The professional historian Bernd Greiner analyzes not only painstakingly the war atrocities committed in Vietnam, but also their national and international political and military context. South-Vietnam was considered as an outpost of the Free World and had to be defended at all cost against the enemy, communism, which the US government depicted as a monolithic bloc. If one domino fell in the Far East, all dominoes would fall. The US army saw Vietnam as an opportunity to enhance its prestige and institutional weight. But the soldiers in Vietnam were the youngest and the poorest in the US society, of which a part was even mentally deficient (Category 4). They were poorly trained and inexperienced. On the other hand, the officers saw the war only as an opportunity for promotion. The efficiency of the war machine was measured by the number of dead enemy soldiers (the body-count syndrome). The top level of the Pentagon even fixed monthly and weakly targets. But the enemy hid or took the bodies of their fallen soldiers from the battlefield as much as they could.
This book centers on war time atrocities and war crimes. Those atrocities were not collateral damage, but violence outside the direct war zones. The war operations were extended to the civilian population with the explicit authorization of the top of the Pentagon. It was a kind of political cleansing (`Search and Destroy' at random) by death squads. It showed blatantly the US contempt for international military law. The horrible massacres of My Lai, My Khe and in the Southern provinces were not aberrations, but clear examples of the US strategy of `conquer at any price' (e.g., throwing prisoners from flying helicopters, peasants used for target practices, premeditated annihilation of all means of livelihood). Where those `directly' responsible for the massacres heavily sanctioned? The judges were exceptionally lenient under the pressure of the public opinion.
For Bernd Greiner, the trial of My Lai unveiled painfully the illusion that the US was a `redeemer nation' chosen by God to fight for salvation.
This book was written by a German. Where are the objective American professional historians? As for other major recent events, they seem to be paralyzed. The rest is silence.
This all important book gives an appalling face to mankind. It is a must read for all those who want to know who we, humans, really are.
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