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Forty-six years ago, in January 1966, Jonathan Schell, a 23-year-old not-quite-journalist found himself at the farming village of Ben Suc, 30 miles from the South Vietnamese capital, Saigon.  It had long been supportive of the Vietcong.  Now, in what was dubbed Operation Cedar Falls, the U.S. military (with Schell in tow) launched an operation to solve that problem.  The “solution” was typical of how Americans fought the Vietnam War.  All the village’s 3,500 inhabitants were to be removed to a squalid refugee camp and Ben Suc itself simply obliterated -- every trace of the place for all time.  Schell’s remarkable and remarkably blunt observations on this grim operation were, no less remarkably, published in the New Yorker magazine and then as a book, causing a stir in a country where anti-war sentiment was growing fast.

In 1967, Schell returned to Vietnam and spent weeks in the northern part of the country watching from the backseats of tiny U.S. forward air control planes as parts of two provinces were quite literally blown away, house by house, village by village, an experience he recalls in today’s TomDispatch post.  From that came another New Yorker piece and then a book, The Military Half, which offered (and still offers) an unmatched journalistic vision of what the Vietnam War looked like.  It was a moment well captured in a mocking song one of the American pilots sang for him after an operation in which he had called in bombs on two Vietnamese churches, but somehow missed the white flag flying in front of them. The relevant stanza went:

“Strafe the town and kill the people, 
Drop napalm in the square, 
Get out early every Sunday 
And catch them at their morning prayer.”

If Afghanistan is the war we somehow haven’t managed to notice most of the time, even while it’s going on, Vietnam was the war Americans couldn’t forget and have never been able to kick, possibly because we never managed to come to grips with just what it was and what we did there. Now, so many years later, in a monumental essay appearing in print in the Nation magazine and online here at TomDispatch, Schell returns (via Nick Turse’s new book, Kill Anything that Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam) to the haunted terrain he last visited so many decades ago All of us, whether we know it or not, still live with the ghosts of that moment. Tom

How Did the Gates of Hell Open in Vietnam? 
A New Book Transforms Our Understanding of What the Vietnam War Actually Was 
By Jonathan Schell

For half a century we have been arguing about “the Vietnam War.” Is it possible that we didn’t know what we were talking about? After all that has been written (some 30,000 books and counting), it scarcely seems possible, but such, it turns out, has literally been the case.

Now, in Kill Anything that MovesNick Turse has for the first time put together a comprehensive picture, written with mastery and dignity, of what American forces actually were doing in Vietnam. The findings disclose an almost unspeakable truth.  Meticulously piecing together newly released classified information, court-martial records, Pentagon reports, and firsthand interviews in Vietnam and the United States, as well as contemporaneous press accounts and secondary literature, Turse discovers that episodes of devastation, murder, massacre, rape, and torture once considered isolated atrocities were in fact the norm, adding up to a continuous stream of atrocity, unfolding, year after year, throughout that country.

It has been Turse’s great achievement to see that, thanks to the special character of the war, its prime reality -- an accurate overall picture of what physically was occurring on the ground -- had never been assembled; that with imagination and years of dogged work this could be done; and that even a half-century after the beginning of the war it still should be done. Turse acknowledges that, even now, not enough is known to present this picture in statistical terms. To be sure, he offers plenty of numbers -- for instance the mind-boggling estimates that during the war there were some two million civilians killed and some five million wounded, that the United States flew 3.4 million aircraft sorties, and that it expended 30 billion pounds of munitions, releasing the equivalent in explosive force of 640 Hiroshima bombs.

Yet it would not have been enough to simply accumulate anecdotal evidence of abuses. Therefore, while providing an abundance of firsthand accounts, he has supplemented this approach. Like a fabric, a social reality -- a town, a university, a revolution, a war -- has a pattern and a texture.  No fact is an island. Each one is rich in implications, which, so to speak, reach out toward the wider area of the surrounding facts. When some of these other facts are confirmed, they begin to reveal the pattern and texture in question.

Turse repeatedly invites us to ask what sort of larger picture each story implies. For example, he writes:

“If one man and his tiny team could claim more KIAs [killed in action] than an entire battalion without raising red flags among superiors; if a brigade commander could up the body count by picking off civilians from his helicopter with impunity; if a top general could institutionalize atrocities through the profligate use of heavy firepower in areas packed with civilians -- then what could be expected down the line, especially among heavily armed young infantrymen operating in the field for weeks, angry, tired, and scared, often unable to locate the enemy and yet relentlessly pressed for kills?”

Like a tightening net, the web of stories and reports drawn from myriad sources coalesces into a convincing, inescapable portrait of this war -- a portrait that, as an American, you do not wish to see; that, having seen, you wish you could forget, but that you should not forget; and that the facts force you to see and remember and take into account when you ask yourself what the United States has done and been in the last half century, and what it still is doing and still is.

Scorched Earth in I Corps

My angle of vision on these matters is a highly particular one. In early August 1967, I arrived in I Corps, the northernmost district of American military operations in what was then South Vietnam.  I was there to report for the New Yorker on the “air war.” The phrase was a misnomer.  The Vietnamese foe, of course, had no assets in the air in the South, and so there was no “war” of that description.

There was only the unilateral bombardment of the land and people by the fantastic array of aircraft assembled by the United States in Vietnam.  These ranged from the B-52, which laid down a pattern of destruction a mile long and several football fields wide; to fighter bombers capable of dropping, along with much else, 500-pound bombs and canisters of napalm; to the reconfigured DC-3 equipped with a cannon capable of firing 100 rounds per second; to the ubiquitous fleets of helicopters, large and small, that crowded the skies. All this was abetted by continuous artillery fire into “free-fire” zones and naval bombardment from ships just off the coast.

By the time I arrived, the destruction of the villages in the region and the removal of their people to squalid refugee camps was approaching completion. (However, they often returned to their blasted villages, now subject to indiscriminate artillery fire.) Only a few pockets of villages survived. I witnessed the destruction of many of these in Quang Ngai and Quang Tinh provinces from the back seat of small Cessnas called Forward Air Control planes.

As we floated overhead day after day, I would watch long lines of houses burst into flames one after another as troops moved through the area of operation.  In the meantime, the Forward Air Controllers were calling in air strikes as requested by radio from troops on the ground. In past operations, the villagers had been herded out of the area into the camps.  But this time, no evacuation had been ordered, and the population was being subjected to the full fury of a ground and air assault. A rural society was being torn to pieces before my eyes.

The broad results of American actions in I Corps were thus visible and measurable from the air. No scorched earth policy had been announced but scorched earth had been the result.  Still, a huge piece was missing from the puzzle.  I was not able to witness most of the significant operations on the ground firsthand. I sought to interview some soldiers but they would not talk, though one did hint at dark deeds.  “You wouldn’t believe it so I’m not going to tell you,” he said to me. “No one’s ever going to find out about some things, and after this war is over, and we’ve all gone home, no one is ever going to know.”

In other words, like so many reporters in Vietnam, I saw mainly one aspect of one corner of the war.  What I had seen was ghastly, but it was not enough to serve as a basis for generalizations about the conduct of the war as a whole. Just a few years later, in 1969, thanks to the determined efforts of a courageous soldier, Ron Ridenhour, and the persistence of a reporter, Seymour Hersh, one piece of the hidden truth about ground operations in I Corp came to light.

It was the My Lai massacre, in which more than 500 civilians were murdered in cold blood by Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry, of the Americal Division. In subsequent years, news of other atrocities in the area filtered into the press, often many years after the fact. For example, in 2003 the Toledo Blade disclosed a campaign of torture and murder over a period of months, including the summary execution of two blind men by a “reconnaissance” squad called Tiger Force.  Still, no comprehensive picture of the generality of ground operations in the area emerged.

It has not been until the publication of Turse’s book that the everyday reality of which these atrocities were a part has been brought so fully to light. Almost immediately after the American troops arrived in I Corps, a pattern of savagery was established. My Lai, it turns out, was exceptional only in the numbers killed.

Turse offers a massacre at a village called Trieu Ai in October 1967 as a paradigm.  A marine company suffered the loss of a man to a booby trap near the village, which had in fact had been mostly burned down by other American forces a few days earlier.  Some villagers had, however, returned for their belongings. Now, the Marine company, enraged by its loss but unable to find the enemy, entered the village firing their M-16s, setting fire to any intact houses, and tossing grenades into bomb shelters.

A Marine marched a woman into a field and shot her.  Another reported that there were children in the shelters that were being blown up.  His superior replied, “Tough shit, they grow up to be VC [Vietcong].”  Five or ten people rushed out of a shelter when a grenade was thrown into it.  They were cut down in a hail of fire. Turse comments:

“In the story of Trieu Ai one can see virtually the entire war writ small.  Here was the repeated aerial bombing and artillery fire… Here was the deliberate burning of peasant homes and the relocation of villagers to refugee camps... Angry troops primed to lash out, often following losses within the unit; civilians trapped in their paths; and officers in the field issuing ambiguous or illegal orders to young men conditioned to obey -- that was the basic recipe for many of the mass killings carried out by army soldiers and marines over the years.”

The savagery often extended to the utmost depravity: gratuitous torture, killing for target practice, slaughter of children and babies, gang rape.  Consider the following all-too-typical actions of Company B, 1st Battalion, 35th infantry beginning in October 1967:

“The company stumbled upon an unarmed young boy.  'Someone caught him up on a hill, and they brought him down and the lieutenant asked who wanted to kill him...' medic Jamie Henry later told army investigators. A radioman and another medic volunteered for the job.  The radioman... ’kicked the boy in the stomach and the medic took him around behind a rock and I heard one magazine go off complete on automatic...’

“A few days after this incident, members of that same unit brutalized an elderly man to the point of collapse and then threw him off a cliff without even knowing whether he was dead or alive...

“A couple of days after that, they used an unarmed man for target practice...

“And less than two weeks later, members of Company B reportedly killed five unarmed women...

“Unit members rattled off a litany of other brutal acts committed by the company... [including] a living woman who had an ear cut off while her baby was thrown to the ground and stomped on...”

Pumping Up the Body Count

Turse’s findings completed the picture of the war in I Corps for me.  Whatever the policy might have been in theory, the reality, on the ground as in the air, was the scorched earth I had witnessed from the Forward Air Control planes. Whatever the United States thought it was doing in I Corps, it was actually waging systematic war against the people of the region.

And so it was, as Turse voluminously documents, throughout the country.  Details differed from area to area but the broad picture was the same as the one in I Corps. A case in point is the war in the Mekong Delta, home to some five to six million people in an area of less than 15,000 square miles laced with rivers and canals. In February 1968, General Julian Ewell, soon to be known by Vietnamese and Americans alike as “the Butcher of the Delta,” was placed in charge of the 9th Infantry Division.

In December 1968, he launched Operation Speedy Express. His specialty, amounting to obsession, was increasing “the body count,” ordained by the high command as the key measure of progress in defeating the enemy. Theoretically, only slain soldiers were to be included in that count but -- as anyone, soldier or reporter, who spent a half-hour in the field quickly learned -- virtually all slain Vietnamese, most of them clearly civilians, were included in the total.  The higher an officer’s body count, the more likely his promotion. Privates who turned in high counts were rewarded with mini-vacations. Ewell set out to increase the ratio of supposed enemy soldiers killed to American soldiers killed.  Pressure to do so was ratcheted up at all levels in the 9th Division. One of his chiefs of staff “went berserk,” in the words of a later chief of staff.

The means were simple: immensely increase the already staggering firepower being used and loosen the already highly permissive “rules of engagement” by, for example, ordering more night raids.  In a typical night episode, Cobra gunships strafed a herd of water buffalo and seven children tending them. All died, and the children were reported as enemy soldiers killed in action.

The kill ratios duly rose from an already suspiciously high 24 “Vietcong” for every dead American to a completely surreal 134 Vietcong per American.  The unreality, however, did not simply lie in the inflated kill numbers but in the identities of the corpses.  Overwhelmingly, they were not enemy soldiers but civilians.  A “Concerned Sergeant” who protested the operation in an anonymous letter to the high command at the time described the results as he witnessed them:

“A battalion would kill maybe 15 to 20 a day.  With 4 battalions in the Brigade that would be maybe 40 to 50 a day or 1200 a month 1500, easy. (One battalion claimed almost 1000 body counts one month!)  If I am only 10% right, and believe me its lots more, then I am trying to tell you about 120-150 murders, or a My Lay [My Lai] each month for over a year.”

This range of estimates was confirmed in later analyses. Operations in I Corp perhaps depended more on infantry attacks supported by air strikes, while Speedy Express depended more on helicopter raids and demands for high body counts, but the results were the same: indiscriminate warfare, unrestrained by calculation or humanity, on the population of South Vietnam.

Turse reminds us that off the battlefield, too, casual violence -- such as the use of military trucks to run over Vietnamese on the roads, seemingly for entertainment -- was widespread.  The commonest terms for Vietnamese were the racist epithets “gooks,” “dinks,” and “slopes.”  And the U.S. military machine was supplemented by an equally brutal American-South Vietnamese prison system in which torture was standard procedure and extrajudicial executions common.

How did it happen? How did a country that believes itself to be guided by principles of decency permit such savagery to break out and then allow it to continue for more than a decade?

Why, when the first Marines arrived in I Corps in early 1965, did so many of them almost immediately cast aside the rules of war as well as all ordinary scruples and sink to the lowest levels of barbarism?  What chains of cause and effect linked “the best and the brightest” of America’s top universities and corporations who were running the war with the murder of those buffalo boys in the Mekong Delta?

How did the gates of hell open? This is a different question from the often-asked one of how the United States got into the war. I cannot pretend to begin to do it justice here. The moral and cognitive seasickness that has attended the Vietnam War from the beginning afflicts us still. Yet Kill Anything that Moves permits us, finally, to at least formulate the question in light of the actual facts of the case.

Reflections would certainly seem in order for a country that, since Vietnam, has done its best to unlearn even such lessons as were learned from that debacle in preparation for other misbegotten wars like those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here, however, are a few thoughts, offered in a spirit of thinking aloud.

The Fictitious War and the Real One

Roughly since the massacre at My Lai was revealed, people have debated whether the atrocities of the war were the product of decisions by troops on the ground or of high policy, of orders issued from above -- whether they were “aberrations” or “operations.” The first school obviously lends itself to bad-apple-in-a-healthy-barrel thinking, blaming individual units for unacceptable behavior while exonerating the higher ups; the second tends to exonerate the troops while pinning the blame on their superiors.

Turse’s book shows that the barrel was rotten through and through.  It discredits the “aberration” school once and for all. Yet it does not exactly offer support for the orders-from-the-top school either. Perhaps the problem always was that these alternatives framed the situation inaccurately.  The relationship between policy and practice in Vietnam was, it turns out, far more peculiar than the two choices suggest.

It’s often said that truth is the first casualty of war. In Vietnam, however, it was not just that the United States was doing one thing while saying another (for example, destroying villages while claiming to protect them), true as that was.  Rather, from its inception the war’s structure was shaped by an attempt to superimpose a false official narrative on a reality of a wholly different character.

In the official war, the people of South Vietnam were resisting the attempts of the North Vietnamese to conquer them in the name of world communism.  The United States was simply assisting them in their patriotic resistance.  In reality, most people in South Vietnam, insofar as they were politically minded, were nationalists who sought to push out foreign conquerors: first, the French, then the Japanese, and next the Americans, along with their client state, the South Vietnamese government which was never able to develop any independent strength in a land supposedly its own.  This fictitious official narrative was not added on later to disguise unpalatable facts; it was baked into the enterprise from the outset.

Accordingly, the collision of policy and reality first took place on the ground in Trieu Ai village and its like. The American forces, including their local commanders, were confronted with a reality that the policymakers had not faced and would not face for many long years. Expecting to be welcomed as saviors, the troops found themselves in a sea of nearly universal hostility.

No manual was handed out in Washington to deal with the unexpected situation. It was left to the soldiers to decide what to do. Throughout the country, they started to improvise. To this extent, policy was indeed being made in the field. Yet it was not within the troops’ power to reverse basic policy; they could not, for instance, have withdrawn themselves from the whole misconceived exercise.  They could only respond to the unexpected circumstances in which they found themselves.

The result would combine an incomprehensible and impossible mission dictated from above (to win the “hearts and minds” of a population already overwhelmingly hostile, while pulverizing their society) and locally conceived illegal but sometimes vague orders that left plenty of room for spontaneous, rage-driven improvisation on the ground. In this gap between the fiction of high policy and the actuality of the real war was born the futile, abhorrent assault on the people of Vietnam.

The improvisatory character of all this, as Turse emphasizes, can be seen in the fact that while the abuses of civilians were pervasive they were not consistent. As he summarizes what a villager in one brutalized area told him decades later, “Sometimes U.S. troops handed out candies.  Sometimes they shot at people.  Sometimes they passed through a village hardly touching a thing.  Sometimes they burned all the homes. ‘We didn’t understand the reasons why the acted in the way they did.’”

Alongside the imaginary official war, then, there grew up the real war on the ground, the one that Turse has, for the first time, adequately described.  It is no defense of what happened to point out that, for the troops, it was not so much their orders from on high as their circumstances -- what Robert J. Lifton has called “atrocity-producing situations” -- that generated their degraded behavior. Neither does such an account provide escape from accountability for the war’s architects without whose blind and misguided policies these infernal situations never would have arisen.

In one further bitter irony, this real war came at a certain point to be partially codified at ever higher levels of command into policies that did translate into orders from the top. In effect, the generals gradually -- if absurdly, in light of the supposed goals of the war -- sanctioned and promoted the de facto war on the population.  Enter General Ewell and his body counts.

In other words, the improvising moved up the chain of command until the soldiers were following orders when they killed civilians, though, as in the case of Ewell, those orders rarely took exactly that form.  Nonetheless, the generals sometimes went quite far in formulating these new rules, even when they flagrantly contradicted official policies.

To give one example supplied by Turse, in 1965, General William Westmoreland, who was made commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam in 1964, implicitly declared war on the peasantry of South Vietnam. He said:

“Until now the war has been characterized by a substantial majority of the population remaining neutral.  In the past year we have seen an escalation to a higher intensity in the war.  This will bring about a moment of decision for the peasant farmer.  He will have to choose if he stays alive.”

Like his underlings, Westmoreland, was improvising. This new policy of, in effect, terrorizing the peasantry into submission was utterly inconsistent with the Washington narrative of winning hearts and minds, but it was fully consistent with everything his forces were actually doing and about to do in I Corps and throughout the country.

A Skyscraper of Lies

One more level of the conflict needs to be mentioned in this context.  Documents show that, as early as the mid-1960s, the key mistaken assumptions of the war -- that the Vietnamese foe was a tentacle of world communism, that the war was a front in the Cold War rather than an episode in the long decolonization movement of the twentieth century, that the South Vietnamese were eager for rescue by the United States -- were widely suspected to be mistaken in official Washington.  But one other assumption was not found to be mistaken: that whichever administration “lost” Vietnam would likely lose the next election.

Rightly or wrongly, presidents lived in terror of losing the war and so being politically destroyed by a movement of the kind Senator Joe McCarthy launched after the American “loss” of China in 1949.  Later, McGeorge Bundy, Lyndon Johnson’s national security advisor, would describe his understanding of the president’s frame of mind at the time this way:

"LBJ isn't deeply concerned about who governs Laos, or who governs South Vietnam -- he's deeply concerned with what the average American voter is going to think about how he did in the ball game of the Cold War. The great Cold War championship gets played in the largest stadium in the United States and he, Lyndon Johnson, is the quarterback, and if he loses, how does he do in the next election? So don't lose. Now that's too simple, but it's where he is. He's living with his own political survival every time he looks at these questions.”

In this context, domestic political considerations trumped the substantive reasoning that, once the futility and horror of the enterprise had been revealed, might have led to an end to the war. More and more it was understood to be a murderous farce, but politics dictated that it must continue. As long as this remained the case, no news from Vietnam could lead to a reversal of the war policies.

This was the top floor of the skyscraper of lies that was the Vietnam War. Domestic politics was the largest and most fact-proof of the atrocity-producing situations.  Do we imagine that this has changed?

Jonathan Schell is a Fellow at The Nation Institute, and the peace and disarmament correspondent for the Nation magazine. Among many other works, he is the author of The Real War, a collection of his New Yorker reportage on the Vietnam War.

[Under review in this essay: Nick Turse, Kill Anything that Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam (Metropolitan Books, 2013).  Jonathan Schell’s classic Vietnam books, The Village of Ben Suc and The Military Half, are now collected in The Real War (Da Capo Press).] 

This is a joint TomDispatch/Nation article and appears in print in the Nation magazine.

Copyright 2013 Jonathan Schell

Originally posted to TomDispatch on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 07:36 AM PST.

Also republished by Readers and Book Lovers.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Excellent review (13+ / 0-)

    ...and a deeply troubling, if not altogether surprising. Another book to add to my already bulging ”must read” list.

    Sunday Afternoon Composer: Like Monday Morning Quarterbacking, with music!

    by Freelance Escapologist on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 07:58:26 AM PST

  •  We'll be going to Vietnam at the end of the year. (21+ / 0-)

    Something like about 50 years "too late", thankfully.

    I was on a career path that would have had me be an AF pilot sometime in 1972 or so. A little late in the game, perhaps, but still in the game.

    Except that in 1969 I told ROTC I wasn't going to be a flyboy or an officer after all. I had already "signed my life away" by that point, so I ended up doing the last 2 years of my 4 year commitment as an airman 2 striper in a Precision Maintenance Equipment Laboratory at Davis-Monthan. My unit flew U-2s and recon drones (first generation, mostly over the harbors of north vietnam), and I stayed stateside. A compromise, to be sure. Still played some part in the bombing, true.

    Anyway, in Nov and Dec we'll be on a small group tour of the country. I hope to see what Vietnam is like in what I imagine is a more normal time for the place.

    Moderation in most things.

    by billmosby on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 08:10:31 AM PST

    •  I went back in '03 (12+ / 0-)

      Went to places I'd been: Pleiku, Qui Nhon, Anh Khe, Buon Ma Thuot, Mang Yang PAss
      And places I hadn't, like Mue Ne, Cu Chi and HCM City (then called Saigon)
      It was a very moving experience. Seems to me like they'd complete moved on and you could not see a trace of "The American War."
       Seems to me like the people who keep having to refight this war are all Americans.

      How did the Gates of Hell Open in Vietnam
      So that was what it was like? Imagine that.
      There I was, banging on the Gates of Hell

      Happy just to be alive

      by exlrrp on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 08:40:49 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  "moved on" (0+ / 0-)

        Could you say more about what this phrase means to you?  What conversations you had with the Vietnamese about the war and "moving on"?    I'm guessing that acknowledging the truth, which Vietnamese do, makes it easier to "move on."  That an the necessity of rebuilding your decimated country without any outside help.

  •  A Lot of Us Knew This. Many Vets Talked. (29+ / 0-)

    Thousands of them participated in anti-war activities after they came home.

    Add it to the mountain of realities of America that have been dismissed from the adult conversation over the past 2/3 century.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 08:10:48 AM PST

    •  I had a civilian political science instructor at (7+ / 0-)

      the USAF Academy circa 1987 who walked the class through a line of reasoning that ended with the logical conclusion that U.S. involvement there was a mistake.

      When he asked the class for their thoughts, no one spoke up. Except me. I had seen Stanley Karnow's "Vietnam: A Television History." It seemed pretty clear to me that Ho Chi Miin had wanted U.S. aid after WWII, admired the U.S., but couldn't bear to see his people continue to suffer so the North accepted aid from communist countries.

      The U.S. viewed communism as some sort of supernatural power that spread from place to place like a plague and the battle was joined.

      I'm sure it's all much more complex than that but Robert McNamara said on camera just a few years before he passed, "In hindsight, it was probably a mistake."

      But my class of cadets at USAFA? Not one raised their hand to dialogue with the instructor (exchange professor from Sandhurst or Cambridge IIRC). USAFA was also the first place I ever heard the word "liberal" spat out as an epithet. Some cadets also handed down ditties they apparently got from dads or older brothers that went in part: "killin' gooks in the sun, if she's pregnant two for one." This was after all, only 9 years after the end of the war.

      I entered the Academy (and active duty) wanting to become an astronaut. I left frightened of my own countrymen.

      Reaganomics noun pl: belief that unregulated capitalism can produce unlimited goods for unlimited people on a planet with finite resources and we the people can increase revenue by decreasing revenue.

      by FrY10cK on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 01:57:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  A war that should never have been fought (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FrY10cK, llbear, RWood

        i think that there is no better example of the saying "the road to Hwll is paved with good Intentions" than the Vietnam war.

        The USA made a lot of mistakes in that war but none more than picking up the banner of fallen french imperialism and renaming it fighting for freedom and democracy.

        Perhaps our biggest mistake was insisting that the geneva Accords split the country in half permanently.  It did not (read it!) but thats the way we insisted on reading it---a document that we had refused to sign in the first place.

         Allowing Diem to cancel the unifying elections of 1956, to be supervised by Canada, Poland and India, was another huge mistake. All we would have had to do is insist on the election being held and then go with the winner---whatever winner as long as it appeared to be an honest election--- and there would have been no Vietnam War for the USA. thats right, just follow the script, hold the mandatory election and thats it!! Millions of people would be waking around now who aren't

        You gotta say it---the Vietnam War was a bipartisan fuckup, every president from Truman to Ford had a chance at it and they ALL fucked it up. Finally events were settled outside our control.

        The best thing you can say about that war is that I survived it and its over

        Happy just to be alive

        by exlrrp on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 02:10:29 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  "killing gooks in the sun" (0+ / 0-)

        My father did TDY in Tan Son Nhut and other places in 63 and 64, when we were stationed in Japan, and was stationed in Thailand 68-70, as crew on missions over the Ho Chi Minh trail.  In the late 90s he picked up a CD by a retired pilot singing zippy songs about bombing the north.  (I think it was a fighter pilot - he loved fighter pilots - who accompanied the B52s.)  

        The songs made me sick as I thought of bombing of the dikes and the destruction of cities and farms - all war crimes - and all of it treated by this guy as just good clean fun.  

        We could never talk about this.  In my father's bitter reality, the real victims of the war were people like him who weren't appreciated for all they'd done.  Not the million Vietnamese who died, nor the grunts on the ground, most of whom were opposed to the war.  But the flyboys.

        So, you tell me - who had trouble "moving on?"

  •  Me too (36+ / 0-)
    "I wish I was a big enough man to say I
     forgive them, but I swear to God, I can't."
    - Hugh C, Thompson - My Lai - Viet Nam.
    Aging bitter Vietnam Veteran
    Repentant ex member of Murder Inc.
    Southeast Asia Division

    Hobbs: "How come we play war and not peace?" Calvin: "Too few role models."

    by BOHICA on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 08:15:21 AM PST

  •  Is there a correlation (8+ / 0-)

    That can be asserted, valid, that this three-decade trauma, manipulation, deceit, and horror most particularly has affected our culture -- and our future?
    Mumbling and stumbling ...

    •  One cultural effect: belief the government lies (8+ / 0-)

      I think before Vietnam---at least before LBJ--- most Americans assumed that the president and his government usually told the truth.

      The untolled litany of lies, big and small, that LBJ and Nixon and the civilian and military chain of command told the American people about the war certainly made skepticism about our government the order of the day.

      This hasn't disappeared, and probably that's a good thing.

      Resist much, obey little. ~~Edward Abbey, via Walt Whitman

      by willyr on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 09:26:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Iraq - more gov't lies (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sb, llbear, RWood

        More lies from the Govt that folks "believed" got us into Iraq.  So I don't think enough of us learned to distrust.

        "Eating your seed corn is not a good business model." - FishOutofWater

        by saluda on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 01:46:59 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Vietnam and Watergate helped pave way for Reagan (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Just Bob, allenjo, NoMoreLies, llbear, willyr

        The New Deal consensus built by 1930's alphabet agencies, by the GI Bill, by FHA loans, by SS, and all the rest, died, at least in part, b/c of the loss of confidence engendered by those back to back national traumas.  Carter promising to make it all right again and failing to deliver compounded matters.  There were other problems (e.g. the stirring up of racial resentments), but we still live w/ consequences of Vietnam and Watergate today.

        At this point, our govt seems to be much better at drone strikes, surveillance, and propping up zombie banks than it is at most anything else.  I really am not sure what to do about it at this point.  Attempts to pass halfway sane gun control measures run up against that reality now.

        Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?

        by RFK Lives on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 02:03:54 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yep. Carter ran on "I will never lie to you." (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RFK Lives, eyesoars

          almost entirely because it contrasted with Nixon, and...perhaps only by implication, with Johnson.

          And then comes Reagan and among many other fantastic lies, "We did not trade arms for hostages."

          Resist much, obey little. ~~Edward Abbey, via Walt Whitman

          by willyr on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 04:36:30 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  asterisk (0+ / 0-)

            Of course, there was the subclause, unnoted in the campaign, where Carter gave himself permission to lie about the Pershing Missile, the Soviet threat, arming death squads in El Salvador, supporting Somoza, funding genocide in Guatemala and East Timor, and more.  The differences between Carter and Reagan are greatly exagerrated.  Carter was the father of deregulation, not Reagan.  He's been a great ex-President, but he was not an antidote to Nixon.

    •  Refusal to face reality (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wayoutinthestix, sb, llbear, eyesoars

      People construct their own private reality, or group reality, and cannot see the world clearly.  That is the American disease.

      The amazing thing, and what we still haven't grasped, is that after all this WE STILL LOST.  It didn't work except to kill people.  But Vietnam and the Vietnamese survive to this day.

      The scientific uncertainty doesn't mean that climate change isn't actually happening.

      by Mimikatz on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 11:31:34 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  A million died for LBJ and Nixon (9+ / 0-)

    That's the very definition of insanity.

    Resist much, obey little. ~~Edward Abbey, via Walt Whitman

    by willyr on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 08:58:43 AM PST

    •  Well, at least Nixon's ego survived unshaved.... (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BOHICA, Don midwest, Just Bob, sb, llbear

      I mean, unscathed.

      I was glad I lived to see Johnson chastened. I didn't have to go piss on his grave after all.

      Not going to do it for Nixon, either. I wouldn't give him the satisfaction. Or something.

      Moderation in most things.

      by billmosby on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 09:40:19 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Their egos and personal insecurities (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        billmosby, sb, llbear

        were likely a huge reason for the arrogance of power (in Sen Fulbright's phrase) that they demonstrated by waging war against defenseless people.

        More secure and less paranoid presidents may not have made such immoral decisions.

        Resist much, obey little. ~~Edward Abbey, via Walt Whitman

        by willyr on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 09:58:32 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I worked in Russia for a while, and used to marvel (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Just Bob, exlrrp, llbear, strandedlad

          at how they all loved Putin (2004, 2005) while thinking to myself "thank god we have no such use for strongman leaders".

          But we really do have use for them, don't we? They just have to be a tad more subtle about it....

          That they all loved Putin was evidenced one time when we were watching some economic conference on TV while getting ready to go to work. It was on some island which didn't normally allow cars. Well, the big powers put up a stink about that and were allowed their limos after all. On the news segment I remember, a few limos pulled up and disgorged their vips. Then a big version of a golf cart pulled up. It was one of the kind normally used to transport people at the resort where the conference was being held. Behind the wheel, driving the Russian retinue to the conference, was none other than Vladimir Vladimirovitch himself. The Russians in the room erupted in applause. We smiled a little, too. At least Vlad had his shirt on that time, lol.

          Moderation in most things.

          by billmosby on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 10:09:04 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Democracy Now interview with Nick Turse (11+ / 0-)

    Resist much, obey little. ~~Edward Abbey, via Walt Whitman

    by willyr on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 09:03:20 AM PST

  •  A popular sentiment (14+ / 0-)

    Even Gov. Jimmy Carter supported Lt. Calley

    Hobbs: "How come we play war and not peace?" Calvin: "Too few role models."

    by BOHICA on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 09:05:47 AM PST

  •  Perhaps a latter day equivalent is this book (7+ / 0-)

    The Killing Birds by Richard Bennett. Bennett is a member of Daily Kos as are his mother and sisters. While serving in the Army, Bennett spent his time as an enlisted infantry soldier stationed at COP Michigan, the furtherest outpost in the Korangal Valley. For his actions taken to save an Army medic, Bennett recieved a Silver Star.

    The book is an outgrowth of the blog he wrote at the time called "Life in the General Infantry". Reading it will educate you on what it was like during the worst of the fighting and you will not emerge from the experience as a supporter of the Afghanistan war.

    Those who fought the war in Afghanistan won it. Get them out of Afghanistan NOW . . . It's long past time. Those who want to wage the next war in Afghanistan are condemned to lose it.

    by llbear on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 09:32:26 AM PST

  •  I fled to Canada in 1968 (13+ / 0-)

    just prior to being drafted. I thought then, and I still think that the Vietnam War was a kind of horrific mass-psychosis. I was not willing to participate.

    Most Americans supported it. The media all supported it. Those of us who opposed it were treated like personae non gratae. Dirty hippies I suppose, or subversives, though I was never either one of those things. Bob Dylan was singing that "one should never be where one does not belong" and I knew for sure I didn't belong in Vietnam.

    I was up in Canada but FBI agents were interviewing my relatives in the States, asking them where I was. My relatives said they didn't know. And they were patriots, too.

    So many guys my own age joined or got drafted or just went along with the flow I guess. I don't know how many of them actually believed in the virtue of what they were doing. Most of them did, I suppose.

    •  I remember watching the draft lottery numbers (10+ / 0-)

      being pulled and reading the newspaper the next day to search for my number. That experience can really warp a 16 year olds world view. I missed a few years as it wound and ground to a painful and long overdue end.

      I've known people that went to 'Nam and died, and I've known others that went and when they came back they were not the same person.

      I have total respect for anyone that had the courage to leave the country, and I also respect those that served. It is our over-lords that need shaming and blaming.

      Happiness makes up in height what it lacks in length. Natalie Grant

      by BusyinCA on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 11:06:54 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  "Do we imagine that this has changed?" (6+ / 0-)

    How dare you pose that question. Do you not realize that all of our troops have morphed into heroes?

    Wear it proud. Wear it loud. Outlaw concealed carry. That gun hidden under your coat won't deter shit.

    by WisePiper on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 10:30:30 AM PST

  •  Not the first time American soldiers did this (7+ / 0-)

    We could talk about the genocide perpetrated against native Americans, or the millions of Filipinos killed around the turn of the 20th century.  Planned murder is part and parcel of American history.

    BTW, scheduled for republishment in the Readers and Book Lovers group for 6PM ET.

    Ancora Impara--Michelangelo

    by aravir on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 10:37:58 AM PST

    •  The Native Americans weren't saints either (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I'm not saying that the Native Americans were treated fairly, but there were a series of wars and there were a number of atrocities by the Native Americans.  Their decimation by disease had a tragic inevitability to it that was truly unpreventable.

      •  Hey, it was their country first (7+ / 0-)

        and we came and took it away from them, piece by piece, lie by lie, broken treaty by broken treaty.

        Is it any surprise they fought back when, where, and in any way they could?

        If it's
        Not your body,
        Then it's
        Not your choice
        And it's
        None of your damn business!

        by TheOtherMaven on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 11:38:42 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I don't blame them, but... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          You couldn't surrender to Native Americans.  As a Westerner, if you were captured in a raid, you might live the rest of your life in one of their villages a very happy person, or you might be sacrificed to some god in a horrible manner.  

          Just about every bit of the planet is soaked in someone's blood.  How much Native American blood was spilled by them prior to our arrival?  They were not one tribe or people.  The similarities between the Aztecs and the Iroquois are minimal.  If the Aztecs weren't stopped by the Spaniards, we might now be talking about the extermination of the Northern American Indians by the Aztecs instead of by the white man.  

          •  All the Aztecs' neighbors hated them (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            but hadn't yet got to the point of ganging up on them and pulling them down. Then along came Cortez and talked them into it (he had to knock a few heads together first, and not only Native ones, IIRC).

            The trouble with the Aztecs was that some lunatic fanatic named Tlacaelel (I understand he was the brother of the ruler at that time, probably Moctezuma II's grandpa) drastically upscaled the sacrifice count out of some kind of nightmare belief that the sun would go out if they didn't.

            That level of bloodshed was not sustainable.

            Speaking of tribal/national differences, the Mayans were no angels either, but at least their sacrificial demands were relatively moderate and they had the option of offering your own blood (drawn from earlobes or tongue or, well, ahem) rather than just offing some poor captive or criminal. (The Spanish still thought they were weird as all heck, and spent two centuries conquering them one village at a time - which was necessary, since there was no central government.)

            If it's
            Not your body,
            Then it's
            Not your choice
            And it's
            None of your damn business!

            by TheOtherMaven on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 12:58:54 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  And there was the ball game (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              Which people originally said involved sacrificing the winners but that was likely untrue.  The losers were more likely the ones that were sacrificed and the games were often rigged in that the "home team" would effectively be professional players while the "away team" might be put together on the spot and made to play.

              The Aztecs were interesting in that their religion, which demanded the blood sacrifice to keep the gods in the proper harmonious alignment, apparently wasn't very old as far as such things go.  How you create a brand spanking new religion and then say "oh by the way, we need a ton of sacrifice" is beyond me.

              •  The Aztecs took up the established pantheon (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                of the established Nahuatl-speaking groups in the area, and simply added their own variations. The upscaled body count came later.

                If you're wondering how one religious fanatic can cause major, even catastrophic, changes to local culture, I suggest you consider Girolamo Savonarola. He almost single-handedly destroyed the Renaissance spirit in Florence in a few short years, getting the Florentines to burn all their "vanities" (including paintings by the leading artists of the day, which we would have loved to have) and dropping it from the leading center of art and culture in northern Italy to a provincial backwater. He was eventually condemned and burned as a heretic, but the damage was done - and the cultural center of Italy shifted irrevocably back to Rome.

                If it's
                Not your body,
                Then it's
                Not your choice
                And it's
                None of your damn business!

                by TheOtherMaven on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 11:29:36 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  Take a look around (0+ / 0-)

                Modern Wall Street capitalism requires mass unemployment (and the attendant suicides, premature deaths, bankruptcies, homelessness, and local gang wars) and endless foreign wars with millions of dead.  

                It's pretty new - less than a century old - and if it's not a religion, I don't know what is.  

                We're getting ready for our next sacrifice to the Austerity Market God.  The Democrats want to give the poor and middle class some anesthesia as they are marched up the pyramids.  The Republicans think for the Market God to bless the country, the victims need to writhe and scream as their hearts are ripped out.  Both sides are Aztecs.

  •  Contrary to popular propaganda (10+ / 0-)

    The Winter Soldiers and VVAW were right.

    Hobbs: "How come we play war and not peace?" Calvin: "Too few role models."

    by BOHICA on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 10:46:36 AM PST

  •  Strangely enough.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BOHICA, Just Bob

    ....when I went there ten years ago, upon learning I was American the locals in Hanoi were as nice as could be.

    No one ever created a vibrant economy by building houses for each other. Houses are built because there is a vibrant economy.

    by Doug in SF on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 10:47:52 AM PST

  •  I went to Canada (9+ / 1-)

    but my country's killing of those beautiful people and their timeless homeland left me traumatized to this day.

  •  1969 saw me slide into the Coast Guard... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Don midwest, GANJA, sb, marina

    ...before the Army got me. (I had a low number)
    I spent the next four years fixing teletypes and public address systems while the war went on "out there".
    The grapevine held horrific tales, though.  At the time, they were dismissable as sour scuttlebutt, but time and history would prove this not quite so.
    Home in '73, thoroughly disgusted at my government and country, I ran away to the hills of New Hampshire for twenty years or so.  Good times.  Beautiful country.  Lovely people.  'Never felt like a real veteran, though, and stayed away from all the functions.
    Now, as an old timer with many of my veteran friends dead and gone, what I see of our government's activities ON OUR BEHALF still disgusts me.  I still don't feel like a "real" veteran because I avoided the war, a totally mixed bag emotionally.  What and who we vote for seems increasingly irrelevant to what is actually happening in the rest of the world in our names.  What good is a politician if the "real" wars are getting fought in secret by the CIA?
    Can we vote those guys and gals out?

    Rant over.  Coffee time...

    I remember back in high school, sitting around a Coffee House table (remember those?) talking about the war and the draft and luck and politics.  We agreed 'way back then that the situation sucked and our government was lying it's ass off.  We felt we'd never know the truth.
    Thanks to some incredibly brave souls, we now can.

  •  This is brilliant: (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    howardfromUSA, sb, NoMoreLies, RWood
    In the official war, the people of South Vietnam were resisting the attempts of the North Vietnamese to conquer them in the name of world communism.  The United States was simply assisting them in their patriotic resistance.  In reality, most people in South Vietnam, insofar as they were politically minded, were nationalists who sought to push out foreign conquerors: first, the French, then the Japanese, and next the Americans, along with their client state, the South Vietnamese government which was never able to develop any independent strength in a land supposedly its own.
    Eisenhower's blocking of the 1956 elections in Vietnam, promised in the Geneva Convention as I understand it, was based on his understanding that Ho Chi Minh would win overwhelmingly in an honest election. How many lives did that decision cost? And how many souls?

    We all understand that freedom isn't free. What Romney and Ryan don't understand is that neither is opportunity. We have to invest in it.
    Julian Castro, DNC 4 Sept 2012

    by pixxer on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 01:36:22 PM PST

    •  How many lives? 3.5 million dead (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pixxer, RWood

      according to Brittanica

      As many as 2 million civilians, 1.1 million North Vietnamese and VietCong military, 200,000 to 250,000 South Vietnamese military, 58,000 U.S. military and approximately 4,000 military from other countries. 

      Resist much, obey little. ~~Edward Abbey, via Walt Whitman

      by willyr on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 02:18:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  People who read this are likely already on board (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Don midwest, sb, shigeru, marina

    that what "the US" did, does and will be doing is just a huge bucket of very profitable, Smedley-Butler-"War is a racket"-proving bullshit. Too bad so many will blow past this and tiptoe on to other interests and distractions

    Eventually the "reporting," the recollections and retrospection will catchup with the people who are pounding out the same horrific rhythms on the largely defenseless heads of people in Iraq, Afghanistan (too bad the moniker "Not-Again-istan" didn't catch on), and a bunch of other places where the real nature of what "we" have become is being worked out and confirmed.

    Seems to me the worst evils come from people with the biggest pretensions to High Moral Correctness and Goodness. Hence, the Catholic Church hierarchy, and maybe what we call "the Taliban," and our own pseudo-Christian fundamentalists, and our own young men (I was one, too) full of mythical notions of the sanctity of Democracy, American Style and the superiority of Our Way Of Life, to be forced like molten gold down the throats of any who even seemed to resist being "perfected" along the lines the cynical mothertruckers who run our "policies" have laid down. Or who dared to shoot at or shoot back at us, in the real fundamental strategy of our war lords: "We kill some of them, so they kill some of us, so we kill some of them, so they kill some of us, so we kill some of them..."

    From what I recall, the more self-aware people, in other large empires that have gone down this same path, have experienced this same schizophrenic awakening, to what they pretend to be about versus what they actually do. Lots of folks here sort of hate the Right, which seems characterized by being locked down in terminal cognitive dissonance, burdened with an identity that is irreconcilable with the myths they have been fed.

    I was in I Corps from late December '67 to my DEROS in August of '68. Chaplains would tell us we were doing God's work, officers would, uncomfortably in some cases, tell us about the importance of our missions and contributions, all that shit. By then it was pretty apparent to a lot of the people I knew that Something Was Very Rotten, and it was all about search-and-destroy and getting home alive.

    To all you people who dare to "thank us for our service," maybe you home folks could be a little more honest and just say "Thank God I was not stupid or vulnerable enough to get sucked into and suckered in that $4 trillion, 2-to-4-megadeath, very profitable enterprise that the country is still paying for, or that latest round of total-assvipe Dickless CheneyRummieisms that they have the bal!s, now, to refer to as 'wars of choice.'" There were reasons for the home folks to feel uncomfortable around the GIs coming back from that horror show. There are reasons for the "thousand yard stare."

    For anyone who would like an easy read on how "we" slithered down into a war that even made Lady Bird Johnson a bundle off the activities of KBR doing stuff like building the huge installation at Cam Ranh Bay, which in the early '90s the "gooks" offered to lease back to "us" when the Filipinos and Mt. Pinatubo tossed us out of Clark AFB and Subic Bay, might I dare to suggest the fourth section of Barbara Tuchman's book "The March of Folly, From Troy to Vietnam"?

    But hey, it's all too complicated for most of us, who like and are taught to demand, simple, idiot story lines with villains and heroes and all that shit, and light at the end of the tunnel. And we do not like to have our noses pushed up against the glass where we are forced to see the bloody fucking mess that we finance and send our young people to create and re-create and re-re-create, for the benefit of career officers, Pentagram playboys, those huge ungovernable war contractors, and the Policy Players who spin it all together and seem to get really rich off of it all and are always free of any consequence for any amount of horror. Like the Nazis who decamped from Germany before the end, taking the gold they pulled from the teeth of death-camp corpses and art treasures and other portable wealth as they flew off, like our current crop of banksters and the kleptocratic dictators "we" support right up to the point that the way we support them (like the Shah's SAVAK secret police and other state-security nonsense) leads to stuff like Syria Now, flew off to comfortable retirements in Uruguay or Chile or Argentina and other even more garden-like spots.

    So as far as I can see, we humans have just about shot our collective wad (having stood up in a huge circular firing squad to shoot each other down), poisoned ourselves and the planet, and set in motion the worst of all the things we could have done with our time, our place and ourselves.

    "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

    by jm214 on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 01:43:54 PM PST

    •  not really on board -- or else would truly object (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      marina, RWood

      i was able to avoid Vietnam by staying in school

      what is new in this book is extent of the war on civilians

      it is going on today with little outrage

      we destroyed Iraq. 2 mil refuges in country, 2 million outside. how many killed?

      man now reporter family lived in Baghdad for generations. went back last year. now knows no one. blast walls and bombs made geography of city so he cannot find way around.

      and there is the minor issue of the trillions of dollars

      in short, Americans not on board about what we did there, nor what we continue to do as we get involved in more and more wars because the war on terror will never end

      our empire will collapse at some time - cannot afford the cost and the world is turning against us

      last I heard the approval rating of US in the middle east is worse than when W Bush was president

      and now we are on the brink of wars in Africa

  •  One thing crossed my mind. (0+ / 0-)

    If Americans had foreign troops killing their families, busting down their doors in midnight raids, bombing their neighborhoods with drone strikes, or facing checkpoints on their roads then they'd be singing a different tune about war and foreign policy. It's not happening to them, therefore they could care less.

     Generally Americans are detached and sheltered from war. We're not under constant attack or invasion, so war has become a type of fantasy sport. Liberal and conservative Americans alike will support the military and its wars no matter what. It's a sad testament when war is consider "humanitarian". Of course sometimes war is necessary, but our country will find any excuse to go to war.

     This reply was going to be a lot more passionate, yet I think that wouldn't be productive. :)

  •  Just want to give it up for some people (0+ / 0-)

    some people who died there

    Happy just to be alive

    by exlrrp on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 02:19:22 PM PST

  •  Most modern war is in fact a war against (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    civilians. In each major war since WWI the civilian casualties have vastly exceeded military casualties. In WWII it was approximately 10 to 1. The biggest atrocity in VN IMHO was the air war, which has previously received little condemnation.

    I spent 6 months in a line unit until injury, wounds and illness forced me to the rear echelon. I never saw nor participated in any of the actions noted in the diary. That is never burned houses, raped or pillaged. I know no one who did, although I did hear some stories thereof.

     I did however witness the results of arc light attacks against villages and infrastructure. These were horrifying. The US has re-invented the Roman concept of total war which is institutionalized in such things as shock and awe and carpet bombing.

    If... the machine of government... is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. ~Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobediance, 1849

    by shigeru on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 02:26:35 PM PST

  •  Many thanks 4 this, TomDispatch (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The robb'd that smiles steals something from the thief. -- Shakespeare

    by not2plato on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 06:08:47 PM PST

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