Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
September 20, 2017

"The Vietnam War" - Documentary Or Epic Of Fiction?

Arte TV yesterday showed the first parts of The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. It also runs on PBS.

The first three parts of the ten part "documentary" are a whitewash of the motives of the politicians who sold the war to the public. The CIA's and military "deep state" machinations behind them is not investigated but covered up.

A comment in the first episode declares that it was a "civil war" of Vietnamese against Vietnamese. That is ahistoric nonsense. After the defeat of the (U.S. financed) French colonialists in 1954, the leader of the Viet-minh Ho Chi Min was the undisputed hero of all Vietnam. He would have won any election by huge margins. But the Russian (and Chinese) backers of the liberation war against the French did not want to walk the last mile and insisted on negotiations in Geneva. They allowed the partition of the country. It would have been interesting to learn why.

The "documentary" makes it seem as if the south-Vietnamese ruler Ngo Dinh Diem appeared from heaven instead of being installed by the CIA. It put him into his position. It helped to arrange the "election" that gave him a laughable 98.2% of the votes. It financed him. The episode has arch-imperialist Leslie Gelb, who was part of the deep state that created and ran the war, declaring that "we did what Diem said". That is nonsense. Diem was ruthless dictator but he would not have survived a day without U.S. support and protection.

Part two is a undeserved homage of Kennedy and his "brilliant" staff. McNamara is especially lauded. But his bean-counter mind lacked any capacity to judge human behavior and motives. That had catastrophic consequences. The war is depicted as fight for "liberty" and against "communism". Those were Kennedy's sales points but they had little to do with what happened. Kennedy, like Johnson after him, was mostly driven by domestic policy issues. He wanted to reach certain domestic aims. His Vietnam decisions were just a cover against attacks on him for being "weak".

Part three whitewashes the Gulf of Tonkin lie. It is mealymouthed about what really happened, but then speaks of U.S. 2retaliation". The "unprovoked attack" of Vietnamese forces on U.S. ships was fictitious. The Congress' "Tonkin resolution" which escalated the war was prepared by Johnson's staff two month before the "incident" happened. The "Tonkin" show was set up to push it through. A main motive of the escalation was to get Johnson reelected. Like Kennedy he knew that the war was fought against a national liberation movement and unwinnable. But his "response" to the "incident" made him look strong. He won in a landslide.

Altogether I am disappointed by the series. It is well done cinematography, but it lacks historic depths. There is no investigation of the deeper motives for the political decisions within the U.S. government. Instead we get a repetition of the marketing slogans that were used to sell the decisions. The military and CIA machinations, and the drug business in Vietnam it inherited from the French, are left out. The motives and the strategies of the Viet-minh get too little cover, as does the civil life in Vietnam during the war.

Moreover there is no comment at all about the motivation and thought of the countries that backed the Viet-minh. Soviet and Chinese archives are open. But nothing is said about their desires and the large amount of resources they put into the war. A real documentary on the war would include their views. "Anti-communist" and "domino theory" slogans were and are still used to sell the war to the U.S. public. Would the deliberations that took place in Moscow and Beijing contradict them?


Other critical voices on the series:

Jeff Stein at Newsweek: Vietnam War: New Ken Burns Documentary Dismisses the Origins of the Futile, Disastrous Conflict

Burns strives to give everyone’s strongly held, divergent views equal weight, but before long, he’s waist deep in a historical big muddy, wandering among competing theories that obscure the root cause of a war ...

Thomas A Bass at Mekong Review: America’s amnesia

By Episode Two, “Riding the Tiger” (1961-1963), we are heading deep into Burns territory. The war has been framed as a civil war, with the United States defending a freely elected democratic government in the south against Communists invading from the north. American boys are fighting a godless enemy that Burns shows as a red tide creeping across maps of Southeast Asia and the rest of the world.

The historical footage in Episode One, “Déjà Vu” (1858-1961), which disputes this view of the war, is either ignored or misunderstood. ...

David Thomson at London Review of Books: Merely an Empire

If the film seems like an epic of fiction, it’s because it is less engaged in a quest for historical truth than it is in getting closer to some verities about life and death.
Burns and Novick make it clear that despite the passionate opposition to the war, and not only among young people, the preponderance of Americans said they believed in it. They supported the Ohio National Guard for firing on students at Kent State. Their numb assent was brilliantly captured by Nixon with his phrase ‘the silent majority’. ... [I]t leaves little doubt that the cultural revolutions of the 1960s – Merrill McPeak’s ‘rivulets’ – were a liberation for a minority and one that left a schism in America still emphatically evident in the 2016 election.

Posted by b on September 20, 2017 at 12:44 UTC | Permalink

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Burns can now do a documentary on how the US won the war in Syria and defeated ISIS, despite the interference of Russia and the evil KGB operative, Putin.

Posted by: Perimetr | Sep 20 2017 12:56 utc | 1

I finally watched some of it. There is quite a lot of 'glossing over' issues that could be seen as damning to the figures of the era - which is typical of anything that USA media produces. That's a shame, as there are some very good little corners of work in this mess. Overall, I agree with your assessment - they chose the "safe route" so they would avoid any controversy with those who write the checks. Thus we learn a few new tidbits that have little significance,

Posted by: Oilman2 | Sep 20 2017 13:23 utc | 2

A couple of days ago, also on Arte, was screned Apocalypse Now Redux. Better than a thousand words and probably the best war film ever made, imo.

Posted by: Mina | Sep 20 2017 14:04 utc | 3

The US could have had good relations with Vietnam if they had not started the Cold War.

In the years that followed, Ho Chi Minh continued to write letters of a diplomatic nature to President Harry Truman, asking for U.S. aid, but the letters were never answered. Ho didn’t break with the United States until the Americans gradually became involved with the French in working against the Vietnamese in the 1950s.

But the interesting question now - is there really still this "cultural silent majority" of the sixties?

The US are represented by a guy three times divorced with a trophy wife and dirty language using comics and pop references to explain his foreign policy.

In Germany a new right wing party is bound to get a lot of votes thanks to refugees (what platform did Trump win on?) represented by an old fashioned Nazi networks guy but also by a young lesbian woman with a globalized life style boasting of growing cannabis in her youth.

I would say sixities alternative culture has thoroughly won. Very likely, the peace movement also won in public opinion. At least it is winning when the US cannot finish a war quickly.

It took six years for the US to withdraw from Vietnam after public opinion changed. Taking this as a guide the lease for the Kabul government is to end in three years time.

Posted by: somebody | Sep 20 2017 14:06 utc | 4

b nailed it; A Documentary, Or Epic Of Fiction?
utter rubbish/fiction.

John Pilger, in the link below, exposes the U.S. war on Vietnam for what it really was;

Watch it! Damnit! It's the real deal...

Posted by: V. Arnold | Sep 20 2017 14:11 utc | 5

Ken Burns is no different from other mainstream media prostitutes. They are tightly controlled by the US government alphabet agencies. Everything produced must meet approval. Operation Mockingbird is not a Conspiracy Theory as wiki-cia indicates.

There exists no rational explanation for why the government would end Op Mockingbird. It was critically important to shape public opinion and to mold the American public into idiotic, thoughtless warmongers.

The fact that the US Congress implemented the Patriot Act; instituted the Homeland Security Police State Apparatus and made legal the dissemination of propaganda dovetails with the earlier Op Mockingbird.

Posted by: fastfreddy | Sep 20 2017 14:14 utc | 6

"Burns After Watching"

Burns on Vietnam... shallow and filled with half-truths and whole falsehoods.

Posted by: StephenLaudig | Sep 20 2017 14:23 utc | 7

Any honest documentary on Vietnam should start at the end of World War II, with the Japanese politely handing control of Vietnam back to the French - even the World War II history of so-called "French Indochina" is important:
Seeds of Conflict 1945 - 1960

October 1945 - 35,000 French soldiers under the command of World War II General Jacques Philippe Leclerc arrive in South Vietnam to restore French rule. Viet Minh immediately begin a guerrilla campaign to harass them. The French then succeed in expelling the Viet Minh from Saigon.

At the end of World War II, the U.S. had two choices: support France and Britain in their efforts to re-establish their colonial empires, or support the independence movements (which would have made sense, since by and large, the colonized countries had fought against the Axis powers in World War II). Ho Chi Minh famously wrote a letter to the Truman government, asking for support, which was ignored. Given that Vietnam and China had been historical enemies, this was a huge missed opportunity. Instead, the U.S. chose to back the French & British re-colonization efforts - which came to a bitter end a decade later with the 1954 Suez Canal crisis, when Eisenhower finally told the French and British that their day of Empire was over.

The best general history of the Vietnam War is thus still Karnow's "Vietnam, A History" which covers that period. Burns is pathetic feel-good revisionist BS by comparison.

By the way, the biggest BS line of all is the Kennedy was going to get the U.S. out of Vietnam, and that somehow was related to his assassination. That's absolute nonsense - Kennedy just wanted the South Vietnamese Army to do the fighting, and he'd have sent American troops in just like Johnson did when they were faced with collapse. The whole thing is a lot like Afghanistan today that way - with Afghanistan having gone on for even longer.

Posted by: nonsense factory | Sep 20 2017 14:25 utc | 8

b, Unlike many MoA and yourself I witness many of the events on or near the grounds but find it hard to put it into proper Eng. I met a middle age German in the 80s representing an earth moving equipments (can't remember the name) from Germany, he told me how Jews taking over mom and pop business in Germany prior to the rise of Hitler.

I lived throughout the 60s - 80s in SEA, HK and Amerika. In the early 60s visited my classmate parent on Messageries Maritime's MV Laos for a few days in Cholon, Vietnam before Amerika invaded it. Were outside two boat people refugees camps in Singapore hidden along West Coast Road and Sungai Besi in Kuala Lumpur in the 90s.

Posted by: OJS | Sep 20 2017 15:19 utc | 9

@ nonsense factory 7

I'm sure you realize that by calling BS on the connection between JFK's assassination and his intention to pull out of Vietnam you have violated one of the articles of faith of this board. That the "deep state" and the MIC done him in. Hardly a thread goes by where someone doesn't intone that "Kennedy bucked them and look what happened to him."

Nobody ever mentions that Sam Giancana delivered Illinois to the Democratic campaign and also was a big help in West Virginia. He, of course, wanted access to the president but that never materialized. Instead JFK appointed his brother Bobby to the AG post and RFK immediately went after the Chicago mob with a vengeance. There's a whole lot of people who think crossing the 60s mob was a decidedly dumb thing to do with regards to keeping your health. Just another theory? Of course it is, but every bit as valid as what's accepted as gospel around here.

Posted by: peter | Sep 20 2017 15:20 utc | 10

National Security Action Memorandum Number 263 (NSAM-263) was approved on 11 October 1963 by United States President John F. Kennedy.

McNamara and Taylor's recommendations included an appraisal that "great progress" was being made in the Vietnam War against Viet Cong insurgents, that 1,000 military personnel could be withdrawn from South Vietnam by the end of 1963, and that a "major part of the U.S. military task can be completed by the end of 1965." The U.S. at this time had more than 16,000 military personnel in South Vietnam.

This was reversed by Johnson.NSC NASM #273. This approval came 4 days after JFK's assassination. It was the device used to expand the US war.

Posted by: Red Ryder | Sep 20 2017 15:24 utc | 11

Also their battles with General Electric and US Steel. They made a lot of enemies without much back-up. Not that the CIA, corporate interests and organized crime are unrelated topics.

Posted by: financial matters | Sep 20 2017 15:32 utc | 12

Burns is an overrated hack who is loved by the PBS crowd who like to feel they're educating themselves in a higher fashion while getting US myths fed back to them over slow pans of photographs. I haven't watched the Vietnam documentary, but that's because I no longer waste time on Burns' BS.

Posted by: WorldBLee | Sep 20 2017 15:33 utc | 13

Thanks for this item, b. In the previous thread, I posted a link to an excellent essay that destroys Burns's attempt to alter the historical truth,

Burns's attempt to alter history makes me wonder about his previous works since his credibility is now in tatters or ought to be. I wonder if he even cares.

Morgan Freeman was an actor I once had a bit of respect for, but his most recent effort shows that he too dwells in a sewer. That so much propaganda is being launched at this time--clearly planned much earlier prior to HRC's election defeat--makes me muse about its initial purpose.

Posted by: karlof1 | Sep 20 2017 15:34 utc | 14

We're not the same country we were then ... when the world war veterans and civilian refugees/survivors and the immigrant experience were part of American everyday discourse.

On another board, a sweet young thing exclaimed that it was much more complicated that s/he realized, that it was so hard to tell who were the "good guys" ... Welcome to 2017. Anyone under 60 only knows "the legend" as told by parents and teachers. The immorality of "intervening" in the post-colonial coming-into-independence process is unrecognized.

The "red menace" and anticommunism oddly still remain foundational truths, even wrt to Russia 2017, 20 years after the fall of the USSR, even with Putin (anti-communist) at Russia's helm.

The mishandling/misrepresentation of the Gulf of Tonkin "incident" /lies is inexcusable, particularly with the more recent "missing" WMD's to "normalize" such government deception(s). At least in the second episode, JFK was not glamorized but shown to be an awkward, clumsy neophyte. (I'm beyond tired of the "if only he'd lived" fantasy world).

There's been a shutting down of comments or site redesign of a number of sites I use to watch public reactions. I'm not sure many people are watching. I keep seeing people saying it's "too depressing" or "too upsetting" (so obviously they will not subject themselves to the unpleasantness of watching, because they are -- in factj -- delicate flowers about 50 year old events) ... welcome to American 2017 ... Denial is not a joke; it's a psychological defense mechanism

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Sep 20 2017 15:38 utc | 15

>>>> nonsense factory | Sep 20, 2017 10:25:02 AM | 7

...the 1954 Suez Canal crisis...

Actually it was 1956, and it started out with a wanton act of aggression by the Israelis invading Sinai which was used as an excuse by the British and French to justify the re-occupation of the Suez Canal to "protect" it. The whole operation was planned by the British, French and Israelis.
As for Vietnam, when the British arrived there at the end of the war on Japan, the French soldiers that were still alive were too weak to be effective so the British freed Japanese POWS, re-armed them, and used them to stop the Viet Minh from taking power until French reinforcements arrived from France.
Counterpunch also has an article criticising the Burns series and has a article worth reading about Mark Bowden's book Hue 1968.

Posted by: Ghostship | Sep 20 2017 15:53 utc | 16

@peter 9,
Kennedy was an interesting character in contrast to Eisenhower. Most people who don't know the details don't realize that Kennedy ramped up military spending on nuclear, chemical and biological warfare programs as soon as he entered office (recall he ran against Nixon on a bogus 'missile gap' with the Soviets). However, unlike Eisenhower (who warned about the growing power of the military-industrial complex in the final days of his presidency), he tried to put a smiley face on all his programs. In this he was inspired by the 1958 book The Ugly American which called for such a strategy.

For example, the CIA assassination programs were in full swing by then, and Kennedy supported them, but as covert operations, under the cover of promoting democracy and human rights - which has been the PR face of US foreign policy ever since. Eisenhower was at least honest about U.S. interest in Southeast Asia's natural resources, such as rubber, tin, and oil, in contrast.

As far as the Kennedy assassination, I'd guess the massive conspiracy and the lone wolf theories are both bogus, my take is that it was blowback from the Bay of Pigs, when Kennedy rejected direct military intervention (because it would look bad to the world). The CIA's covert action teams likely felt betrayed by Kennedy after he failed to send in the US military to back their failed landing. A handful of rogue CIA operatives could have carried it out, and then the whole thing was covered up to prevent exposure of the massive CIA assassination program that operated globally in the 1950s and early 1960s. The mafia theories - well, the mafia never liked to draw such attention to itself, did it? But who knows?

Regardless, the story promoted by the likes of Oliver Stone and David Talbot, about how Kennedy was an idealistic young man who opposed American military intervention in Vietnam and so was killed, is pure revisionist history. Notably, however, the CIA assassination programs were severely cut back after his assassination - as if American government leaders had suddenly realized the risks involved in training lots of young men to kill politicians.

Posted by: nonsense factory | Sep 20 2017 16:08 utc | 17

@ Susan Sunflower 14

The denial is very easy to accomplish here in the US, where there are myriad methods of self-amusement. There is no reason to get emotionally involved in history, other than wishing to not repeat it. Which explains why so few public figures want to look at history - they prefer to think of themselves and their situations as unique to them and their time. History may not exactly repeat, but it certainly rhymes with a cyclical vengeance.

Further, it is extremely difficult to obtain the truth. Before the internet, there were "established sources" only - no alternatives. While the media did dig and try to "scoop" competitors, the government was able to contain things much more simply. We believed because there was NO alternative.

In our current time, there are multiple sources for many things, and many of them are simply disinformation sources. Propoganda is very much legal in America, enshrined into law, in point of fact. Today, people are aware enough to doubt the "established sources", but then what is the truth? Does one have the time to pursue it, and to what end? Does knowing it benefit you as a person in any positive way? IMO, most people give up because it is either too much work to arrive at a reasonable truth, or they see no benefit to their current state of existence.

Mishandling is a much-too-polite term. It was fraud, lies and a complete coverup - only exposed in hindsight of the event due to the inability of government to control every detail. Media is wild today, and lots of facts are available, especially with the wayback machine of the internet. The real issue is what is truth versus fiction, separating the edible meat from the bone and gristle of lies and obfuscation. Without a slower pace of life, most people do not have the time to sift things out, and many never heard of Occams razor...

Posted by: Oilman2 | Sep 20 2017 16:12 utc | 18

Sorry, Peter, maybe if you read a book about JFK published in the last thirty years by Peter Dale Scott, John Newman or many of the others who didn't swallow the CIA story hook, line and sinker, you might have recognized JFK's opposition to the war in Vietnam. John Armstrong's HARVEY AND LEE takes you step-by-step through the assassination setup. The only reasonable explanation is that it was a coup. Some people feel the need to hate JFK, and you sound like you're in that corral. Since the CIA has frequently employed mob figures, as opposed to the other way around, it seems you are looking through the wrong end of the telescope.

Having said that, I haven't watched the show. I lived through the era.

Posted by: Bob In Portland | Sep 20 2017 16:54 utc | 19

Ho Chi Minh tried to meet with Woodrow Wilson in France in 1919 when Wilson came to sign the treaty ending WWI. seems Wilson's 'self-determination' was not for non-european independence movements. Not much difference today with 'sovereignty' rights for only those who agree with the USA...

Posted by: nurse.comic | Sep 20 2017 17:04 utc | 20

- The US didn't want to hold elections that would lead to a unified Vietnam. Instead they wanted to have divided Vietnam. It helped to create extra tensions in Vietnam/south East Asia.
- Like the US was hell bent on creating more tensions in the Far East. They did it by DELIBERATELY NOT resolving a number of disputes. Think: Takeshima Island, Kuril Islands, Spratly Islands, South & North Korea, etc.

Nick Turse also has written on the subject of the Vietnam war.
GOOGL the words: "kill anything that moves nick turse vietnam"

Posted by: Willy2 | Sep 20 2017 17:09 utc | 21

I've looked to see if Ellsberg appeared in the "cast" of listing (there isn't one over at IMDB) and have found no evidence he was consulted or appears (remember this was 10 years in the making ... still can find nothing. Found this link to an article about attending a screening of the "preview" ... which I thought was interesting and has some interesting comments and a link to a "real news network" interview with Ellsberg from 2009 wrt Obama's afghanistan "policy" ...

I always recommend the Ellsberg documentary "Most Dangerous Man in American" ... short, and always streamable on youtube (I'm pretty sure) which offers through timeline of the war and the lies.

I was rather disappointed by Stephen Cohen/John Batchelor this week (because of questions/answers it raised and didn't really answer) but it dealt with the vanished/absence of alternative narrative or even just opposition to this current escalation of "tensions" ... Comment sections wrt Korea are terrifying wrt the number of people eager to "glass the place" -- see also Iran and Russia and as Tom Leherer asked "who's next?" ...

A good documentary can be the first step in igniting some curiousity ... I'll keep watching (and looking around for "audience" reactions) ... I fear it's just "yesterday's news" regardless of how many parallels because today's existential crisis is so much bigger. Amazed to see people eager for quite real mass-casualty war over "harsh words" (verbal threats) and war exercises ... there are apparently no mirrors in which anyone bothers to see themselves ...

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Sep 20 2017 17:12 utc | 22

The episode has arch-imperialist Leslie Gelb, who was part of the deep state that created and ran the war, declaring that "we did what Diem said". That is nonsense. Diem was ruthless dictator but he would not have survived a day without U.S. support and protection.

Diem most certainly would not have lasted a day without US support. But Gelb's quote above has an element of truth. Diem kept on trying to do things his own way and repeatedly ignored the advice of the CIA and the US ambassador, especially Henry Cabot lodge. That is why the Lodge supported and helped plan the coup that led to Diem's murder.

Posted by: ToivoS | Sep 20 2017 17:14 utc | 23

sorry, I left off the link

Apparently although Burns & Company promised Q&A -- oops, all out of time ... also yet event also featured another vet with an "I was snubbed in uniform" story..." (stories which may be simply insignificant grudge holding or apocryphal -- context and resolution rarely given -- but those war protestors went around hurting valiant veterans' feelings -- maybe.)

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Sep 20 2017 17:17 utc | 24

Lost all respect for the Burns documentary machine during and after the National Parks series in which he buried the work of real environmental rebels like David Brower in favor of more corporate friendly, safer but lesser individuals. You Had to look no further than Burns' list of corporate sponsors for the cause.
Had no faith that Burns would handle this subject matter any any more objectively so I gave it a miss.
Thank you for your thoughtful analysis.

Posted by: CD Waller | Sep 20 2017 17:20 utc | 25

oh, confirmation that Ellsberg will not appear

questioner: The stories of prominent Vietnam figures like Senator John McCain and former Secretary of State John Kerry appear in the film, but you decided not to interview them on camera. Why?

ken burngs: Some of the first conservations I had were with John Kerry and John McCain, both men I’ve known and respected for many, many years. I told them you are going to be in our film as title characters and you’ll play important roles. We’ll need your help as we go forward because you represented two polarities in our country [during the war] and you also represent some of the polarities that are still festering and divisive today.

But we are not going to interview you.

They understood immediately. They are boldface names; you don’t want to give your audience your impression that you are allowing them to revise history—just as we wouldn’t interview Henry Kissinger and didn’t; or Jane Fonda, or Daniel Ellsberg or any of the more familiar people who are still in the news today. John McCain [has said that he thinks] this film is going to help us heal and get out of this in some ways.

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Sep 20 2017 17:21 utc | 26

re: b, #7,#9, #14. It is very refreshing to see these comments with respect to Kennedy. The man was not martyred for opposing the deep state and if he lived the Vienam war would have never happened is pure fantasy. Kennedy was under exactly the same political pressure as was Johnson and he was instinctively much more hawkish. The Kennedy clan occupied the ultra-right positions in the Democratic Party. Both Joe senior and John were recorded supporting Hitler of God's sake. Brother Robert was an aid to Josef Mccarthy.

However was behind Kennedy's assassination it was not the deep state disappointed with his Vietnam policy. Personally I think it was the Cubans who backed Oswald.

Posted by: ToivoS | Sep 20 2017 17:37 utc | 27

I have yet to see any Ken Burns documentary myself, with no intention to start now. Sometimes it is possible to recognize insipid, grating propaganda purely by osmosis. PBS is just too precious!

That being said, here's a question for those with the patience and stomach to sit through the present offering: when it comes time for the series to gloss over the US program of massacring civilian villages, does it employ the much used cliche "there was violence on both sides"?

Posted by: ACitizen | Sep 20 2017 17:57 utc | 28

I didn't see that so much as "we were very very afraid of the vietcong because they were so sneaky-effective, so there was deeply felt animosity towards the villagers who sheltered those who would kill us" ... one American soldier said that he lived in constant fear throughout his entire deployment (shades of itchy-trigger-fingers in Iraq, if you recall)
There were so many of them and they "appeared out of nowhere" doncha know... oh and they were so foreign ...

Don't get me started on the cries of "nobody told me what we were fighting for" ...
I'm curious if -- when the time comes -- they will touch on the Republican and VFW rejection of the vietnam vets as crybabies and drug addicts which was institutional and widespread ... to be contrasted with a few incidents of wrong-headed "anti-war types" victimizing returning vets (these incidents have been found to be impossible to verify and most may be urban legend) ... Still claims of being dissed by a long-hair hippies were apparently deeply traumatic ... although I find quite credible claims of feeling deeply out of place in a very changed America and not getting "the respect" that many vets appear to have felt entitled to (because that's what their dads got and what they were told to expect) ...

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Sep 20 2017 18:10 utc | 29

Featured prominently was the story of two suburban dads who were shocked after being friends for 10 years to "discover" they had both been Marines in Vietnam ... because "nobody talks about their service in Vietnam" ... in fact, it was their wives who discovered this amazing fact ...

I live in an area with a lot of Vietnam vets and they talk about (and have talked about it and MIAs) continuously ... I'm guessing that the folks who "never talk about it" may be the ones who made that choice (as did many WWII vets) and were not in active treatment or seeking support from other vets in dealing with war-related issues, physical and/or mental. Yet, these two well-adjusted ex-marines (as if Marines were "typical vets") are held up as exemplars.

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Sep 20 2017 18:17 utc | 30

IMHO, the movie 'Johnny Got His Gun' is the best anti-war movie made in the English language - written and directed by Dalton Trumbo.

Although set in World War I, in a sense, it's the story of every war that's ever broken out in the four corners of the world.

To give credit where credit is due, Ken Burns has created some good projects, with his storytelling flair and his signature epic cinematography; documentaries such as 'The National Parks, America's Best Idea'; The West; Lewis and Clark; and a couple of biographical documentaries like 'Mark Twain' and 'The Roosevelts' come to mind.

But what's curious is that both Ken Burns and Dalton Trumbo are liberal-leftie ideologues, yet the sinews and pathos of their war films are practically diametrically opposite. Trumbo is an objective humanist, while Burns is, well, a sop for nation-myth-making with orchestral strings and flags fluttering high in the wind thrown in. It's not wrong to call some of his material 'polite propaganda'.

Dalton Trumbo was quite the activist back in his days; the most famous writer whose name topped the infamous 'Hollywood 10' blacklist. Worth reading through a short biography on him - full of period Hollywood political atmospherics and intrigues - here:

Posted by: Taxi | Sep 20 2017 18:42 utc | 31

Posted by: ToivoS | Sep 20, 2017 1:37:19 PM | 26

John F. Kennedy replacing the CIA director with an outsider after the Bay of Pigs and Robert Kennedy fighting labor racketeering and organized crime would create a lot of people with the motive, the means and the methods to get rid of them, I suppose.

What is agreed officially is that John F. Kennedy did not get adequate protection

During the Secret Service check of the Dallas motorcade route, Special Agent-in-Charge Sorrels commented that if someone wanted to assassinate the President, it could be done with a rifle from a high building

Posted by: somebody | Sep 20 2017 19:03 utc | 32

One must bear in mind that Burns' works are not investigative documentaries. Rather they should be considered generalized sweeps, intended for mainstream consumption.

That said, there are some fine attributes to his latest effort, including:

1) North Vietnam origin imagery not seen in the past by this viewer.

2) Historical imagery in color taken from U.S. news and military sources has been enhanced.

3) Quite a number of candid interview clips with former members of NLF, NVA and VNMC. The interview clips of the Hoa Vietnamese woman from South Vietnam are also illuminating.

4) The maps produced for the series use the latest technology and are first rate.

There's more, too.

Just because the series doesn't fit perfectly into one's personal political orientation or isn't investigative in support of that orientation doesn't mean there isn't much to be gleaned in Burns' effort. I mean, if that's all you're looking for, you miss much, in that which is offered.

Posted by: Mark Pyruz | Sep 20 2017 19:05 utc | 33

How Ken Burns tells the story is of amplified importants if/when this series becomes part of high school history curricula ... I met young people in the 90's, who had been taught that the moral outrage of the anti-war movement ended the war ... in full triumphalist "the system worked!!!" fashion. It's part of my curiosity of where and how Burns tells this tale.

The distortions "Selma" were noted and complained about before the first frames were shot and then amplified by re-writes by DuVernay during production. She thought there was too much LBJ in the story and has stated she believed that MLK could have gotten the civil rights act passed without LBJ (how that might work is never discussed in followup questions).

There's a lot of mythologizing about the civil rights movement that needs to be brought down to earth ... a reality check ... "too much LBJ" doesn't figure. The "losing the south for a generation" mythological sacrifice needs a reality check.

Ken Burns is a fairly "easy viewing" ... often "too easy" ... I've heard trenchant criticism of both his Jazz and Baseball series. I recently watched the PBS 3 parter on WWII in which a ridiculous amount of air time was devoted to racial discrimination and segregated troops and very little to the vast geopolitical landscape reconfiguring that resulted. very very disappointing and seemingly distorted by the recent "outrage" over Wilson's racism if it sadly became all about race to mitigate featuring Wilson. Urg. (looking up to confirm that wasn't a Burns production, I see it also prominently featured "the role of women" -- i.e. all about identity politics. Spare me please.)

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Sep 20 2017 19:13 utc | 34

From a cinematography standpoint it's fine, and for me, a walk down memory lane( US Army 66' to 69'), but as a historic document, no friggen' way. Those years in the army were my political awakening, from a gung ho child to anti-war adult. Some truths filter through, but you can't expect any film with elitist sponsors not to propagandize.

If you watch it, bear that in mind.

Posted by: ben | Sep 20 2017 19:13 utc | 35

yes, sorry that 3-parter was about WWI ... not WWII.

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Sep 20 2017 19:14 utc | 36

IMO, the only good, objective, investigative documentary Ken Burns ever produced was Jazz--the only positive contribution to human culture to emerge from the Outlaw US Empire.

A few other notes. As the CIA turns 70, Morgan Freeman narrates a PsyOP calling for a massive witch hunt since Russia is attacking the Outlaw US Empire. Sputnik has bravely announced the former with an article entitled "Seven Decades of Organized Crime: Central Intelligence Agency Turns 70" but then turned cowardly for some reason and pulled it from its main page before being viewed by 1000, For the latter, Andrew Korybko disects "The Morgan Freeman Psy-Op Proves How Desperate The 'Deep State' Has Become." One wonders how long Sputnik will wait until it cowardly pulls that one too,

Posted by: karlof1 | Sep 20 2017 19:59 utc | 37

Add to my 36--

Don North--"a network news correspondent who covered the war for five years through many of its bloodiest chapters"--has an article up at Consortium News concluding that it "represents the most honest and thorough account available to the general public," despite its lies and attempts to airbrush actual facts from the record as many have noted.

North appears to remain a member of whatever network employed him as he uses many tricks of that trade in his essay. He mentions the--usual--companion book written by Geoffrey C. Ward who has collaborated on many Burns documentaries and is well entrenched and admired in the Writing Establishment; the only work I've read was Jazz,

My wife's dad was greatly damaged by his time in Nam and has expressed a desire to learn more about the war and its times, but I'm leery about her viewing this documentary without also reading the many dissents about its content and framing. I wonder if Ellsberg was offered an opportunity to preview the film; and if not, then why not.

Posted by: karlof1 | Sep 20 2017 20:27 utc | 38

@Mark Pyruz, #32,
If "generalized sweeps" means feel-good propaganda, then sure. But Burns is the opposite of investigative journalism - his works are more about hiding the truth than revealing it. For a few more reviews:

. . .ken-burns-worse-for-vietnam-than-agent-orange. . .

Burns and Novick are relatively late to the game when it comes to documentaries about this war and their predecessors were much more honest about these matters, creating a definitive body of evidence that serves as an important check against their intellectual fraud. Films like In the Year of the Pig (directed by Emile de Antonio, 1968), Vietnam: A Television History (Judith Vecchione, Austin Hoyt, Martin Smith and Bruce Palling, 1983) along with nonfiction books like The Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam, A Bright Shining Lie by Neil Sheehan, and Vietnam: A History by Stanley Karnow, all provide a sharp rebuttal to the Koch-Burns collaboration.

The even-handedness, the flag-draped history, bittersweet narrative, redemptive homecomings and the urge toward “healing” rather than truth are cinematic topoi that we have come to expect from Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. . .

. . .By Episode Two, “Riding the Tiger” (1961-1963), we are heading deep into Burns territory. The war has been framed as a civil war, with the United States defending a freely elected democratic government in the south against Communists invading from the north. American boys are fighting a godless enemy that Burns shows as a red tide creeping across maps of Southeast Asia and the rest of the world.

. . . Funded by Bank of America, David Koch and other corporate sponsors, the documentary relies extensively on former generals, CIA agents and government officials, who are not identified by rank or title, but merely by their names and anodyne descriptions such as “adviser” or “special forces”.

The historical fact is, Ho Chi Minh was an independent nationalist who had the support of the vast majority of the Vietnamese people, not a tool of Russian or Chinese communists, whose fundamental goal was to de-colonize Vietnam from external forces, a goal opposed by first France and then by the United States.

Posted by: nonsense factory | Sep 20 2017 20:35 utc | 39

>>>> Susan Sunflower | Sep 20, 2017 1:21:55 PM | 25

Thanks for the quote.

Some of the first conversations I had were with John Kerry and John McCain, both men I’ve known and respected for many, many years.

Why would anyone respect those two?

I told them you are going to be in our film as title characters and you’ll play important roles.

Why? They didn't play significant roles in the war. In both cases there are many who've questioned even the insignificant roles they did play.

you are allowing them to revise history...

Nah, that's Ken Burns' job.

John McCain [has said that he thinks] this film is going to help us heal and get out of this in some ways.

Yeah, it's always only about Americans. Vietnam should be a festering sore on the American body politic for a long time to come, and Americans, who always seem to have a short memory, should never be allowed to forget just like Germans aren't.

FWIW, I don't think I'll be watching it.

Posted by: Ghostship | Sep 20 2017 20:40 utc | 40

Bob in Portland @ 18

Sorry, Peter, maybe if you read a book about JFK...

You nailed it.

Recently it seems like more tangental comments are showing up here. They're not entirely off topic -- you can't discuss the Vietnam War without mentioning JFK -- but they steer the discussion away from the main topic, which in this case is mainstream lies and propaganda in the U.S.

A couple posts back (the one with the link to the heroin epidemic in Cincinnati) Ghostship commented that if the CIA once dealt in drugs it nowno longer does. No facts, no evidence, no documentation, just a bold personal opinion favorable to today's U.S. intelligence agencies.

Now Peter posts a comment attributing JFK's murder to "the Mob" in contradiction to ...what's accepted as gospel around here." That assertion neatly lets the CIA, State Department, FBI, Secret Service and the Dallas police off the hooks.

Dunno what's accepted as "gospel" here, but Peter's theory that the mob did it was put forth from the start and didn't wash. That organized crime was involved is obvious, but that it alone did it is as silly and uninformed as the lone gunman theory.

Peter, now be honest, do you and Ghostship share an office?

Posted by: Ken Nari | Sep 20 2017 20:41 utc | 41

The North article highlights but doesn't mention again the "testimony" of a number of Marines ... I'm not sure how different a Marine's experience (both at war and after return home) might have been from your regular involuntarily conscripted grunt. I suspect it involves significantly different world view and sense of agency.

As one of the early interviewees says, my father the wwII veteran was my hero and I wanted to be like him. Ken Burns is 63 years old, 2 years younger than myself, making him also a boomer child of "the greatest generation" which meant a youth supersaturated with WWII heroism on TV, at the movies and in books (even if your family was anti-war which mine was). Burns counts John Kerry and John McCain as long time friends .... yuppers, gotta love that man in the uniform. There's a lot of that "thin blue line" unspoken presumption of good intent ... same afforded to the police ... "he must have done something" or the cop wouldn't have blown him away.

Virtually all of the comments I've seen by viewers relate directly to their own lives, their dad, their childhood ... generally minimal mention of the historical content (with some exceptions), but more just that "trip down memory lane", context personal.

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Sep 20 2017 20:59 utc | 42

ToivoS @ 26

Personally I think it was the Cubans who backed Oswald.

You too? Jesus, that lie was also tried from the start and it didn't wash either.

What's this place coming to?

Posted by: Ken Nari | Sep 20 2017 21:06 utc | 43

Must have been planned for a year or so to have a release date of now. Another plank laid down preparing the next crop of flowers for carnage and death made good by a flag. The US is preparing its youth for the next war. Most people will die.

Posted by: Amanita Amanita | Sep 20 2017 21:32 utc | 44

I am French, and we have a huge problem concerning the decolonization war in Indochine too. Looks like Vietnam is the grave of Occident's honesty. (Surely the Britains may have tales of their own about this region too.) However, it semms like for you Americans, your government is deliberately lying to his people concerning the events,

Posted by: Zuglub | Sep 20 2017 21:37 utc | 45

@ Ken Nari 40

I was commenting on another post, not trying to hijack the thread.

You don't think certain things are gospel around here? The only tenet of the MoA faith that is subject to change without notice is the status of Trump. He's hot, then he's not, then he's hot again. Fuck me gently, I thought he was just a gofer for the generals.

Threads can become something of a circle-jerk from time to time with more and more affirmation being applied with a trowel. I can't resist what I do. I guess I'm just a pawn of the establishment.

Posted by: peter | Sep 20 2017 21:44 utc | 46

Zuglub -- how is all this new-style French belligerance wrt Syria and Libya sitting with good-old fashioned French anti-imperialist (not to mention the French post-colonial Muslim population)?

It's very strange to read suggestions that both Macron and Merkel want to reclaim military independence and regain their war-maker status ... I wouldn't be sad to see the end of NATO (as American proxy), but I'm not at all sure I'd "prefer" what might replace it. Still, NATO, like the CIA, needs to be largely dismantled and downsized. I really understand the many advantages to the EU in using "American technologies" and military force on a contractural/treaty basis ... but there's a lot of autonomy lost.

So many post-colonial fire seemingly rekindled ... will we see another 1968?

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Sep 20 2017 22:06 utc | 47

I wonder if Dow Chemical will be PBS style sponsoring the episode covering Agent Orange?

Posted by: Køn | Sep 20 2017 22:06 utc | 48

There are two books one should read if they want to get an image of what the Vietnam war was really like: "Kill anything that moves" by Nick Turse (basically 400 pages of detailed accounts of the many, many war-crimes the U.S. committed) and "Unforgettable Days" by the great general Nguyen Giap. The latter book is hard to find. VIETNAMESE views on the war are difficult to find in general. Even supposedly anti-war books, films and documentaries focus 100% on how "hard" it was on the poor American soldiers forced to commit endless massacres. The people who were being massacred are still being denied a voice now.

Posted by: A Stranger | Sep 20 2017 22:14 utc | 49

That JFK had made a firm policy decision to not introduce U.S. combat troops to Vietnam is effectively documented and established these days, confirming what insiders to his administration had largely said over the years. LBJ reversed this policy shortly after the assassination. Individuals associated with U.S. military intelligence were everywhere in Dallas the day JFK died, and the incomplete autopsy was entirely controlled by the military. Donald Gibson's scholarly "Battling Wall Street: The JFK Presidency" is a useful antidote to the tired refrain that he was, policy-wise, just as all the rest. Useful to remember that RFK and MLK were gunned down too.

Posted by: jayc | Sep 20 2017 22:20 utc | 50

Well, it is the usual mix of silly conspiracy theories to discourage people from any doubts of the official version.

Oswald and his wife were strangely accepted in well connected right wing US circles for being hard line communists in support of Castro.

Posted by: somebody | Sep 20 2017 22:21 utc | 51

@42 ken

some of the posters here have been posting for a good long while.. if you stick around long enough, you get to know their personalities and inclinations which in turn helps to dispel some, or much of what gets said here..

Posted by: james | Sep 20 2017 22:27 utc | 52

Posted by: peter | Sep 20, 2017 5:44:58 PM | 45

That was such a catchy song and dance that I actually read it over and over again. Mildly pleasurable and well done. It even motivated me to slide down the bar and check out the OP the occasioned your reply. And turned out you didn't address any of his points except one, regarding the shared office.

I guess I'm just a pawn of the establishment.

At least that has the ring of truth to it.

I haven't read that link but searched for "kennedy israel iaea".

Which brings up the other theory for JFK's demise. The rest of the usual suspects follow, per course.

That too, has a ring of truth to it.

Posted by: nobody | Sep 20 2017 22:29 utc | 53

Well, whatever, Oswald was extremely well connected as well as his wife Marina, who was befriended by

Michael Paine, who owned the house where Marina Oswald and her daughters were staying,and who once took Oswald to an ACLU meeting, was the son of Ruth & Lyman Paine, well-known socialists; his mother,Ruth Paine was an intimate of Mary Bancroft, a veteran of the OSS and the mistress of CIA Director and Warren Commission member, Allen Dulles. Ruth had once traveled Europe with Mary Bancroft.

Actually, Oswald's wife does not sound like a communist at all, nor does her friend.

Posted by: somebody | Sep 20 2017 22:39 utc | 54

@Ken Nari, 40 on Bob in Portland:
Sorry, Peter, maybe if you read a book about JFK published in the last thirty years by Peter Dale Scott, John Newman or many of the others who didn't swallow the CIA story hook, line and sinker, you might have recognized JFK's opposition to the war in Vietnam.

The evidence is pretty clear - JFK did not support a withdrawal from Vietnam, but he didn't want another Korean war either. Kennedy's foreign policy in Vietnam was based on building up the South Vietnamese army and presenting the conflict as a civil war in Vietnam with Russia and China backing the North and the U.S. backing the South. He ran the same kind of operation in Cuba - the whole basis was about not being seen as the foreign invader.

This is just like what U.S. tried to do in Afghanistan - build up the Afghan army to fight the Taliban, right? But every time the Taliban seem to threaten Kabul, the U.S. - first Obama, now Trump - go with a troop surge.

So all the speculation about what Kennedy would have done if he hadn't been assassinated? How would he have responded to this March 1964 report from McNamara?

Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara wrote a memo to President Johnson after returning from his most recent visit to South Vietnam. McNamara said that up to 40 percent of South Vietnam was now controlled by the Viet Cong, the Khánh government was ineffective, the South Vietnamese apathetic, and the Americans in South Vietnam frustrated.

In 1963, Kennedy and his advisers still believed that all they had to do to maintain the government in South Vietnam was keep shipping weapons - but faced with the downfall of the South Vietnam government, Kennedy would have done exactly what Johnson did. He was a believer in the "domino theory" of communist expansion, and he explicitly said on camera in Sept 1963 that we should stay in Vietnam.

So why do people keep trotting out this myth that Kennedy would have pulled out of Vietnam entirely? As far as that NSAM-263 document, that just reflected what Kennedy advisers believed in summer 1963 - but within half a year, it was clear the South Vietnamese army was incompetent and could never stop the Vietcong and NVA from defeating the South on its own.

Further speculation about what Kennedy would have done through 1968? Let's not forget that the American public and all media outlets enthusiastically supported the war, and didn't begin to turn against it in large numbers until after the Oct 1968 Tet Offensive.

Posted by: nonsense factory | Sep 20 2017 22:39 utc | 55

A. Stranger @48--

"The people who were being massacred are still being denied a voice now."

Indeed, the entire series of wars fought by the Outlaw US Empire against the peoples of Indochina certainly qualify as a Genocide, and your observation is perhaps the best comment on this thread. The series of Chunk Norris and Stallone/Rambo films just continued the propaganda war being waged against a genocided peoples; yet, only Anti-Semitism and its associate Holocaust Denial are railed at--far more people died from American bombs, bullets and chemicals in Indochina than European Jews were killed by Germans.

Posted by: karlof1 | Sep 20 2017 22:43 utc | 56

The money changers bought the soul of Ken Burns and he continues to perform beautifully for them. It was a bargain price.

Posted by: fast freddy | Sep 20 2017 23:22 utc | 57

"In 1963, Kennedy and his advisers still believed that all they had to do to maintain the government in South Vietnam was keep shipping weapons - but faced with the downfall of the South Vietnam government, Kennedy would have done exactly what Johnson did."
In your narrative you failed to include Kennedy's ordering, via ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, of the assassination of the South Vietnam president Ngo Dinh Diem on Nov 2, 1963 (just prior to Kennedy's assassination twenty days later).

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 20 2017 23:28 utc | 58

To state that NSAM 263 simply reflected what Kennedy's advisors believed, or that Kennedy ordered Diem's assassination, demonstrates clearly that neither of you are up-to-date with the current scholarship. The 1992 JFK Records Act allowed for an unprecedented and voluminous declassification of the administrations dealings and history, and you need to catch up.

The U.S. shipped arms to Ho Chi Minh in Aug/Sept 1945 before pulling back to support the previous colonial powers. As established at the Cairo and Teheran Conferences in 1943, Roosevelt planned to oversee the removal of European colonial influence in Asia, to be replaced by nationalist governments, but with Chiang Kai-Shek acting as a sort of regional consigliere for U. S. interests. Roosevelt's death, and Mao's success, led to a fallback by the Truman administration. JFK was more like Roosevelt than a Cold Warrior, seeking to align U.S. business interests with nationalist leaders, not anti-communist dictators. LBJ reversed policy not just in Vietnam, but in Brazil, Indonesia, et al.

Posted by: jayc | Sep 20 2017 23:58 utc | 59

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 20, 2017 7:28:56 PM | 57

Which would be another Boston connection

I think it was not so much Vietnam but Cuba and Latin America that caused Kennedy's assassination.

Posted by: somebody | Sep 21 2017 0:21 utc | 60

@Jayc, 58
JFK was more like Roosevelt than a Cold Warrior, seeking to align U.S. business interests with nationalist leaders, not anti-communist dictators. LBJ reversed policy not just in Vietnam, but in Brazil, Indonesia, et al.

That's just not accurate. Look at Kennedy in Laos, where he acted as the diehard Cold Warrior. Look at Kennedy's Cuba program. Look at Kennedy running against Nixon on a supposed "missile gap" with the Soviet Union - which didn't exist, but which didn't keep Kennedy from ramping up the military-industrial budget as soon as he entered office. Kennedy also jacked up spending on biological and chemical warfare programs, starting in 1962 - see Project 112, for example.. Kennedy did do some good things - like the partial nuclear test ban he eventually signed - but the fact remains:

Notably, early in his term, Kennedy also presided over a significant increase in defense spending, which was reciprocated by the Soviet Union shortly thereafter, thus placing the test-ban negotiations in the context of an accelerating arms race.

Regardless, the Kennedy approach to fighting Vietnam, it's just boilerplate US foreign policy ever since:
Nixon on Cambodia: "Now let's look at Cambodia. We've made a conscious decision not to send American troops in. There are no American combat troops in Cambodia. There are no American combat advisers in Cambodia. . . We will aid Cambodia. Cambodia is the Nixon Doctrine in its purest form. Vietnam was in violation of the Nixon Doctrine. Because in Cambodia what we are doing is helping the Cambodians to help themselves."

Now that was Kennedy's desire for Vietnam, too - but letting Vietnam go communist, no way. He'd have sent in the troops just as Johnson did, and the "Kennedy Doctrine" was the same as the "Nixon Doctrine." This whole PR game of trying to paint Kennedy as the peacenik is just ridiculous.

Posted by: nonsense factory | Sep 21 2017 0:29 utc | 61

One of the problems of the Vietnam War is that nobody (including especially those of us who were a part of it) knew the truth about the background of it until Daniel Ellsberg's "Pentagon Papers" were published by the NY Times in 1971. That was like a knowledge earthquake. This prior lack of knowledge probably applied to all the high mucky-mucks we're talking about. . . .Now, with Ken Burns, are we back-tracking?

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 21 2017 0:50 utc | 62

"Chinese archives are open." really??! when did that happen?

Posted by: dan berg | Sep 21 2017 0:55 utc | 63

Don Bacon @61--

I asked on another board if Ellsberg was allowed to preview the film and book as other historians of the war were and if not why not. Since we've seen nothing published by him, it's safe to assume he wasn't. That fact combined with the many dissents over this film sends a disturbing message about its intent and resulting veracity. Then there're the film's sponsors, which are known Big Lie promoters. My time's too valuable to waste on watching anything of dubious value, although I might record it on some of the VHS tape I still have so it can sit on a shelf with my other Burns videos.

Posted by: karlof1 | Sep 21 2017 1:05 utc | 64

An interesting exercise is to construct a matrix and see if "science" has anything to say about the "French connection" between JFK, Israel, nuclear proliferation, barter town, assassinations, and of course, Vietnam.

Looking for leads to feed the matrix I went off searching for the period when France was helping Israel nuke up:

"Atomic Power to Israel's Rescue: French-Israeli Nuclear Cooperation, 1949-1957"

Why did the French stop in late 50s. 1958, to be precise:

That, it turned out, was when the "French Fourth Republic" went adieu:

And De Gaul reassumed power:,_1958

(Did the nuclear help stop because of De Gaulle? Did that give the zionist a warm fuzzy feeling for Charles?)

And Vietnam. Looks like by mid 50s, 1954 to be precise, the French were completely pushed out:

Eisenhower was president from 1953 to 1961:

(That bridges the 4 to 5th fo the French, the nuclear arming of Israel by the French, (reluctant?) exit from Asian imperial designs, US entry into the frey, and bunch of other stuff.

This what wikipedia has to say about the assassination attempt on the French president in 1961:

For the skinny given the reluctance of wikipedia -- run by who, anyone, anyone? -- we search for "assassination de gaulle cia" and we get:

"Charles de Gaulle Confirmed CIA Assassinated President Kennedy"

Are we being trolled by the internet gods. Hm. I was looking more for something like this:

The matrix more dimensions. Drugs, arms running, gambling, human cattle running for various purposes, etc., but it already seems the pattern of French swinging between 2 roles vis-a-vis United States.

I'm thinking does this validate or refute the barter town theory of history. The French are again front and center of IAEA (Iran) and "balancing" the Western position in respect to US.

(As for Burns and "public service" documentaries, for my money BBC does the best psy-ops and propaganda in that genre. Ranking aside, the key observation is how the "construct" sold as history is woven into the cultural products of psychologically sensitive propaganda organs of various states. This is one aspect of the mind control technology of the modern state: to refute the "construct" literally requires a rethink of the entirety of one deeply feels to be a part of one's collective self.

Posted by: nobody | Sep 21 2017 1:24 utc | 65

@ 59
Which would be another Boston connection (Kennedy & Lodge)
Ordinarily a Boston Lodge would never have listened to an Irishman, but Henry Cabot had no choice since Kennedy (a Dem) appointed Lodge (a Repub).
thanks to google--
The quotation is from a toast given in 1910 at a Holy Cross alumni dinner: "Here's to dear old Boston, The home of the bean and the cod, Where Lowells speak only to Cabots, And Cabots speak only to God." The Lodges never got a look-in.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 21 2017 1:46 utc | 66

Not sure why you are 'disappointed'. The U.S. imperialist era continues, fully dominant and therefore enforcing faux (or sometimes real) naivete, irrationality, and stupidity (whatever works, baby!) in traditional media and academia. This will continue for as long as the forces of imperialism are fully dominant. When and where there are fissures, you'll find truth.

And Ken Burns himself has always been a politically correct myth seller. That's exactly why he is sponsored by the huge corporations who 'own' PBS.

Posted by: fairleft | Sep 21 2017 1:48 utc | 67


The parallel with the De Gaulle assassination attempt would be that De Gaulle had started secret negotiations with the Algerian nationalist movement whilst Kennedy had started negotiations with Castro - which very well could have got Cuba out of the Soviet orbit but would not have regained United Fruit's sugar mills.

Posted by: somebody | Sep 21 2017 1:48 utc | 68

Sorry, the Pentagon Papers rule for Vietnam war history.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 21 2017 1:51 utc | 69

The New York Times on Kennedy's Cuba declaration

On Monday evening, Nov. 18, 1963, at the Americana Hotel in Miami Beach — four days before his assassination — President John F. Kennedy, wearing black tie, told the Inter-American Press Association that only one issue separated the United States from Fidel Castro’s Cuba: Castro’s “conspirators” had handed Cuban sovereignty to “forces beyond the hemisphere” (meaning the Soviet Union), which were using Cuba “to subvert the other American republics.” Kennedy said, “As long as this is true, nothing is possible. Without it, everything is possible.”

The president had asked his speechwriter, Theodore Sorensen, for language that would open a door to the Cuban leader, although, as Sorensen later observed, the audience was “a very tough anti-Castro group.”

Posted by: somebody | Sep 21 2017 1:53 utc | 70

Angelina Jolie also did a rather good version of the original French movie, with First They Took My Father, and a part of me wanted to rage than Samdech Hun Sen, a former Pol Pot leader, has still been 'benevolent dictator' of Cambodia for decades, a sort of kinder, gentler murderer of journalists and hope killer, in the Poroshenko model.

That's when I realized that history 'bleaching' is an essential part and parcel to all autocratic regimes, and the timing of her movie release isn't as much about challenging the Congressional vote for now $760 BILLION to DoD-DHS-CIA/NSA, as it is sort of a Color Purple gloss so Congress can triple Reagan's Cold War budget, without any qualms.

"We have to fight them over there, so we don't have to fight them over here," came right out of the Zionist pitch book for Hamas. 'Shock and Awe,' which nobody had heard before, is from Hebrew 'shekhinah' my Israeli friend explained. At this point, rabbinicals and evangelicals have taken over the White House, Trump is like Modi in India, like Poroshenko in Ukraine, like Hun Sen in Cambodia and like Putin in Russia.

So it matters not one tweet what Burns portrays to bleach the collective memory hole.

Posted by: Chipnik | Sep 21 2017 2:07 utc | 71

It was all BS back then,,, and it's all BS today.
As a veteran who saw many dead and wounded, I am sickened by the lies.
One poster mentioned Apocalypse Now was the best war show ever. It was so much BS that I had to leave after only 20 minutes of watching. I served with the 1st Cav. Never seen any drug usage other than some Mary Jane and very little of that. Those of us in action didn't have time.
You want a good Vietnam war show, try Firebase Gloria. Some of that is BS ( a drug scene concerning a commanding officer) but it's a hell of a lot closer than Apocalypse.
Vietnam like Korea and the recent wars are empire wars and gunboat diplomacy.

Posted by: ken | Sep 21 2017 2:24 utc | 72

somebody | Sep 20, 2017 9:53:01 PM | 70

that only one issue separated the United States from Fidel Castro’s Cuba: Castro’s “conspirators” had handed Cuban sovereignty to “forces beyond the hemisphere” (meaning the Soviet Union), which were using Cuba “to subvert the other American republics.

What bollocks. Castro never handed sovereignty to anyone and that was the problem for JFK. Washington expected and still expects BTW, every other country to hand over their sovereignty to Washington. And if that was the problem, why weren't sanctions removed and the embargo ended with the end of the Soviet Union.

Castro might have taken money from the Soviet Union but he rarely did what he was asked to do by Moscow - the Cuban intervention in Angola being a good example

And why this obsession with who assassinated JFK - he was as much a part of the system as every president before and since has been, and he was never going to make significant changes just as Obama wouldn't and Trump won't.

And the New York Times? Really? It's worse that RT for propaganda

Posted by: Ghostship | Sep 21 2017 2:37 utc | 73

>>>> somebody | Sep 20, 2017 9:48:58 PM | 68

which very well could have got Cuba out of the Soviet orbit

Now you are away in cloud cuckoo land with the fairies.

The only thing that Washington would have accepted would have been total submission.

Posted by: Ghostship | Sep 21 2017 2:43 utc | 74

My father was a German Waffen SS officer from the Panzer Grenadiers in a French POW camp when the French offered to let him free if he joined the French Foreign Legion and go to fight in Vietnam. He said non, merci.

Posted by: mischi | Sep 21 2017 2:52 utc | 75

and speaking of lies and cover-ups, did anyone see that the CIA files on Lee Oswald, which were supposed to be released in October of this year, went missing.

Posted by: mischi | Sep 21 2017 2:54 utc | 76

60. nonsense factory

I am not aware of anyone describing Kennedy as a "peacenik". It appears you introduced the term so as to create an exagerrated dichotomy which you could then mock.

Germane to this thread is NSAM 263, which called for the withdrawal of U.S. personnel from Vietnam. Administration insiders asserted through the years that Kennedy would not have introduced combat troops into that country. This was one if the premises featured in Oliver Stone's 1991 film "JFK", for which Stone was broadly attacked by the American establishment. Scholarship since that time has largely confirmed the premise. That Burns skirted this extremely relevant issue seems to demonstrate that it remains a touchy subject for the U.S. establishment.

One can speculate how JFK may have reacted to subsequent events, but the historic record shows him consistently resisting pressure from the hawks to escalate, particularly during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Posted by: jayc | Sep 21 2017 3:06 utc | 77

@ 72
Drugs, Vietnam, and the Vietnam veteran: an overview.
Stanton MD.
Highlights are presented on the issue of drug use among servicemen in Vietnam and its aftereffects. Two stages of Vietnam drug use are identified-a period of increasing marijuana use followed by the 1970 influx of highly potent heroin to which 1/5 of the enlisted troops were addicted at some time during their tour. . .here

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 21 2017 3:18 utc | 78

>>>> Don Bacon | Sep 20, 2017 8:50:35 PM | 61

One of the problems of the Vietnam War is that nobody (including especially those of us who were a part of it) knew the truth about the background of it until Daniel Ellsberg's "Pentagon Papers" were published by the NY Times in 1971. That was like a knowledge earthquake. This prior lack of knowledge probably applied to all the high mucky-mucks we're talking about.

The Pentagon Papers might have dotted a few Is and crossed a few Ts, but much of the information was already publicly available, and much that was not could be inferred such as Robert McNamara being an ignorant moron like most of Washington. (Nothing really changes.) The only things that the Pentagon Papers did was provide direct evidence rather than circumstantial evidence and "assessments" in some places and made it harder for the MSM to ignore the information the papers contained.

BTW, Don, I fully accept that quite a lot of real evidence is not necessarily as valuable as some circumstantial evidence.

Posted by: Ghostship | Sep 21 2017 3:24 utc | 79

Episode 4 -- heavy on the family loss ... more Marine/West Point/Elite-centric, little from draftees, but (on the plus side) amazing coverage of the unbelievable energy and resolve of the North Vietnamese -- men, women and children -- 24/7/365. Peter Coyote is doing well at editorializing with his narration, ie not conveying approval/disapproval ... this was the most crassly predictably (and justifiably so) manipulative episode yet ... but "the horror, the horror" could not be eclipsed by American's losses (real as they might be, arguably "elective" or chosen engagement)

I'll leave all you "regulars" to argue about Kennedy's potential (unfullfilled, conjectured) "legacy" ... whatever ...

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Sep 21 2017 3:31 utc | 80

James @ 51 if you stick around long enough, you get to know their personalities and inclinations which in turn helps to dispel some, or much of what gets said here..

Thanks James (I notice you usually begin your posts with an embarrassing"Thanks b.") Let's see, you're in Vancouver, in your 70's, and hate all Americans for what a government out of their control has done. I know most of the regular commenters here pretty well and have posted lots of comments over the years.

I began posting at Whiskey Bar from the start. Even gave Billmon suggestions for the name. I told him not to use Whiskey Bar, but he did. Even got a tip of the hat from Billmon (under the name Karlsfini.) Someone started posting under my name and had they been witty or intelligent I wouldn't have minded. They weren't, so I changed it to Golly Gee, Then got banned at an evil forum and changed it to Ken Nari. There may have been others aliases in between.

Not to pull seniority on you, but as b can attest, I've been here from the beginning.

So how does any of that relate to my above comment?

Posted by: Ken Nari | Sep 21 2017 3:46 utc | 81

James @ 51: boring, not interested, move on (as they, and b, say)

Posted by: Robert Beal | Sep 21 2017 3:53 utc | 82

@jayc 77
"Germane to this thread is NSAM 263, which called for the withdrawal of U.S. personnel from Vietnam."

That a distortion of NSAM 263, which was a report by McNamara claiming that the South Vietnamese military was going to be able to control South Vietnam, defeat the Viet Cong, and keep the NVA from invading without the assistance of U.S. troops (just with a good supply of U.S. weapons). The next report from Vietnam by McNamara was not so hopeful: March 16, 1964

Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara wrote a memo to President Johnson after returning from his most recent visit to South Vietnam. McNamara said that up to 40 percent of South Vietnam was now controlled by the Viet Cong, the Khánh government was ineffective, the South Vietnamese apathetic, and the Americans in South Vietnam frustrated. He recommended that the U.S. finance a 50,000 man increase in the size of the South Vietnamese army (ARVN)

Soon after, Robert Kennedy said this, April 30 1964:
President Kennedy had "a strong, overwhelming reason for being in Vietnam and that we should win the war in Vietnam." Kennedy denied that any consideration had been given by the President to withdrawing from Vietnam. He equivocated on the introduction of U.S. ground troops into Vietnam, saying that "we'd face that when we came to it."

Taylor, the other author of the recommendations that led to NSAM 263, watched the Viet Cong grow in strength all through 1964 and by November 10 had this view:
Ambassador Maxwell Taylor in Saigon cabled Washington his views. Perhaps former President Kennedy's most influential adviser on Vietnam, Taylor said that he favored the U.S. expanding its U.S. participation in the war against the Viet Cong and expanding the war to North Vietnam even if the government of South Vietnam never became competent.

. . .wiki/1964_in_the_Vietnam_War

The massive revisionist effort to paint Kennedy as an opponent of the Vietnam War - it's hard to understand, other than as a continuation of the effort to paint U.S. foreign policy as some kind of humanitarian pro-democracy movement, rather than what it really is, straight power games aimed at economic domination of other nations, which don't even benefit the average American citizen, just a small group of corrupt elites.

P.S. Here's yet another opposing view to the Ken Burns series:
. . . 2017/07/11/vietnam-redux-an-open-letter-to-ken-burns/
"If you are attempting to paint this war as a civil war among Vietnamese, you will start right off by perpetuating the foundational lie of the mountain of lies stacked up by the US government to try to justify the carnage. Vietnam is one nation that was artificially divided by an imaginary border at the behest of President Eisenhower, who later admitted that had the election scheduled for 1956 been allowed to take place, Ho Chi Minh would have been elected president."

Posted by: nonsense factory | Sep 21 2017 4:10 utc | 83

The Pentagon Papers might have dotted a few Is and crossed a few Ts, but much of the information was already publicly available
Perhaps you enjoyed a special place in the sixties but for the rest of us --

One of the problems of the Vietnam War is that nobody (including especially those of us who were a part of it) knew the truth about the background of it until Daniel Ellsberg's "Pentagon Papers" were published by the NY Times in 1971. That was like a knowledge earthquake. This prior lack of knowledge probably applied to all the high mucky-mucks we're talking about.

The PP with its facts was especially hated in the military because truth is the first casualty of war. The reaction against Daniel Ellsberg for dotting a few Is and crossed a few Ts -- hah -- was an indication of his importance and of the PP.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 21 2017 4:14 utc | 84

McNamara had little to do with NSAM 263 other than deliver a bound copy to the President. The directive was devised in the office of General Victor Krulak, under the direction of JFK. As those who were there have attested.

Posted by: jayc | Sep 21 2017 4:22 utc | 85

mischi @76

you’re mostly arguing w/ AI bots; THAT DOES NOT COMPUTE....

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Sep 21 2017 4:51 utc | 86

It is unlikely that this Ken Burn's series could please everyone. In order to satisfy, for completeness, all of our host's concerns, it would have to run to thirty episodes. This major undertaking has taken ten years to produce. I'm surprised no credit is given to the extensive interviews done with those soldiers and other North Vietnamese who constituted the enemy. I consider it miraculous that the viewpoint and perspective of the forces resisting the US war machine can be given such an airing, in the present political climate. This series is careful not to diminish the suffering experienced on all sides, including hard feelings and strife between Americans. I lived through this history while I was in my 20s. I can tell you that most people in this country supported the war and the warlike rhetoric until it became obvious to them that they had been lied to by President Johnson, in a most systematic and ruthless way. This did not happen overnight; and even my own parents told me (to my horror) that the kids at the 1968 Convention in Chicago, got what they deserved at the hands of Mayor Daley's police goons.

But my parents came to understand the extent of the deception later on, and saw the protest, and the war, differently. I was committed to opposing that war and my folks changed because of the strengths of my beliefs as well. Ken Burns is submitting a lot of information that most Americans have never seen, much less come to grips with. The arrogance that emerges from misplaced belief in American exceptionalism, faith in some kind of national infallibility, or American invulnerability to history.

What this film series aims for, is an airing of the reality of the war, and how it changed the lives of those who fought on all sides of it, and those who opposed it. A conversation about the meaning of this history is long overdue for Americans.

Posted by: Copeland | Sep 21 2017 5:24 utc | 87

#43 At least I do not claim there is any evidence supporting the notion that the Cubans were involved in the Kennedy assassination. This makes it a better hypothesis than most of the deep state conspiracy theories that are all based on bullshit. Oswald the lone wolf remains the most likely theory based on the evidence.

Posted by: ToivoS | Sep 21 2017 9:17 utc | 88

Weii I've been avidly watching - just finished ep 4, not cause of the rather silly editorialising or the predictable bulldust from duck shoving, buck passing military, intelligence and pentagon officials who now all mouth the antithesis of what they spouted in '65 and '66, but because in between that garbage, there are ordinary human beings talking about what they saw, how they felt watching it all, some were amerikan but more importantly for me is the views of Vietnamese people - even those Catholic Vietnamese who started off backing amerika - the words from ordinary NVA & NLF shitshickers are the most interesting, I reckon.

Thus far I have two major lines of thought - the first being that I simply don't believe amerika invaded Vietnam in the name of freedom & apple pie, right from the get go it was about empire and I have no doubt that in some dusty file system somewhere (probably right next to the deal Joe Stalin made 'giving' Iran to amerika as payment in full for war material) there is a file about the French promise that amerika can have Vietnam once it has been re-occupied as payment for chasing the nazis outta France. Remember amerika held all the french gold in fort knox as collateral until de Gaulle cried enough he musta realised amerika was never gonna beat the Vietnamese so he better grab the gold while he still could.

So for amerika's ruling class Vietnam was to be one of the first colonies.
The other thought I have parallel to that is concern at the number of stupid allegedly educated young amerikans who subscribed to the whole 'war on communism' thing. McCarthyism was barely a decade old and yet these idiots had bought into the entire lie as badly as hitler youth types in 1930's Germany.
They have been featuring one family who claim to be devastated by the death of their son who they signed into the army at the age of 17. They wallow in self pity never considering that the bullshit boys' glory of war stories they fed him from the moment he could talk by the sound of it, was a major initiator of his urge to self destruct.

There is no end to it - right now parents in amerika will be filling their kids head with nonsense and allowing them to watch the over the top tv shows of adventure and patriotism where amerika is always the good guys who they win and never leavening the lies fed their children with the reality of what war actually is and how power functions in the real world.

They will be alternately grieving and pride soaked in a few years too, no doubt.

Posted by: Debsisdead | Sep 21 2017 9:38 utc | 89


Could be that this was why Kennedy was murdered.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy initiated a bold new policy of engaging states that had chosen to remain nonaligned in the Cold War. In a narrative ranging from the White House to the western coast of Africa and the shores of New Guinea, Robert B. Rakove examines the brief but eventful life of this policy during the presidencies of Kennedy and his successor, Lyndon Baines Johnson.

More on the Kennedy foreign policy change

As was the case with so many other presidencies, the Kennedy administration held a pronounced sense of the shortcomings of its immediate predecessor, particularly with regard to the Third World. In the eyes of Kennedy and his advisors, Eisenhower had failed to meet a growing Soviet political offensive in Africa and Asia. His secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, compounded the problem with his own stern and highly moralistic pronouncements on the nature of the Cold War. When forced to choose between European allies and postcolonial states, Dulles seemed to favor Europe consistently, at the expense of American credibility in the postcolonial world. The New Frontiersmen thought Dulles disastrously myopic, driven to divide the world between friend and foe. They believed that he had harshly overreacted to Third World nationalism, failing to grasp that it could in fact act to restrict the spread of communism. The new administration came to office determined not to prolong or repeat what Kennedy’s first undersecretary of state, Chester Bowles, later dubbed the “everyone stand up and be counted” approach of Dulles. Kennedy, wrote his friend Arthur Schlesinger, was bored by “the John Foster Dulles contrast between the God-anointed apostles of free enterprise and the regimented hordes of atheistic communism.” Undersecretary of State George Ball scathingly recalled Dulles’s “Manichean crusade.”

Robert Komer of the National Security Council acidly opined: “Stalin had the same black and white approach to the less developed world that John Foster Dulles did.” There was truth to these complaints, but the New Frontiersmen entered office without giving the Eisenhower administration its full due. Whereas the Manichean image of their predecessors held some validity, it also reflected the acrimonious atmosphere of the 1950s. Eisenhower enjoyed both triumphs and failures in his policies toward the uncommitted states. The former aided the efforts of his successor, whereas the latter left obstacles strewn across Kennedy’s path. Eisenhower, moreover, set important precedents for JFK, committing the United States to combat communism in key areas of the Third World, assuming the burdens that Kennedy subsequently promised to bear.

Historically you are not correct, as the US did tolerate and even supported a non aligned movement.

It worked for Yugoslavia, worked for Egypt, worked for Algeria. Vietnam joined after they had won the war. The US could have had this result much earlier.

It is very likely that Kennedy was killed for looking for a "third way". A lot of Italian politicians and possibly a pope had the same fate.

Posted by: somebody | Sep 21 2017 11:33 utc | 90

Debsisdead | Sep 21, 2017 5:38:41 AM | 89

It's been what, 44 years and we're still not reconciled to what it (Vietnam war) was?
The best gift one can pass on to others, wether it's friends, children, students, grandkids, nephews, or nieces is; teach them critical thinking skills; they'll not get that in any U.S. public school or university.
My wife and I were in Vientiane, Lao; our cab driver offered to give us a tour (he was the same age as me 60) and this was in 2004. So he was there for that war (I wasn't) and we took his offer.
Eventually he learned I was an American; he had no problem with that.
But he did go on to say; first, they (Lao) kicked out the French and then they kicked out the Americans; he was very pleased and proud of that. I laughed and gave him two thumbs up...
It's one of my best memories...

Posted by: V. Arnold | Sep 21 2017 11:43 utc | 91

The available documentation clearly shows that JFK's intention at the date of his death was to get out of Vietnam by 1965, whether the situation on the ground was good or bad. The following articles are easy reads:

Exit Strategy: In 1963, JFK ordered a complete withdrawal from Vietnam
James K. Galbraith, BOSTON REVIEW

JFK’s Vietnam Withdrawal Plan Is a Fact, Not Speculation
A response to Rick Perlstein.
By James K. Galbraith, THE NATION

Posted by: kepler14 | Sep 21 2017 11:43 utc | 92

There are only two good things about the Vietnam War for me. It woke me up from the WW2 gung ho -we fought the good war - to the government and the news lies all the time. Then there was this excellent Vietnamese restaurant near to where I lived run by Christian Vietnamese who left when the communists took over. Not even close to millions of Vietnamese killed and hundreds of thousands American maimed or killed.
I didn't watch the Burns doc but did it mention that the CIA created this psy-ops to get about a million N. Vietnamese Catholics to move to S. Vietnam? It moved them on US ships and settled them around Saigon. Diem was Catholic. He was an American puppet dictator and his family was corrupt.I agree with Chomsky on - the US left when it had destroyed the country enough that a different kind of communist government would never have a chance to be something viable and different than Western capitalism,
Prouty wrote that after WW2 - the US had the arms for an army of 1/2 a million men in Okinawa. He said these were moved to Korea and Vietnam. where I lived in rural VA, a retired ONI (naval intelligence) non-com bought the local convenience store. In a conversation he said he had helped unload them.
About Kennedy - he avoided nuclear war when most of the US military industrial complex wanted to nuke Russia. He twice declined to invade Cuba when the rest of the establishment wanted to. He did negotiate an above ground nuclear test ban with Khrushchev. He did not continue the policy of trying to get Sukarno of Indonesia removed from power. He favored Algerian independence. One will notice DeGaulle's (whom the OAS tried very hard t0 assassinate)security was never subverted like Kennedy's was at Dallas. One could also notice that Khruschev was removed from power after Kennedy was assassinated. Kennedy did believe in nuclear non-proliferation. He did not want Israel to get the bomb. Which adds Israel to the long list of Kennedy enemies. Angleton who appears to be the main planner for the pre-arranged coverup if not the whole event was the connection for the CIA to Mossad. Who better to get Jacob Rubenstein (although sleazy as hell he did go regularly to synagogue) to kill Oswald.
He was more like FDR, unlike Truman in that he didn't want Europe to maintain third world colonialism. Kennedy's American University speech 1963- "...What kind of a peace do I mean and what kind of a peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace – the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living – the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children – not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women – not merely peace in our time but peace in all time... And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s futures. And we are all mortal."

Posted by: gepay | Sep 21 2017 11:53 utc | 93

Posted by: gepay | Sep 21, 2017 7:53:04 AM | 93

It is possible that Kennedy was the last US president to attempt to control the industrial military complex.

Posted by: somebody | Sep 21 2017 12:27 utc | 94

I've just finished watching all ten episodes, and I found it to be the usual composition of establishment propaganda, nicely pieced together to form a history. However what comes through strongly is that no one knew what they were getting themselves into, they didn't understand the country, they couldn't speak the language, and didn't know how to fight in jungle terrain. They believed they couldn't lose, and their military planning was very biased toward that stance.

Getting all that history in one go brought home to me how shambolic the South Vietnamese Government was. "Don't bother me with another coup."

It is tragic that all those same mistakes have been made again and are STILL being made - I'm particularly thinking of Afghanistan where the faces of the people looking stoic, while knowing that the insurgents are all around and will sweep the invaders away eventually. And of course Trump assuring us "We are going to WIN, because we have the strongest military in the WORLD". No Donald, you are going to LOSE in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Ukraine and North Korea.

Posted by: Palloy | Sep 21 2017 12:53 utc | 95

>>>> Ken Nari | Sep 20, 2017 4:41:16 PM | 41

A couple posts back (the one with the link to the heroin epidemic in Cincinnati) Ghostship commented that if the CIA once dealt in drugs it nowno longer does. No facts, no evidence, no documentation, just a bold personal opinion favorable to today's U.S. intelligence agencies.

Actually, it's because I have a very low opinion of the capabilities of the CIA that I make that claim - do you really believe that an organisation as incompetent as the CIA could manage to keep its control of the Afghan opium trade secret for over 15 years, particularly when it is causing so much damage in Iran and Russia. Don't you think that either or both of those countries would blow the whistle on the CIA if it really did control the Afghan opium trade.

I have a substantially better opinion of the capabilities of the SVR, FSB and GRU, the intelligence agencies of Russia and it would seem they have been unable to find any evidence of CIA control of the Afghan opium trade according to Sergy Lavrov:

In the case of Afghanistan, the United States launched its operation there with international support following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The UN Security Council unanimously confirmed the US right to self-defence under Article 51 of the UN Charter. The US operation against the Taliban and al-Qaeda was supported by all countries. It’s another matter that after receiving the international approval, the United States and its NATO allies, which took over in Afghanistan, started acting rather inconsistently, to put it mildly. During their operation in Afghanistan, the terrorist threat has not been rooted out, while the drug threat has increased many times over. The drug industry prospered. There is factual evidence that some of the NATO contingents in Afghanistan turned a blind eye to the illegal drug trafficking, even if they were not directly involved in these criminal schemes. Afghanistan is a separate case, although the current developments there, which are a result of the NATO operation’s failure, despite the carte blanche the bloc received from the international community, can be considered an unintended cause of managed chaos. In Iraq, Syria and Libya, this chaos was created intentionally.

If anyone has a problem with Sergy Lavrov's view on this subject, I suggest they take it up with him.

Posted by: Ghostship | Sep 21 2017 13:55 utc | 96

>>>> nonsense factory | Sep 20, 2017 10:25:02 AM | 8

At the end of World War II, the U.S. had two choices: support France and Britain in their efforts to re-establish their colonial empires, or support the independence movements (which would have made sense, since by and large, the colonized countries had fought against the Axis powers in World War II).

Both the Burmese and Indians had created armies that fought against the British, and the United States allowed and supported France in re-establishing control over Indo-china including Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

As for the motive of the US for this, I have seen it suggested that at the end of the war with the collapse in demand for military equipment, US manufacturers looked for alternative markets and saw the colonies of European countries as being suitable, particularly since most industry in France had been destroyed and industry in Britain was worn out and short of cash. Typically with colonies the controlling country, had preferential trade rules in place that made it difficult for a third country to enter that market but with de-colonisation that all changed.

Posted by: Ghostship | Sep 21 2017 14:12 utc | 97


Lavrov is a consummate diplomat, and his, ...even if..., clearly implies that the US could actually be involved in the drug trade in Afghanistan.

here's some more from Sergei.

Posted by: john | Sep 21 2017 14:59 utc | 98

I'm not through episode three yet however I disagree with your assessment of Ep 1 and 2. I thought Burns was clear that Diem was a puppet and authoritarian. When he talks about 98% it's clear the election was rigged. Maybe he could have been more clear on the CIA's role? I think he paints McNamara in a very negative/ignorant light. He mentions that the data that is collected is too much for anyone to sift through. And that the data has almost zero basis in reality.(Also where he is in front of the crowd in ep3) The other piece of evidence that swayed me was after the first battle(AP Bac), General Harkins in Saigon claims it is a victory with no debate? That's paints a picture of incompetency from the get go. My view is that he is being more fair than only pro USA. At least he's not interviewing people who are ra ra USA!?!?!? I turned episode 2 off wondering why, with all the evidence at hand, we'd ever get involved. I guess I'll have to wait until Episode 3.
Thanks for all the amazing level headed analysis you do!

Posted by: RMHC | Sep 21 2017 15:20 utc | 99

Good observation. We who served under General Harkins called him "Helpless Harkins."

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 21 2017 15:26 utc | 100

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