Reading # 21: The My Lai Massacre: A Military Crime of Obedience By Herbert Kelman and V. Lee Hamilton. Under Topic: Social Structure. In this article the events that occurred during the Vietnam War in the village of My Lai 4 are discussed. In this village the murder of innocent women, children and unarmed old men of the village had occurred for no apparent reason. The My Lai massacre is one example of a crime in which individuals claimed that they were simply following the orders of someone who had a right to command them.
The types of crime committed however seems to be one that any reasonable person should have seen as a heinous one. Piles of bodies were jumbled together in a ditch along a trail, the dead apparently unarmed. This was apparently a product of what we call a crime of obedience. These occur due to vague orders which do not survive with any clarity. This operation was planned by Colonel Barker and his staff as a search and destroy mission with the objective of rooting out the forty-eight Viet Cong Battalion from their base area of Son My village. Colonel Barkers superior had arrived the day before and had briefed them about their weaknesses in aggressiveness in previous battles. The attack on the village was supposed to occur when there would be no innocent villagers would be found at the scene, they were supposed to be at the market.
It was unclear what was ordered, although all the participants were still alive by the time of the trials for the massacre, they were either on trial or probably felt under threat of trial. When the army got to the village and found nothing but villagers who had not gone to the market, they massacred them. Social Structure refers to the fact that individuals in their acts toward each other are patterned in terms of their position in the interaction. Everyone has a place in interaction, and people come to act toward each other according to their place. In the My Lai incident the officers who participated in the massacre felt that they had no say in what they were doing and had to do it because they were ordered by a higher power. Pople come to focus their expectations of behavior not in the person himself or herself, but on the position of the person within the interaction.
From Journal of Social Studies Vol. II, No. 1, Spring 1940 By Benjamin B. Ferenc z Criminal law and criminology have, for the past several years, been confronted with a problem that reaches the very foundations and basic philosophies underlying the study and treatment of social offenders. Simply, the controversy revolves about the question; "Shall the main concern underlying penal treatment be the ...
Sociologists use the term norms to refer to the expectations people have of one another. Positions are Unequal, inequality is almost inherent in almost all social structures, at least to some degree. This is one of the main reasons that the massacre occurred, the soldiers were under the influence of their superior and the colonel was under the influence of another.