Kill Anything That Moves
June 6, 2013
As noted in another post, I have been reading a book entitled, Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam, by Nick Turse. It is an interesting book and one that gives the lie to those who would argue that the United States fought the Vietnam War with its military hands tied behind its back, so to speak, and that that explains why the U.S. lost that war. As Turse makes clear, using evidence from the United States government’s own archives, the massacre at My Lai was anything but an aberration. Rather, it was just one example of the kind of war the U.S. military was waging in Vietnam.
And there are other reasons to reject the argument that the U.S. chose not to fight in Vietnam with the full force of its military, such as the bombing that was done both in what was called “North Vietnam” and “South Vietnam.” The destruction in the southern parts of Vietnam was immense by any reasonable standards, and much of that destruction affected civilians, not those aligned with the Viet Cong or with North Vietnamese troops in the south.
But here is my question: How did we get into this situation? That is, how did it happen that we in the United States could wage such a war? This is one of the most puzzling phenomenon for me and one that is difficult to explain.
A little bit of time ago, a friend asked me how I would go about getting the nation on “the right track,” as I understood “the right track” with my Anti-Federalist biases. That is, what changes would I make to “right the ship of state.” To which I responded, basically, that I did not know what policies I would recommend but that if people could be persuaded to think like Anti-Federalists, they would then come up with policies to support such a “vision,” if you want to call it that.
But my question about the Vietnam War implies that it is our situation that influences or even determines our thinking. To me, the way that war was waged was inhuman in the extreme and yet it was waged that way and this was accepted by many not inhuman people. And even as opposition to the war rose and eventually prevailed, this did not alter the fact that most people did not then – and would not now – accept my assessment of that war. That is, the policy changed 180 degrees, as it were, but the underlying thinking did not change. And perhaps that thinking could not change, at least not without changes in our situation or overall condition.
I am thinking of it this way: What accounts for the eventual replacement of paganism by Christianity? How did it happen that the Christian god replaced the pagan gods? Would this have happened, could it have happened without the rise of Roman empire, an empire that eventually embraced Christianity officially? Was the pagan world dependent upon a world, a situation, in which there was no empire like that of Rome?
So, once the decision was taken to create a national government in the United States and dismantle the confederation, was a situation created in which Anti-Federalism no longer seemed to make any sense? The choice for a national government is a choice for power, for embracing a pervasively powerful government, a government that will use all or almost all of the power at its disposable to “govern” us and achieve its aims of liberty, prosperity, and security. In such a situation, it is difficult – and for most perhaps impossible – to think of government or politics in any terms other than power, the granting of it and the willingness to use it.
So, if you find yourself in a jungle, as it were, what you want is power; you think it, power, is the indispensable ingredient to survival and/or victory. And if it seems that you cannot control this jungle with the power you are employing, you use more power, and so on and so on and so on. And, of course, those with less power than you possess cannot or should not be able to withstand you. If they do, then it seems only logical for you to use more power to overcome their resistance. Eventually, you end up “killing anything that moves.” And there it is: This all is or seems only logical; it hardly seems inhumane at all. [Ironically, those wielding great power to kill anything that moves can logically think and honestly say that the resisters “don’t respect life as we the wielders do,” which is what General Westmoreland said of the Vietnamese and himself, without realizing how delusional their thinking has become.]