Nick Turse‘s new book, “Kill Anything That Moves,” is a ghastly revelation of previously unreported war crimes committed in Vietnam in the wake of the My Lai Massacre. He tells Bill Moyers how 15 years ago a staffer at the National Archives outside Washington, D.C., pointed him toward the “horror trove” of accounts that led to the book.
“I really stumbled upon this project,” Turse said. “I was a graduate student when I began it. I was working on a project on post-traumatic stress disorder among U.S. Vietnam veterans. And I would go down to the National Archives just outside of D.C. I was looking for hard data to match up with, you know, self-report material, what veterans told us about their service. And on one of these trips, I was down there for about two weeks. And about every research avenue that I had pursued was a dead end. And I finally went to an archivist that I worked with there.
“And I said to him, ‘I can’t go back to my boss empty-handed. I need something, at least a lead.’ And he, you know, said a few words to me that really changed my life. He said, ‘Do you think that witnessing war crimes could cause post-traumatic stress?’ And I said, ‘You know, that’s an excellent hypothesis. What do you have on war crimes?’
“Within an hour, I was going through a collection of boxes, thousands and thousands of pages of documents. To call it, you know, an information treasure trove is the wrong phrase. It was a horror trove. These were reports of massacres, murders, mutilation, torture. And these were investigations that were carried out by the U.S. military during the war. A collection of documents called the Vietnam War Crimes Working Group Collection. And this was a task force that was set up in the Pentagon. And it was designed to track war crimes cases in the wake of the exposure of the My Lai Massacre.”
Read a transcript of their conversation here.
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
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