By: David Swanson
John Ketwig was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1966 and sent to Vietnam for a year. I sat down with him this week to talk about it.
“My read on the whole thing,” he said, “if you talk to guys who’ve been to Iraq and Afghanistan and look at what really happened in Vietnam, you run into what I call the American way of waging war. A young guy goes into the service with the idea you’re going to help the Vietnamese or Afghan or Iraqi people. You get off the plane and the bus, and the first thing you notice is wire mesh in the windows so grenades can’t come in. You immediately run into the MGR (mere gook rule). The people don’t count. Kill em all, let the dogs sort em out. You’re not there to help the poor people in any way. You’re not sure what you are there for, but it’s not for that.”
Ketwig talked about veterans returning from Iraq having run children over with a truck, following orders not to stop for fear of IEDs (improvised explosive devices). “Sooner or later,” he said, “you’re going to have down time, and you’re going to begin to question what you’re doing there.”
Ketwig didn’t focus on speaking out or protesting when he returned from Vietnam. He kept fairly quiet for about a decade. Then the time came, and among other things, he published a powerful account of his experience called And a Hard Rain Fell: A GI’s True Story of the War in Vietnam.