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July 13 2009 at 10:34 AM
Michael Dorosh 

Response to Vietnam discussion

Ken, ask yourself what the death toll was for the Viet Cong in that war. (By early 1962, about 300,000 were under arms.) Where did they all come from? They weren't all "brainwashed". Some were indeed compelled to fight. Others were willing volunteers. The VC did use terrorism to achieve its goals - threatening and executing officials, for example, to keep locals in line. How widespread this was, I don't know. On the other hand, you zero in on military age males, yet the people living on those farms I mentioned represented a diverse range of ages. The 75 year old woman and the 6 year old boy may or may not have had much interest in politics when U.S. Marines were burning their village down "in order to save it." I'm sure it was more complex than sweeping generalizations will allow - I'm reminded of descriptions of the Bataan Death March in 1942. By all accounts, not a fun time, yet some U.S. survivors reported that their Japanese captors gave them food and water and in one case even hard candies. Certainly not the "norm" for that event, but it all depended on where you were, and spoke to the idea that you could simply generalize.

I don't wish to demean U.S. involvement in the war or suggest that the troops did not have some higher purpose than simply destroying civilian property - but by the same token, I think it is possible for you to idealize the war to too great an extent. I don't doubt that there was more support for U.S. military involvement than is currently portrayed in the popular media. I contest the notion that it should be remembered as universal.

One of the most interesting books - not the best - I've read on the military side of things was Anthony Herbert's SOLDIER. He was the most decorated U.S. soldier of the Korean War and a battalion commander in the 173d Airborne Brigade. His first book on Korea was no literary masterpiece, but his later book on Vietnam was much more polished. It comes off as self-serving and I don't know how accurate it is as he basically exonerates himself from being shit-canned by his brigade commander; Herbert says he was simply too good at his job whereas the Army wanted a body-counting yes-man ready to lose the war on command. I still don't know what to make of the book, but I enjoyed reading it.

This message has been edited by dorosh on Jul 13, 2009 10:36 AM

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