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By John Zutz (reviewer)
Vietnam Reconsidered: The War, the Times, and Why They Matter
by John Ketwig
(Trine Day, 2019)
While glancing at the table of contents I discovered there's a chapter on "Sex and the Vietnam Soldier." Being a healthy guy who contributed much of my minuscule paycheck to the lovely ladies of Vietnam, I immediately turned to the page in the middle of the book. The fact that the author anticipated this was my first clue that his thoughts on the war ran parallel to mine.
In fact, our military experiences were similar. We both enlisted to avoid the draft, though I managed to sign up for two years versus his three. We both went to Vietnam and discovered shortly after arrival that we weren't "fighting for freedom," the entire enterprise was a giant waste, and we couldn't win. After Vietnam, Ketwig spent a year in Thailand, I got 6 months in California. We both used that time to unwind, defuse, and begin recovering from our wartime experiences.
So, don't be surprised that I enjoyed the book. I probably could have written it myself, if I were more skilled.
This is not a war story. Ketwig explores the connections between the events at home and their effects on the war. He debunks the notion that the media, or the protesters, kept us from winning. He points out our support of a thoroughly corrupt regime in Saigon as well as the corrupt practices at home. He magnifies the truths and calls out the lies (mostly from our leaders).
I began reading with the sex chapter near the middle. I read through to the end and then began at the beginning. Those early chapters are a more or less consecutive overview of the major events around the world. I know he couldn't include everything, but I thought the first moon landing deserved a mention (he squeezed in Apollo 13).
Due to my unorthodox reading method, the last chapter I read was about corruption. I thought I had studied the war pretty well, but the information here shocked me. I knew there was corruption. I knew there was a black market. I bought ice-cold sodas or beers from the girls on their Hondas along the roadside. I frequented the ladies of the evening. I knew Air America was transporting heroin.
I was surprised about the depth of the corruption among our own troops. Ketwig points out the highest-ranking enlisted person—the Command Sergeant Major of the Army—was ripping off his own troops. He includes the corruption and lies coming from the Oval Office.
And there's more. Ketwig manages to compare corruption in Vietnam to the disappearance of billions of dollars worth of $100 bills in Iraq and the rip-off contracts given to the contractors.
Reading this book was, to me, kind of like sitting at the bar of the VFW and shooting the shit with a good friend. He does get kind of redundant at times, but I would recommend it to any veteran, or any High School student, looking for information about the war. This may be our way to communicate with future students after we are all gone.
John Zutz is a Milwaukee VVAW member.