The American War in Southeast Asia

In a new book review, JCA editor-in-chief Kevin Hewison discusses the second edition of The United States, Southeast Asia, and Historical Memory, edited by Mark Pavlick with Caroline Luft and published by Haymarket Books.

50 free copies of the review are available.

With a short introduction to the collection is by well-known legal activist and international law scholar Richard Falk, the book has 11 chapters and also interviews with Noam Chomsky (who also contributes two chapters) and Fred Branfman (also with two chapters). All chapters focus on Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, except for a piece on Indonesia by Clinton Fernandes. Rounding out the book, there are suggestions for further reading and action, as well as a useful glossary and index.

The book speaks to Americans, demanding that they accept responsibility for and learn from the tragic events in Southeast Asia. As part of this, the book has “a scoreboard of horrors,” providing the official estimates for bombing sorties and casualty statistics for Indochina. Add to that the horrors of Agent Orange and the ongoing impacts of leftover bombs that still maim and kill.

Chomsky’s chapters – reproduced from earlier publications from the late 1970s – remain powerful indictments of US policy, gross human rights abuses and compromised academics. While several chapters suggest that Americans in power have learned little from the 1960s and 1970s, Chomsky offers some optimism on anti-war activism. He thinks the activism of the 1960s did “make a difference, a lasting one, and can lead to changes of consciousness to be carried forward in the future.

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