the Bloodbath in Vietnam Was Us


For Mark Bowden, author of Hué 1968, the pivotal battle of the War in Vietnam did not follow the script most Americans were used to scanning in their newspapers or visualizing on the evening news.  The war Americans followed at home was like a humongous hunting expedition.  U.S. forces seemed engaged in an endless chase over a lush boondocks inhabited by peasants and dotted with rice paddies or trailing the rugged forested highlands in search of the Viet Cong, a cunning and elusive enemy whose tactics were hit and run, not stand and fight.

When an atypical fixed battle developed, it was typically well-removed from the population centers that hugged the coastline off the South China Sea.  Vietnam was, after all, a guerrilla war, or more broadly understood, a people’s war fought to reunite a nation, artificially divided into North and South by fiat of the United States in the service of geopolitical brinksmanship.  Accused of fermenting the southern insurgency, North Vietnam was mercilessly bombed, but spared the carnage of a ground war.  Not so the south where, by whatever foul means, the idea was “to isolate the population from the Viet Cong,” notwithstanding that, as Mark Bowden readily concedes, “in most instances they were one in the same.”   The resistance was popular and widespread, and its idea was to drive the American invader out, and overthrow a despised ruling clique of Vietnamese compradors which survived only because the invader had…

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