Saturday, October 14, 2017


I was no more than a boy when I first read Bing West's book, The Village. My father was stationed at Fort Riley with the 1st Infantry Division and so was the family. I found the book at the main post library where I spent a lot of time reading everything there was to read. I was a voracious reader. The little girl next to me was an equally voracious reader and became a famous writer. So anyway, the post library had a copy or two of Bing West's book and I read it at a tender age. It stuck with me over all these years. I read his other books as they were published.

A Couple of Book Worms Caught in the Act at the Library in Fort Riley

He can put the reader into the moment which is a worthy quality in a good writer. He captures the essence of the real meaning of the Vietnam War in this essay from the Hoover Institute. It's not long and you should read it all because he describes his reaction to Ken Burns' newest propaganda piece broadcasting now on the Peoples Broadcast Network.
The purpose of a film, however, is to stir emotions, not to convey a reasoned analysis. In emotive power, Burns succeeds. An audience with no prior knowledge of Vietnam will come away convinced this war was a colossal geopolitical error, a waste of lives on all sides and absolutely without redemption. Every fact and picture is accurate, and the cumulative process of selecting some facts and omitting others is devastating. 
Burns forsook balance. For instance, my Combined Action Platoon (CAP) consisting of 15 Marines and 30 armed farmers lived for 488 days in a remote village of 5,000 Vietnamese. The two Marines who didn’t fit in were dismissed from the CAP. The rest of us slept in the houses of the villagers, ate their food, fought and died side by side with the farmers. Seven of fifteen Marines were killed in the village.
American combat troops withdrew from the country in 1972. At that time, North Vietnamese units were still positioned in the jungles of South Vietnam. They had suffered staggering losses months earlier in a major assault that had failed after America had unleashed its B-52s to pound the enemy on the battlefield and in Hanoi. As the documentary points out, 100,000 North Vietnamese soldiers were estimated to have been killed, nearly all the armor provided by the Soviet Union had been destroyed and the North Vietnamese chief of staff warned another offensive could not be mounted for at least three years.3 The North agreed to a ceasefire and a truce that included the return of American prisoners of war. President Nixon promised to respond with force if the North attacked again. 
Instead, U.S. Congressional legislation in mid-1973 cut off funds for combat “in or over or from off the shores of North Vietnam, South Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia.” The intent was to prevent President Nixon from deploying troops, naval gunfire or aerial bombing if the North Vietnamese persisted in attacking South Vietnam. Over the next two years, Chinese artillery and Soviet tanks poured into Hanoi. While we had promised to provide aid to the South Vietnamese, Congress instead cut our aid of $2.8 billion in 1973 down to $1 billion in 1974 and to $300 million in 1975. When the North Vietnamese attacked in 1975, the South Vietnamese forces ran out of bullets. America had quit, plain and simple. 
What, then, should be the peroration for the war? Should it be the Burns’ documentary, “The Vietnam War was a tragedy, immeasurable and irredeemable.” 
Or should it be what Secretary of Defense Schlesinger wrote to our two million troops, “Your cause was noble; your dedication was determined. You answered your country’s call.”
I don't think it will be long before Ken Burns turns his eye toward Afghanistan and Iraq and pulls up the poisoned history lens version of ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM. At this point I'm prepared to say that all of our ambitions in both places have failed and that none of our hopes have been realized, either in the conquest or the nation building aftermath in either country. Sixteen years of noble sacrifice and we have nothing at all to show for it but the explosion of the Taliban's jihad as it spread out and started attacking the 20th century and Western Civilization everywhere in the world.

1 comment:

Anne Bonney said...

Thanks for the take on Ken Burns' Viet Nam - that was the impression I had, as well.

And you two are just adorable.