In 1968, the going rate for adult lives was thirty-three dollars, while children merited just half that. In one instance, after two members of Huynh Van Thanh’s family were crushed to death by cargo dropped from a US helicopter, the American military paid him about sixty dollars and gave him some surplus food, a bottle of liquid soap, two coloring books and a box of crayons. … By failing to accept responsibility for deaths and attempting to buy off Vietnamese grief over dead children for absurdly low amounts - about what a radio cost in America at the time - the United States explicitly commodified and devalued Vietnamese life. As James William Gibson put it, the solacium system was ‘the most perverse exercise of turning people’s lives and deaths into ledger entries.’
Nick Turse, from his book Kill Anything That Moves
Even as the conflict dragged on, year after year, the Pentagon’s war managers never gave up their conviction that American technological prowess would ensure victory. … The United States would not deploy its nuclear arsenal, but it would nonetheless assault Vietnam with the destructive power of hundreds of Hiroshimas. In other words, it would wage a war of overkill. … [O]n average, between 1965 and 1968, thirty-two tons of bombs per hour were dropped on the North. It turned out, however, that of the munitions unleashed by the United States in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War - which added up to the equivalent of 640 Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs - the lion’s share was dropped not on the North but on South Vietnam, America’s own ally. There, around 19 million people would be subjected to the most lopsided air war ever fought. … The Vietnamese revolutionary forces never yielded to American firepower. But overkill did succeed in producing misery on an epic scale, especially for Vietnamese civilians.
Nick Turse from his book Kill Anything that Moves
On August 31, 1969, a rape was committed in Vietnam. Maybe numerous rapes were committed there that day, but this was a rare one involving American GIs that actually made its way into the military justice system.
And that wasn’t the only thing that set it apart.
War is obscene. I mean that in every sense of the word. Some veterans will tell you that you can’t know war if you haven’t served in one, if you haven’t seen combat. These are often the same guys who won’t tell you the truths that they know about war and who never think to blame themselves in any way for our collective ignorance.
The truth is, you actually can know a lot about war without fighting in one. It just isn’t the sort of knowledge that’s easy to come by.
There are more than 30,000 books on the Vietnam War in print. There are volumes on the decision-making of Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, grand biographies of Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh, rafts of memoirs by American soldiers — some staggeringly well-written, many not — and plenty of disposable paperbacks about snipers, medics, and field Marines. I can tell you from experience that if you read a few dozen of the best of them, you can get a fairly good idea about what that war was really like. Maybe not perfect knowledge, but a reasonable picture anyway. Or you can read several hundred of the middling-to-poor books and, if you pay special attention to the few real truths buried in all the run-of-the-mill war stories, you’ll still get some feeling for war American-style.
The main problem with most of those books is the complete lack of Vietnamese voices. The Vietnam War killed more than 58,000 Americans. That’s a lot of people and a lot of heartache. It deserves attention. But it killed several million Vietnamese and severely affected — and I mean severely — the lives of many millions more. That deserves a whole lot more focus. [must read]
For half a century we have been arguing about ‘the Vietnam War.’ Is it possible that we didn’t 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 actually were doing in Vietnam. The findings disclose an almost unspeakable truth. Meticulously piecing together newly released classified information, court-martial records, Pentagon reports, and firsthand interviews in Vietnam and the United States, as well as contemporaneous press accounts and secondary literature, Turse discovers that episodes of devastation, murder, massacre, rape, and torture once considered isolated atrocities were in fact the norm, adding up to a continuous stream of atrocity, unfolding, year after year, throughout that country.
… for all the ink about the ‘Vietnam analogy,’ virtually none of the reporters, pundits, historians, generals, politicians, or other members of the chattering classes ever so much as mentioned the Vietnam War as Pham To knew it. In that way, they managed to miss the one unfailing parallel between America’s wars in all three places: civilian suffering. For all the dissimilarities, botched analogies, and tortured comparisons, there has been one connecting thread in Washington’s foreign wars of the last half century that, in recent years at least, Americans have seldom found of the slightest interest: misery for local nationals. Civilian suffering is, in fact, the defining characteristic of modern war in general, even if only rarely discussed in the halls of power or the mainstream media.
Nick Turse, “So Many People Died”: The American System of Suffering, 1965-2014
For the initiated, Sky Watch is like one of those mechanical forest walkers from the Star Wars movies without the lasers or the walking. Imagine an 7-foot by 6-foot metal box, with blacked out windows on its four sides, bristling with cameras, spotlights, and a small spinning anemometer (to calculate wind speed), atop spindly hydraulic legs that allow it to sit on the ground or rise up two stories. Inside that climate-controlled cube is a control panel with switches to turn on the lights, a joystick to raise and lower the unit, and various other remote controls that Officer Guzman or someone like him can use to direct the cameras and watch their feeds on video screens (while they are recorded on multiple digital video recorders).
Nick Turse | What Happened When I Tried to Get Some Answers About the Creepy NYPD Watchtower Monitoring OWS