Kill anything that moves The real American war in Vietnam

Nick Turse

Book - 2013

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American empire project.
New York, N.Y. : Metropolitan Books 2013.
1st ed
Physical Description
370 p., [16] p. of plates : ill., map ; 25 cm
Includes bibliographical references (p. [263]-348) and index.
Main Author
Nick Turse (-)
  • An operation, not an aberration
  • The massacre at Trieu Ai
  • A system of suffering
  • Overkill
  • A litany of atrocities
  • Unbounded misery
  • The Bummer, the "gook-hunting" general, and the Butcher of the Delta
  • Where have all the war crimes gone?
  • Wandering ghosts.
Review by Booklist Review

The shocking images of the mounds of corpses, including women, children, and even babies, murdered by American troops in the Vietnamese hamlet of My Lai symbolized for many the horror of that war. At the time, military officials insisted that the massacre was an aberration and stressed that American troops in the field behaved with discipline and restraint, and strived to avoid civilian casualties. Not so, according to Turse, an investigative journalist who has been researching and writing about American war crimes in Vietnam for a decade. If his goal was to illustrate that atrocities committed against civilians were more widespread than previously acknowledged, Turse succeeds. He has mined Pentagon archives and conducted interviews with American veterans to credibly support his assertion. Unfortunately, Turse has a broader agenda, which is to show that the murder of civilians was systematic and encouraged by U.S. policy. He implies that our soldiers were on an out-of-control rampage on a regular basis.The nation could use a balanced view of the conduct of our combat troops in Vietnam, but this misses the mark.--Freeman, Jay Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

After a decade of scouring Pentagon archives and interviewing Vietnamese survivors and American vets, Turse (The Complex) offers this detailed, well-documented account of the "real" Vietnam War, "the one that so many would like to forget." The author shows that, contrary to popular belief, the massacre at My Lai was not an isolated incident; one soldier wrote in a 1971 letter to President Nixon that "the atrocities that were committed at Mylai are eclipsed by similar American actions throughout the country." The bulk of the book is devoted to a grueling recounting of these killings, and Turse leaves little room for doubt that "[m]urder, torture, rape, abuse, forced displacement, home burnings, specious arrests, [and] imprisonment without due process" were encouraged by body count-minded war managers and badly trained junior officers, and abetted by Gen. William Westmoreland's search-and-destroy strategy. Turse maintains a one-sided historicism regarding the innumerable American war crimes, and while this tight focus allows for an in-depth take on a horrific war, it's hard to imagine what kind of readership the author had in mind when he began his gruesome project. Nevertheless, the whistle-blowers chronicled attest to the voices of reason that spoke up in the midst of carnage. Agent: Melissa Flashman, Trident Media Group. (Jan. 8) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

Turse (The Changing Face of Empire; Terminator Planet) here tells the stories of numerous war crimes committed by U.S. soldiers against innocent civilians during the Vietnam War. The content is quite graphic; Turse uses documented evidence and interviews to give detailed accounts of numerous atrocities and describes how the military incentivized killing and focused on a high "body count." The title comes from actual instructions given to soldiers when entering a civilian village. Narrator Don Lee does a good job with this vivid content although some readers may find his pace a bit fast. VERDICT This work is best for scholars or those with a serious interest in the Vietnam War. The content may be too intense for a general listener. ["This book will sadden and anger readers who view the war as an American tragedy, in which the value of human life was greatly diminished," read the review of the New York Times best-selling Metropolitan: Holt hc, LJ Xpress Reviews, 2/8/13.-Ed.]-Sean Kennedy, Cleveland State Univ. Law Lib. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

An investigative journalist indicts the leadership of the American military for war crimes in Vietnam. Turse (The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives, 2008, etc.) has a reputation for rooting out perceived misdeeds on the part of the U.S. government and has plied his trade investigating drone strikes, arms sales and operations by Special Forces. Here, the author attempts to fold more than a decade of research about the Vietnam War into a not-so-neat package, with mixed results. His thesis is that incidents like the shameful My Lai massacre were not isolated anomalies, but rather the inevitable result of a systemized, operational directive to slaughter the population of Vietnam. In reconstructing the 1967 blood bath at Trieu Ai, Turse finds common elements. "Here was the repeated aerial bombing and artillery fire, pounding the rural population on an almost daily basis and forcing them into underground bunkers," he writes. "Here was the deliberate burning of peasant homes and the relocation of villagers to refugee camps, where their movements were strictly controlled by the government. And here, too, was the inevitable outcome of the soldiers' training: all the endless chants of kill, kill, kill,' the dehumanization of the dinks, gooks, slopes, slants,' and the constant insistence that even women and small children were to be regarded as potential enemies." Turse's research is thorough enough to warrant more than 80 pages of notes, but his assembly of the data available has a manipulative sheen to it. The book also treads a lot of previously covered ground, like the 1969 "Operation Speedy Express," during which the military claimed more than 10,000 enemy combatants dead but recovered less than 800 weapons--an incident that drew fire as early as 1972. Relying heavily on declassified documents and interviews with survivors, the book reads more like the extension of a predisposed agenda than straight-up journalism. The imperfect defense of a controversial perspective on the hell that is war.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.