American Rape of Vietnamese Women was Considered “Standard Operating Procedure”

Share

Hits: 17923

Comparing testimony from Vietnamese women and American soldiers, Gina Marie Weaver, in her book Ideologies of Forgetting: Rape in The Vietnam War, finds that rape of Vietnamese women by American troops during the US invasion of Vietnam was a “widespread”, “everyday occurrence” that was essentially “condoned”, even encouraged, by the military, and had its foundation in military training and US culture.  She explores why US rape in Vietnam was so common, and why this aspect of US behavior has been virtually “erased” from “narratives of the war”.  She stresses the issue is also important as rape in the US military continues at a high level today, having been mostly transferred away from foreign populations and onto female American soldiers.

Rape of Vietnamese women by US troops “took place on such a large scale that many veterans considered it standard operating procedure.”  It was “systematic and collective”; an “unofficial military policy”.  One soldier termed it a “mass military policy.”  Indeed, rape followed by murder of Vietnamese women was “so common that American soldiers had a special term for the soldiers who committed the acts in conjunction: a double veteran”.  Examples of soldier testimony regarding rape include: “…they raped the girl, and then, the last man to make love to her, shot her in the head” (Weaver notes the phrase “make love” here speaks in part to the military and general culture’s conflation of love, sex, and violence); two US soldiers dragged a young, naked woman out of a “hootch”.  The reporting soldier said rape was “pretty SOP [Standard Operating Procedure]”.  The woman woman was then tossed onto a “pile” of “19 women and children”, and soldiers around the pile “opened up on full automatic on their M-16s, and that was the end of that”; soldiers pulled a girl out of a bomb shelter and raped her in front of her family.  The reporting soldier said he knew of “10 or 15 of such incidents at least.”  The platoon leader “condone[d] rape”; female prisoners were “raped, tortured, and then were completely destroyed – their bodies were destroyed”; one sergeant reportedly told his platoon, “if there’s a woman in a hootch … rape her.”

Weaver explores the military and civilian culture of the period that produced these behaviors.  Soldiers generally cited racism and sexism, noting these were “pre-existent” and then “heightened” in military training.  One soldier said “the military was just an exaggeration, a caricature, of all that had gone before”.  Weaver notes there was a conflation of “enemy” and “race”; the “enemy” – i.e. the population being invaded by foreigners and slaughtered – does not have uniforms, but is an entire race of “gooks”, or evil, sub-human “objects”.  US culture and military training also encouraged the idea that women were inferior and the feminine was something to be hated and violently rejected.  Masculinity was defined through violent hostility to femininity.  Women, like the Vietnamese people, were objects – in the case of women, detestable objects that existed to serve men sexually.  Thus, Vietnamese women, Weaver notes, were doubly inferior, doubly hated.  Training essentially demanded men become misogynist predators.  Further hostility towards the feminine arose due to the prominence of women in the Vietnamese forces; the idea of being killed by a woman made the threat of the feminine that much more potent, and aggression against the feminine that much more common and extreme.  There was also an idea in the culture that men simply “had” to have sex; that they could not abstain during their tours of duty.

Weaver further notes some of the aggression acted out in Vietnam arose from the “powerlessness” of the working class American family, a “powerless kin unit” that could not “really determine [its] own future”, causing “powerless” father figures often to lash out violently through “intense male chauvinism”.  US women’s movements of the sixties were “catalyzed by these very attitudes”.  A further “sense of sexual entitlement” was “linked to soldiers’ belief in American exceptionalism” – the belief that the US was doing Vietnam a favor by destroying the country and killing millions of people, so Vietnamese women thus owed something to American men.  Many soldiers also pointed to movies with violent caricatures of masculinity, particularly “cowboys and Indians” films, especially ones starring John Wayne, as inspiration for joining the military.  When film crews came to Vietnam, soldiers would often strike poses as if they were soldiers in a Hollywood movie, thus “pretending to be” what they were.  In 1968, to help propagandize Americans in favor of the war, John Wayne actually made a Western style film, The Green Berets, pitting US soldiers as “cowboys” against Vietnamese “Indians”.  The film was a box office success but panned critically.  Military recruiters claimed recruitment climbed whenever John Wayne films were shown on TV.

Weaver, also a scholar of nationalism, then delves into how and why the history of rape has been “forgotten”, repressed, or erased.  She discusses the ways in which rape is generally used to “reinforce nationalism”: 1) men claim to defend the nation against enemies who would rape “their” women, and 2) rapes committed by one’s own nation are whitewashed, etc.  Thus, to bolster or “restore comfortable myths of American exceptionalism”, “producers of cultural narrative … forget” these and other aspects of US behavior that cause shame; owning up to them would debunk “the militarized … exceptionalism from which such behavior sprang”.  Even academics, “whose special job it is to remember such events”, “participate in this erasure.”  One reason it has occurred, says Weaver, is the nation’s re-positioning and re-imagining of the Vietnam veteran as pure victim.  This erases Vietnamese victims and allows the US nation, by extension, to become the war’s true victim.  This is in part a failure of trauma theory to provide a nuanced analysis wherein a veteran can be both victim and victimizer/war criminal (though it seems this “failure” may be a function of the ingrained nationalism, including in academia, that Weaver describes).  Weaver points out that many veterans are “victimized” by the memory of atrocities they have committed, but by committing them they are also victimizers.  Allowing them to admit what they have done (as many have tried to do) and accepting what they have to say, rather than whitewashing it, is thus, Weaver says, an important part of the healing process.

The “primary vehicle of forgetting violence against women in Vietnam” is “[v]isual media – specifically Hollywood films.”  Weaver looks in particular at some nominally “anti-war” films.  Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket,” based on Vietnam veteran Hasford’s novel The Short-Timers, erases Hasford’s depictions of rapes by US soldiers, as well as his illustration of the military conflation of rape and murder.  Hasford’s novel contains no Vietnamese prostitutes, but Kubrick’s film creates two.  Kubrick thus replaces women victimized by Americans with women who corrupt Americans (even though, Weaver notes, the US military was “almost solely responsible” for the proliferation of prostitution in Vietnam through the intentional destruction of the economy and agriculture, which forced people to turn to any means necessary to survive).

Oliver Stone’s “Platoon” depicts a rape about to take place but keeps it out of frame and has the “normative”, everyman American soldier intervene against the “bad seed” outcasts to stop it.  De Palma’s “Casualties of War” does largely the same thing, first bordering on justifying a rape by establishing that the soldiers expected to find prostitutes in the area but did not, then (contrary to its source material), while depicting the rape in frame (though without nudity), having the “normative”, middle-class everyman American (in reality all of the soldiers involved in this were “family men” of the same social class), played by Michael J. Fox, intervene against the lower class “bad seed” soldiers (an intervention that in reality did not occur), thus encouraging the interpretation that this was an atypical, essentially non-American occurrence.  The rapist/murderers were then, in reality, reported and tried.  De Palma includes their trial and sentencing, thus suggesting the problem was both limited and dealt with by the justice system, encouraging feelings of pride and closure.  However, Weaver notes, he erases that the already very short sentences were commuted to virtually nothing.

Weaver mentions that a later Stone film, Heaven and Earth, depicts the rape of a Vietnamese woman, Hayslip, by a North Vietnamese soldier (another rape that actually occurred in real life).  She does not delve into this scene at all, but I hypothesized that it would depict the rape more graphically and directly than any of the other films, would include no intervention to stop the rape, no justification, and no suggestion that the offender was either non-normative or was brought to justice.  I watched the scene, and my hypothesis was correct.  It is the most graphic of any of the rape scenes from the above films.  Stone shows the North Vietnamese soldier pushing Hayslip to the muddy ground in the rain, ripping her top open, starkly revealing her breasts, and then opening his pants and raping her, with medium shots showing the act, including multiple thrusts, and close up shots of both faces during the act: her tortured expression and his evil grimace.  There is no “normative”, everyman North Vietnamese savior to stop the act; the crime is not justified in any way; the rapist is depicted as a normative soldier, while another, a similar soldier stands guard.  A close comparison of Stone’s two rape scenes would have contributed to Weaver’s demonstration of how nationalism influences depiction of rape: as Weaver illustrates, rapes committed by members of one’s “own” country tend to be erased, hidden, disavowed, justified, or a “normative”, national everyman savior intervenes to stop the rapes, which are being committed by “non-normative” nationals.  Rape committed by a member of an outside, or especially a targeted nation, on the other hand, can be depicted in graphic and gruesome detail with no redeeming elements whatsoever.


Originally published on 2017-10-03

About the author: Robert J. Barsocchini is a graduate student in American Studies and a journalist. 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.

Source: Counter Punch

Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection, Public Domain & 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.

[wpedon id=”4696″ align=”left”]

Save

Save 

READ MORE!
Sixteenth Anniversary of the Attack on Yugoslavia: Expulsion of Roma from Kosovo
Once NATO’s 1999 war on Yugoslavia came to an end, units of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) poured across the border. The KLA wasted little time in implementing its dream of an independent Kosovo purged of all other nationalities. Among those bearing the brunt of ethnic hatred were the Roma, commonly known in the West as Gypsies. Under the protective umbrella of NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR), the KLA was free to launch a pogrom in which they beat, tortured, murdered and drove out every non-Albanian and every non-secessionist Albanian they could lay their hands on.Not long after the war, I ...
READ MORE
The Historical Background of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Part IThe historical background of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is going back to 1917 (the Balfour Declaration) and the establishment of the British protectorate over Palestine (the Palestine Mandate) after WWI with its provision for a national home for the Jews, although formally not to be at the expense of the local inhabitants – the Palestinians. Nevertheless, it became in practice the focal problem to keep an appropriate balance between these stipulations to be acceptable to both sides – the Jews and the Palestinians.The people and the landSince the time of the Enlightenment followed by the Romanticism, in West Europe emerged ...
READ MORE
Hiroshima, Vietnam, Cuba: A Hegemonic Power Never Says Sorry…
A hegemonic power never says sorry.Three recent episodes underscore this truism.When US President Barack Obama offered a floral wreath at the cenotaph of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park on 27 May 2016, some peace advocates in the United States, in Japan and in other parts of the world hoped against hope that he would say “sorry” for the Atom bomb that the then US President, Harry Truman, had ordered to be dropped over Hiroshima on the 6th of August 1945. The deadly bomb claimed 140,000 lives. Three days later a second Atom bomb destroyed the city of Nagasaki killing another ...
READ MORE
What is a Politics?
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. [wpedon id="4696" align="left"]
READ MORE
President Erdogan, a Menace to the World
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has become a serious danger not only to his own nation, but to many others as well. His actions and statements in recent years should seriously worry his neighbors and the entire world.The last tyrant ignored by the international community was the genocidal butcher Adolf Hitler, who unleashed World War II, invading scores of countries and killing millions of people. Regrettably, Western leaders have tried to appease Erdogan, thereby creating a monster.Strangely, some nations in the Islamic world have treated him respect, while many Western countries consider Turkey as one of their key allies. To ...
READ MORE
Russia and the European Union
PrefaceAfter the end of the USSR in 1991, Russia, at that time both weakened and isolated, was becoming a less popular area of investigation and studies compared with the period during the Cold War. However, since the year of 2004, Russia is “back” in the global political arena when Moscow rejected the European Neighboring Policy’s game with the European Union (the EU). Those who argued that Russia was already irrelevant in global politics since 2004 had to realize their error of judgment. Today, Russia is “back” as a military, economic, and political Great Power with tremendous energy resources.[1] Recovering Russia’s ...
READ MORE
Manipulation: The US State Department’s New Program to Take On Hungarian Media
Hypocrisy may be the only consistent guiding principle of US foreign policy. Here's a prime example of the "do as we say, not as we do" that is the core of how Washington does business overseas: In the same week that the the US Justice Department demanded that the Russian-backed RT America network register as a foreign propaganda entity or face arrest, the US State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DNL) has announced that it is launching a program to massively interfere in NATO-partner Hungary's internal media.So the US Justice Department is cracking down on RT America for what ...
READ MORE
The U.S. Prospects against the Russians and Chinese in World War III
The Saker reports that Russia is preparing for World War III, not because Russia intends to initiate aggression but because Russia is alarmed by the hubris and arrogance of the West, by the demonization of Russia, by provocative military actions by the West, by American interference in the Russian province of Chechnya and in former Russian provinces of Ukraine and Georgia, and by the absence of any restraint from Western Europe on Washington’s ability to foment war.Like Steven Starr, Stephen Cohen, myself, and a small number of others, the Saker understands the reckless irresponsibility of convincing Russia that the United ...
READ MORE
Kosovo: An Evil Little War (Almost) All US Candidates Liked
Although the 2016 presidential election is still in the primaries phase, contenders have already brought up America’s failed foreign wars. Hillary Clinton is taking flak over Libya, and Donald Trump has irked the GOP by bringing up Iraq. But what of Kosovo? The US-led NATO operation that began on March 24, 1999 was launched under the “responsibility to protect” doctrine asserted by President Bill Clinton and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. For 78 days, NATO targeted what was then the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia – which later split into Serbia and Montenegro – over alleged atrocities against ethnic Albanians in the ...
READ MORE
On the Native Genocide
Columbus made four voyages to the New World. [1] The initial voyage reveals several important things about the man. First, he had genuine courage because few ship’s captains had ever pointed their prow toward the open ocean, the complete unknown. Secondly, from numerous of his letters and reports we learn that his overarching goal was to seize wealth that belonged to others, even his own men, by whatever means necessary. Columbus’s Spanish royal sponsors (Ferdinand and Isabella) had promised a lifetime pension to the first man who sighted land. A few hours after midnight on October 12, 1492, Juan Rodriguez Bermeo, ...
READ MORE
All the American Lies About Serbs
In the sea of misinformation sloshing around the Western media during the Yugoslav civil wars, Serbs fared the worst. As a rule, they were accused even of atrocities that never happened, or were committed by others. The real truth would usually emerge several years later, from the mouths of international officials who at the time held important and responsible positions.American press and electronic media have “discovered” that the Serbs weren’t the “bad guys” to the extent the American reporters from the Balkans made them out to be. Even though Jack Kelly, a correspondent of USA Today, resigned years ago because ...
READ MORE
Kosovo’s “Mafia State” and Camp Bondsteel: Towards a Permanent US Military Presence in Southeast Europe
In one of the more bizarre foreign policy announcements of a bizarre Obama Administration, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has announced that Washington will “help” Kosovo to join NATO as well as the European Union. She made the pledge after a recent Washington meeting with Kosovan Prime Minister Hashim Thaci in Washington where she praised the progress of the Thaci government in its progress in “European integration and economic development.”1Her announcement no doubt caused serious gas pains among government and military officials in the various capitals of European NATO. Few people  appreciate just how mad Clinton’s plan to push ...
READ MORE
How Corrupt America is
The best reporting on the depth of America’s dictatorship is probably that being done by Atlanta Georgia’s NBC-affiliated, Gannett-owned, TV Channel “11 Alive”, WXIA television, “The Investigators” series of local investigative news reports, which show, up close and at a cellularly detailed level, the way things actually work in today’s America. Although it’s only local, it displays what meets the legal standards of the US federal government in actually any state in the union; so, it exposes the character of the US government, such that what’s shown to be true here, meets America’s standard for ‘democracy’, or else the federal ...
READ MORE
Destruction of Christianity: Syria and Kosovo
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. [wpedon id="4696" align="left"]
READ MORE
“Islamic State Déjà Vu”
Author’s note: The following article focussing on the jihadist terrorist insurgency in Macedonia was first published by antiwar.com in July 2001, barely two months before the September 11, 2001 attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon.Known and documented, since the Soviet-Afghan war, recruiting Mujahedin (“holy warriors”) to fight covert wars on Washington’s behest had become an integral part of US foreign policy. A report of the US Congress had revealed how the US administration – under advice from the National Security Council headed by Anthony Lake – had “helped turn Bosnia into a militant Islamic base” leading to the recruitment ...
READ MORE
Living Under Libyan “Dictator” Muammar Gaddafi
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. [wpedon id="4696" align="left"]
READ MORE
U.S. Presidential Lying is Nothing New
After escalated provocations with Mexico, until he obtained the necessary pretext in 1846, President James Polk announced, “War exists,” thus explaining away how it really happened. After defeating Spain, William McKinley said he wanted to “uplift and civilize and Christianize” the Filipinos, and “by God’s grace do the very best we could by them.” But they’d already declared independence, so doing the “best” actually meant allowing the worst — killing and burning villages during a 12-year war of resistance.In 1947, Harry Truman (image right) wanted to “assist free peoples to work out their own destinies in their own way.” But ...
READ MORE
How the War in Ukraine Started
Clear and convincing evidence will be presented here that, under U.S. President Barack Obama, the U.S. Government had a detailed plan, which was already active in June 2013, to take over Russia's main naval base, which is in Sevastopol in Crimea, and to turn it into a U.S. naval base. There can now be no question that the war in Ukraine started, and resulted from, the U.S. Government's plan to take over all of Ukraine, and especially to take over that Russian naval base, in Crimea, which then was in Ukraine. The war in Ukraine didn't start at the time when ...
READ MORE
NATO – A Dangerous Alliance
When the Warsaw Pact ended, after the collapse of communism, some optimists might have expected Nato to be broken up too.After all, the Labour Party in Britain had been opposed to Nato in the mid-1980s. But that was not to be. The US, which had always dominated Nato, quickly began to reinvent Nato and furthermore to expand it.Following the end of the Warsaw Pact many central and east European governments wanted to join Nato.This of course was music to the ears of the US military manufacturers. Indeed, the chair of the expand Nato committee, Bruce Jackson, was technical director of ...
READ MORE
McCain Against the World
In his militarist lust he was near lunacy; his ignorance: profound; he was, in many respects, conventional—numbingly conventional—on Washington’s global role. That was John McCain. This was a man who, post-9/11, promoted measures expected to boost foreign terrorism. “Within hours” of that morning’s carnage, he made himself “leading advocate of taking the American retaliation against Al Qaeda far beyond Afghanistan,” to countries—like Iraq—with no Qaeda ties, where revenge, really, would be aggression. On CNN, aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, on “Face the Nation” he pushed for assaulting Iraq, stressing the “need to keep telling the American people” about Saddam’s menace, to ...
READ MORE
Sixteenth Anniversary of the Attack on Yugoslavia: Expulsion of Roma from Kosovo
The Historical Background of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Hiroshima, Vietnam, Cuba: A Hegemonic Power Never Says Sorry…
What is a Politics?
President Erdogan, a Menace to the World
Russia and the European Union
Manipulation: The US State Department’s New Program to Take On Hungarian Media
The U.S. Prospects against the Russians and Chinese in World War III
Kosovo: An Evil Little War (Almost) All US Candidates Liked
On the Native Genocide
All the American Lies About Serbs
Kosovo’s “Mafia State” and Camp Bondsteel: Towards a Permanent US Military Presence in Southeast Europe
How Corrupt America is
Destruction of Christianity: Syria and Kosovo
“Islamic State Déjà Vu”
Living Under Libyan “Dictator” Muammar Gaddafi
U.S. Presidential Lying is Nothing New
How the War in Ukraine Started
NATO – A Dangerous Alliance
McCain Against the World

FOLLOW US ON OUR SOCIAL PLATFORMS
Share