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

Perhaps it is an old American story for the draftee to be more
at war with the regular army than with his designated "en
emy." But when one is fighting an atrocity-prone war, there is
something particularly poignant and tragic about what Sterba
calls "the kids who pulled the triggers for the old men who ran this war in 1969," kids who Sterba thinks have a great deal in
common with the kids on the other side. It would be too simple
to view the entire Vietnam War as an expression of the older
generation's filicidal (son-murdering) impulses, as I have heard
a psychoanalytic colleague do; but this article lends some sup
port for that kind of thesis. It also makes clear that the battle
between the new youth culture and its older antagonists is no
where fought with greater intensity than in Vietnam, where the
former is represented by the "grunts" and the latter by the
"lifers" or regulars.


COVER YOUR ASS

James P. Sterba


SAIGON.

When we were fighting up north, we got ambushed by a whole
battalion of N.V.A. [the North Vietnamese Army] and there
was so much stuff flying you couldn't tell if you killed anyone
or not. But another time, I was on a patrol with a buddy and
we stopped at this fork in the trail and we started smoking
cigarettes and joking, and two gooks walked right down the
trail at us. It was like time stood still. We looked at them and
they looked at us and then we blew their -- away. You walk up
and see them dead, that you just killed them, and you say,
"Goddamn, I just killed that man." But then you think, "Well, Jesus Christ," and you look at his gun and you know he'd have
done the same thing to you if he'd had the chance. Before I
came over here, I thought to myself, "Damn, could I kill a man?" Well, you learn fast in Vietnam.

-- Specialist 4Herbert McHenry, twenty-one years old, from Akron, Ohio--a grunt. (Grunt: G.I. slang for a frontline soldier, Army or Marine.)

If you hung around enough at the muddy firebases and in the jungles with the kids who pulled the triggers for the old men who ran this war in 1969, you sometimes got the feeling between the hours of boredom and the seconds of terror and

-445-

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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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