“You never knew who was the enemy and who was the friends,” said a marine officer who took part in a conflict deemed the longest war in Unites States history (My). The Vietnam War was not only the longest war in US history, as it took place from 1959 to 1975, but it is also considered one of the most controversial conflicts to date. This war, also known as the second Indochina War, occurred in the countries of Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia. It was fought between communist North Vietnam, supported by its allies, and South Vietnam, backed by the United States and the other members of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, who wanted to contain the spread of communism in Southeast Asia. Although the struggle originally was between France and Vietnam, the United Stated entered the war because it wanted to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam in order to enforce containment; and more so, to ensure support from France in the Cold war. By the end of the war, about 58,000 Vietnamese people were killed, many of which were citizens. Undoubtedly, the US received heavy criticism for its cruel mistreatment of the Vietnamese citizens in the war, but there is much information that has been overlooked. For example, the U.S forces in Vietnam only resorted to killing innocent citizens because of the guerilla warfare that the Vietcong used, in which they dressed and acted as normal citizens. Second, the US was condemned for enacting programs that forced Vietnamese citizens out of their villages, often destroying their homes in the process. However, this was merely to isolate rural peasants from contact with the National Liberation Front, so that the peasants would not be influenced by their communist ideals. Finally, American commanders clearly sectioned off areas as “free-fire zones,” in which soldiers were directed to shoot at anything that entered this territory (Free). Vietnamese citizens were made aware of these zones, therefore, any civilian deaths attributed to this area were due to oblivious citizens, and America had justification for its actions. Thus, the United State’s treatment of Vietnamese civilians, though appearing harsh, was merely a tactic of defense against the guerilla warfare used by the Vietcong, and was used as a means to halt the spread of communism. These two factors, coupled with the fact that the US clearly enacted free-fire zones, show that its treatment of Vietnamese citizens was completely justified in the context of the war.
To start off, during the Vietnam War, American troops experienced a new style of warfare, called guerilla warfare. This provoked the US to employ a different type of strategy in order to combat this new style of fighting. The United State’s main struggle was against the National Liberation Front, a communist rebel group located in South Vietnam, who was trying to weaken the South Vietnamese government in order to unite Vietnam as one communist country. NLF guerilla fighters were known as the Vietcong, and their tactics of warfare consisted of hiding in thick forests and performing surprise attacks, like ambushes and night raids (Vietnam Spartacus). One of the major problems that American troops faced was distinguishing NLF members apart from average Vietnamese citizens because “they all dressed alike and looked alike” (Vietnam Spartacus). Thus, it is easy to see how the US Army could have easily mistaken innocent Vietnamese civilians for the enemy. The Vietcong even implemented the strategy of befriending the peasant villagers and giving them land, and in return “the peasants agreed to help the NLF by feeding and housing them” (Vietnam Spartacus). In some instances, the peasants even agreed to take up arms with the pro communist soldiers and fight against the American troops. In this case, the US soldiers were completely justified in the killing of Vietnamese civilians because they were engaged in combat just as the Vietcong were. Another strategy that America...
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