A Look at “Kill Anything that Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam”

In Kill Anything that Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam (Metropolitan Books. New York. 2013), Turse writes that the US military’s official position, and the popular understanding in the US, is that leadership “has never condoned wanton killing or disregard for human life.” (2) On the rare occasions when atrocities are brought to light, they are blamed on low-level individuals and are said to be aberrations having nothing to do with official policy. The My Lai massacre, for example, was blamed on Lieutenant William Calley, who is said to have gone “crazy” (4,5) – although he and his unit were following orders from up the chain of command. In terms of striving for an understanding of the Vietnam war, Turse’s book is of crucial importance for its detailed illustration of two points: one, that the atrocities at My Lai were “eclipsed by similar American actions throughout the country”. A 2008 Harvard Medical School study put the number of deaths due to the Vietnam war at 3.8 million. Turse says this may well be an underestimate. The total number of civilian casualties (meaning people killed and wounded) may be around 7.3 million. This includes 8,000 to 16,000 paraplegics, 30,000 to 60,000 blinded, and 83,000 to 166,000 amputees. This was an “endless” American “slaughter” that “wiped out civilians day after day, month after month, year after year”. (13) Secret US government internal investigations, which Turse unearthed, reveal that “atrocities were committed by every … major army unit in Vietnam” (emphasis in original). When he began his investigation of US war crimes in Vietnam, Turse thought it would be like “looking for a needle in a haystack.” What he discovered was a “haystack of needles.” (21)

Two: This pattern of behavior was not “accidental.” (14) Rather, it was the “outcome of deliberate policies, dictated at the highest levels of the military.” (6; related: 40-51)

The ethos of the US’s Vietnam attack plan was “embodied most fully” in Secretary of Defense (1961-68) Robert McNamara. The plan, which was carried out with “corporate”, “businesslike”, “scientific”, “assembly line … efficiency”, was fairly simple: to kill so many people that the independence/communist movement would “give up the fight”. “At the most basic level”, “everything” thus “came down to” what was termed the “body count”. “Body count” was the “preeminent statistic” – the military’s “raison d’etre” – a command flowing “from the Pentagon…”, which essentially assigned “killing quotas”. The “war managers” thus “base[d] the entire American military effort” on producing “Vietnamese corpses”, (40-4) with results for the Vietnamese population at large that were quite “…foreseeable.” (14) These results were also “facilitated by the contempt that Americans generally” had for the Vietnamese. US President Lyndon Johnson referred to Vietnam as “a piddling piss-ant little country.” McNamara called it a “backward nation”; Kissinger, a “little fourth-rate power”; others called it a “garbage dump”; the “asshole of the world”. A popular proposal was to “Kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out.” (49) Vietnamese were commonly regarded as “subhuman”, a notion that was tied into the “Mere Gook Rule”, or MGR, which said Vietnamese were “little more than animals” and thus “could be killed or abused at will.” (50)

The strategic effort to produce mountains of Vietnamese corpses began with training, wherein US recruits – essentially an army of teenagers (34) – were intentionally conditioned to regard Vietnamese people as “dinks”, “gooks”, “slopes”, VC (another US-coined pejorative term), “slants”, “rice-eaters”, etc., and simultaneously indoctrinated into virtual sociopathy and toxic masculinity, constantly made to shout slogans like “Kill! Kill! Kill!”. (28, 30) Instruction on laws of war was almost entirely absent, and, if mentioned, was buried far beneath training overwhelmingly intended to mold hardened killers.

Once they reached Vietnam, soldiers found that “emphasis on body counts was everywhere”, coming “down through the channels.” One soldier: “It was all about body count. Our commanders just wanted body count.” A medic: “Get the body count. Get the body count. Get the body count. It was prevalent everywhere… [T]he mindset of the officer corps from the top down.” (44) Corpse production was further encouraged through a system of punishments and rewards. Lower producers had to stay in the field longer, risking their lives. Higher producers spent less time in the field and received awards such as resort-vacation passes, “medals, badges, extra food, extra beer, permission to wear non-regulation gear, and light duty at base camp.” Another medic called this a “real incentivizing of death”. A veteran termed it a killing “competition”. In this competition, some soldiers “racked up huge personal body counts” of “a thousand or more”. (43-44) One, Roy Bumgarner, may have personally killed 1,500 people as part of “Operation Speedy Express”, a case highly relevant to “the American way of war”. (199)

Much of the text is dedicated to looking at specific examples of what resulted from this approach to war and how it was executed. “Sometimes, when units were short of ‘kills’, prisoners or detainees were simply murdered.” Such killings occurred “in unit after unit”. (46-7) Part of the body-count strategy involved using technological “overkill” on the “little fourth-rate power”. Facing guerillas armed mainly with rifles and soda-can grenades, or North Vietnamese troops armed with AK-47 rifles, and rocket-propelled grenades, the US employed an “arsenal unlike any seen before” – “more killing power, destructive force, and advanced technology than any military in the history of the world”. Some top commanders openly celebrated Vietnam as a US “weapons lab”. (78) Ultimately, the US unleashed the equivalent of 640 Hiroshimas on Southeast Asia during the Vietnam war – mostly in South Vietnam (as so many there supported the independence/communist movement), where, unchallenged (as the South Vietnamese had no air defenses), the US carried out, via millions of sorties, “the most intense bombing campaign in history.” (79-80) It also engaged in ecocide through intensive chemical warfare, spraying toxic compounds over vast swathes of land and “4.8 million people”, with resultant cancers, birth defects, etc., ongoing. The US also set “massive” forest fires, wiping out “about 100,000 acres of forest.” (96)

Regarding specific killings, Turse writes “no one could bear to read a full listing”. In hundreds of pages, he describes atrocity after atrocity, but first qualifies that this is merely a “series of snapshots culled from a vast album of horrors” – a “fraction” of the reports he was able to assemble. (108-9) In addition to gruesome killings, Turse logs the repeated American use of human shields, such as forcing civilians to act as mine detectors and, when they were blown up, tallying them as part of the “body count”. (121, 217) Many, such as General George S. Patton III (son of the famous WWII General), took and displayed “macabre souvenirs”, like Vietnamese skulls – a practice unsurprising, Turse notes, given the contempt the US had for the Vietnamese people. US personnel “hacked the heads off Vietnamese” people to keep or “exchange for prizes offered by commanders.” “Many more” took ears, which were sometimes made into necklaces. Other body-part souvenirs included “scalps, penises, noses, breasts, teeth, and fingers”. One soldier noted there were people “in all the platoons with ears on cords”. Another soldier said the sight was an “everyday occurrence”. Soldiers regularly mutilated corpses and took “photos of their handiwork”, “filling scrapbooks with the results.” A journalist noted “thousands” of albums “all seemed to contain the same pictures”: “the severed head shot, the head often resting on the chest of the dead man or being held up by a smiling Marine, or a lot of the heads, arranged in a row, with a burning cigarette in each of the mouths, the eyes open”. Some of the pictured victims were “very young”. “Half the combat troops” had these “snapshots”. “[S]ome American troops hacked the heads off the dead and mounted them on pikes or poles”. Others “lashed corpses to US vehicles and drove through towns and villages”, or ran down “pedestrians by the roadside”. (161-3) As Vietnamese women were “doubly ‘other’”, sexual violence was “omnipresent”. In the field, “rape was a way of asserting dominance, and sometimes a weapon of war” used to torture “women captives to gain information”. Some women were “kidnapped”, raped, and murdered. “Gang rapes” were “horrifyingly common”. (164-68) Torture was “routine”; “the norm”; a “matter of de facto policy”. One unrepentant soldier said torture was used “by all units”. (172, 187)

Turse notes most of this is “forgotten”; “buried”; “vanished” (258) – or, as Trouillot might put it, “silenced”.

Though Turse notes that he reports only a “fraction” of documented atrocities committed by US forces in Vietnam, reading through the two central atrocity chapters (4 and 5) still becomes a disorienting, brutal, and then numbing slog.  For the sake of reference and sanity, there could have been more organization to delineate specific categories of crimes in these sections.  However, an argument in favor of Turse’s choice might be that to become familiar with this material requires an element of the insane.

Turse elevates his text to essential-status by illustrating that the insanity existed within a wider businesslike, statistical, assembly-line-efficient, top-down strategy of terror.


Originally published on 2017-11-26

About the author: Robert J. Barsocchini is a graduate student in American Studies. Years working as a cross-cultural intermediary for corporations in the film and Television industry sparked his interest in the often astounding discrepancy between Western self-image and reality. His work has been cited, published, or followed by numerous professors, economists, lawyers, military and intelligence veterans, and journalists.

Source: Washingtons Blog

Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!

Donate to Support Us

We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.

 

READ MORE!
Difference between Iran and the USA
Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement! Donate to Support Us We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations. Save Save
READ MORE
Native American Genocide
The term Genocide derives from the Latin (genos=race, tribe; cide=killing) and means literally the killing or murder of an entire tribe or people. The Oxford English Dictionary defines genocide as “the deliberate and systematic extermination of an ethnic or national group” and cites the first usage of the term as R. Lemkin, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, (1944) p.79. “By ‘genocide’ we mean the destruction of a nation or an ethnic group.” The U.N. General Assembly adopted this term and defended it in 1946 as “….a denial of the right of existence of entire human groups.” Most people tend to associate ...
READ MORE
“Collateral Damage” from America’s De-Stabilizing, Endless, Post-9/11 “Wars On Terror”
“Show me bodies floating in water, play violins and show me skinny people looking sad. I still don’t care.” – Popular conservative Sun (a British daily newspaper) commenting on the homeless war refugees from war-torn Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, etc. who are fleeing their militarily de-stabilized and devastated countries after their homes and homelands had been reduced to bloody rubble by soldiers obeying orders from their commanders (including NATO and American “interventionism” in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, etc, etc). Hopkins appears to be in good company. But she was probably just paraphrasing what she had been hearing from a multitude of ultra-nationalist ...
READ MORE
The Sabra & Shatila Massacre
On September 16, 1982, Christian Lebanese militiamen allied to Israel entered the Palestinian refugee camp of Shatila and the adjacent neighborhood of Sabra in Beirut under the watch of the Israeli army and began a slaughter that caused outrage around the world. Over the next day and a half, up to 3500 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians, mostly women, children, and the elderly, were murdered in one of the worst atrocities in modern Middle Eastern history. The New York Times recently published an op-ed containing new details of discussions held between Israeli and American officials before and during the massacre. They ...
READ MORE
NATO-CIA-Pentagon: Junction of the Real Druglords & Warlords
Are you aware of the heroin epidemic that has been on fire all across America- since 2001? Thanks to the government-corporate media outlets you probably are not. Between 2002 and 2013, heroin-related overdose deaths in the US quadrupled, with more than 10,000 people dying of heroin overdoses in America in 2014 alone. Afghanistan has been the number one source globally of both opium and heroin: Heroin from Afghanistan has killed more people than the 55,000 Americans killed in the Vietnam War. An American now gets killed every 32 minutes by Afghan heroin. With US heroin deaths tripling every four years, an American ...
READ MORE
Journey to Aleppo: Exposing the Truth Buried under NATO Propaganda
Aleppo has become synonymous with destruction and “Syrian state-generated” violence among those whose perception of the situation in the war-torn nation is contained within the prism of mainstream media narratives. The NATO-aligned media maintains a tight grip on information coming out of this beleaguered city, ensuring that whatever comes out is tailored to meet State Department requirements and advocacy for regime change. The propaganda mill churns out familiar tales of chemical weapons, siege, starvation, and bombs targeting civilians–all of which are attributed to the Syrian government and military, with little variation on this theme. The purpose of this photo essay and my ...
READ MORE
Washington Leads the World to War
What must the world think watching the US presidential campaign? Over time US political campaigns have become more unreal and less related to voters’ concerns, but the current one is so unreal as to be absurd. The offshoring of American jobs by global corporations and the deregulation of the US financial system have resulted in American economic failure. One might think that this would be an issue in a presidential campaign. The neoconservative ideology of US world hegemony is driving the US and its vassals into conflict with Russia and China. The risks of nuclear war are higher than at any previous ...
READ MORE
The Kurds Under Erdogan’s Tyrannical Governance
Tens of thousands have been killed over 40 years of bloodletting between Turkish forces and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and tragically there seems to be no end in sight. In May 2016, President Erdogan stated that military operations against the PKK will continue until “the very last rebel is killed.” What is alarming about Erdogan’s statement is that he still believes he can solve the conflict through brutal force. Erdogan does not understand that he cannot wish the Kurdish problem away—a problem that will continue to haunt him and the country for countless more decades unless a solution is ...
READ MORE
Newly Declassified Documents: Gorbachev Told NATO wouldn’t Move Past East German Border
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was given a host of assurances that the NATO alliance would not expand past what was then the East German border in 1990 according to new declassified documents. Russian leaders often complain that the NATO extended an invitation to Hungary, Poland and what was then Czechoslovakia to joint the alliance in 1997 at the Madrid Summit in contravention of assurances offered to the Soviet Union before its 1991 collapse. The alliance has dismissed the notion that such assurances were offered, however, scholars have continued to debate the issue for years. Now, however, newly declassified documents show that ...
READ MORE
A Special Relationship Born in Hell: The US Should Cut all Ties with War Criminal Israel
If you want to understand what the “special relationship” between Israel and the United States really means consider the fact that Israeli Army snipers shot dead seventeen unarmed and largely peaceful Gazan demonstrators on Good Friday without a squeak coming out of the White House or State Department. Some of the protesters were shot in the back while running away, while another 1,000 Palestinians were wounded, an estimated 750 by gunfire, the remainder injured by rubber bullets and tear gas. The offense committed by the Gazan protesters that has earned them a death sentence was coming too close to the Israeli containment fence ...
READ MORE
Crimea: Was it Seized by Russia, or did Russia Block its Seizure by the U.S.?
Both before and after Crimea left Ukraine and joined Russia in a public referendum on 16 March 2014, the Gallup Organization polled Crimeans on behalf of the U.S. Government, and found them to be extremely pro-Russian and anti-American, and also anti-Ukrainian. (Neither poll was subsequently publicized, because the results of each were the opposite of what the sponsor had wished.) Both polls were done on behalf of the U.S. Government, in order to find Crimeans’ attitudes toward the United States and toward Russia, and also toward Ukraine, not only before but also after the planned U.S. coup in Ukraine, which occurred ...
READ MORE
Lincoln Ordered the Greatest Mass Hanging in America’s History
Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement! Donate to Support Us We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.
READ MORE
Why are We in Kosovo?
Once again, U.S. air and naval forces are preparing strikes on Serbia’s army and police for refusing to stand down in Kosovo. And, once again, Americans are deeply ambivalent about intervention. “Either we get in there with a NATO force, or we get the hell out,” said an exasperated Sen. John Warner after Yugoslav strong man Slobodan Milosevic showed two NATO generals the door. Warner advocates intervention. But Americans sense that, despite our disgust at the latest massacre and Milosevic’s thuggery, no vital U.S. interest exists there. The Serbs do not threaten NATO; they have not attacked Americans; they are fighting to ...
READ MORE
100 Years Ago US Troops Attacked Russia’s Pacific Coast and Committed Atrocities
Four men, accused of being partisans, are alleged to have been buried alive. The wife of a partisan is said to have been “pierced by bayonets and drowned in a garbage pit” [искололи тело штыками и утопили в помойной яме]. The author (who is unnamed) states that his own elderly father was taken as a hostage by Allied forces from the town of Kharitonovka [Харитоновка]. He was returned home alive but in a bloodied condition. He is said to have died a few days later, after asking “Why did they torture me…”? [За что меня замучили]. The man is said to ...
READ MORE
Tiananmen: The Empire’s Big Lie
Early in 1989, China was stirring. A decade of groundbreaking reforms inspired by Deng Xiaoping had brought the moribund economy to life and freed the nation from the ideological shackles imposed by radical Maoists during the cataclysmic Cultural Revolution. Almost everything seemed possible, as Deng proteges Hu Yaobang and then Zhao Ziyang led policymaking on a day-to-day basis. But the changes sweeping China had its dark undersides. Large-scale economic reforms also meant expanded corruption opportunities, which many officials exploited. And Chinese who “got rich first,” under the Dengist dispensation, opened a rapidly expanding wealth gap with fellow citizens. Discontent simmered dangerously. The ...
READ MORE
Obama’s Ukrainian Coup Caused 2.5 Million Ukrainian Refugees into Russia
On Tuesday, March 7th, Russia’s top parliamentarian dealing with the Ukrainian refugee influx into Russia — dealing, that is, with the people who have fled Ukraine as a result of U.S. President Barack Obama’s 2014 coup overthrowing Ukraine’s democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych — presented the first-ever comprehensive number of asylum-applicants from Ukraine who have received asylum there after that February 2014 coup. The Russian government had never before publicly provided a number, but does have an established system of processing refugees, including assignment of official refugee status, which «allows the recipient various social benefits, including unemployment compensation» and so each Ukrainian refugee has ...
READ MORE
International Injustice: The Conviction of Radovan Karadzic
Last Thursday, news reports were largely devoted to the March 22 Brussels terror bombings and the US primary campaigns. And so little attention was paid to the verdict of the International Criminal Tribunal for (former) Yugoslavia (ICTY) finding Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic guilty of every crime it could come up with, including “genocide”.  It was a “ho-hum” bit of news.  Karadzic had already been convicted by the media of every possible crime, and nobody ever imagined that he would be declared innocent by the single-issue court set up in The Hague essentially to judge the Serb side in the ...
READ MORE
Faith Attaguile, from Encinitas, yells chants with others on the corner of Broadway and Front Street , Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, in downtown San Diego, during a protest in opposition of Donald Trump's presidential election victory. (Hayne Palmour IV/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP)
On April 7, two U.S. Navy battle ships USS Porter (DDG-78) and USS Ross launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at al-Shayrat military airfield in Syria’s Homs province from the Eastern Mediterranean. The U.S. strikes particularly targeted the main landing strip, aircraft, radio locators, air defense system and fuel stations. The strike was approved by U.S. President Donald Trump, who said that the Syrian Air Force used affiliated al-Shayrat air base to prepare chemical attack on the city of Khan Shaykhun in Idlib.  “It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and ...
READ MORE
The USA Bombing List: The Democracy World Tour
Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection & Pinterest. Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement! Donate to Support Us We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.
READ MORE
NATO’s War of Aggression Against Yugoslavia in 1999
Eighteen years ago in the early hours of March 24, 1999, NATO began the bombing the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. “The operation was code-named “Allied Force ” – a cold, uninspired and perfectly descriptive moniker” according to Nebosja Malic. This article was first written in May 1999 at the height of the bombing of Yugoslavia. The causes and consequences of this war have been the object of a vast media disinformation campaign, which has sought to camouflage NATO and US war crimes. It is important to note that a large segment of the “Progressive Left” in Western Europe and  North America were part of this disinformation campaign, presenting ...
READ MORE
Difference between Iran and the USA
Native American Genocide
“Collateral Damage” from America’s De-Stabilizing, Endless, Post-9/11 “Wars On Terror”
The Sabra & Shatila Massacre
NATO-CIA-Pentagon: Junction of the Real Druglords & Warlords
Journey to Aleppo: Exposing the Truth Buried under NATO Propaganda
Washington Leads the World to War
The Kurds Under Erdogan’s Tyrannical Governance
Newly Declassified Documents: Gorbachev Told NATO wouldn’t Move Past East German Border
A Special Relationship Born in Hell: The US Should Cut all Ties with War Criminal Israel
Crimea: Was it Seized by Russia, or did Russia Block its Seizure by the U.S.?
Lincoln Ordered the Greatest Mass Hanging in America’s History
Why are We in Kosovo?
100 Years Ago US Troops Attacked Russia’s Pacific Coast and Committed Atrocities
Tiananmen: The Empire’s Big Lie
Obama’s Ukrainian Coup Caused 2.5 Million Ukrainian Refugees into Russia
International Injustice: The Conviction of Radovan Karadzic
Chemical Attack in Idlib – Duplication of Scenario in Eastern Ghouta
The USA Bombing List: The Democracy World Tour
NATO’s War of Aggression Against Yugoslavia in 1999
Policraticus

Written by Policraticus

SHORT LEGAL DISCLAIMER: The website’s owner & editor-in-chief has no official position on any issue published at this website. The views of the authors presented at this website do not necessarily coincide with the opinion of the owner & editor-in-chief of the website. The contents of all material (articles, books, photos, videos…) are of sole responsibility of the authors. The owner & editor-in-chief of this website is not morally, scientifically or legally responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the contents of all material found on this website. The owner & editor-in-chief of this website is not responsible for the content of external internet sites. No advertising, government or corporate funding for the functioning of this website. The owner & editor-in-chief and authors are not morally, scientifically or legally responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the text and material found on the website www.global-politics.eu

Website: http://www.global-politics.eu