|For half a century, we have been arguing about the Vietnam War. Is it possible we did not 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 Moves, Nick Turse has, for the first time, put together a comprehensive picture, written with mastery and dignity, of what American forces were actually doing in Vietnam. The findings disclose an almost unspeakable truth. Meticulously piecing together newly released classified information, court-martial records and other Pentagon reports, firsthand interviews in Vietnam and in the United States as well as contemporaneous press accounts and important work by previous scholars, Turse shows that what were often presented as isolated atrocities—
episodes of devastation, murder, massacre, rape, torture—were in fact the norm, a continuous stream of atrocity that unfolded year after year throughout the country.
It has been Turse’s great achievement to see that thanks to the special character of the war, its fundamental reality—an accurate overall picture of what was occurring on the ground—has 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 American phase 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 presents plenty of numbers: for instance, the mind-boggling estimates that overall some 2 million civilians were killed and some 5 million wounded during the war, or that the United States flew 3.4 million aircraft sorties and expended 30 billion pounds of munitions, releasing the equivalent in explosive force of 640 Hiroshima bombs.
Yet it would not have been enough simply to accumulate anecdotal evidence of abuses. Therefore, while providing an abundance of firsthand accounts, Turse has supplemented this approach. Much like a fabric, any 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 with implications that reach out, so to speak, toward the wider area of surrounding facts. When some of these 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 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 it, you want to 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 is still doing and still is. [...]
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2010—MA-Sen: Campaign Frenzy:
|The first conversation you have with people in Massachusetts these days is about what phone calls they've gotten. "I was home today," my father told me on Friday, "and the bulk of the phone calls we got were about the election: Bill Clinton, the DNC, a Coakley volunteer, the Brown campaign, my union president..." Saturday, it was a robocall from Scott Brown's daughter complaining about the negative attacks against her father. (That is, against disclosure of his record and positions.) Today, my mother answered the phone and was asked if she believed that marriage was between a man and a woman. When she replied no, the National Organization for Marriage thanked her and signed off. Moments later, the phone rang. It was MassEquality calling to let people know NOM was making calls.
At Coakley campaign headquarters, and nearby at the Massachusetts Democratic Party, volunteer phonebankers often apologize for the volume of calls people are getting. But they keep calling, and the stacks of completed call sheets are added to as fast as they can be entered in the computers. The complacency that plagued us just a week ago has been thoroughly punctured and volunteers have flooded in.
No, Massachusetts is not accustomed to this kind of campaign.
Massachusetts is also not accustomed to a candidate as low-down and scum-sucking as Scott Brown, and once again the compressed schedule of what you might call the real campaign is an issue, forcing voters to absorb the rapid-fire succession of stories only now coming out about Brown, after he's spent months defining himself as that telegenic guy who never says the word "Republican."
On today's Kagro in the Morning show: Greg Dworkin with new polling on gun issues, and the many definitional problems on all sides of the policy debate. Wayne LaPierre's flip-flop on gun-free schools. A follow-up on an accidental shooting: no charges in the case of the 7-year-old shot sitting in dad's truck. Next, Doctor Who's questions about Harry Reid & filibuster reform. Finally, David Nir on the despicable record of Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN-05).