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Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnamby Nick Turse
Friday, January 31, 2014 07:30 PM
Powell's City of Books on Burnside, Portland, OR
Americans have long been taught that events such as the notorious My Lai massacre were isolated incidents in the Vietnam War, carried out by just a few "bad apples." But as award-winning journalist and historian Nick Turse demonstrates in this groundbreaking investigation, violence against Vietnamese noncombatants was not at all exceptional during the conflict. Rather, it was pervasive and systematic, the predictable consequence of official orders to "kill anything that moves." Drawing on more than a decade of research into secret Pentagon archives, classified documents, and extensive interviews with American veterans and Vietnamese survivors, Turse reveals for the first time the workings of a military machine that resulted in millions of innocent civilians killed and wounded — what one soldier called "a My Lai a month." Devastating and definitive, Kill Anything That Moves (Picador) finally brings us face-to-face with the truth of a war that haunts America to this day.
Synopses & Reviews
Based on classified documents and first-person interviews, a startling and sure to be controversial history of the American war on Vietnamese civilians
Americans have long been taught that events such as the notorious My Lai massacre were "isolated incidents" in the Vietnam War, carried out by a few "bad apples." However, as award-winning journalist and historian Nick Turse demonstrates in this pioneering investigation, violence against Vietnamese civilians was not at all exceptional. Rather, it was pervasive and systematic, the predictable consequence of official orders to "kill anything that moves."
Drawing on a decade of research into secret Pentagon files and extensive interviews with American veterans and Vietnamese survivors, Turse reveals the policies and actions that resulted in millions of innocent civilians killed and wounded. He lays out in shocking detail the workings of a military machine that made crimes in nearly every American unit all but inevitable. Kill Anything That Moves takes us from archives filled with Washington's long-suppressed war crime investigations to the rural Vietnamese hamlets that bore the brunt of the war; from boot camps where young American soldiers learned to hate all Vietnamese to bloodthirsty campaigns like Operation Speedy Express, in which a general obsessed with body counts led his troops to commit what one participant called "a My Lai a month."
Devastating and definitive, Kill Anything That Moves finally brings us face-to-face with the truth of a war that haunts America to this day.
"After a decade of scouring Pentagon archives and interviewing Vietnamese survivors and American vets, Turse (The Complex) offers this detailed, well-documented account of the 'real' Vietnam War, 'the one that so many would like to forget.' The author shows that, contrary to popular belief, the massacre at My Lai was not an isolated incident; one soldier wrote in a 1971 letter to President Nixon that 'the atrocities that were committed at Mylai are eclipsed by similar American actions throughout the country.' The bulk of the book is devoted to a grueling recounting of these killings, and Turse leaves little room for doubt that 'murder, torture, rape, abuse, forced displacement, home burnings, specious arrests, imprisonment without due process' were encouraged by body count — minded war managers and badly trained junior officers, and abetted by Gen. William Westmoreland's search-and-destroy strategy. Turse maintains a one-sided historicism regarding the innumerable American war crimes, and while this tight focus allows for an in-depth take on a horrific war, it's hard to imagine what kind of readership the author had in mind when he began his gruesome project. Nevertheless, the whistle-blowers chronicled attest to the voices of reason that spoke up in the midst of carnage. Agent: Melissa Flashman, Trident Media Group." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"An indispensable new history of the war....Kill Anything That Moves is a paradigm-shifting, connect-the-dots history of American atrocities that reads like a thriller; it will convince those with the stomach to read it that all these decades later Americans, certainly the military brass and the White House, still haven't drawn the right lesson from Vietnam." San Francisco Chronicle
"A powerful case....With his urgent but highly readable style, Turse delves into the secret history of U.S.-led atrocities. He has brought to his book an impressive trove of new research — archives explored and eyewitnesses interviewed in the United States and Vietnam. With superb narrative skill, he spotlights a troubling question: Why, with all the evidence collected by the military at the time of the war, were atrocities not prosecuted?" Washington Post
"There have been many memorable accounts of the terrible things done in Vietnam — memoirs, histories, documentaries and movies. But Nick Turse has given us a fresh holistic work that stands alone for its blending of history and journalism, for the integrity of research brought to life through the diligence of first-person interviews....Here is a powerful message for us today — a reminder of what war really costs." Bill Moyers, Moyers & Company
"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... Like a tightening net, the web of stories and reports drawn from myriad sources coalesces into a convincing, inescapable portrait of this war — a portrait that, as an American, you do not wish to see; that, having seen, you wish you could forget, but that you should not forget." Jonathan Schell, The Nation
"Nick Turse's explosive, groundbreaking reporting uncovers the horrifying truth." Vanity Fair
"Explosive....A painful yet compelling look at the horrors of war." Parade
"Astounding....Meticulous, extraordinary, and oddly moving." Bookforum
"Meticulously documented, utterly persuasive, this book is a shattering and dismaying read." Minneapolis Star Tribune
"If you are faint-hearted, you might want to keep some smelling salts nearby when you read it. It's that bad....The truth hurts. This is an important book." Dayton Daily News
"Kill Anything that Moves argues, persuasively and chillingly, that the mass rape, torture, mutilation and slaughter of Vietnamese civilians was not an aberration — not a one-off atrocity called My Lai — but rather the systematized policy of the American war machine. These are devastating charges, and they demand answers because Turse has framed his case with deeply researched, relentless authority....There is no doubt in my mind that Kill Anything that Moves belongs on the very highest shelf of books on the Vietnam War — up there with the non-fiction of Neil Sheehan, David Halberstam, Seymour Hersh, Jonathan Schell, and Frances FitzGerald, the memoirs of Michael Herr and Philip Caputo, the fiction of Bobbie Ann Mason, Robert Stone, Jayne Anne Phillips, Tim O'Brien, Ward Just, and, of course, Graham Greene." The Millions
"Nick Turse reminds us again, in this painful and important book, why war should always be a last resort, and especially wars that have little to do with American national security. We failed, as Turse makes clear, to deal after the Vietnam War with the murders that took place, and today — four decades later — the lessons have yet to be learned. We still prefer kicking down doors to talking." Seymour Hersh, staff writer, The New Yorker
"In the sobering Kill Anything that Moves, Nick Turse provides an exhaustive account of how thousands upon thousands of innocent, unarmed South Vietnamese civilians were senselessly killed by a military that equated corpses with results....Kill Anything that Moves is a staggering reminder that war has its gruesome subplots hidden underneath the headlines — but they're even sadder when our heroes create them." Bookpage
"An in-depth take on a horrific war....A detailed, well-documented account." Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Nick Turse is the author of The Complex. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Nation, and TomDispatch.com. His investigations of U.S. war crimes in Vietnam have gained him a Ridenhour Prize for Investigative Reporting and a Guggenheim Fellowship, among other honors. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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