'Big guys' should apologize for My Lai massacre

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A public apology should be made by US leaders who permitted the massacre of women and children in the Vietnamese village of My Lai during the Vietnam War, an American doctor and former marine said.

"I believe... the people who should apologize are the leaders that almost gave them permission. Those people should apologize," said Dr. Allen Hassan, author of Failure to Atone: The True Story of a Jungle Surgeon in Vietnam.

Dr. Hassan was referring to the statement made two weeks ago by former lieutenant William Calley that he was "very sorry" for the killings that occurred on March 16, 1968 in the hamlet of My Lai in Quang Ngai Province.

The massacre began when men of Charlie Company under Calley's command opened fire on civilians during a "search and destroy" mission in My Lai and neighboring villages. The people they killed were mainly old men, women and children, all unarmed, as most of the younger villagers were working in the fields.

The exact toll of the massacre is still disputed, but US estimates suggest that between 347 and 504 defenseless villagers were slaughtered that day.

According to testimony at Calley's trial, the lieutenant himself was in the thick of the killing within the village and in a nearby irrigation ditch.

But Dr. Hassan told Thanh Nien when he flew in to Ho Chi Minh City late Tuesday that Calley was just a "little, old lieutenant following the orders from the big guys."

"So the big guys should apologize," he said.

"Those people should have said 'We apologize for the terrible crimes'."

Damages must be paid

Failure to Atone describes the atrocities, horrors and intimidation Dr. Hassan witnessed in Vietnam. In the book, he notes that most casualties of modern war are not soldiers, but rather civilians.

The book was published in Vietnamese in 2007 by First News-Tri Viet Publishing Company as Khong The Chuoc Loi.

A former US Marine Corps Sergeant, Hassan's experiences as a doctor in Vietnam at the height of the Vietnam War turned him into a pacifist.

Back in Vietnam almost three years after the book's publication, Hassan said reparation had to be made.

"At every turn I try to speak out to say, "We owe Vietnam damages,'" he said.

"There's no statute of limitations on war crimes. In other words, war crimes can be prosecuted fifty, sixty years after the war."

He leaves for the United States on Saturday.

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