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Does the Burns/Novick Vietnam Documentary Deserve an Emmy?


Does the Burns/Novick Vietnam Documentary Deserve an Emmy?

Doug Rawlings

By the time I reached Episode Four in this ten-episode film, I concluded it should not be touted as an Emmy Award-winning documentary.

In my eyes, documentation is rooted in facts and, if at all possible, immutable truths. ...We are watching instead a series of anecdotes, each one imbued with the earnestness of the teller.


Many a night I watch myriad YouTube videos of the 60s & 70s music-accompanied footage of the Viet Nam experiences. Often my blood boils and I reflect that but for being a couple of years too young, I may have been there also. (I knew nothing about college deferments at the time.) I saw what the war did to my cousin and my neighbors when they returned. I have read Graham Greene’s The Quiet American (1955, I think) and Burdick & Lederer’s The Ugly American (1958) both which clearly described American incompetence in the region well before boots were on the ground in significant numbers. These are good reads for one who wants background into America’s second longest boondoggle. Smedley Butler’s War is a Racket is also a must read. Our country’s long history of intercontinental intervention is beyond shameful and I am truly ashamed of it. The fact of the matter is that it is not considered to be patriotic to be awake in America. Thomas Paine and company are rolling over in their graves sobbing, no doubt. The American experiment should have gone so much better, but the blood lust used to conquer from “sea to shining (with blood) sea” was and has been America’s most notable export. Dog’s name is Karma, and she’s a bitch.


As a veteran of that war who has tried to bring to light its utter depravity and as a teacher, I oppose letting this visual extravaganza stand as a definitive historical record that students will turn to in their studies.

Thank You


Just as an example of juxtaposition of narrative, rights, perspective and the painful realities of living in this country. I preface this by saying that I don’t usually watch MSNBC, but yesterday an opener conversation worth considering generational trauma and the art of hiphop


Great article. Thanks CD.


The real (banned) story:



Thank you Doug for telling the truth of that atrocity of imperialist depravity. I just missed the draft by two years. I knew early on that what was being done had no bearing on how the 'Nam was being sold to the American people. I grew up with the horrors of the 'Nam on TV every night during dinner with commentary from Huntley&Brinkley. A disconnect of epic proportions and I was only 10 in '64 and knew this was just…so wrong. So is every war the US has engaged in since then and now even. It’s sickening. I’m sick of war. It affects me. I can’t not think about it and the people whose lives are destroyed in the process both here and especially abroad. The CIA had a heavy hand in the 'Nam it was really their war and I’m guessing the documentary didn’t mention this, or if so very little. I couldn’t watch the film, it would just bring back too many bad memories. I knew two people that came home in boxes, one was in my model airplane club. There is still devastation left from that epic disaster. It’s time to end war for good.


Thank you, Doug. As a Vietnam Veteran who was there a couple years earlier (1967-1968) I can only say ‘right on!’ to your essay. I was there during TET and the Burns section on that part of the war was nothing but fantasy land. His selective use of facts was nothing more than an attempt to rewrite history. The next time someone says to me ‘Thanks for your service’ I’m going to use your line. “We didn’t serve, We were used.”


Thanks for the article Doug.

I’m proud to be a part of Veterans for Peace, of which Doug is also a member.

Being a part of it is just about the best therapy for moral injury that I know of.


Doug’s essay is moving and thoughtful, but he missed one of the most important facts about the war. It is the same basic truth that Burns and Novick ignored. It is the original sin from which so much immorality and depravity followed and it is the real reason for the war. Though the United States was deeply involved in support of the French effort to reimpose French colonialism on post WW2 Vietnam, it truly became America’s War when the Geneva Accords on SE Asia were signed to end the French War in Vietnam. The Geneva agreement called for democratic elections to be held in all of Viet Nam. There was no South and North Vietnam then. Before the ink was dry the United States made the fateful decision that initiated its ownership of all that followed. The US government decided that the Vietnamese People must not be able to choose their own government. That was it. Plain and simple. And sadly, neither faux documentary film makers Burns and Kovick nor their critics seem to recognize that all important fact. The United States wasn’t involved there to bring Democracy to Vietnam. The United States took over the war to prevent democratic elections. Americans need to know that basic truth of the American War in Vietnam.

Eduardo Cohen
173rd Airborne Brigade (Unattached)
US Army, Bien Hoa, Vietnam 1966
Member: Veterans for Peace