Monday, September 04, 2017

Was the war in Vietnam all about us?

James Fallows in the Atlantic:

Those who were around during the Vietnam war have exhausted every possible argument about who did what, and why, and when, and with what justification. Those who were not around must no doubt have had their fill—though for them and everyone else I highly recommend the new 10-part, 18-hour series on the Vietnam war by the filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, which will air on PBS in September (and which I’ve been watching in previews)...

Rob's comment:
I've only seen the trailer and some other previews on PBS during that network's seemingly endless fund-raising drive, but they raise concerns. There's no mention of the historical roots of the Vietnam War: that the US took over only after the French could no longer afford, politically and economically, to continue the battle to subdue its former colony.

No mention yet of the battle of Dien Bien Phuthe Geneva Conference in 1954, or the Geneva Agreements that came out of the conference, which the US quickly began to undermine. 

Ken Burns himself talks about the "complexity" of the war and how war brings out "the worst and the best" in people. How bravely US soldiers fought! It's beginning to sound like the US attack on and invasion of Vietnam was, in the end, all about us!

A behind-the-scenes preview features praise for Ken Burns, with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks leading what seems like the media's pre-emptive strike on behalf of his credibility. The 64-year-old Burns isn't particularly convincing on camera, with his dyed hair and the bangs of a 12-year-old boy. Aldon Pyle makes a documentary on Vietnam!

Burns has rightly said about the Civil War: it was "about slavery, slavery, slavery."

The simple truth about Vietnam: It began as a colonial war that the United States adopted and rebranded as an anti-Communist war.

Hard to boil that down succinctly like Burns did on the the Civil War. Maybe this: After the French were defeated, the US war in Vietnam was a war of aggression aggression aggression against the Vietnamese people.

See also A Vietnam veteran looks back and Courage was not enough.

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By Thomas James Brennan
September 1, 2017

The explosion that wounded me during a Taliban ambush in Afghanistan in 2010 left me with a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress. In 2012 I was medically retired from the Marine Corps because of debilitating migraines, vertigo and crippling depression. After a nine-year career, I sought care from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

At first, I didn’t object to the pills that arrived by mail: antidepressants, sedatives, amphetamines and mood stabilizers. Stuff to wake me up. Stuff to put me down. Stuff to keep me calm. Stuff to rile me up. Stuff to numb me from the effects of my wars as an infantryman in Iraq and Afghanistan. Stuff to numb me from the world all around.

The T.B.I. brings on almost daily migraines, and when they come, it’s as if the blast wave from the explosion in Afghanistan is still reverberating through my brain, shooting fresh bolts of pain through my skull, once again leaving me incapacitated. Initially the prescriptions helped — as they do for many veterans. 

But when I continued to feel bad, the answers from my doctors were always the same: more pills. And higher dosages. And more pills to counteract the side effects of those higher dosages. Yet none of them quite worked.

One thing did. In 2013, a friend rolled a joint and handed it to me, urging me to smoke it later. It will relieve your symptoms, he promised. That night I anxiously paced around my empty house. I hesitated to light it up because I’d always bought into the theory of weed as a “gateway drug.” 

But after a few tokes, I stretched out and fell asleep. I slept 10 hours instead of my usual five or six. I woke up feeling energized and well rested. I didn’t have nightmares or remember tossing or turning throughout the night, as I usually did. I was, as the comedian Katt Williams puts it, “hungry, happy, sleepy.”

With the help of my civilian psychiatrist, I began trading my pill bottles for pipes and papers. I also began to feel less numb. I started to smile more often. I thought I had found a miracle drug. There was just one problem: That drug was illegal.

In 21 states, including North Carolina, where I live, any use of marijuana is forbidden under state law. The current punishments for those who possess or cultivate cannabis — even for medical purposes — may include a felony conviction and imprisonment, loss of child custody and permanent damage to their livelihood. 

The V.A. encourages veterans to discuss their cannabis use with their doctors, but because cannabis is also prohibited under federal law, the V.A. cannot prescribe it in any form — thereby denying countless veterans relief to many mental health symptoms and other service-connected disabilities...

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