Wednesday, June 29, 2011

But a photograph is absolute.

Note: I have been neglecting my blog.  I noticed that this was never posted.

My head hurts.  We had a snow day today and work was canceled.  So I spent the whole day looking up anything I could find on Eddie Adams, General Loan, Vo Suu, Howard Tuckner, and Nguyễn Văn Lém.

Believe it or not, there is a not a lot of information out there.  There's a lot of crap too, especially crap that does nothing but reprint what somebody else has said - word for word.  Can't understand that one, I mean, why bother?

There is also a lot of crap designed to present information as factual but in no way shape or form is it real.  For example, the Wikipedia page on Nguyễn Văn Lém, the guy General Loan shot has the following blurb
Though military lawyers have yet to definitively decide whether Loan's action violated the Geneva Conventions for treatment of prisoners of war (Lém had not been wearing a uniform; nor was he, it is alleged, fighting enemy soldiers at the time), where POW status was granted independently of the laws of war; it was limited to Viet Cong seized during military operations.
This one sentence - in a very professional sounding paragraph - is attributed to Major General George S. Prugh (1975). "Prisoners of War and War Crimes". Law at War: Vietnam 1964-1973. Vietnam Studies. United States Army Center of Military History. Retrieved 2006-10-24.

Well I went to the link listed.  This statement was not there.  I even went to the actual document referenced...nothing.  So where did the Wikipedia author(s) get that bit of information?  Do a search for it and you will find it used a lot, but no where will you find it referenced in any academic or governmental websites.  I even searched the Texas Tech University's Vietnam database.  Nothing of the sort was said by General Prugh that I can find.

Which begs the question: why go to all the trouble to write a very scholarly sounding paragraph, attach a real person's name to it, and then link not one, but two different documents, from the guy, as where this information came from?

It's a hoax.  And yet again a hoax that uses someone's real name to perpetuate a myth needed for approval.  I think I know why it is used in this case, and it goes back to Eddie Adams statement:
Words and pictures have a continuing struggle for primacy. In my mind, a person can write the best story in the world; but a photograph is absolute.
His photo showing General Loan shooting Nguyễn Văn Lém (aka: Captain Bảy Lốp) was absolute.  I wrote about this a few posts back.  There is a difficulty rectifying what you see with what you feel; with what you believe; and with what you hold sacrosanct. If he is a good guy then he can't be doing a bad thing.  So either you make him a bad guy or you make the thing he did a good thing.  Those that can't accept that he was wrong to do shoot him in that manner, work to find ways to justify General Loan's behavior.

One of those ways is to argue over the "right" to carry out the assassination because Lém and Loan were not under the Geneva convention.  Hence the argument over Lem's POW status.  They also bring up the fact that Saigon was under Marshall Law and shoot to kill was warranted.  It goes on and on.

Even the simple "well he got what he deserves" justification falls short because we are a nation of laws, and what Loan did was against any law.  Period.  It cannot be justified if you believe that our behavior is either morally based or we are a "nation of laws, not of men.”  Nothing, short of a belief in anarchy or misanthropic leanings, would allow for behavior such as this.

What is needed, in my opinion, is to stop trying to justify it and start trying to understand it.  It is not about good and bad, saints and devils, or heroes and villains.  It is about how easily humanity can be pushed aside and the constant vigilance need to ensure that it does not.

As another humanitarian put it: Beware the thief in the night.


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