Friday, November 28, 2008


Book on U.S. war crimes in Vietnam

Interested readers may want to check out The War Behind Me: Vietnam Veterans Confront the Truth about U.S. War Crimes, by Deborah Nelson (Basic Books, 2008).

I have not yet read the book myself; according to the website for the book, and a review in the Chicago Reader, in 2005 author Nelson (former Washington reporter for the Los Angeles Times) and her collaborator, military historian Nicholas Turse, began delving into a Pentagon archive of investigations and evidence of atrocities committed by U.S. military forces during the Vietnam war. The records -- some 9000 pages of evidence -- were kept secret, and were only recently declassified by the government after more than 30 years.

Again according to the book website and the Chicago Reader review, Nelson and Turse found preponderant evidence that atrocities by the U.S. military were widespread and common throughout the war; the Pentagon archive contained "hundreds of sworn statements from soldiers and veterans who committed or witnessed rapes, torture, murders, massacres, and other illegal acts." (Quoting here from a short excerpt from the book, in the book website at the first link above.)

During the years of the war in Vietnam, and in the many years since, persistent reports have surfaced and circulated repeatedly of all manner of war crimes carried out by the U.S. military. Occasionally the reports made their way into corporate news media; more typically, they came to light (over and over again) in smaller news outlets -- radical newspapers and magazines, small community-funded radio stations, and in the countless public speaking and teaching and learning events that have gone on unabated in all places during the continuing resistance to the fog of military-industrial noise and silence. And Nelson and Turse make the same point -- that the evidence has been available, however scattered and fragmentary, over the past several decades, to anyone with a will to pay attention to it.

I plan to track down the The War Behind Me and read it.

Author Deborah Nelson is currently traveling and reading from the book, and has readings scheduled in early December in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Seattle; see the Tours link at the book website at the first link above.

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