William J. Astore

  • War is a Dirty Business

    by William J. Astore

    Wounded soldier – Autumn 1916, Bapaume by Otto Dix (1924).Originally posted on the Huffington Post.When's the last time our media covered war honestly? When's the last time you saw combat footage of American troops under fire, or of American troops killing others in the name of keeping us safe from enemies? When was the last time you saw an American soldier panicking, firing wildly, perhaps killing members of his own unit (fratricide) or innocent civilians caught in the crossfire of war? Maybe in the 1960s during coverage of the Vietnam War?War is not glorious. It may feature noble deeds and remarkable sacrifices, but it also features brutality and many other bloody realities. War breaks men (and women) down. It does so because war is unnatural. Yes, war is many things, but it most certainly is about killing. Occasionally, the killing is even necessary. (Just ask those enslaved by the Nazis or the Japanese whether they greeted Allied troops as liberators.)

  • Confronting the Ugly Truth about America's Dirty War in Vietnam

    by William J. Astore

    Victims of the My Lai massacre. Photo credit: Ronald L. Haeberle/U.S. Army.When I was on active duty in the Air Force, I visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.  I was moved to tears as I encountered the names of more than 58,000 of my fellow Americans etched in stone. "What a waste," I thought, "but at least they died for their country, and at least we didn’t forget their sacrifice."To be honest, I don’t recall thinking about the Vietnamese dead. The memorial, famously designed by Maya Lin, captures an American tragedy, not a Vietnamese one. But imagine, for a moment, if we could bridge the empathy gap that separates us from the Vietnamese and our war with them and against them. How might their suffering compare to ours?