The title Kill Anything That Moves is not merely an exaggeration, but the truth behind the military operations of the United States in Vietnam. As a reader who knew the narrative from textbooks and mainstream media, I did not expect that this was not only a war to stomp off communism and communistic ideals in Asia, but it is a war of mistakes, losses, and gains. Nick Turse tells accounts from throughout his book that describes how unjust and senseless the war was. A war that was motivated by numbers, propaganda, and US national interests. I thought the documentary Fog of War was appalling, but there are even more appalling stories in Turse’s book. Soldiers were ordered to kill anything that moves even if they have a slight doubt if its Viet Cong’s men, assets, or subjects. It was a brutal and traumatic experience for many of the soldiers who received this order from their commander. Through the accounts of whistleblowers like Jamie Henry, a former army medic, it painted a dark narrative that reframes military operations in Vietnam as irrational and unjust. Massacres in My Lai are one of many mass killings that involved the death of many civilians including women and children. “An operation, not an aberration” was essentially the statement that came out of the investigations. The cover-ups and downplaying of what happened in Vietnam were defensive tactics to bury the lies, tragedies, and traumas that happened in the jungles and villages of Vietnam. A war that was all about numbers, “body count,” as Turse emphasized in his book: “Sometimes when units were short of “kills,” prisoners or detainees were simply murdered (46).” The war considered civilian deaths as “collateral damage” and an inevitable part of fighting off revolutionaries in Vietnam (51).” From the harrowing accounts of survivors and soldiers of the war, altogether they conveyed that irrational decisions and assumptions motivated the operations of the war. Despite their accounts and testimonies, federal investigation assures that the orders that were given during the war were a result of the “growing violence” in the country. A narrative that obviously counters the narrative of people who witnessed it.
RT America presented images that accompanied Nick Turse’s exposé on the real accounts of the Vietnam War. “It captures the reality of war – a reality that is shrouded in censorship and propaganda.” Chris Hedges noted that we need to understand the tragedies in Vietnam War in order to understand our wars in the Middle East:
It was interesting that after Turse published his first article leading to the publication of the book, the files on Vietnam War were sealed immediately and you have to file a Freedom of Information Request to access those files. I wonder if the United States is doing this because of the bad PR or simply as a precautionary measure to bury in secrecy the reality of the war? Either way, this speaks volumes on the possible truths that are embedded in those unlabeled sealed files. Our wars in the Middle East and current tension in Iran offers that there is a narrative that alters the actual truth. In the age of techno war, Hedges and Turse put the responsibility on us as citizens to advocate and know the truth about the reality of our military operations and war efforts overseas.
Nick Turse. Kill Anything that Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam. 2013. Introduction: An Operation, Not an Aberration; Chapter 2: A System of Suffering; Chapter 7: Where Have All the War Crimes Gone?; Epilogue: Wandering Ghosts.
RT America. “On Contact: The Hidden Tragedy of the Vietnam War with Nick Turse.” YouTube. 2 January 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vr70CISwy_k