The American System of Suffering, 1965-2014
By Nick Turse
. . .Nobody will ever know just how many civilians were killed in the years after that. “The number is uncountable,” he said. . .
Pham To looked great for 78 years old. (At least, that’s about how old he thought he was.) His hair was thin, gray, and receding at the temples, but his eyes were lively and his physique robust -- all the more remarkable given what he had lived through.
Pham To was lucky. He and Pham Thang, another victim and a neighbor, told me that, of the 2,000 people living in their village before the war, only 300 survived it. Bombing, shelling, a massacre, disease, and starvation had come close to wiping out their entire settlement.
For most Americans, this type of unrelenting, war-related misery is unfathomable. Few have ever personally experienced anything like what their tax dollars have wrought in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia in the last half-century.
Still, as a simple thought experiment, let’s consider for a moment what it might be like in American terms.
Pham To and Pham Thang had to bury the bodies of their family members, friends, and neighbors after they were massacred by American troops passing through their village on patrol. They had to rebuild their homes and their lives after the war with remarkably little help.
In contrast, in the decade-plus since 9/11, with the rarest of exceptions, Americans have remained remarkably detached from their distant wars, thoroughly ignoring what can be known about the suffering that has been caused in their name.
Soon enough, I should finally know the answer to his question.
Nick Turse is the managing editor of TomDispatch.com and a fellow at the Nation Institute. An award-winning journalist, his work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, and regularly at TomDispatch. He is the author most recently of Kill Anything that Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam (The American Empire Project, Metropolitan Books). Published on January 15th, it offers a new look at the American war machine in Vietnam and the suffering it caused. His website is NickTurse.com. You can follow him on Tumblr and on Facebook.
I have Korean family and as a founding professor of a now prestigious Seoul conservatory of music, am close with quite a few intellectuals and many students, students, who by Korean Confucian tradition insist on making themselves closer to me than my own sons.
That Nick dates his American holocaust as beginning AFTER America invaded a united Korea as was for thousands of years before the US divided it, bombed flat every city and town of any size taking the lives of more than two million Koreans and a half million Chinese is hard to take. I believe anyone would understand that, and wonder why Nick did it.