torsdag 22. november 2018

Nonfiction: The Disaster That Was the Vietnam War

Deep inside Max Hastings’s monumental "Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy” sits a minute story that captures the essence of the book. 

As combat heated up in 1964, Hastings relates, Communist operatives strong-armed growing numbers of South Vietnamese peasants into the guerrilla force fighting to overthrow the United States-backed government in Saigon. For many young draftees, it was a soul-crushing experience, just as repugnant as conscription into the government’s army would have been if its recruiters had gotten there first. 

“You always criticize the imperialists,” the father of one conscript lashed out at the Communists, “but you are even worse. I want my son back.”

Hastings sees the Vietnam War in much the same way as that anguished villager. In his telling, it was a conflict without good guys, an appalling conflagration in which the brutality, cynicism and incompetence of the United States and its South Vietnamese ally were equaled only by the wickedness of their enemies, leaving the hapless bulk of the Vietnamese population to suffer the consequences. “If America’s war leadership often flaunted its inhumanity, that of North Vietnam matched it cruelty for cruelty,” Hastings contends.