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Turse's Take on US Atrocities in Vietnam
By Horace Coleman (reviewer)
Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam
(Metropolitan Books, 2013)
Nick Turse's chapters and verses on US atrocities in Vietnam
Seymour Hersh wrote the most widely known articles about the My Lai massacre. Life magazine published the most raw and grisly pictures. A college classmate of mine was a member of the Toledo Blade's management when that newspaper won a Pulitizer Prize in 2004 for a series of articles entitled, "Buried Secrets, Brutal Truths" (http://www.toledoblade.com/special-tiger-force) about atrocities committed by Tiger Force, a reconnaissance platoon of the 101st Airborne's 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry.
Nick Turse, managing editor of TomDispatch.com, has written the most documented, detailed and comprehensive book to date about atrocities and mayhem committed in Vietnam by US forces. Turse did research at the US National Archives. There he found out about reports written by the Vietnam War Crimes Working Group.
He writes that was "a secret Pentagon task force . . . to ensure that the army would never again be caught off-guard by a major war crimes scandal."
In the introduction to "Kill Anything That Moves," Turse quotes Ron Ridenhour, the former Army trooper who tried to get the nation's attention about My Lai for years before the story finally got national exposure. Ridenhour said about My Lai, ". . . This was an operation, not an aberration." Turse writes about My Lai that ". . . The real aberration was the unprecedented and unparalleled investigation and exposure . . ."
Body Count, Free Fire Zone, Mad Minute, H & I fire (Harassment and Interdiction), Collateral Damage, Tiger Cages made in the USA, defoliation by Agent Orange, When in doubt—take 'em out!!, Xin Loi ("Excuse me / Sorry about that!" said in a way that means exactly the opposite), water poured through cloth on a face. The Tucker Telephone. All the nice nicknames for Vietnamese. And how about the joke that goes: "The best way to end this war is to put all the good Vietnamese into boats and carpet bomb the entire country. Then sink the boats!!"
Any time the US gets involved in an armed conflict with non-Caucasian, non-Christian, so-called primitive people, excess blood will flow. Killing is a daily aspect of war, murder isn't. The too common US desire to dominate the world, or at least to have a great deal of influence on its ideas and actions, will go the way of other empires' whims. That's what always happens, eventually.
Turse describes many incidents, his book has 85 pages of notes, plus acknowledgments and an index. He's not playing. Neither are "the forces that be." The material he had access to is no longer available to the public.
The last paragraph of "Kill Anything That Moves" begins:
"The true history of Vietnamese civilian suffering does not fit comfortably into America's preferred postwar narrative — the tale of a conflict nobly fought by responsible commanders and good American boys, who should not be tainted by the occasional mistakes of a few 'bad apples' in their midst."
The book's last sentence is this:
"What I've ended up with can offer, I hope, at least a glimpse of the real war: the one so many would like to forget, and so many others refuse to remember."
What I sometimes wonder is what was the ratio, in the field and in the rear, between the number of VC we killed and the number our actions created? Read Turse's book with an open and judicious mind and draw your own conclusions. Neither side in our Civil War appreciated aid from foreigners to the opposing side. That explains a lot. What explains our behavior? The usual suspects?
War, in and of itself, is atrocious. Some people go out of their way to make it more so.
Horace Coleman was an Air Force air traffic controller/intercept director in Vietnam (1967-68).