Did Vets for Obama Head Shirk His Duty?

Should retired U.S. Army Lt. General Robert G. Gard, chairman of the Steering Committee of Vets for Obama, be investigated for allegedly helping suppress more than 300 cases of substantiated Vietnam-era atrocities?

One military blogger suggests that he should. In a blog post entitled Pandora's Box published July 10 at Mudville Gazette, deployed military blogger "Greyhawk" noted that a Pentagon task force that met in the early 1970s confirmed extensive atrocities committed by U.S. military forces in Vietnam, as noted in a 2006 investigative report published in the Los Angeles Times:

The documents detail 320 alleged incidents that were substantiated by Army investigators -- not including the most notorious U.S. atrocity, the 1968 My Lai massacre.

Though not a complete accounting of Vietnam war crimes, the archive is the largest such collection to surface to date. About 9,000 pages, it includes investigative files, sworn statements by witnesses and status reports for top military brass.

The records describe recurrent attacks on ordinary Vietnamese - families in their homes, farmers in rice paddies, teenagers out fishing. Hundreds of soldiers, in interviews with investigators and letters to commanders, described a violent minority who murdered, raped and tortured with impunity.

The incidents involved more than 200 servicemen. Many of that "violent minority" -- suspected war criminals -- were allowed to remain in service without charges ever being filed. Once discharged from the military, these men were deemed "out of military jurisdiction." The military also declined federal prosecution through civilian authorities.

It was an apparent whitewash of what the task force defined as substantiated offenses, including:

  • Seven massacres from 1967 through 1971 in which at least 137 civilians died.

  • Seventy-eight other attacks on noncombatants in which at least 57 were killed, 56 wounded and 15 sexually assaulted.

  • One hundred forty-one instances in which U.S. soldiers tortured civilian detainees or prisoners of war with fists, sticks, bats, water or electric shock.

The Pentagon task force in charge of compiling the 9,000 pages of testimony hidden in a classified archive for decades was not powerless to act against this barbaric behavior even if the men involved were no longer in the military. Army general counsel Robert E. Jordan III noted in 1969 that "ex-soldiers could be prosecuted through courts-martial, military commissions or tribunals."