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Friday, July 25 2014 @ 01:47 AM CDT

The Secret History of the Vietnam War

War Criminals

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!")

The Secret History of the Vietnam War

By Daniel Denvir
Vice.com

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.

VICE: Your book documents how the American war in Vietnam was a fight systemically waged against the civilian population. How does this account that you documented differ from the Vietnam war as it's popularly remembered in the United States today?

Nick Turse: We have 30,000 books in print on the Vietnam War, and most of them deal with the American experience. They focus on American soldiers, on strategy, tactics, generals, or diplomacy out of Washington and the war managers there. But I didn't see any that really attempted to tell the complete story of what I came to see as the signature aspect of the conflict, which was Vietnamese civilian suffering. Millions of Vietnamese were killed, wounded, or made refugees by deliberate US policies, like the almost unrestrained bombing and artillery shelling across wide swaths of the countryside. That is, deliberate policies dictated at the highest levels of the US military. But any discussion of Vietnamese civilian suffering is condensed down to a couple pages or paragraphs on the massacre at My Lai.

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