Crimes of War: A Legal, Political-Documentary, and Psychological Inquiry into the Responsibility of Leaders, Citizens, and Soldiers for Criminal Acts in Wars

By Richard A. Falk; Gabriel Kolko et al. | Go to book overview

ON THE AVOIDANCE OF REALITY

Gabriel Kolko

The twentieth century has been so full of tragedy and barbarism that it is natural for a historian to be reluctant to attach some unique significance to American war crimes in Vietnam. Yet both for the world, and most certainly for the U.S., the war the American Government has been waging in Vietnam is distinctive and without parallel. The openly justified, systematic, and continuous effort at the destruction of a population of an entire nation by an external enemy is quite rare in modern history. The Nazis carried on such a policy against the Jews, and it was far more "successful" on its own terms because European Jewry, unlike the Vietnamese, was unable or unwilling to resist. But the essential difference is that the Nazis concealed from the German masses their genocidal efforts, which they attempted to hide for fear civilization's taboos regarding mass murder might damn them in the eyes of their own people. In Vietnam, the U.S. Government has no shame about the effects of its warfare. The daily press and TV have for years revealed everything one needs to know about the magnitude of the horror and the consequences of the war.

The real question of war crimes in the Vietnam War is no longer the facts themselves but rather the justification Washington has employed for its systematic terror. And, above all, it is the failure and seeming unwillingness of the American people to translate their knowledge of specific inhumanities and events, of the countless Son Mys, into a larger political perception of the objective of American foreign policy or a comprehension of the essential human and moral significance of the war in Vietnam. For the absence of a far greater sense of abhorrence, one based essentially on empathy with the sufferings of the Vietnamese rather than only with that of unwilling American boys sent to die in a distant land, potentially marks a moral and political immunization of a nation that has far greater significance for the future of American society and politics than I for one care to imagine.

It is not possible to refer to a "public" response to the Viet

-11-

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Crimes of War: A Legal, Political-Documentary, and Psychological Inquiry into the Responsibility of Leaders, Citizens, and Soldiers for Criminal Acts in Wars
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page vii
  • Editors' Statement xi
  • Contents xiii
  • The Question of War Crimes: A Statement of Perspective 3
  • On the Avoidance of Reality 11
  • Beyond Atrocity 17
  • A Legal Framework 29
  • 1 - Standards and Norms 31
  • 2 - The Experience of World War II 73
  • 3 - Focus on Vietnam 177
  • The Political Setting: Documents 263
  • American Atrocities in Vietnam 265
  • Chemical Warfare in Vietnam 285
  • Pacification in Vietnam 291
  • A Doctor Reports from South Vietnam 309
  • Testimony of Don Luce 338
  • Testimony of Roger Hilsman, Former U.S. Official 344
  • Over Vietnam: An Eyewitness Report 345
  • Terror for Helicopters 357
  • Son My Mothers Call for Vengeance 360
  • The Tombs of Ben Suc 363
  • Repression in South Vietnam 371
  • Anti-Vietcong Cordon Disrupts Life of a Village 386
  • The Balang an Massacre 389
  • The Face of War, December, 1969 393
  • Letters to His Parents - Captain William H. Miller 395
  • Precision Bombing Not Very Precise 397
  • Saigon "Falsifying" Casualty Figures 401
  • War Crimes and the Nature of the Vietnam War 403
  • Contributors 415
  • The Psychological and Ethical Context 417
  • Victims and Executioners 419
  • Healing in Vietnam 430
  • It Didn't Happen and Besides, They Deserved It 441
  • Cover Your Ass 445
  • The Changing Climate of Atrocity 459
  • From Boot Camp to My Lai 462
  • The Gift 469
  • The Age of Abdication 473
  • German Guilt 476
  • On Responsibility for Evil 486
  • Gandhi versus the Policing Mind 502
  • On Killing 513
  • On Dying 528
  • On Genocede 534
  • A Victory 550
  • Deadly Paradoxes 555
  • Absurd Technological Death 559
  • Contributors 576
  • Recommendations for Further Reading 577
  • Index 579
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