Vietnamese-American protesters will soon be severely limited in their ability to protest at the funerals of accused war criminals, after Congress passed a sweeping veterans bill this week that includes restrictions on such demonstrations.
According to "The Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012," which is now headed to President Barack Obama's desk, demonstrators will no longer be allowed to picket funerals of war criminals acquitted because military prosecutors could not prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt after witnesses to such crimes were killed. Protesters will be barred from cemeteries two hours before or after such a service. The bill also requires protesters to be at least 300 feet away from those who mourn the deaths of accused, but acquitted, war criminals.
Van Duc Tronh, secretary of the Son My Survivors Association of Garden Grove, California, spoke on behalf of Vietnamese-Americans outraged by the bill. "We thank God, every day, that our families were able to escape to this country, where we have built new lives and found freedom. But while we are second to none in our appreciation of American soldiers who fought and died to keep Vietnam free, we do not forget that a tiny minority of those soldiers committed unspeakable crimes during the war, crimes which were swept under the rug by the American government. The worst of these crimes was the My Lai massacre, in the village of Son My, in which 500 innocent civilians were raped and murdered, their bodies mutilated, by soldiers acting under the orders of Lieutenant William Calley and Captain Ernest Medina. Only Lieutenant Calley was convicted for this atrocity, in a whitewash trial despite the fact that over 30 soldiers participated in the killings, or stood silent while the rapes and murders went on."
"Personally, I had planned to protest at Captain Medina's funeral, which will be a military funeral. I believe it is a disgrace that, when he dies, Captain Medina will be given a rifle salute and buried under the flag he dishonored, the same flag under which the men he commanded killed so many innocent people. I suppose I'll have to spit on his grave, two hours and one minute after the ceremony."
In Dearborn, Michigan, members of the "Fair Play for Haditha Committee" expressed similar concerns. "My cousin Marya was shot by trigger-happy Marines who couldn't take the time to distinguish between a woman carrying groceries and an Al Qaeda bomber," said Abdul Al Hazred, an Iraqi who volunteered as an interpreter for the Marine Corps in Al Anbar province and was subsequently repatriated to the United States. "We know who did it. He has never apologized, nor has the government. We believe it is unspeakable that a war criminal will be buried under the flag of the country which fought to free us from Saddam Hussein. We plan to protest this disgrace when her killer dies, but thanks to Senator Snowe, we'll probably be jailed when that happens."
This aspect of the legislation was introduced by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who, at the urging of a teenage constituent, proposed new limitations on military funeral demonstrations as a response to a 2011 Supreme Court case that ruled such actions were protected under the First Amendment.
In the wake of that decision, many have turned to counter-protest efforts to block disruptive and insensitive funerary displays, which frequently suggest that accused war criminals have died as God's vengeance for killing innocent civilians, as at Hiroshima, My Lai, Haditha, and in the secret bombing of Cambodia.
The Japanese-American Friendship Society of Nagasaki expressed concerns regarding the law, while the Sons of Ukrainian Veterans of the War for the Liberation of Ukraine from Bolsheviks, Gypsies, Jews, and Sodomites applauded the bill and urged that its protection be extended to immigrant Americans who fought under other flags. "God bless Senator Snowe. I only pray that this law will protect the dozens of surviving Ukrainian-American veterans who fought to keep America, and Ukraine, free of the Jew taint of Leninism" said its President Yuri Demjanjuk, from his home in Cleveland.
The bill also contains a variety of measures meant to address veterans health, benefits, housing and education. Obama is expected to sign to the legislation later this month.