THE MY LAI INQUIRY by W.R. Peers

THE MY LAI INQUIRY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Skeptics may argue that having the Pentagon investigate My Lai is like having the White House investigate Watergate, but the Peers inquiry took its advisory role seriously, even if the effect was not totally dissimilar. After the My Lai story broke in the newspapers, and after the Army's investigative unit (CID) had produced enough evidence to court-martial Lt. Calley, Westmoreland asked Peers to head an inquiry into the massacre and its cover-up, and to make recommendations for preventive measures in the future. Of course, the public relations importance of the inquiry was considerable, as was the effect it had in distancing Westmoreland and the upper-levels of the Vietnam command from the incident, but Peers, a retired Lieut. General, played according to the rules and, apparently, in good faith. He gives the story of the inquiry, with supporting documents and recreation of much of the testimony, and presents the panel's findings: the principle cause of the massacre, it concluded, was leadership failure, not only at the scene, but in misrepresenting the village as an NLF stronghold and neglecting to communicate the rules of war concerning non-combatants. This aspect of the inquiry's findings is military reflex, treating all difficulties as training and command problems; at one point, after describing the rape and murder of a Vietnamese woman, Peers allows himself a moment's awed doubt: ""Although there may have been some shortcomings in training and leadership, this kind of barbarity was very difficult to comprehend"". That about sums it up.

Pub Date: Feb. 26th, 1978
Publisher: Norton