Recently I shared with some friendlies that I was reading Nick Turse’s Kill Anything That Moves, The Real American War in Vietnam. So far only one friendly has responded to my friendly email and that was basically to share the information that they had already read some of the many books on the Vietnam War–hence, implying that they weren’t interested in reading another tome. So I thought, yes, why indeed would anyone whose has attempted to make some sense out of a seemingly senseless waste of lives want to read Turse’s latest book? Why? I believe the answer involves the Vietnamese Civilians all too often callously dismissed as Casualties of War. Damn this sounds familiar. Care to insert Afghanistan Casualties of War? Iraqi Casualties of War? Pick any war and couple it with casualties. Civilians as totally expendable human resources is not a new concept. It’s been around a very long time. By the way, if you think this doesn’t pertain to you in any way, shape or form, please do think again. Why? Because unless you are part of the military forces you are indeed a civilian to be treated with absolute contempt by those with no regard for the tenets of the Geneva Convention–that nice little old-fashioned little agreement about how to treat people during any modern war. Somehow I doubt the Geneva Convention agreement is part of either a drone’s programming or of the human charting its course. It certainly has no value to those who send soldiers to wars. Hmm. Might it be helpful to consider the military forces at work in Vietnam as precursors to current drones? Perhaps. But there are serious limitations to drones conducting military strikes as drones are incapable of rape and torture. At least I think they are –so far. Have no doubt that some computer programmer somewhere is hard at work solving these drone limitations. Too bad that creative brainpower isn’t invested in something like combating pollution.
Now back to Turse’s tome which is all about the standard operating procedure of murder, rape and torture of Vietnamese civilians whose “hearts and minds” were supposedly being saved from the communist menace. Why read this book?
In Vietnam, where the “lives” of the deceased are believed to be inextricably intertwined with those of the living, it is thought that those who die a “bad death” may be forced to suffer as “wandering ghosts,” trapped in a limbo between our world and the land of the dead. In this shadow land, they forever reexperience the violence that ended their lives, unable to attain peace until the living truly acknowledge them and the fate they suffered.3 The idea of such wandering ghosts is an unfamiliar one for most Americans, but we should not be too quick to dismiss it. The crimes committed in American’s name in Vietnam were our “bad death,” and they have never been adequately faced. As a result, they continue to haunt our society in profound and complex ways. (p. 261)
Turse makes the case that it’s high time Americans quit turning a blind eye to the dark side of our history in war, politics and business. It’s time we all took a long hard straight on look at the military industrial complex that strives to rule the world with an iron fist. With knowledge, however nasty and unpleasant it may be, comes power. There’s a very important war emerging in the world involving everyone on the Earth. It helps to know one’s enemy. The enemy has left quite a few revealing footprints. Some of them lay in the history of the war waged on the children, women and men of Vietnam. There are older footprints, newer ones and ones currently underway. What will it take for “us” to change how we view casualties of war–and war itself? What will it take for “us” to refuse to play the game of murder, rape, torture of our fellow human beings just because some power-hungry egomaniacs demand we play? Don’t forget “we” are all totally expendable–our sons, husbands, wives, daughters, mothers, fathers, all our relations are absolutely of no account in the war games.
So yes, read Nick Turse’s book — and learn why the Winter Soldiers threw their medals at Congress. It’s not a fun read. It’s not enjoyable. It’s not a “feel good” book. It is an important book.
Democracy Now! www.democracynow.org
Written transcript of interview http://www.democracynow.org/2013/1/15/kill_anything_that_moves_new_book
Geneva Convention http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geneva_Conventions