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Whose "Truth" Matters Most When We Recount the War in Vietnam?


#1

Whose "Truth" Matters Most When We Recount the War in Vietnam?

Camillo Mac Bica

Much has been written and many documentaries made about the American War in Vietnam including the highly acclaimed 1983 effort by PBS, Vietnam: A Television History.


#2

The Truth to remember is that President Kennedy was murdered by the joint efforts of the CIA/Military and FBI, just as he was about to provide, along with USSR Chief Nikita Khrushchev, an end to the Cold War and announcement of a Joint Venture to the Moon.

Within days of his murder, his documented intention of withdrawing completely from Viet Nam was reversed, without so much as a Position Paper, or Fact Finding Commission.


#3

Without truth we are a doomed nation filled with “plastic”, doomed people. Your short reply hits directly at the heart of the issue. We are a people who do not demand truth and accept lies so that we can return to, for most, our daily “comfortable” lives. We are in fact nothing more than modern era slaves.


#4

Sir,

As a Marine Vietnam Veteran For Peace, I sincerely compliment your insights about these tragic folly policies and lack of accountability for Crimes against Humanity and Peace from The 'Nam to the present.

I was a Combat Intelligence NCO assigned to Scouts with 1Bn/26th and 3rd/4th Marines (July '66 - Aug '67); and was a member of the core group of veterans and friends who build The Wall in Constitution Gardens, D.C.

I think Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech encapsulates our history and challenges:
http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/martin-luther-king-jr-s-searing-antiwar-speech-fifty-years-later.

Also, the following beliefs provide an honorable map and compass how to “protect and defend” our nation ~

Arthur Engendorf, a Vietnam Veteran author notes, “healing is the way we restore ourselves…with a little help from our friends, we can heal ourselves, even from war…healing culminates in a renewed vision of what is possible for us and our world. In light of this vision, our individual healing shifts from being the center of attention to an instance of much more encompassing possibility ~ healing for all humanity.”

Legitimacy of moral life depends on the willingness of men and women to struggle with such questions before they decide what to do. Also Karl Jaspers, a Jewish-tainted German WW II philosopher notes, “all men, like all nations, are tested twice in the moral realm ~ first by what they do, then by what they make of what they do. A condition of responsibility denotes a kind of second chance: men are, as if by a kind of grace, given a chance to repay to the living what it is they find themselves owing the dead.”

For Americans, the only questions we must take stewardship over and answer are: Who Determines Who Serves, Who Sacrifices, Who Suffers; and Who Pays? In essence, Who Owns The Soul of U.S. Foreign Policy?

Treasure Life…Semper Fidelis,

David DeChant
Jarhead Clan


#5

Sincerity can be a powerful thing. A deeply felt and reasoned article prior to the series. Not having seen the series but having seen nearly all Burns’ other documentaries, one can read this article and have a fair understanding of what the author’s concerns may be. Burns has a genteel knack for drawing the viewer into the ‘humanity of war’ through the use personal narratives (letters from the period that he selects). I feel the truth of a need for the nation to come to grips with the war that is 50 years remote from all but the older generation but there is a sinking feeling in my gut that any ‘in depth’ treatment of a conflict that drove us apart will now be used to reinfuse our nation’s understanding of war in general. This was an old style war at least it is to us now. It feels like a zombie war rising from the grave unable to be put to rest.

I feel it and the professor feels it as do many others, the Vietnam War changed us! However, these 50 years on, those who have actual memories of this era are not those who do the cultural remembering that will unavoidably be addressed in the series. A twenty year old, a 30 or 40 year old, can only remember the way our media culture presented this war.

The ironic thing is that 50 years on, this series deep evocation of that war becomes an immersion in the unresolved questions of the war and will most likely unite a young generation in the way they understand war. Does anyone of that era feel that Vietnam should be ‘the war chosen to be as an example of war’ that will then be discussed for 18 hours? The war that divided us will become a redefinition of war so as to unite us about war!

18 hours of televised war? Once that televised warfare helped to turn people against the war because it showed how they had been lied to. Now it is historical footage of combat. Remote as that of footage from WWII or Korea! Those wars are over because in the main, only the films remain ( with respects to the views of still living vets from those wars ). However, the Vietnam War is not over in the media! It is still alive in the memories of many vets, families and victims.

What if you gave a war (showed an 10 part series) and everybody came? To paraphrase a Vietnam War anti-war theme>>> “What if you gave a war and nobody came?”

Yes if this documentary openly opposed and criticized the war as a crime, then it might put the Vietnam War to rest in our cultural memory. That cannot happen assuming a cultural objectivity is applied to the way the war is presented! At this point in time, under Trump, the country will be immersed in a philosophical perspective on war. Unfortunately, this show will use Vietnam as the example. Thus will all aspects of war including anti-war attitudes and responses be ‘consumed’ by the entertainment consumers! Let’s humanize the war experience?

It is a painful subject that is rarely dealt with in any great detail by our media (except in passing as a reference) but one of the most defining characteristics of the Vietnam War that is deeply remembered by all those of that era but more or less only a dry mythic statistic by the young is that the Vietnam War was the ‘suicide war’ for America! Far more vets committed suicide after returning home than were lost to enemy bullets. If only we could hear their perspectives on the Vietnam War. That is the Vietnam that those of the era still remember but which our media does not. They perforce will have to redefine the terms! PTSD! Oh what a shame! Yeah okay, the shame was vets not getting treatment and tens of thousands ending up homeless.

War! Shouted the Prussians as they drew their swords at the fancy dress ball. War!


#6

Melvin A. Goodman has some interesting comments about Kennedy on Robert Scheer’s podcast (topic starts at 9:00 at 2017-07-17). “I don’t think there is any real proof of what he would have done”. He does say he would have never done what Johnson did - push us to 500 thousand troops.

I also looked at a few articles and there is a lot written on this topic:

“But Kennedy was already thinking about a second term – and its possible greater freedom of action. On Nov. 21, 1963, he told Bundy aide Michael Forrestal that at the beginning of 1964, he should organize an in-depth study of every Vietnam option, including means of withdrawal.”

"The view that Kennedy would have done what Johnson did—stay in Vietnam and gradually escalate the war in 1964 and 1965—is held by left, center, and right, from Noam Chomsky to Kai Bird to William Gibbons.

Robert F. Kennedy takes your view. I’ve only read the first part, but looks like an interesting counterpoint to the more typical view.

Two back and forth articles from Galbraith (who takes your view) and Perlstein:

To me, it doesn’t seem like this question (would JFK have gotten us out of Vietnam) is very answerable (though I’m starting to lean towards you and Galbraith). If there are still secrets about Kennedy’s assassination to come out and we learn that Kennedy’s intention to get out of Vietnam was the cause of his death, that would be a very interesting thing to know to say the least. But I’m not sure even that knowledge is going to directly affect the type of changes we need to make now to US foreign policy and our war machine.

As far as this article Camillo Mac Bica goes, I thought it was a great piece, and it makes me want to watch the older PBS documentary (and skip the Ken Burns one until there is some debate about it’s content - I can think other things to do with 18 hours of my life than watch a bad documentary). To anybody who doesn’t have time to read the whole article, definitely read the conclusion.


#7

The information that I have disclosed here has been Documented and Corroborated by James W. Douglass in his 2008 Work of Historical Non Fiction, ( containing 100 pages of Footnotes ), “JFK and the Unspeakable - Why He Died and Why it Matters”.

To paraphrase Neil De Grasse Tyson’s reply on a different matter : “The Research has been Done, the Facts are In, there are No Theories Involved Here.”


#8

James W. Douglass had done all the research by the time he published “JFK and the Unspeakable - Why He Died and Why it Matters” in 2008, these are the Facts, as I have disclosed them.


#9

“what went wrong”

Stop right there. As soon as you use that phrase, you suggest something went right, and if you start from the premise that anything about an endeavor to destroy 100’s of thousand of innocent foreigners could be right, you already know to expect nothing but racist, fascist bullshit.


#10

“We were wrong, terribly wrong. We owe it to future generations to explain why.”

— McNamara, the “chief architect” and General Manager of the War in Vietnam.

In a memo he sent President Johnson on May 19, 1967, he warned:

“There may be limits beyond which many Americans and much of the world will not permit the United States to go. The picture of the world’s greatest superpower killing or seriously injuring 1,000 noncombatants a week, while trying to pound a tiny backward nation into submission on an issue whose merits are hotly disputed, is not a pretty one. It could conceivably produce a costly distortion in the American national consciousness and in the world image of the United States.”

I wonder if Ken Burns is going to use these statements as a marquee introduction to his series? Just kidding.

“European Imperialists Invade Southeast Asia: Part Two.”

I don’t think he will use that title either.


#11

Jeremy Scahill’s interview of Alfred McCoy 7-22-2017 published at The Intercept covereded a long and well-researched history of the CIA’s involvement in the heroin trade in the Vietnam war. Professor McCoy claims that:

“And in 1970 and ’71, there were rumors that started coming back from Vietnam, particularly 1971, that heroin was spreading rapidly in the ranks of the U.S. forces fighting in South Vietnam. And in later research, done by the White House, [it was] determined that in 1971, 34 percent, one-third of all the American combat troops fighting in South Vietnam were heavy heroin users.”

I wonder if that kind of hard-hitting fact will be part of this documentary. And if so, why so? And if not, why not?

That war tore this nation apart. WHAT POSSIBLE GOOD OR HEALING COULD WE EVER GET FROM BURNS’ EFFORT???


#12

That particular book is in my queue as my next to read. “JFK and the Unspeakable:” as I want to find out why he was murdered. The 'Nam dominated my early teen years until the draft was stopped in 1973.(And I turned 19). My # came due in '74. I knew people that were killed there. It dominated the evening news. It was horror brought to you by your favorite sponsor and sanctioned by the US government. Why do the myths predominate, to this day, the righteousness of this immoral and illegal war? The poor kids that had to have their lives ripped apart and sent to the jungles to fight a non specific enemy has weighed heavily on a generation which still has trouble reconciliating the whole 'Nam debacle. Truths are hard to come by as it slides into distant memories of those that it didn’t affect. I’m not one of those, and war still seems, to me, a last resort as a means of defense to a direct attack. I always support a diplomatic solution at all costs even if means giving in some.


#13

Apparently the suicide statistics aren’t part of the calculus of “official” war deaths due to the imperialist wars this government continues to engage in. Even these days suicides plague returning vets from the Iraq, Afghanistan debacles that again were completely unfounded. The statistics are there for those that have the time and want to look. Apparently the government doesn’t. It’s time for this madness to end and hold those accountable for waging these immoral wars.


#14

This is a very good essay by Dr. Bica! I was immediately taken aback by the leading sentence in his first quote from the Burns and Novick op-ed: “There is no simple or single truth to be extracted from the Vietnam War”. As much as I respect Ken Burns and have enjoyed his work for many years, I must disagree with that statement. There is a single, simple, overriding truth about the Vietnam war. It was the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons, against the wrong people! And it resulted in a deep divide in our country, which has had an effect which persists to this day.


#15

When I look back to those days, I am struck by how much the information that has accumulated over the years about Vietnam has added to the way it is remembered. I think the Vietnam War became the first continually evolving war at least in the public’s perception. The way we originally remembered something would change as we learned more details and viewpoints about it over the years. Our memories were very much entwined with the media’s views on the war because the media kept telling us that these were our views about the war and that this was how we now saw it. Literally the memories of those at home were rearranged by subsequent analysis and detailed essays on the meaning of events and of course commentary on the meaning of how the public’ mind had changed concerning those events and memories of those events.

Vietnam was the first ever ‘Changing War’ where how it was originally viewed would be nothing like how it came to be viewed later! ‘The War’ kept changing in the public’s mind. No war had ever been viewed in such a flexible, if not fickle manner. From at first a war of liberation to a war of imperial aggression. From war of assistance to a war of genocidal fury! How do those who can remember sort the memories of what they remember from the memories of what they have been told to remember? For example, in discussions of the war, people no longer say the words Dien Ben Phu but once that was a powerful narrative that hovered over our fluctuating interest in pursuing the conflict. Yet at the time, few people understood that the USA had paid for all the French’s war materiel in their failed South East Asian Colonial War. We supplied the tanks, the helicopters, the planes, the rifles and bullets, or we paid for them.

How many remember the way they first heard the song “Where have all the flowers gone?” And how when we look back now, how astounding it was that there were anti-war songs at all in 1963! How many remember that it wasn’t even a war (yet) because we only sent advisors and they didn’t do the fighting! But when interviewed most said when called upon to do so, they fired their guns. Was this a war? We kind of asked because we kind of didn’t really know!

A police action limited to 17,000 advisors remained a police action when suddenly there were a half million troops and it seemed like we didn’t want nor trust the South Vietnamese forces (that we had trained) to help us fight their war? Say wha? The draft was the Vietnam War for everyone. An opposed draft, a dodged draft, a went to Canada war, a war we did not want to fight and everybody knew it. The split ran deep. Some enlisted but the Vietnam Conflict was maintained by the draft! The irony was that you couldn’t wage a voluntary war if you needed to force men to fight in it! Vietnam!

There is no end to the Vietnam War to be had by objectifying it into divergent opinions that will be gnawed at for 18 hours. I am sure the series will be factual and truthful. Even controversial! That isn’t the point.

These will not be 18 hours of anti-war viewing. They will be 18 hours all about war. Seems appropriate that when the country is involved in a forever war to carry the weight of watching those 18 hours. Maybe watching those 18 hours will feel like forever here in our forever war! Maybe they will recharge the batteries for those unused to war. Our forever war is practically forgotten by most people. Maybe they will begin to ‘remember’ that war as they are told they do like with Vietnam? my Igbo

‘Remember the Spartans’ was a movie about the war. It’s title comes from an ancient call to arms.

Remember the Spartans… but the Prussians always do!

18 hours!


#16

Lets hope this documentary dispels the right wing myth that Americans were hostile toward returning soldiers.

Such incidents occurred but were the exception. i observed that most Americans treated Viet Nam vets like the victims they were.


#17

Yes, reminds of the spitting nonsense I looked into a while ago and I now see even the NYT (not that it should surprise me) got this one wrong. See

Although Nexis overflows with references to protesters gobbing on Vietnam vets, and Bob Greene’s 1989 book Homecoming: When the Soldiers Returned From Vietnam counts 63 examples of protester spitting, Jerry Lembcke argues that the story is bunk in his 1998 book The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam (click here to buy it). Lembcke, a professor of sociology at Holy Cross and a Vietnam vet, investigated hundreds of news accounts of antiwar activists spitting on vets. But every time he pushed for more evidence or corroboration from a witness, the story collapsed–the actual person who was spat on turned out to be a friend of a friend. Or somebody’s uncle. He writes that he never met anybody who convinced him that any such clash took place.


#18

The reporter who first printed the infamous myth publicly stated that he had made it up and that now it had taken on a life of its own. He regretted having made up the story and was atoning for it by admitting that it was untrue by saying so in public. The spitting incident never happened.


#19

Read the Book and you will see all the Actual Evidence Why, and How, when “…(JFK) Chose Peace, They Marked Him for Death”, and began AT THAT POINT the Coup d’Etat of Our Nation, at the hands of CIA, the Military and FBI to steer us into the Endless, Illegal Wars that have dominated our past Half Century, and Foreseeable Future.

For anyone to Bloviate on matters past that, is a Distrataction from where Our Attention Belongs.


#20

I have not yet read the book, but I have taken the time to watch “From JFK to 911, A Rich Man’s Trick” on youtube.com. Time well spent.