Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Sorry Doesn't Cut It

Hearing the name William Calley always brings two images to my mind. First, the photo of some of the dead at My Lai in March of 1968:

And then, the cover of Esquire Magazine in November of 1970.

William Calley is the Army Lieutenant who ordered his men to kill unarmed elderly people, women, and children in the village of My Lai during the Vietnam War. At least 300 souls died that day.

Last month Calley, at a Kiwanis Club meeting in Columbus, Georgia, apologized, sort of, for what happened that day saying:

"There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai, I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry.”

Then, according to the article in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer,:

"When asked if obeying an unlawful order was not itself an unlawful act, he said, 'I believe that is true. If you are asking why I did not stand up to them when I was given the orders, I will have to say that I was a second lieutenant getting orders from my commander and I followed them — foolishly, I guess.' Calley then said that was not an excuse; it was just what happened."

So, the man feels guilty about what happened that day but still insists he was just following orders. You can't give an sincere apology unless you accept responsibility for your own actions. Calley's words show that he is still that insensitive, ignorant buffoon who had his photo taken back in November of 1970 with children who could be mistaken for some of his innocent victims. His apology rings hollow for me. Plus, I'm not sure that any "me culpa" he makes can atone for what he and his men did that day back in 1968. It was just too horrific of a crime.

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