Thursday, September 21, 2017

A Hard Look at Ken Burns Vietnam

Those who had fought in Vietnam recalled the Thousand Yard Stare of the traumatised soldier as he returned from the field of battle carrying the emotional scars of those lost deep within him. While this author will never know this experience first hand, I can suffice to say that in the three episodes I have viewed thus far have left me emotionally spent. This has been a hard thing to watch every hurtful morsel of truth that has come out. I'm sickened, saddened, even mortified, and just plain shocked that this happened. Worse, knowing fully that those at the highest levels of the American government including LBJ knew this was a disaster before he made his famous speech of July 1965 that sent my late father to Vietnam to fight a war that was already lost. Had the US Marines and Air Mobile Division not arrived in 1965, Saigon would have fell to the North by early 1966. All good intentions aside, the American Government knew as early as 1963 particularly after the coup & assassinations of Diem and Nhu that further American involvement would only delay the inevitable. But those above them kept this from the public. To Burns credit, he shared candid interviews with former NVA & Viet Cong fighters who fought our troops. It is safe to say they controlled over 50% of the countryside. It was with every wrongful death we contributed to, ten volunteers to fight for the VC would emerge. Our vast superior firepower could not account for the terrain nor the climate. Not knowing the culture or the history of Vietnam did not help either. France had left a mess in thier wake. Cold War tensions, threats of Soviet World Domination, and pressure from the French led the Americans to drop our early support for Ho Chi Minh (who we helped his fight against the Japanese) and back the French setting the stage for the greater tragedy to come. After a series of operations where American Advisors were left with ARVN troops ccommanded by Diem Cronies who refused to fight or on occassion cough on patrol to deliberately reveal their locations to the enemy, it was clear to those Americans on the ground that this was a lost cause yet stubborn Texas pride of LBJ went in anyways knowing fully he was betting on a bad horse. And there the American President went on to lie to the nation and justified a commitment to fight Communist aggression in South East Asia on a scale that would kill millions of Vietnamese on both sides and some 58,300+ Americans. By taking charge with American Combat Troops, we essentially took the fight away from ARVN and took full ownership of this debacle thus leading to what the NVA so rightfully called "The American War."

I can not imagine what many of you who were there are going through watching this. Even more so for our Vietnamese friends who must feel betrayed by Saigon's ineffective corrupt leaders who contributed to this human catastrophe and ultimate capitulation. They had an opportunity to build a nation. Instead, those who could make the most difference made out for themselves. Sooner or later the truth had to come out. I am certain there are some truths Ken Burns could not cover but from my perspective I feel he deserves an Emmy for this if not a Kennedy Honors for this arduous task of compiling the heroic struggles, the lies, and the human cost of the war. It is clear that America has not learned from the painful lessons of Vietnam. It is my hope that this documentary is shown to young people so that they will learn the mistakes of this tragic era and work to ensure that such endevors no matter how well intentioned are not repeated again. Every heartbreaking moment should be watched, discussed, and studied. It is only though confronting this past that ghosts of Vietnam can begin to find peace. In the end we will look back to Vietnam and take a hard look at where we are now. If you do not have access to PBS toview this, please check listing on the internet. The Truth is yours.