Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Nam: 'Kill Anything That Moves'
I mostly use this blog to post material related to a course I've been teaching for several years: Popular Culture. One of the subjects we've been covering for several years is Vietnam in US pop culture. So although this post is not 'pop culture' per se, it is certainly relevant to the issue of Nam in US pop culture, especially when one sees movies like Rambo: First Blood Part II screened on the American Movie Channel over and over and over, endlessly. The theme of the Rambo series is mostly that the victims of the war were US servicemen. A new book by Nick Turse provides a very useful counter-point. Please listen to this riveting and rage-inducing interview he gave to Terri Gross on NPR's Fresh Air. And then go buy the book.
On March 16, 1968, between 347 and 504 unarmed Vietnamese civilians were gunned down by members of the U.S. Army in what became known as the My Lai Massacre. The U.S. government has maintained that atrocities like this were isolated incidents in the conflict. Nick Turse says otherwise. In his new book, Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam, Turse argues that the intentional killing of civilians was quite common in a war that claimed 2 million civilian lives, with 5.3 million civilians wounded and 11 million refugees. And as Turse tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies, "as many as 4 million [were] exposed to toxic defoliants like Agent Orange." "It's suffering on an almost unimaginable scale, and it was generally due to heavy firepower," Turse says. "It's not these microlevel atrocities in most circumstances."