Monday, December 16, 2013

Kill Anything That Moves - Nick Turse

When I finished "Kill Anything That Moves," I wanted to stand up and give it a round of applause. Rarely does a book come around that is so thoroughly researched, so compellingly and humanely told as this. Like a talented composer, Nick Turse draws from a dizzying din (millions of military documents, oral recollections, old news stories, etc.) and forges it into a singular unrelenting vision: "The Vietnam War," the book declares,"was not a war but an 18 year massacre." 

War journalism is a difficult art. Emotions run high, experiences vary, time warps memory, and cover-ups abound. It is easy to give into nostalgia or whitewash what American soldiers did. After all, this is a book written by an American for an American audience. That given, I was extremely impressed with Turse's integrity. Although explaining the circumstances that were conducive to sadistic and shockingly brutal behavior (soldiers were young, sleep-deprived, stressed, traumatized, and trained to disregard Vietnamese life) he does not explain away or absolve individual soldiers of their crimes.

In one fascinating passage, Turse recounts the same massacre from two point of views: a soldier and a woman who barely escaped being murdered by him. I was really impressed by how often Turse let Vietnamese civilians and war crime survivors speak for themselves.

"Kill Everything that Moves" contains page after page of real crimes acted out by individual soldiers. Turse also spends time discussing how higher ups encouraged war crimes by covering them up and providing benefits to units with higher body counts.

Main Bullet Point: Read It. It will change the way you view Vietnam (and American foreign policy as a whole) forever. 

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