GAMES by James Saunders (1973)
4 days in rehearsal...
Some thoughts before our 2pm - 10pm session...
'When it comes to warfare, mankind has always been in danger of considering the position hopeful. "Silent enim leges inter arma", was Cicero's chilling assessment a hundred years before Christ: Laws are silent in time of war.'
'In warfare, it is a mistake to think that morality stands still. Thinking about the ethics of war shifts frequently to accommodate technological change. At the beginning of World War I, submarine warfare was considered cowardly and inhuman. At the start of World War II, both sides agreed not to bomb civilians. In both cases the sphere of the permissible widened to accommodate the realities of the conflict. After Vietnam, some attempt was made to incorporate the wholesale slaughter of civilians within a more agreeable perspective.'
'Wars are not fought by jurists - they are fought by boys. The average age of the infantryman in Vietnam was 20. Most were away from home for the first time. They were adrift in a lethal environment experiencing horrors that those who were not there can hardly imagine. Was it realistic to expect these combat troops to make moral choices?'
'Harry Stanley refused a direct order to kill women and children huddled together in a crater. "We had orders, but the orders we had was that we were going into an enemy village and that they was well armed. I didn't find that when I got there. And ordering me to shoot down innocent people, that's not an order - that's craziness to me, you know. And so I don't feel I have to obey that." '
'Meanwhile, every night on television, the world watched the richest and most powerful nation on earth turn the most advanced weapons in history on an enemy which, with the important exception of bicycles, had hardly a single wheeled or tracked vehicle in the whole of South Vietnam. This was not what the people of America had come to expect from a war.'
Four Days in My Lai: a war crime and its aftermath
by Michael Bilton and Kevin Sim
(Viking/Penguin: London, 1992)
Photo: Ronald Haeberle - 16 March 1968