On some days writing is harder than it is on other days. I just finished reading Chris Hedges' review of Nick Turse's new Vietnam War chronicle, "Kill Anything That Moves," as well as a few pages from the book itself.
Vietnam was an atrocity, simply put. I knew that at the time, and avoided it, doing myself more favors than I could have possibly imagined. Post-traumatic stress disorder afflicts men who experienced and saw things no one should ever have to see or go through, but it also afflicts those who can't handle the crimes they've committed.
Once that war was over, we all went about our business with that "put it behind us" attitude. I became a high school teacher, and dealing with mostly immigrant or second-generation Latino students gave a patriotic rush; I was helping my kids integrate smoothly into the culture of opportunity. Vietnam, I decided, had been an aberration, "a mistake" we wouldn't make again.
Then came GW Bush and his sidekick Dick C. and the rest of that homicidal crew, and their Iraq invasion, and I finally had to admit the awful truth -- my country has become a serial murderer. The US may have at one time been a beacon to the world's poor and underprivileged, but now all that has changed, and enables us to see Vietnam in a new light, not as an anomaly or "mistake," but as business as usual -- the busness of murder done on an industrial scale.
Turse's book fills in the details of this revelation. "It captures," says Chris Hedges, "as few books on war do, the utter depravity of industrial violence—what the sociologist James William Gibson calls “technowar.” It exposes the sickness of the hyper-masculine military culture, the intoxicating rush and addiction of violence, and the massive government spin machine that lies daily to a gullible public and uses tactics of intimidation, threats and smear campaigns to silence dissenters."
But the truth comes out eventually, no matter how gullible the population and no matter how much effort our rulers put into suppressing it. The question before us now is whether this country is capable of real, substantive, cultural change, and whether we can establish a culture of peace, both for ourselves and our world. Because the simple fact is, if this country can't change, it will have to be destroyed. Hedges uses the word "depravity."
It's the right word.