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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  April 12, 2017 12:30am-1:01am BST

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washington raises a diplomatic stakes are low in last week's data attack on a rebel held town in syria. secretary of state rex tillerson is in mocks —— moscow to try to persuade assad is not an ally. the white house press secretary sean spicer has apologised for remarks that suggested hitler did not use chemical weapons against his own people. it was said his words were inappropriate and in sensitive. this video is trending. icho ‘s queen elizabeth and her husband prince philip on their visit to as do outside of london. they we re to as do outside of london. they were given the chance to feed the elephants and it was clear that donna the elephant loves bananas. you are up—to—date. stay with us. more from me later. at first, hardtalk. when it comes to seeking justice for some of the wrongs committed
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by american forces, the record hasn't always been that good. my guest today flew into the middle of the my lai massacre in vietnam in 1968 and stopped the wholesale slaughter of vietnamese civilians. it was more than 30 years before anybody even bothered to say thank you. has the us military now learned the lessons it should have done from vietnam? hugh thompson, a very warm welcome to the programme. thank you very much. when you hear allegations of brutality by us troops in iraq, failure to respect the geneva conventions, what goes through your mind? bad leadership. the past and my situation goes through it and wondering, has nothing been learned? how something like this could happen in the present that seems to have happened.
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i don't know to what degree because i don't have the facts, but it shouldn't have happened. in 1991, commanders were told when they went for desert storm, no my lais. that's what i heard general schwartzkopf‘s marching orders were to his officers. that made me feel good because i thought we had learned something and were going forward. and then to get slapped in the face with this is horrendous. do you think there will be a full investigation? you've been part of investigations in the past. i think there will be a full investigation and i think... no cover up? it's out now. see, the situation i was involved in wasn't made public till about 18 months later, from when it happened
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in the united states. this didn't take that long. so it's out there. technology is better and i think there will be an investigation. i think people in the military, their careers are really ruined. i don't think they'll walk scot—free this time, i really don't. when president nixon first commented on the my lai massacre, he said it was an isolated incident. was it? i think it was. i would have a very difficult time with myself if i thought that i was part of something that was done all the time. i didn't see it. innocent civilians do get killed in wars. i don't care what army, what country... but my lai wasn't that, was it?
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no, it wasn't. this wasn'tjust one of those awful things that happen in war time. these were murdered. they were lined up, marched down in a ditch, some of them — 170 of them. and hands above their head and executed. that's not war. that's not what a soldier from any country does. these are murders. were you taught about the geneva conventions? yes, sir. and yet in 1971, a soldier goes before a jury and says he couldn't remember a single army class on the geneva convention. his name was rusty calley. the one man who was found guilty of the my lai massacre. he has...| would say if he says that he has a very short memory. i will not say a lot of emphasis went in those classes. just about everybody who went through basic training had about three 50 minute blocks of instructions. code of conduct, geneva conventions and treatment of... i don't remember what it was called. something like treatment of prisoners. but standards were set?
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i won't say they emphasised them a lot or really delved into it. it was more or less, you know, your ticket had to be punched so you had to go to this class. it wasn't, you know... it wasn't a lot of emphasis being put on it. hugh thompson, march16th, 1968, 36 years have gone past. how clear in your mind are the memories of that day? certain things too clear. other things not clear. what is clear? when you shut your eyes, what do you see? a lot of pain and suffering by a lot of people. i remember the first girl getting killed after i asked help for her.
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how was she killed? medina walked up and blew her away. this is one of the commanding officers on the ground? commanding officer. he shot her at point—blank range? yes, sir. you saw it in front of your eyes? yes, sir, we asked for help for her. and we were just kind of in shock because, by that time, we had already questioned what was going on, or what we had seen happen or seen the aftermath of what had actually happened. but when you landed your helicopter, it started all over again and was still going on? mm—hm. on two different occasions. and then we asked for help and i got a girl killed. and then we asked for help again and we got a bunch of people killed. so it was kind of obvious that
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asking wasn't getting the mission accomplished like i thought it should have been. so these unarmed civilians were being shot right in front of your eyes and at some point you said "enough" and you asked your men to turn their guns on the american soldiers who were doing this? yes, sir. we didn't have any choice. we tried to... ..i wouldn't say be nice and friendly, but we had asked and we were just kind of like a penned animal in a cage, i guess. it's the only way i could think of to get it to stop. if that's what it would take, that's what we would have to do. were you prepared to open fire
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on fellow american soldiers? yeah. you were? i remember that day, i thought, well, you're gonna spend the rest of your life injail. i thank god to this day and a lot of days in between that everybody played it cool and nobody started shooting, ‘cause i'd really hate to have that on my conscience. but it was somethin — we didn't volunteer to do, it was the only way out and i felt we had to take it. you said in one of the reports that a lot of the girls didn't scream too much because they had already had their tongues cut out. a bayonet can kill two real quick if they are pregnant. this is bestiality on an unbelievable scale, isn't it? there was a lot of bad things going on.
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somebody, i guess, who was actually lucky that day was one who just took a round right through the brain. because there was a lot of evil. how do you carry around the memory of that for 36 years? went for a long time just... didn't say anything. and most of the time i'm thinking about it now, i'm talking to a class of students and if...if i can reach one person in that class and make them think to do the right thing, it'll be worth it. do you have any explanation for why presumably previously normal people could have butchered their way through over 500 unarmed civilians on that day?
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i think, i blame the number one cause is bad leadership. negative leadership, bad leadership. but these people killed with their hands, didn't they? some of them did. they killed with bare hands and bayonets and they raped and murdered. how do you explain soldiers doing that? i think the leadership that allows them to do it, negative peer pressure, prejudice. fear. not everybody on the ground that day took part in it. we put i think somewhere around 190 people on the ground. 0nly somewhere between 13 and 18, i've been told, actually took part in what was going on. the others didn't do anything to stop it,
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just kind of turned the other way. they knew what was going on. you could follow where the squads went. this part over here isjust a normal village and this part over here looks pretty bad. when you got it to stop, when you threatened your fellow us soldiers and you got it to stop, you called in assistance, you called in a gunship, you managed to get some children out and some survivors out. i...civilians, there were children with them. there was old men, old women. i remember the one little girl, you know, she was hanging onto her mother's knee. i don't know, she was probably four or six, something like that. got them out.
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that's...| could only see three. when they started coming out, reality started coming in. what in the world am i going to do with these people? i can't leave them here. they're going to die. i can't get them out of there, i don't have the capability on my aircraft. that's when i called a friend of mine in and i said, hey, do me a favour and get them out of the area. you got them out and when you flew back to headquarters, what did you do then? i was very mad. you were crying, weren't you? yeah, crying. screaming. and at people who outranked me, you know, and just lost it. totally. you can't make me fly. to show that you are a pilot, you had a set of wings.
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you wanted to leave? i said i would rip my wings off because i didn't want to take part in this. there was an investigation. i think i thought something had been done. but it was a whitewash because the official army report, the first army report claimed a great victory and said 128 enemies dead and only one american casualty. but they already knew better than that because they had your evidence, didn't they? yeah. the brigade commander had mine. i can't remember... everyone lied, didn't they? all the commanders who were on the ground with the troops lied? that one didn't. there was a report that 20 civilians had been killed inadvertently. that was a straight lie, wasn't it? yes. captain medina lied, as well, and admitted later,
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in the end, that he had lied. this was the man you had seen shooting a girl. his...his scenario when he was in his court martial, they believed his scenario rather than mine, i guess, at the time. you stayed 13 years in the service after that. it wasn't the same, though, was it? as fast as it came up after the court marshalling, it died down. but you were ostracised for a while? for a while. you'd go somewhere and people would disappear? when it first broke and people didn't know the facts, they forgot all about it very soon after it happened. but personally, you paid a heavy price in terms of depression, over the years. a lot of nightmares that you went through. mm—hm.
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four marriages. well, there's been multiple marriages. it's been hard for you to carry around, hasn't it? no. no? no, it's life, you know? you've gotta do it. life goes on. can you ever forgive the people who did that? no. nope, i can't. i don't think i am man enough to. ‘cause i know...| know the pain and suffering that was inflicted for no reason, no reason whatsoever. there was no threat. you know, there was no enemy. now, they might have all grown up to be enemy, but that's not what a soldier does, in any country. it's just not. and when you think of those who walked away from it,
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got on with their lives, had children, set up businesses. they've got to live with themselves. i imagine some of them don't have an easy time. i'm ok with what i did. ijust, you know, know the unnecessary pain and suffering and know how fragile human life is. in 1969, rusty calley, the officer on the ground who was eventually held responsible, was flown back for an identification parade. you were asked to identify him. mm—hm. what went through your mind when you saw that? just, uh... well, i knew i'd seen him and i couldn't remember whether it was at the ditch or the bunker. i knew he was one of them.
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i blocked a lot of that out of my mind. i think that's god's way of maintaining sanity. only 25 officers and enlisted men were prosecuted. only a handful ever came to trial. only one man was found guilty and he served four and a half months behind bars. no, i think three days. three days? and a little bit of house arrest. oh, yeah, he had a lot of house arrest with conjugal visits. now that's a rough life. this was a farce, wasn't it? armyjustice was a farce. in that case. the army justice system is a good system. i do believe, yes, it let us down. i think it let the army down, i think it let the united states down.
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it let you down as well, didn't it? yeah, mm—hm. not many people said thank you, did they? 0h, nbobody did. you got intimidated, you had dead animals left on your porch, threatened by congress. one of the congressmen in the inquiry suggested you should be put behind bars. mm—hm. so you didn't get many thanks from a grateful nation? no, i didn't get any. but it's not the nation's fault. you know, they were... but you stopped the killing and rusty calley had jimmy carter, the then governor of georgia, rooting for him, you had flags flying at half mast on state legislators, you had this man being proclaimed on radio stations as a hero and you, who stopped the killing, were being ostracised. yeah, it makes you think.
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yeah, i had a hard time going into georgia, because that's where calley was being court marshalled. and he's, ithink, originally from florida and i'm a georgian native and i'm hearing my governor on the radio saying, leave your lights on today to show support for lieutenant calley. what's this world coming to? but the people didn't have the facts, that's what it was. you believe something that a high—ranking congressman says. it should be true, but low ranking congressmen were standing off to the side and asking one another, was he in the same room i was in? because they heard that i said there was a massacre and he says, i saw nothing to indicate
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there was any wrongdoing. and it was secret testimony. i couldn't say anything because, believe me, i was under a gag order and i was scared, that i was gonna go to jail. so i wasn't talking to anybody. hugh thompson, you went back to my lai. you went back on the 30th anniversary. there was no official representative from the american government there, was there? not one. uh...| guess i'd be the only representative of the american government there. you met one of the women who survived, several people who survived. mm—hm. what did they say to you? thanked me. one of them came from out of nowhere. you know, we didn't know she was coming. her interpreter brought her up and says, "i want to meet mr thompson".
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everyone was kind of shocked. mr wallace said, "here's mr thompson". she wanted to know why, and i was very upset. i couldn't answer, sorry i couldn't help her. i had always wondered in my mind, did somebody there know that not all americans were crazy and went mad that day? i wonder if they ever knew somebody was trying to help. and, boy, i was real happy when she knew we tried to help. and she thanked me and i told her i was sorry i couldn't help that day and then going through the interpreter was real difficult because they only say, like, half a sentence at a time. and she asked, you know, why didn't the people that had done the killing come back with us?
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and i lost it. you know, ithought, how do you answer this, you know? and i was getting ready to and then she finished the sentence and said, "so we could forgive them". oh my god... it was over with for me right then because itjust tore me up. these people, my enemies, you know have that much forgiveness in their hearts. and i'm not man enough to forgive my own people, who did it. i can't do it. but you lecture. you've lectured at west point, at the naval academy. i call it talking. i don't lecture. and you counsel, veterans. mm—hm. i still work with veterans every day, trying to help them. and what do you tell them about my lai? i don't have to tell them anything. now some of the ones i work with know about it, well, all of them know
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about it now, i guess. they tell me things. i have never talked at a military or a veterans function where anybody had agreed with me. you know, if you get somebody... i'm not... i don't cut down a brigade or soldier. i think a soldier in the army or navy or marine corps is a very honourable profession. these were not soldiers, these were hoodlums and terrorists, disguised like soldiers. no soldier is taught to do that. if he does something like that he's no longer a soldier, because he's not living by the creed of a soldier. you think it's time to remind people of that, given what's been
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going on in iraq? i think very obviously it's time to remind them again. hugh thompson, it's been good having you on the programme. thank you. good morning. cooler, cloudier weather more likely as we head into the easter weekend. there was some sunshine around yesterday. quite warm in the sunshine too. that was in wales. further north, grey and threatening skies we had in stirling, scotland.
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cloudier and warmer in other parts of the uk. that is slowly pushing southwards. we have a westerly breeze, which is dragging in cloud even across england and wales. so temperatures won't be as low as they were last night. the rain, though, is further north and that will push slowly southwards through wednesday. we start with some rain in the central belt. wetter in glasgow than edinburgh. rain for northern ireland. some heavier rain perhaps over the hills of cumbria and lancashire. by nine o'clock it will rain in liverpool and manchester. that rain is on the weather front, but as it head southwards it's a familiar story. the weather front weakens considerably. little or no rain on it to the south. a couple of showers, but some brightness. early sunshine before it clouds over in the afternoon. sunny spells following in behind that weather front in the north. a few showers around and a cool breeze blowing in scotland will take the edge off those numbers. ten in glasgow, 16 in london.
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the weatherfront, no rain on it to help the gardens. it clears away. behind that, for thursday, we are into a cooler north—westerly airflow. it could be a chilly start for many eastern areas of the uk, especially in the countryside first thing. but sunshine in the morning. the tendency for things to cloud over from the west, with gradual moistening up of the air to bring us showers. but a lot of places will be drier further south and east. those temperatures —10—14 degrees. some sunshine and a few showers for scotland on friday. something drier and warmer to the south—east. in between, a cloudier zone, where we are more likely to catch a few showers from time to time. that sums up the easter weekend. it won't be a washout by any means. when the sun comes out, as it will do, it will feel warmer. on saturday, we could have some sunshine and a few showers. we are getting chains of depressions, low pressure pushing our way. for easter day it could be more
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persistent rain across northern parts of the uk and in between the low pressure easter monday could bring us something a bit drier and brighter. i'm going to leave you with this temperatures comparison. easter day, 10—15 degrees. about average for the time of year. quite a bit cooler than we had on christmas day. welcome to newsday. i'm sharanjit leyl in singapore, the headlines: concerns that moscow is hardening its support for syria. us secretary of state prepares for crisis talks with the russian government. it's clear to all of us that the reign of the assad family is coming to an end, but the question how that endds and the transition itself could be very important. he told a press briefing that adolf hitler didn't use chemical weapons. now there are growing calls for sean spicer to resign. i'm
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now there are growing calls for sean spicerto resign. i'm babita now there are growing calls for sean spicer to resign. i'm babita sharma in london. one of germany's top football teams have been deliberately targeted, police say they found a letter at the scene
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