Saturday, September 30, 2017

Burns/Novick, Vietnam, and the left

After watching the preview videos on YouTube and the first episode of the Burns/Novick series on Vietnam, I was skeptical

Leftist John Pilger refers to the kind of thing in the first episode that fed that skepticism: 

The narrator says the war "was begun in good faith by decent people out of fateful misunderstandings, American overconfidence and Cold War misunderstandings"...There was no good faith. The faith was rotten and cancerous. For me---as it must be for many Americans---it is difficult to watch the film's jumble of "red peril" maps, unexplained interviewees, ineptly cut archive and maudlin American battlefield sequences.

But Pilger admits, before launching a typical leftist screed about US foreign policy, he only saw the first episode and some previews and press releases about the series.

Pete Dolack on Counterpunch:

The Ken Burns/Lynn Novick television series on the Vietnam War provides yet another example of the narrowness of “acceptable” political discourse in the United States. More than four decades past the end of that imperialist adventure, having a serious discussion about it remains taboo. The series also provides a fresh example of how the narrowness of acceptable discourse is disguised through the appearance of a vigorous debate.

Okay, but Dolack goes Pilger one better when he follows with this:

I will confess here I have not watched Burns and Novick’s The Vietnam War, but the consistency of the many discussions of it I have read confirm what would have been expected: The liberal side of the “debate” on the Vietnam War, that an “honorable” effort was tragically miscarried because of “mistakes.”

Like Pilger, Dolack already knows without seeing it what to think about the series! His leftist ideology fills in all the blanks. Incredibly, the title of his piece is "Can't We Have an Honest Conversation About Vietnam?" We can't have a discussion, honest or otherwise, about the Burns/Novick series with someone who hasn't even seen it.

The anonymous blogger at Systemic Disorder has the same rote ideological reaction without actually watching the series.

Apparently the staunchly leftist Alternet has done nothing on the series, and neither has  the radical Truthout.

The problem they have---or would have if they actually bothered to watch the series---is that it's very good. No one who supported that war can, after viewing this series, have any doubt about what a disaster it was from the beginning for the US and even more so for Vietnam. 

The battles examined are agonizing to watch, as American troops stumble into one botched operation after another, even as they inflict massive casualties on their Vietnamese antagonists with artillery and air power.

I do object to the subtitle on the picture above: "There is no single truth in war." 

You can examine this war from different perspectives, but the most significant truth about the American role in this war: Vietnam was a colonial war that the United States rebranded as an anti-Communist war. It was never about freedom versus democracy or any other such high-minded piffle deployed to justify it.

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