Vietnamese Civilian Suffering

Sunday, January 5, 2014: 9:30 AM
Marriott Ballroom, Salon 1 (Marriott Wardman Park)
Nick Turse, Columbia University
I intend to talk about what I hope will be increasingly recognized as the signature aspect of the wars in Indochina: Vietnamese civilian suffering.  In the past, most Western scholars studying the Vietnam Wars have focused on the American experience.  Of them, most have devoted their energies to subjects like military strategy and tactics, combat, diplomacy, politics, great men, and the like.  In recent years, there has – thankfully – been a greater emphasis on the Vietnamese experience.  Still, relatively few have devoted themselves to focusing on the millions of people who felt the effects of the war far more intimately and far longer than any American president, general, or soldier.  For more than a decade, millions of Vietnamese civilians were killed, wounded or made refugees by the war; for years many negotiated nearly every aspect of their lives around the conflict; for years many lived in fear of bombs and artillery shells and helicopter gunships or in the abject squalor of slums and refugee camps or suffered in prisons or detention centers or saw their crops wither and die due to chemical defoliants or were exposed to such toxic herbicides themselves.  And yet, their stories are rarely front and center, much less the main focus, of histories of the war.  I intend to advocate for a reconsideration of the war as the story of the majority of those who most directly experienced it.
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