Since author Nick Turse was not yet born 40 years ago when the Vietnam War ended, it seems natural that he would present a thoroughly documented history to try to understand what occurred over the course of that long war. His book Kill Anything That Moves has over 80 pages of footnotes and references.
He started out wanting to write a dissertation on the effects of traumatic stress disorder and stumbled into documentation which indicated that the killing and raping of thousands of Vietnamese civilians was not just the work of “a few bad apples” but was the result of policy from the very top down the chain of command.
Turse thoroughly documents that investigations of mass killings such as those at the famous My Lai massacre resulted in the court marshaling of a few individuals to make it appear that the military establishment did not approve the killing of innocent people. In reality the policy was “kill anything that moves” including women, children, young and old, anything that ran away from soldiers.
Thirty thousand books have been written on the war, why another? What Turse adds to the mix is a follow-up report using hundreds of classified documents and personal accounts that have previously not been available. As a young returning veteran of the war, Secretary of State John Kerry reported to Congress the same sort of atrocities but his remarks were dismissed by a national public having just lost our first war ever. Perhaps we as a nation are ready to accept the truth.
“Kill Anything That Moves” helps explain the large number of mixed up, homeless and confused men, good soldiers who returned from a war based on a policy that is considered a war crime, a war in which they followed orders to kill civilians. Is it no surprise that the war produced trauma for so many individuals who fought it?
Turse traveled to Vietnam to interview people who survived the American atrocities and documents very personal accounts of the suffering of civilians in the war, suffering that in any other war would be investigated as war crimes, something which Americans in general do not appreciate.
I am reminded of a poem written by a young high school girl that I heard in 1969 in which she tells of the suffering of a mother whose son has been killed in a war to defend his country. At the end of the poem she asks, “Why do we not cry with this Vietnamese mother?”
If you want to see an interview of Nick Turse by Bill Moyers click here.