Sunday, January 20, 2013

On The Vietnam War Crimes Book

The chatter about Nick Turse's "Kill Anything That Moves" is sort of like an out of body experience in that there seems to be a belief abroad in the land that because of Powell and My Lai -- or something -- the government successfully covered up the many other atrocities and war crimes that characterized the Vietnam War and nobody knew what was going on over there.

Oh yes, we knew. The Vietnamese certainly knew as well. So did pretty much anybody around the world who bothered to pay attention.

We knew from the beginning that this was an atrocious, monstrous, vile thing going on in the jungles and on the riverbanks and in the rice paddies and in the cities of Vietnam, that it was criminally engaged in and chewing up thousands and thousands of Americans, and who knew how many Vietnamese (we couldn't find out the truth -- or anything close to it -- until after the war was over) in a slaughter and blood fest of gargantuan proportions, a campaign of almost unimaginable destruction and annihilation that seemed to go on forever.

We knew.

We even knew a lot of the details -- the many murders, rapes, and plunders that went unremarked on in the mainstream but were extensively reported in the alternative media of the day, "Ramparts" for example, or in "The Nation." We knew, too, because soldiers came back, broken and soul-destroyed, and told their stories, not just at "Winter Soldier" conclaves, but one by one, to families, friends, co-workers.

We knew.

We couldn't escape it.

Why do you think so many of us opposed this monstrous thing?

Of course not everybody did oppose it. And that's the key understanding about the Vietnam War and why it went on, despite the growing opposition, year in and year out with ever greater levels of crime and atrocity. In fact, most Americans did not opposed it at any time during the war, they applauded it. They cheered on the slaughter, the mayhem, the monstrousness of it all. As long as it was mostly Gooks getting their heads blown off and their nuts crushed, Yay! Americans loved that shit.

They still do.

To pretend that it went on -- and on and on -- because "we didn't know" is absurd. Of course we knew.

But many Americans who knew what was going on approved of it, heartily.

Killing The Other and taking their stuff -- or just killing and maiming them for sport -- after all, is as American as apple pie and motherhood. Vast ideological struggles don't enter in to it. It doesn't matter who the designated Other is or what they believe or where they are. What matters to many Americans is that they be exterminated and their goods and chattel seized. Period.

In other words, the crimes and atrocities in Vietnam -- which were no mysteries when they were going on -- weren't monstrous enough in the eyes of many Americans because the Gooks were still fighting back, they were still winning, and ultimately they won. And today they rule, and they are our best friends in Asia. Go figure.

Though it takes many fewer Americans in the various theaters and outposts of the Great and Glorious War on Terror, the crimes and atrocities of the Vietnam War are repeated on an even vaster -- and bloodier -- scale today. The wonder is not that it goes on, the wonder is that there is such muted opposition.

Of course Nixon's genius was to end the draft, not the war. Ending the draft pulled the rug out from the opposition to the Vietnam War, and once that was done, the thing could go on "quietly" in the background, and be ultimately be wound down and brought to a conclusion. The wonder too is that the Vietnamese "enemy" has never sought revenge for what was done to them.


  1. People from Buddhist cultures that I know seem to feel pity for Americans.

    So I have to wonder what revenge they would take? Killing us would just be putting us out of our misery, and physical pain would just be a welcome distraction from our spiritual desolation. Everyone has to work out their own karma on their own after all, and enough truly terrifying karma was generated in Vietnam to last millenia.

  2. Oh, incidentally, my Mother often opines that the United States was "too nice" in Vietnam (this is because the US didn't use atom bombs, I suppose), but then she also fantasizes about an Al Qaeda nuke going off in San Francisco.

    She's been getting mad at me lately because, "I think you've been spending more time at that Buddhist temple than in Church!" Then she wonders where she went wrong raising her children to be good Catholics.

    Hmm... I wonder?

  3. Vietnamese are Catholic and Buddhist (and Communist and secular, too... it's so complicated ;-))

    Some of the Vietnamese I've known in this country do harbor an urge to get revenge somehow (not so much because of the atrocity of the war itself, more because they were on the losing side of it, and they blame the Americans for that), but we're so many years away from the war now, those who actually experienced it are dying out, and the younger generations have more pressing and important issues to deal with.

    A lot of Americans, especially of my parents' generation, sincerely believed that "nuking the Gooks" was the only correct approach to their disobedience and to settle the matter once and for all. They could not understand why 1) the military didn't do it, and 2) people of my persuasion and generation thought it was wrong.

    I knew a B-52 pilot at the time who assured us that the United States would never unilaterally employ nuclear weapons in a first strike, and that his bombing runs over Hanoi and Haiphong were simply a "job to do." He never saw any people on the ground, so he never thought of them...


  4. Hang is Catholic. One time we we went into a Thai restaurant for lunch on Friday during Lent. They brought us out some chicken soup as a starter, I had almost eaten a spoonful when she insisted that they take it away again (I mentioned to her that I was Catholic). I miss Hang, she moved to California. Mike is Buddhist. He was horrified that the Buddhist monks at the Thai temple eat meat. We still work together but I never see him, since everyone works remotely now. The one I really miss is Hai, who was enrolled in the computer science program at USF with me. I helped him write an essay on escaping Vietnam on a raft. Sadly, I knew Hai in the brief moment when students still had student Email addresses but everyone didn't have a personal, permanent Email address yet, so after we graduated I had no way of getting in touch with him.

    I tried sending him Email to his student address, but I imagine that ceased to exist after graduation. It makes me sad. I wish I had met him after the Net changed everything, instead of just before.

    Most of my friends are Thai, though. Their culture is different, because Mongkut played the imperialists like a cheap fiddle and kept Thailand for the Thais.

    This is why many Thais revere the monarchy to this day. People on Slashdot never get that, when they enjoy making fun of the "primitive" Thais with their "quaint" attachment to the monarchy.

    Of course, here in America, we have tons of Kings, Princes, Grand Dukes and other aristocrats, all of whom have power that old King George III could only have imagined in his wildest fever dreams.

    But, Americans get fooled because it's not King Warren Buffet or Arch Duke Charles Koch, so they can pretend we don't have an aristocracy.