgram experiments to see how nice blond college students or young men that age could become vicious murders with no conscience and no human feeling.

  • pennyroyal

    note that is a Christian term, evangelical Christians in the US have a special mission and directive to go out and convert the nations….
    Therefore any means justify the ends.

  • My War Too

    it is rough going down, isn’t it? cognitive dissonance is an american affliction that covers a whole host of subjects.

  • aSouthernMan

    Yes – the guys I knew were talking about collaborator’s. But they were talking about what happened to whole families, not just one. Long time ago, but never forgot what they said (I wasn’t there).

  • A “Liberated” South Vietnamese

    Have you heard of the Tet Offensive? Have you heard of the reconcentration camps? Have you heard of the Boat People? Have you asked the “liberated” South Vietnamese and millions of civilians who risked their lives fleeing Vietnam to save and lose their lives who the “bad guys” were? For years, the Viet Cong were killing innocent Vietnamese, stealing from innocent Vietnamese, terrorizing innocent Vietnamese in the name of Liberation and Communism. What those American soldiers did in My Lai were atrocious and inexcusable, but please also acknowledge the horrible crimes committed by the Viet Cong against their own countrymen, women, and children. Does anyone want to talk about them and bring them to justice?

  • michtom

    The biggest wolf on the planet is the US of A.

  • jrleftfoot

    People like you claiming that war is inevitable feed the machine.As long as there are people like you out there , it will continue to eat our children.

  • AnaK

    As long as humans agree to it. As long as they look for excuses…

  • My War Too

    part of your life, maybe. but it’s not part of ours. we work against it all day every day.

  • AnaK

    That dogma is sold and bought [and all over again] as some mercy program that saves ‘lives’ and face while it is actually the most demonic, soulless mind set of all. You are not clean because the killing machine that implicates the nation as a whole hides their [in]humans. Get it!

  • quax

    Well yes, that’s my point. Drones are supposed to make the killing come easy. Soldiers have to be far gone and dehumanized to kill like they did at My Lai. Drone operators on the other hand drive to work and pull a nine to five like all other white collar workers, and they can easily pretend it’s just like playing a video game. My Lai is so raw because of the intimacy of the murdering.

  • Anh

    Whatever VC did, It’s still better than American solider did in Vietnam War.

    Millions of Vietnamese peoples was killed by American solider, American weapons ( and American puppet. The number of peoples who went to reconcentration camps or boat people just a small number of Vietnamese peoples who has chosen American side in Vietnam War.

    Now you said that It’s crimes or injustice behavior of VC. You have to know that they’re loser. So you expect winner have fair attitude with the enemy who fought with them.

    Do you know what Vietnamese think about Boat Peoples ? Loser and Betrayer. Of course VC is not completely good. They killed many peoples, many civilians are innocent such as family of Vietnamese solider who served for America. But it’s still better than invaders who came from America.

    Sorry for my bad english. I’m not good at EL but I just want to show my opinion as a Vietnamese.

  • My War Too

    it’s all good and well to use the ploy “but, LOOK what THEY did”. it just doesn’t wash. the US “brought” the vietnamese in general to “justice” by destroying their land and poisoning its waters and offspring with the chemicals- agent orange among them- and the still unexploded bombs that litter the land and are maiming and killing people today. is that enough “justice” for you?

  • Phong

    You should ask your father Who is viet cong! and Who is vietnamese? Before give comment!

  • 2Cents

    Vietnamese for both cases. My grandmother’s family had to flee Saigon but couldn’t so they had to stay and my innocent grandfather had to go to rehab camp. Fair? No. Justice? Hell, no. But the war was a cruel thing and people were killed and devastated, THAT is the common truth. Having said all that, just sitting around bad-mouthing your own people after so many years without being able to to jack shiet does not make any Vietnamese here in the US any better. :)

  • John

    Ms. Wieskamp, I do have other images and accounts of rape as well as film references. I am Curator of a very large collection of “imaginative representations of the the Vietnam War. It is a scholarly collection of some 20,000 items with 2000 films alone! But there are all sorts of images embedded in this collection that you ought to know about. I wish you had found us before you were so far along in your research.

    Go to our website at La Salle University in Philadelphia and then to Special collections.

  • A “Liberated” South Vietnamese

    Anh, please do not try to rewrite history.

    Those of us who fled Vietnam had no other choice! We were no “losers” nor “betrayers.” It was the Vietnamese communist government that betrayed its people and brought the entire country of Vietnam into poverty and close to a famine state in the 70s and 80s.

    The North Vietnamese people, contrary to what the Vietnamese communist government had told them, were dumbfounded when they came to the South to find that the living conditions in the South were much better and far more advanced than what they had in the North.

    Those who were tricked into going to the reconcentration camps,, that were supposed to last 10 days ended up with years of hard labor in the jungle, mental torture, malnourishment, and deaths with no hope of getting out.

    We were harrassed, watched, and reported. Our homes and posessions were confiscated. The children were not allowed to go to school or continue on with college after finishing high school. Adults could not find jobs. Millions of city dwellers were forced to move empty-handed to “vung kinh te moi,” translated into “new economic zones” which were synonymous with “living hell” because they were swampy, rough, desolated areas with no electricity and potable water.

    These were the reasons why millions of Vietnamese had to risk their lives to get away from the torturous treatments inflicted upon them by the Vietnamese communist government, their own government, the government that was supposed to liberate the Vietnamese people from foreign dominance and unite Vietnam. They had to plan escapes from Vietnam by boat, by foot, by any means, in search of freedom and a better future. Read more here:

  • My War Too

    Ok, so let’s say it’s 52%. Are you saying that’s alright with you?

  • My War Too

    an answer that only a misogynist could give. “at least…”.

  • My War Too

    the loser and betrayer was the american military command and the white house, department of defense, etc. america had NO business interfering in internal issues in vietnam just as it does NOT in syria, iraq, afghanistan, pakistan, egypt, the ukraine, russia, etc., etc., etc.

  • My War Too

    the “rules” and “tools” of war are constantly evolving. meanwhile- innocent people die. bottom line.

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