Kill Anything That Moves
The Real American War in VietnamBook - 2013
Based on classified documents and first-person interviews, a startling history of the American war on Vietnamese civilians
Americans have long been taught that events such as the notorious My Lai massacre were isolated incidents in the Vietnam War, carried out by "a few bad apples." But as award-winning journalist and historian Nick Turse demonstrates in this groundbreaking investigation, violence against Vietnamese noncombatants was not at all exceptional during the conflict. Rather, it was pervasive and systematic, the predictable consequence of orders to "kill anything that moves."
Drawing on more than a decade of research in secret Pentagon files and extensive interviews with American veterans and Vietnamese survivors, Turse reveals for the first time how official policies resulted in millions of innocent civilians killed and wounded. In shocking detail, he lays out the workings of a military machine that made crimes in almost every major American combat unit all but inevitable. Kill Anything That Moves takes us from archives filled with Washington's long-suppressed war crime investigations to the rural Vietnamese hamlets that bore the brunt of the war; from boot camps where young American soldiers learned to hate all Vietnamese to bloodthirsty campaigns like Operation Speedy Express, in which a general obsessed with body counts led soldiers to commit what one participant called "a My Lai a month."
Thousands of Vietnam books later, Kill Anything That Moves , devastating and definitive, finally brings us face-to-face with the truth of a war that haunts Americans to this day.
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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. 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 America’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.
Nick Turse writes:
“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. Still, this is hardly an excuse for averting our eyes from the truth. For more than a decade I have combed through whatever files I managed to locate, searched out the witnesses who remained, and listened as best I could. What I’ve ended up with can offer, I hope, at least a glimpse of the real war: the one that so many would like to forget, and so many others refuse to remember.”
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