Sunday, 5 August 2007
The end of the road. Phan Thiet 1968. Memories of Vietnam
At the end of the day war is about death. About killing people. About injury and disease and suffering. Perhaps as a young man one can participate without too much emotion. To be immune to the death that surrounds one. One knows fear, but it is an emotion like heat or cold. To be avoided if possible, to protect oneself against if not.
When I was a teenager, eighteen or nineteen, I was very Gung Ho. Everybody in the regiment was. There was no place for the weak hearted, the timid, the shirkers. When I went to Vietnam I was still very Gung Ho. I had no hatred of anyone. A little fear at the begining, at times a great fear, but I never learned to hate. I was detached. I was a foreigner and could leave at any time. After some years I was less detached, I found I couldn't nor wanted to leave. I also had a very callous regard to death.
As I took this photo I was alert but calm. A minute or two later I was taking another photo of another dead Viet Cong when someone opened fire on me and I took to my heels. Fear didn't come into it. Blind panic was probably the term. Five minutes later having rejoined some ARVN soldiers I was laughing. Not at the death that was there but in the Vietnamese manner of being alive.
Looking at a TV program the other day in which certain French officials were congratulating themselves at an arms deal that had been struck with Libya I could only feel a deep disgust.