Went Wrong in that Sad, Sad Place
by Lois Erwin
The New York Times Magazine recently ran a piece entitled
Awful Night in Thanh Phong." I would recommend this article
to anyone who would like to have a better understanding of
WHY many Americans were so vehemently opposed to the Vietnam
Just read about the attitudes and words and orders expressed
by Kerrey's superior officers, and you may understand what
went wrong in that sad, sad place.
We killed women, children and old men because they were,
often, all our soldiers found when sent in to "clean out"
a village. And then, afterwards, our military brass would
designate the dead civilians as Viet Cong and include them
in the daily "body count" boasted to American TV news audiences
in an effort to gain home support for continuing the war.
Most of us knew better because even then there were alternative
ways of learning what the actual story was. There were brave
journalists who went to the war zone and wrote articles and
books, and spoke out wherever they could be heard.
American troops were sent to Vietnam, supposedly, to spread
Instead, we waged war on helpless civilians because there
was no front line -- as is usual in wars -- with soldiers
lined up on either side shooting at one another. We went in
to villages, rooted out those we thought not loyal to America
and killed the inhabitants. Most of the poor villagers wanted
only to farm their ancestral plots of land, grow their rice
and be left alone. They were killed, instead, and bolstered
our nightly-news "body counts."
Whether Bob Kerrey did or didn't do whatever he is accused
of pales in insignificance against the larger point that whatever
happened there, in Thanh Phong, on Feb. 25, 1969, was not
at all unusual. It happened more than we will ever be told.
There are many tragedies in this story of Vietnam. The lives,
villages and families we destroyed in Vietnam with bullets,
flame-throwers, napalm and torture are mirrored in the recesses
of the souls of the men we sent there to do this dirty work.
They came home but most of them will never be able to cleanse
their souls of the horror and agony of what we sent them to
Do not blame Bob Kerrey without blaming the political forces
that sent him, and hundreds of thousands of decent human beings,
over there and then urged and required them to wage inhumane
war against those poor people.