Mike Hastie Photo Essay

Lying Is The Most Powerful Weapon In War

Photo Essay by Mike Hastie, Army Medic Vietnam


Why Helicopter

Medevac Helicopter An Khe, Vietnam 1970
The Truth is Always in the Details


Purple Heart medal on camoflage background

Purple Heart


Moving Wall

“Moving Wall” on display in a parking lot of a small town in Idaho.
Photo 2000



1968 Recruitment Poster superimposed over the names on the Wall.
Photo 1986


Army Medic in An Khe, Vietnam 1970


Army Medic in An Khe, Vietnam 1970

Army Medic in An Khe, Vietnam 1970
John died of Agent Orange Exposure in 2014.



Army Medic in An Khe, Vietnam 1970


“The only thing worse than death is betrayal.”

—Malcolm X



“If the thing they were fighting for was important enough to die for
then it was also important enough for them to be thinking about it
in the last minutes of their lives. That stood to reason. Life is
awfully important so if you’ve given it away you’d ought to think
with all your mind in the last moments of your life about the thing
you traded it for. So, did all those kids die thinking of democracy
and freedom and liberty and honor and the safety of the home and
the stars and stripes forever? You’re goddamn right they didn’t.”

Dalton Trumbo
Johnny Got His Gun
(one of the greatest antiwar novels ever written)



Vietnamese girl

3.8 million Vietnamese were killed in one of the poorest countries in the world
by the most powerful military force the world has ever seen.


Little girl at The Wall

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Washington, D.C. 1986


Grieving woman at The Wall

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Washington, D.C. 1986


Mom and son at The Wall

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Washington, D.C. 1986


13 Gold Start Mothers at The Wall

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Washington, D.C. 1986
Thirteen Gold Star Mothers
Thirteen Sons Killed In Vietnam


Hand reflected on The Wall

As an infant child reaches out to touch
its mother’s breast, I just want to touch
the names on The Wall.
For a chosen few, The Wall will become flesh.

Mike Hastie
Army Medic Vietnam


Vet with flag

The magnitude of my sickness is equal to the depth of my
. . .
. . .
. . .
. . .
. . .
. . .



“The survivor, then, is a disturber of the peace. He is
the runner of the blockade men erect against knowledge of
‘unspeakable’ things. About these he aims to speak, and
in so doing he undermines, without intending to, the validity
of existing norms. He is a genuine transgressor, and here
he is made to feel real guilt. The world to which he appeals
does not admit him, and since he has looked to this world
as the source of moral order, he begins to doubt himself.
And that is not the end, for now his guilt is doubled by
betrayal — of himself, of his task, of his vow to the dead.
The final guilt is not to bear witness. The survivor’s
worst torment is not to be able to speak.”

Terrence Des Pres
The Survivor



empty chair under welcome home banner




Schooled Underwater

A fish jumps up and out of the water
and hears someone yell:
Since the end of World War II, the
United States Government has bombed
29 countries!
Now, that’s another world.
That is why obedient fish are schooled
to always stay underwater.
Otherwise, there would be complete chaos.

Mike Hastie
Army Medic Vietnam

Photograph of Iraq veteran Domingo Rosas testifying at the Winter Soldier Investigation
in Silver Spring, Maryland in 2008, about U.S. War Crimes in Iraq.
He is one of the few fish to jump up and out of the water.



Banner with MLK Jr. quote

Antiwar demonstration in San Francisco, California in 2002.
Martin Luther King Jr. made this statement during a speech
he gave about Vietnam on April 4, 1967, at Riverside Church
in New York City.

When Martin Luther King Jr. made this statement in his speech, “The Greatest Purveyor of Violence In The World Today Is My Own Government,” he sealed his fate as far as the corporate and political elites were concerned in America. Exactly one year later he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Martin Luther King Jr. was interfering with the U.S. War Economy, and it was time for him to go. His profound truth would still startle 95 percent of the American people today. Those 95 percent are the fish underwater, who have absolutely no idea there is another world above the water. It is simply incomprehensible to them. Their core belief system would not allow this new information to penetrate their realm of consciousness. They would react to it like a hot flame. It would cause an absolute conflict in their thinking, a violation of their sense of moral order. While our churches pray for peace, the U.S. Economy Worships War. There is no gray area with people who live in a black-and-white world. Their world has to be predictable, and the idea of the United States being the most violent country in the world is absolutely preposterous.

For hundreds of thousands of Vietnam veterans, Martin Luther King Jr.’s profound truth would be the mind altering knowledge that would change their lives forever. They came home to a country that no long existed in the eyes of their childhood. They were permanently transformed and catapulted into another world that did not make any sense. For me, it was like being in an emotional whiteout with no sense of direction. All of my fence posts for making my way through life did not exist anymore. I felt like a small child who was lost from his parents. There were no parameters for safety. I felt doomed, because there was no one I could talk to about a country I did not recognize anymore. I felt alienated from my own family, and my old friends who did not go to Vietnam. I got into arguments about the anger I felt toward my government, and the senselessness of the world I now lived in. Nothing made any sense anymore. My rage was directed inwardly about the emotional trauma I had concerning betrayal, though I could not articulate that violation to my soul when I first got back from Vietnam. I felt used like a pawn in a deadly chess game, so corporate America could make a financial killing in Vietnam. I did not serve in Vietnam for the cause of freedom and democracy, I served Big Business in America for the cause of profit. My government looked like a bunch of clowns to me now. Their senseless sincerity was despicable. Their leadership had nothing to do with common people. As far as I was concerned, they just represented the rich who were controlling everything. My trust in the system that had controlled my life before I went to Vietnam, was now gone. This was the new world I was now living in. Over the course of several years, I had acquired a precision bull shit detector that now became my new guiding light through life, which has sustained me since I came back from Vietnam. When the political elite speak, and try to tell me we live in a democracy, my bull shit detector alarm goes off at precisely the right time. Several years after I returned from Vietnam, I finally realized I was the enemy in Vietnam. This is the reality that the American people will never understand, because it would completely maul their safeguarded belief system about who they think they are. The United States Government committed mass murder in Vietnam. That is the new reality I and countless Vietnam veterans have about America, a world that is unbelievable in the eyes of the vast majority of people living in this country. For most people, this truth is simply too mind altering to comprehend. They are the fish that swim underwater, and are schooled to be obedient to the world they live in. I cannot live in this world, nor can countless Vietnam veterans I have met in my life over the past 45 years. That is the voice I heard when I jumped up and out of the water: “Since the end of World War II, the United States Government has bombed 29 countries.” The United States Government is a Global Empire, it is not some benevolent charity spreading peace and freedom throughout the world. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. is 150 yards long. On this monument are the names of 58,000 Americans who were killed in Vietnam. If the same density of names were put on a similar wall for the Vietnamese people, that monument would be nine miles long! Noam Chomsky, world renowned linguist and professor at MIT, once stated, “The entire Vietnam War was an atrocity, the My Lai Massacre was just an afterthought.”



“For the love of money is the root of all evil.”

1 Timothy 6:10



“The truth was obscure, too profound and too pure;
to live it you have to explode.”

Bob Dylan




“We have about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its population.
In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment.
Our real test in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships
which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity. We need not
deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and
world benefaction—unreal objectives such as human rights,
the raising of living standards, and democratization.”

George F. Kennan
Head of Policy Planning Staff
U.S. State Department




“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high-class muscleman for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could was to operate in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

Major General Smedley Butler (1881-1940)
U.S. Marine Corp
Recipient of Two Congressional Medals of Honor




American Soldiers—from the Senior Prom to Vietnam

“When one has lived on the edge of death, it becomes possible
to sort out from life’s trivia what is truly important. A kind of
culture shock developed for vets who returned home to find a
society immersed in the pursuit of the insignificant. Once again,
America had not changed, but they had. Others may take seriously
the playthings we produce for our own pleasure, but after Vietnam
the binges of a consumer society seem almost obscene.”

William P. Mahedy
Out of the Night

Powerful letter left at The Wall

Dear Steve


19-year-old grief stuck in time
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Portland, Oregon


Eight-inch artillery gun at Fire Base Schueller near An Khe, Vietnam 1970.
The “Con” part of the word “Confusion” was how many of us felt by 1970.


viet woman

Vietnamese woman in An Khe, Vietnam 1970.
Otherwise referred to as a “Gook.” Calling her
this racist name is like calling a black person
in America a “Nigger.” Black soldiers in my unit
in Vietnam were more aware of this racist term
than white soldiers in my unit. It was so obvious.
I learned a great deal about racism in Vietnam.
It is much easier to kill people when you think they
are less than. Drill sergeant’s in basic training were
experts at teaching you how to kill “Gooks.”


homeless vet closeup

Homeless Vietnam Veteran in San Francisco 2002


War Lord

Johnny Got His Machine Gun In Vietnam

Mortar Track




155mm Howitzer on U.S. fire base near An Khe, Vietnam 1970.
On the right side of the gun turret is painted: ” Block Buster.”


Howitzer superimposed with children

You do not bring the enemy to the peace table by just
killing military combatants. You ultimately bring the enemy
to the peace table by killing innocent civilians. They are
military targets. The primary goal of the aggressor nation is
to break the spirit of the people, and its ability to defend
its homeland. This strategy is as old as warfare itself.

Mike Hastie
Army Medic Vietnam



stretch limo

(Wealthy Are Richer)
Lying Is The Most Powerful Weapon In War


vet at Oregon memorial

A Vietnam veteran stands in the rain at the dedication
of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Portland, Oregon
in November 1987.

“For a number of veterans, the feeling of having been disowned
by their country was the greatest and most profound insult,
causing deep wounds in the self-as-a-whole. Most felt they had
given up their innocence, their physical, mental and spiritual
wholeness, for no meaningful reason. And to have to defend
themselves for responding to America’s call to protect its
democratic values and ideals, compounded the hurt. Few can
comprehend and cope psychologically with such rejection and
violence to their pride and humanity. It is thus not very difficult
to understand why it has been extraordinarily taxing for these
men and women to regain their psychological and social equilibrium.”

Joel O. Brende M.D.
Erwin R. Parson Ph.D.
Vietnam Veterans: The Road To Recovery