April 18, 2013
If you thought you knew all there was to know about the Vietnam War, you were wrong. For example: ever heard of the “Mere Gook Rule,” a code of conduct the US military came up with in order to make it easier for soldiers to murder Vietnamese civilians without feeling too bad about it? (“It’s only a mere gook you’re killing!”)
Well, few people knew about this bit of history either until author Nick Turse discovered it in secret US military archives, which he used as the primary sources for his new(ish) book, Kill Everything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam. The book is based on Turse’s discovery of theretofore secret internal military investigations of US-perpetrated atrocities alongside extensive reporting in Vietnam and among American veterans, and it reminds us that the most significant fact about the Vietnam War is its most overlooked: massive and devastating Vietnamese civilian suffering.
The debate over the US’s war in Vietnam continues to hang over this country’s most recent and techno-futuristic imperial adventures. Nick’s book makes for timely if extraordinarily painful reading, and I sat down with him recently to talk about the ongoing relevance of Vietnam, massacres, and secretly photocopying whole US government archives.