- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books; 1st edition (October 28, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0465005276
- ISBN-13: 978-0465005277
- Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 15 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,138,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The War Behind Me: Vietnam Veterans Confront the Truth about U.S. War Crimes Hardcover – October 28, 2008
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The Washington Post
“Nelson takes readers along with her on an unusually intimate journalistic journey to uncover what the government had hoped to keep secret—war crimes too cold-blooded and routine to fathom. As her riveting book reminds us, war is hell—for everyone involved. A must read for soldiers, scholars, journalists and any one else interested in both courage and cover-up during wartime.”
Seymour Hersh, author of Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib
“The War Behind Me establishes, sadly, the terrible fear that emerged from the horrors of My Lai—that its easy cover up suggested that deliberate killing of civilians was widespread in heavily contested areas of south Vietnam. Yes, this book says, it did happen, and yes, as at My Lai, many of those GIs who did the killing were as much victims as those they fired upon.”
“Remarkable… Nelson is one of the most experienced, talented investigative journalists alive.”
New York Times Book Review
“Nelson, who wrote a series on war crimes with a military historian when she was at The Los Angeles Times, is a diligent, passionate reporter… An important book”
“Alarming stories and important lessons for a country ‘hell-bound to repeat’ the same mistakes.”
Lt. General (USA, Ret.) Robert G. Gard, Jr.
“In her well-written and carefully documented report, Deborah Nelson highlights our shocking failure to deal with, and learn lessons from, our extensive commission of war crimes during the Vietnam War. A must read for all who are concerned with restoring the moral credibility of our country.”
Brig. General (USA, Ret.) John H. Johns
“Deborah Nelson has done a superb job in summarizing the problem of atrocities in counterinsurgency operations and has performed a patriotic service by bringing this problem to the attention of the public. Perhaps the most important lesson here is that we should not allow our leaders to commit our military forces to such wars unless it is essential to our vital national interests.”
Stanley Karnow, author of Vietnam: A History
“Young Americans went to Vietnam imbued with a high moral purpose. But the war dehumanized many, as Deborah Nelson vividly illustrates in a book that evokes a shameful chapter in our history.”
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The author postulates that many of these events were driven by the involved soldiers' frustration of finding themselves in a quagmire armed conflict with successes measurable only by body count. All war is a crime and Vietnam was certainly no exception. It remains beyond argument however, that the overwhelming majoriy of US (and their allied forces) served honorably. A fact that is never mentioned in this work which is extremely troubling.
I also became extremely tired of the near constant references and comparisons to the current conflicts (and alleged war crimes committed) in Iraq and Afghanistan. I could have done without this editorial slant which tainted the work and made me suspect the author's motivation. I had purchased as a true military history and did not expect or appreciate this discussion. The book also relies heavily on the Winter Soldier Hearings from the 1970's which although topical remain suspect. If not for these issues the book would have received a higher rating from this reviewer.
As for the notion that most Winter Soldier testimony was phony, this is unfortunately misinformation, as can be plainly seen in public congressional record. It's unfortunate that people can post thinly veiled propaganda in a review and with no references to boot. For shame...
The impact of this story, on how a few misguided, confused and freighted young men misinterpreted or failed to challenge orders, how some criminals took it upon themselves to violate the US Armed Forces laws of acceptable conduct, and how the result of these failures was the murder of innocent men, women and children is dramatic.
This is especially true now when we have sent more young men and women into an unnecessary war, armed to the teeth and with unclear orders as to who the enemy is and who they are to shoot. And it is significant because it demonstrates clearly the Vietnam Veterans Against the War and the Winter Soldiers were in fact telling the truth. Thankfully Nelson offers this vindication while many of these heroes are still alive. Frankly, it takes far more courage to challenge your own government and its values than it does to go to war.
In war, you have the support of your government, your leaders and your fellow soldiers. You are forced to do your duty (or you are jailed or sent home). When you stand up to your government's policies and actions, you do so alone and you do so unarmed for the challenge. Nelson salutes those with enough courage and honor to demand the US maintain its position as the force of right in the world. Treason occurs when the misguided fail to realize the importance of holding those who violate the laws of this country responsible for their own selfish reasons. Clearly, the people in the system failed in regards to upholding the rule of law. Nelson demonstrates clearly the failure to do so still impacts our politics, our military and ultimately our way of life.
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Especially when so many more 'factual' stories could be told (and sold)...Read more