Vietnam - The War and the Anti-War Movement - Reader Comments, Lessons for Today

Portside readers continue to weigh in to The Vietnam War, PBS series by Burns and Novick, The impact of the war on the country, the role of the peace movement; and today the impact of discussion of the war and the new series on a country living in the "time of Trump".
September 28, 2017
The Vietnam War - Episode 4
https://image.pbs.org/video-assets/M5Cvze5-asset-mezzanine-16x9-ZXnSL0f.jpg

 

Re: Anti-Vietnam War Activists Comment on Burns' Sentimental Lies About Vietnam (John Eklund; Jeff Rice; Patty Roberts Rohm; Geoff Mirelowitz; Leandro Joo; John Woodford; David McReynolds; Rich Gibson; Eartha Kitt video clip; Mike Meeropol; Peter Orris; Felice Sage; Emily Loeb; Gale Andre)
Re: Burns and Novick's Vietnam War: Doesn't Give Peace Movement a Chance (Jay Schaffner; Marilyn Albert; Howard Kaplan; Lincoln Smith; Mike Prociuk; Marianne Allegro)
Re: Burns and Novick, Masters of False Balancing (Mike Hastie, Army Medic Vietnam; Tom Fitzsimmons)
Viet Nam: Lessons Learned and Not Learned - Full Disclosure: Truth About America's War in Viet Nam (a project of Veterans for Peace)
Viet Nam: The Day Our War Began (Lady Borton - Vietnam Full Disclosure)
About The Viet Nam War PBS Series - "The lies and atrocities had caught up to the war's architects and the GI's, in whatever ways open to them, were heroically saying NO!" (Dik Cool, Syracuse Cultural Workers)

 

Re: Anti-Vietnam War Activists Comment on Burns' Sentimental Lies About Vietnam

Interesting comment thread, per your reservations. Haven't seen an episode yet but Burns lost me with his "best of intentions" bs.

John Eklund
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

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Yes, i have read this. Very good piece.

The problems are myriad, the footage is amazing. Its a trade off so i have been watching.

Jeff Rice
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

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The series so far has convinced us that all the presidents were lying and wrong and knew the war couldn't be won but just kept on. And my impression of Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Cong is that they were in the right, it was their country.

Patty Roberts Rohm

Posted on Portside's Facebook page

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Lots of things this series does not get right. But during tonight's episode when Jefferson Airplane sang, these words truly resonated.

"When the truth is found
To be lies"

The GIs found out, the country found out, and the world found out.

Geoff Mirelowitz
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

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I born in 67 the war was already going on but is good to know the POV of the people who really in some way or another was part of this moment.

Leandro Joo
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

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Lemisch and others of his view have it right. I remember in '63 or '64 when a Harvard student leader who was a friend of mine went on one of those CIA-devised National Student Assn. "fact-finding" trips to South Vietnam. The military "advisers" sent in by Ike and ramped up under JFK were telling the students all about the work of anthropologists and others to identify the malcontents in the south- that is, those who would need to be imprisoned, tortured or executed because they could inspire effective opposition to the plots of the U.S. and its local rightwing elites.

But one big clear fact shone through to my classmate, nonetheless: 1. the Vietnamese people in general didn't want us there and 2. bringing them democracy was the farthest thing from the minds of the U.S. military, spy agencies and politicos who were plotting to expand the war.

The "pox-on-both-their-houses" and "I'm neither a lefty or righty" stance in response to either the Burns show or the war itself is an instance of phony ethics that amounts to condoning imperialism. And furthermore, such responses set up the U.S. public today to accept more such criminal ventures spurred by greed, racism, arrogance and a lust for violence against bogeymen threats. War profiteering is the underlying motive.

John Woodford
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

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Ethan is right - US intervention in Vietnam was about containment.  The Soviet Union had announced that a military conflict with the West was not inevitable, but that the international struggles (wars of liberation) would continue. In that sense Kennedy (and Eisenhower before him) saw stopping the Viet Minh as one of several brush fires in the world, and the US would not permit these "wars of liberation" to change the balance of power. This fit very nicely into the domino theory. If the State Department had known the history of the area it would have known that Vietnam was much more likely to be a stumbling block to China than a domino.

Sorry about the error (was it in my original Facebook copy?) which refers to veterans as victims of David McReynolds ! It is true my politics were and are pacifist, I sympathized with the Buddhists, but in 1964 I drafted, and with A.J. Muste, signed an analysis which called for the unconditional American withdrawal from Vietnam. I should say that after my trips to Hanoi my view of Vietnamese communism changed radically, and I'm honored that there is a photo of the 1965 draft card burning in Union Square on the wall of the peace museum (I think in Hanoi).

I've now watched five episodes and still don't know why the series is under such attack. The documentation of the lies from Kennedy and Johnson did much to create the climate where "nothing is believed". My heart goes out now, as it did then, to the American veterans who were trapped in that war - and to the extraordinary courage of the people of Vietnam.

David McReynolds

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"You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed. They rebel in the street. They don't want to go to school because they're going to be snatched off from their mothers to be shot in Vietnam," she explained to the first lady and fifty other woman who'd been invited to the luncheon. "Vietnam is the main reason we are having trouble with the youth of America. It is a war without explanation or reason."

"Vietnam is the main reason we are having trouble with the youth of America. It is a war without explanation or reason."

Listen here.

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Boomers Teach the Grandbabies - More Lies Ahead About the Wars on Vietnam

They are at it again.

They need to beat their own dead horse to death once more.

The US rout in Vietnam must be mystified again-to unite a nation reeling from the promise of endless war, the obvious reality of booming color-coded inequality, a flatly failed political system and ruling class, and increasing repression.

And to fashion the possibility that a similar war could become popular in the future-even World War III.

Why Vietnam now?

Perhaps because it is the looming 50th anniversary of the Tet Offensive of January, 1968; that turning point when the quantitative work of the mass of Vietnamese people, leading a peoples' war against yet another invader empire (in order, the French, the Japanese-and the Chinese Kuomintang-the French again, and then the US), and the efforts of the US anti-war movement, came together to prove to the majority of Americans that the war could not be won-and that the nations' leaders had lied about everything important.

Now it is Ken Burns' turn on PBS-that not-so-public broadcasting system so dependent on corporate sponsors (like Bank of American, feverishly boosting Burns) who, clearly, paid for his work as well as the massive advertising campaign promoting it.

Rich Gibson

Read more here.

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Here's a view that is rarely heard but should be seriously considered.

The United States WON the War in Vietnam.   How can I say that?   Because the whole goal of the war was to stop the spread of "communism" which in the specific case of Vietnam was a communist led nationalist insurgency. Unable to keep the French colonialists in power, the United States opted for an attempt to create a more "informal" empire --- the kind of indirect rule that the 19th century British Empire employed both in its colonies and in places like Latin America.   So we had "pro American" governments in South Vietnam, Laos and (supposedly neutral) Cambodia.

When that didn't work, our military punished all three countries mercilessly in hopes that the other side would "give up."

When that didn't work, we left them totally destroyed so that the only way they could become "whole" again as far as being a country that its people could rely on was to adopt MARKET REFORMS --- and open their societies to international capitalism (which was the original goal of the Cold Warriors from Eastern Europe to IndoChina to Malaya, Indonesia and Korea).

Only China, Cuba and North Korea remained outside of the international (American-directed) empire when the dust had settled by the early 1990s.

Venezuela's efforts to break free seem to have foundered.   WHo knows what will happen to Cuba.

And China is a modern state-run capitalist competitor of the US --- not a model for socialism.

The Vietnamese heroically fought for national sovereignty --- and they have it politically--- but economically they are being interwoven into the world capitalist system.

Many of the true believers in socialism who fought for VIetnamese independence must be spinning in their graves ....

I very much doubt that Burns will even consider that the point of view that the US WON the war exists --- let alone explore it ---

That would require a very different perspective on what US goals were ---

Mike Meeropol

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Your headline on this subject is not only misleading but quite inaccurate as well.  The discussion is better than the editorial and certainly than Jesse Lemisch's, in my opinion, total miss on the substance and importance of this series.

Peter Orris

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My husband, a Vietnam Swift Boat Vet, ( Not the Swift Boat Veterans for "Truth" kind.... he supported John Kerry's presidential campaign) thinks very highly of what he's seen so far. It's catching up to his time there and his experience during Tet, so we'll see how continuing to watch goes, but so far he's been doing fine with it.

Felice Sage
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

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Very interesting dialogue. I am riveted by the Burns doc.

Doesn't seem "forgiving" of US so far.... Clear ignorance prevailed

Emily Loeb
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

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I was politically awakening during this time. There is a lot of minutia I was unaware of. I am loving this series. I have learned SO much.

Gale Andre
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

 

1967 March on the Pentagon to End the War in Viet Nam
credit: PBS Hawaii

 

Re: Burns and Novick's Vietnam War: Doesn't Give Peace Movement a Chance

The anti-Vietnam War peace movement reflected the best that our country has to offer. Proud to have come of age and been a part of this really truly vast, democratic, mass and heroic movement.

Jay Schaffner
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

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Here is historian Maurice Isserman's review of PBS' Vietnam War -- primarily he criticizes how we - the anti-war movement - are portrayed. There is so much the film leaves out - I don't recall the story of Norman Morrison, the Quaker who immolated himself outside McNamara's office, the movement among GI's and those who refused to fight - the Fort Hood 3 and others, how millions were organized to protest....a lot is omitted and/or distorted. As he says, Burns is anti-war but also anti-the antiwar movement....

Marilyn Albert
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

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Series sponsored by Koch Brothers and Bank of America. Not a good omen. And NPR refuses to the criticize the series. (I call them National Pentagon Radio). The antiwar effort made a nick in American Imperialism and Empire. The struggle continues.

Howard Kaplan
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

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Just a thanks to Mr Isserman for his critique on Burns series on Vietnam.  the war had a profound effect on those who fought in it and those who fought against it. And as an aside, there where many of us who believed, and still believe that Ho Chi Minh was a hero and the people of Vietnam were heroes, standing up to the biggest international bully the world has ever known...not just then but still.

Lincoln Smith

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I feel that the documentary is very telling in how it makes everybody look self serving and bad.

Mike Prociuk
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

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There's a lot in it that I don't know. Great hearing so many interviewed; hearing the audio of Johnson confronting Nixon about his sabotage of the peace process to get elected. But I can't believe some of the omissions either.

Marianne Allegro
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

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In June 1971 the New York Times began publishing the leaked Pentagon Papers - seven-thousand "Top-Secret" Defense Department documents bound in forty-seven volumes that exposed secret U.S. government wrongdoing in Vietnam.
credit: NYTimes eXaminer - An antidote to the "paper of record"

 

Re: Burns and Novick, Masters of False Balancing

Army Medic Vietnam Veterans for Peace
September 20, 2017

I'm starting to watch the Burns/Novick documentary on PBS. I am visiting my sister and brother-in-law in Spokane, Washington, both of whom have health problems. I want to focus on them more, but they wanted to watch the second episode last night. I have read several articles about the PBS series, along with what people are posting on Full Disclosure. I am sure I am no different than most people. I have been somewhat hesitant to watch the Burns film, because I am away from my friends and support group back in Portland, Oregon. When I came back from Vietnam, I was eventually hospitalized in a psychiatric facility for PTSD, once in 1980, and in 1994 after I came back from my first return to Vietnam with three close friends who were also Vietnam veterans. One of those friends was involved in the Phoenix Program, where he was personally pulling the trigger on assassinations. Another friend in our group was involved in radio intercept. Halfway through his tour in Vietnam, he realized he was giving B-52 pilots coordinates in the bombing of civilian targets. When he realized he was involved in mass murder, he walked into the orderly room on his base, and told his company commander that his tour in Vietnam was officially over. Well, they threatened him with a court martial, and even a firing squad, but he stuck to his guns, and told them to go fuck themselves. He was eventually sent back to the US as a psychiatric case, and wound up on a psyche ward at Madigan Army Hospital. His war was over, and he spent the next twenty years drinking heavily, and packing a pistol. He was basically suffering from the LIE of the Vietnam War, and the dismantling of his core belief system. He absolutely hated the US Government and called the Pentagon a house of goons. He used profound articulate sarcasm to get through his day, as he referred to the American flag as a Nazi symbol riddled with madness. To this day, he is a person I have the utmost respect for, because he walked into his orderly room in Vietnam, and told people that he could no longer morally commit murder for corporate America. Now, run this voice through the 18-hour Burns documentary on The Vietnam War. This is not complicated, except for people who are still looking for a noble cause for America's involvement in Vietnam. The LIE is the truth of the Vietnam War. That LIE put me in two psychiatric hospitals, and that is why I dearly love my friend, because he validated me to the core.

Before I went to Vietnam, I spent a year in Denver, Colorado at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital attending an advanced 41 week medic course. Fitzsimmons had a lot of amputees from Vietnam, as they were going through various stages of being severely wounded. I saw a lot of people in wheelchairs during the year that I was there. One experience I had, as we were involved in many medical rotations throughout the hospital, was my two week rotation on the psyche ward. Many soldiers coming back from Vietnam were severely wounded psychologically, and the drug of choice was Thorazine. You could tell soldiers were on heavy doses of Thorazine, because they had the Thorazine shuffle. When soldiers did not respond to drugs ( if they ever would ), they often received shock therapy. As a student, I witnessed one of those high voltage treatments. I remember they brought this young American kid into the room on a gurney and we transferred him to the shock table. He was strapped down to the table, a padded tongue blade was put in his mouth. He was already on a sedative, but the nurses were there to give him as much comfort as they could. Electrodes were attached to his head, and the switched was executed. His body became very rigid, and he convulsed with jerking movements that seemed to elevate him off the table. What I saw in that moment, was the utter LIE of the entire Vietnam War in a nutshell. I wish Ken Burns had a clip of that shock therapy session in his 18-hour epic on The Vietnam War, as it would cut through a lot of bullshit ideological rhetoric. When you get away from emotional intelligence, and the incredible grief and sorrow of the Vietnam Holocaust, you are still discussing whether it was a noble cause. When I saw the end results of a couple of American soldiers commit suicide in Vietnam, and a good Vietnam vet friend hang himself in a motel room twenty years after he got back from Vietnam, I didn't need any more proof on whether it was a noble cause of not. I had the blood on my hands to prove it, and the emotional trauma of the LIE for a lifetime....

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, because they are military targets. The primary goal of the aggressor nation is to break the will of the people, and their ability to defend their homeland. This strategy is as old as warfare itself.

Mike Hastie
Army Medic Vietnam

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I haven't seen the new documentary by Burns yet but after the way he treated the Civil War this wouldn't surprise me. I never once in all of those years saw anyone spit on a vet. They were us and we knew it. There was sympathy. I met the bus for the disabled vets at many demonstrations and helped them unload the guys in wheelchairs.

I had problems with Burns Baseball series also but the 10th Inning was a masterpiece. I'd hoped the influence of his partner Novick was responsible and that would show in the Vietnam doc.

Tom Fitzsimmons
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

 

Viet Nam: Lessons Learned and Not Learned
Full Disclosure: Truth About America's War in Viet Nam (a project of Veterans for Peace)

 

 

 

Read more here.

 

Viet Nam: The Day Our War Began

 

 

By Lady Borton

September 27, 2017
Vietnam Full Disclosure

For years, I wondered when the American War in Viet Nam began. I kept looking for documents showing who, what, where, when, and why.

The day our war began is August 22, 1945.

 

In this photograph (above) from the Harry S. Truman Library, taken on the afternoon of August 22, 1945, French Provisional President General Charles de Gaulle is standing on the left with U.S. President Harry S. Truman on the right in front of the White House during the welcoming ceremony for de Gaulle's state visit to Washington (August 22?24, 1945). In the next row are two top-level military officers from each country, France and the United States. In the last row are two staff-level officers for de Gaulle and Truman, but all of them are Americans. The two Americans on the French side traveled with de Gaulle from Paris.

As soon as I returned to Ha Noi from the Truman Library, I showed this photograph to Mr. Pham Tran Long, deputy-director at The Gioi (World Publishers), Viet Nam's foreign-languages press. Mr. Long has excellent English.

"I spy Johnson!" he said.

Look again. Lyndon Baines Johnson is on the right, standing in the wings.

Read more here.

[The Full Disclosure campaign is a Veterans For Peace effort to speak truth to power and keep alive the antiwar perspective on the American war in Viet Nam -- which is now approaching a series of 50th anniversary events. It represents a clear alternative to the Pentagon's current efforts to sanitize and mythologize the Vietnam war and to thereby legitimize further unnecessary and destructive wars.]

About the author:
Lady Borton, an American Quaker and probably the only woman to remain in Vietnam throughout the American War, has documented numerous stories about how Vietnamese women fought the battle of the South and won. Because most men were sent to North Vietnam after the Geneva Accords, women were left to lead and carry out the Viet Cong resistance against the oppressive French colonials, then later the American soldiers. They were the spies, the informants, they took prisoners and learned how to fire guns. They were the soldiers and the backbone of the resistance. [ABC-Australia - January 18, 2016]

 

About The Viet Nam War PBS Series - The lies and atrocities had caught up to the war's architects and the GI's, in whatever ways open to them, were heroically saying NO!

 

 

 

 

 

As of the September 25th episode (up to 1969) in the PBS series The Viet Nam War, opposition by veterans and active duty GI's has been completely ignored even though it was a major reason the war ended. Civilian resistance has also been trivialized at best.

In 1966 the first GI's refused transfer to the war; in 1967 Viet Nam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) was founded and became a major force against the war; (VVAW still exists publishing a vet-friendly paper and critiquing US foreign policy VVAW.org); in 1968 GI's were arrested for openly protesting the war.

The Pentagon does not want you to know any of the following information: The G.I. movement against the Viet Nam war was perhaps more important to ending the war than the civilian peace movement. By 1971, with 500,000 troops in Viet Nam, the US military was on the verge of collapse and the brass were panicked. Officers were being fragged, whole units were refusing to fight, drug use was rampant, black GI's had coined the phrase "no Vietnamese ever called me n-----," and antiwar GI coffeehouses and newspapers had sprung up at most US bases around the world. In April, 1971, several thousand Viet Nam vets, in a powerful, moving demonstration, threw their medals on the steps of the US Congress. Vets symbolically occupied the Statue of Liberty. US soldiers realized they had been lied to by a country they trusted.

They came to understand that the people they were killing had done nothing to the US; they simply wanted to control their own destiny. The veterans then and now had to bear a double burden. They had fought a war and then had to fight to stop a war they realized was unjust. The toll this took on our soldiers is staggering. Over 150,000 have committed suicide, far more than died in the war, and the suicides continue to this day. Veterans also have had to fight to get the VA to acknowledge the effects of toxic Agent Orange and PTSD. They deserve better. Much better.

The June 1971 issue of the Armed Forces Journal contained an article titled "The Collapse of the Armed Forces" by Colonel Robert Heinl where he declared that:

The morale, discipline and battle worthiness of the U.S. Armed Forces are, with few salient exceptions, lower and worse than at any time in this century and possibly in the history of the United States. By every conceivable indicator, our army that now remains in Viet Nam is in a state approaching collapse, with individual units avoiding or having refused combat, murdering their officers and noncommissioned officers, drug-ridden, and dispirited where not mutinous. 

The lies and atrocities had caught up to the war's architects and the GI's, in whatever ways open to them, were heroically saying NO!

In late 2014 retired general Nguyen Van Rinh was asked how the US could make amends for the war. He said, "Admit the truth and acknowledge that a great crime was committed here."

Dik Cool

[Dik Cool first opposed the U.S. war on Vietnam in 1964. He was imprisoned in 1967-68 for draft and war resistance. In 1970 he joined the staff of the Syracuse Peace Council and spoke against the war at colleges, schools and community groups. He is the founder and publisher of SyracuseCulturalWorkers.com, a national publisher.]

September 28, 2017