Sunday, February 11, 2018

Fidel Castro, the Berlin Wall, the My Lai massacre and the Tu Quoque Fallacy

Answering some questions and refuting a logical fallacy

Castro honors E. German border guards for their deadly work in 1972
From 1961 to 1989 the Berlin Wall divided what is today Germany's capital and the world. February 5, 2018 marked the date on which the Wall had been down for as long as it once stood: 28 years, 2 months and 27 days. This generated a lot of buzz on social media and a day later on February 6, 2018 I revisited an old blog entry that mentioned how Fidel Castro visited Berlin in 1972 and encouraged the border guards to continue shooting Germans trying to flee to freedom by crossing the Berlin Wall and tweeted it and it got dozens of retweets and likes.

This morning @Bezigrajcan responded with a question "what is the point of your tweet?" and then raised the My Lai Massacre carried out during the Vietnam War, and concluded with a second question "Satisfied?"

This blog entry seeks to answer both questions while pointing out the logical fallacy in between, but still exploring the atrocities separately.

The point of my tweet on the Cuban dictator's 1972 visit to the Berlin Wall, at a moment that the Wall was trending over social media, was to provide a pertinent historical anecdote that also gives insight into the character of Fidel Castro. At Brandenburg gate on June 14, 1972 in the afternoon (pictured above) he addressed the men charged with shooting East Germans fleeing to West Germany as "the courageous and self-denying border guards of the GDR People's Army who stand guard in the front line of the entire-socialist community." Later in the evening Premier Castro addressed the Nikolay Bezarin Barracks in East Berlin:

It is very important to know that the people of the GDR have great confidence in you, that they are truly proud of you. The comrades of the party and the citizens of socialist Berlin have told us with great satisfaction about the activity of the border troops, speaking with great admiration for you and for your services.
 Responding to this item by raising the 1968 My Lai Massacre is a tu quoque fallacy or an appeal to hypocrisy. It is a logical fallacy and a diversionary tactic that seeks to distract from the initial claim without disproving it.

Thy My Lai massacre was a terrible crime, committed during the Vietnam War, in which between 340 and 504 Vietnamese civilians were massacred by U.S troops on March 16, 1968. Lt. William L. Calley Jr., was court-martialed at Fort Benning, Ga and convicted of killing of 22 civilians in the Vietnamese village of My Lai. He was sentenced to life in prison, but President Richard Nixon had him placed under house arrest. Calley would serve three months in a disciplinary barracks and three and a half years under house arrest.

Meanwhile in East Germany there are 136 documented cases of German civilians killed by East German border guards between 1961 and 1989 with their names provided. An estimated 1,000 were killed trying to cross.  The East German government had given a clear Order to Border Guards on October 1, 1973 that left no doubt to their criminal nature:

"It is your duty to use your combat … skills in such a way as to overcome the cunning of the border breacher, to challenge or liquidate him in order to thwart the planned border breach... Don’t hesitate to use your weapon even when border breaches happen with women and children, which traitors have often exploited in the past.”
The Communist East German regime did not prosecute any of the border guards for their crimes. It was only after the end of the communist regime and the fall of the Berlin Wall that some of the guards had to answer for their crimes. Even so, "most of the border guards were given short or suspended sentences, because they were found to have acted under standing orders."

Furthermore when discussing massacres carried out during the Vietnam War and other war crimes, it is important to look at the Huế Massacre that took place between January 31 and February 28, 1968 that claimed the lives of between 2,800 and 6,000 civilians and prisoners of war by the Viet Cong and People's Army of Vietnam. Twenty years later the communist Vietnamese admitted that some mistakes had been made.

There are several Castro regime links to Vietnam, but for this entry will focus on the torture of American POWs. During the Vietnam War, the Cuban government sent advisers to Vietnam who tortured U.S. prisoners of war between 1967 and 1969 in what became known as The Cuban Program in an effort to demonstrate to the Vietnamese how to most effectively break the will of American soldiers.

Crimes against humanity and war crimes are unacceptable and those responsible need to be held accountable. However, when communist apologists criticize the actions of the United States, it is a case of the pot calling the kettle black

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