Up Yerrrs, Ken Burrrns 4 yerrr PBS ‘The Vietnam War’

Hueys providing cover for SV ground troops in 1965

(and I say that in the most polite way possible, of course, mister burrrns.)

In his Sept. 1, 2017 ‘Ken Burns & Lynn Novick Do Vietnam: a Tale of Two Critics’, Michael Uhl at Counterpunch opens:

“…I’ve read two previews that likely define the opposing poles around which critical commentary will grade the film series: “Why the Vietnam War is Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s Most Ambitious Project Yet,” by David Kamp, in the August 2017 issue of Vanity Fair, and “America’s Amnesia,” by Thomas A. Bass, in Vol. 2, No. 4 (August-October 2017) of the Mekong Review.”

Now the Bass essay at Mekong Review is behind a paywall, but after poking around a bit, I’d found what I assume is the entire review at Vietnam Full Disclosure, Veterans for Peace, bless their hearts for freeing it.  More outtakes from Uhl:

“As I read the tea leaves, the revived debate on Vietnam prompted by the documentary will essentially bypass the old nest of apologists among the surviving neo-cons and the highbrow sages of the National Review and Commentary, and pit forces from the neo-liberal camp who see the “lessons of Vietnam” as repudiations of the U.S. policy of permanent war targeting international “bad guys” not down for American global hegemony, against the principled crowd of leftists and academics who cut their political teeth during the period of massive opposition to the Vietnam War.”

Given what he’s served up in Vanity Fair, I place David Kamp, if only in the utter Arendtian thoughtless he brings to the topic, among the temporizers. Kamp’s operative critical pose is ennui chic. He is bored by treatments of the Vietnam War he’s encountered that recycle the “tired tropes… of Hollywood,” and is refreshed in finding that auteurs Burns and Novick have “avoided” them.   After all, Lynn Novick instructs the critic in an interview, ““There is no agreement among scholars, or Americans or Vietnamese, about what happened: the facts, let alone whose fault, let alone what we’re supposed to make of it.” Burns punctuates his partner’s hymn to ambiguity, telling Kamp he disdained to give voice in their epic to “avuncular, Monday –morning quarterbacking from historians and scholars who never set foot in Vietnam.” There it is: throw out your Gibbon, unless the renowned author of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire managed to time travel in the Way-Back machine with Sherman and Mr. Peabody to personally interview the Visigoths as they sacked the Eternal City.”

Uhl then posits that, given the above, who won’t be featured in their 10-part, 18-hor documentary: Noam Chomsky, Christian Appy, Uhl’s friend and author John Marciano.

“During an early stop last April at the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs to promote the film, America’s favorite documentarian was asked if Vietnam was a ‘’just war?” “It’s impossible to make a blanket judgment about the war,” intones Mr. Burns – the very paragon of avuncularity.

“Alas Kamp immediately squanders this minor triumph (mentioned earlier) with a banal observation about the war’s outcome also being “fixed” from the beginning. And how in watching the old newsreels assembled by Burns and Novick, he “winces… every time John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, or… Robert McNamara ignores or rejects a plausible exit strategy.”   Kamp’s tender moment notwithstanding, one wonders if Vietnamese survivors who have an opportunity to view this “monumental achievement” – as most assuredly they will – also wince when witnessing these unpunished acts of criminality by American leaders who worked so assiduously to bomb them into submission.”

“But there is something especially cynical in the way Burns and Novick use Harris (Roger Harris, a black man from the hood in Boston’ mentioned above) as a strawman to promote the greatly exaggerated trope – to coin a phrase – about Vietnam veterans subjected to abuse, in particular in being slandered as “baby killers.” Maybe someone did call Harris a baby killer, but in the clip I saw, he appears to be generalizing – “they called us…” – not speaking from personal experience.   To juxtapose my own homecoming experience, and that of the scores of Vietnam veterans I have gotten to know over the past fifty years, not one of them ever complained of being confronted with those hurtful words, not to mention being spat upon.

That narrative of the badly treated Vietnam vet, never properly welcomed home, another trope and one exploited by Ronald Reagan in his first presidential campaign, has lubricated the smooth transition into the American collective unconscious of the ordinary boy next door, the citizen soldier who went to war, reluctantly or willingly, into the inflated, glorified warrior we are expected to revere today, and which David Kamp abets shamelessly and without reflection. Not a reader of Vanity Fair, I had none the less formed the vague notion that the magazine was a showcase for good writing, the only possible motivation for slogging through its telephone-book-thickness of glossy ads for power wrist watches and the fashion menu from the Milan rag trade.   Gratefully, David Kamp has disabused me of that hollow misimpression.”


“In the hands of Thomas Bass, a thoughtful, informed scholar, The Vietnam War is cast in an infinitely more revealing light.  Bass’s exceptionally insightful essay, America’s Amnesia, appears in the lively Mekong Review, edited by a Vietnamese expatriate, Minh Bui Jones, until recently based in Phnom Penh, and now relocated to Sydney, Australia where Minh’s refugee family settled in 1978.   Leading with a solid blow, Bass nails the essential flaw in the “cinematic topoi” – the conventional syntax – of the Burns’ brand, “the urge toward healing and reconciliation, rather than truth.”

“By Episode Two, “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.”   But here’s the rub. “The historical footage in Episode One which disputes this view of the war, is either ignored or misunderstood. Southern Vietnam was never an independent country.”

From there Bass retells the story well known to any serious student of this history. After the French defeat, the South Vietnamese state was engineered by the U.S. through the manipulations of a super spy named Edward Lansdale, bankrolling an internal struggle to overthrow Saigon’s powerful drugs lords who had helped to finance France’s colonial empire, and, with the collaboration of Vietnamese elements who had served the ancien regime, installed the Catholic mandarin, Ngo Dinh Diem, who, until his return to Vietnam, was being groomed by the CIA in the United States.

Diem then cancelled the elections “intended to unify northern and southern Vietnam – that President Eisenhower and everyone else knew would have been won by Ho Chi Minh.” Another election was quickly staged in the south, with Diem claiming to win 98.2% of the vote.   Breaking their link to the opium trade was “the CIA’s announcement that the French were finished in Southeast Asia…” – the Company now taking charge of that product line – “and it was time for the losers to go home.” After which came the American War beginning with the ill-fated Diem, ultimately abandoned by his sponsors and assassinated, and the building of “the autocratic police state that survived for twenty years before collapsing into the dust of the last helicopter lifting off from the U.S. Embassy” [which, Bass informs us, was actually a CIA safe house]. Lansdale’s critical contribution to this sequence of events, is absent from Burns’ film (although it is covered in the coffee table book that will accompanying the series).”

[wd here: at the bottom of David Kamp’s Vanity…drivel is this horror: CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misidentified the building in Saigon from which evacuees boarded a helicopter. It was from the roof of a local apartment building.]  WTF?  CIA get him on the phone?

“Despite the overwhelming evidence, including the statement by Leslie Gelb, the senior Defense Department official [and later correspondent for The New York Times] who directed the project that produced the Pentagon Papers, that “South Vietnam… was essentially the creation of the United States,” Burns and Novick remain heavily invested in the narrative of the two Vietnams. Selected for the role to advance this historical distortion in their film is a Vietnamese woman named Duong Van Mai Elliott, who has also been a prominent member of the promotional tour Burns and Novick have been conducting throughout the country in advance of the film’s official airing. Elliott is a former interrogator of the Rand Corporation, married to an American for fifty three years, and a longtime resident of the U.S.

Is this Mai at 20 seconds?

““Once Lansdale is erased from the history of the Vietnam War,” observes Bass with some disgust, “we settle into watching eighteen hours of carnage, interspersed with talking-head testimonials… More than eighty people were interviewed over the ten years they gathered material… Funded by Bank of America and David Koch and other corporate sponsors… the film relies heavily on former generals, CIA agents and government officials, who are not identified by rank or title, but merely by their names…” As the credits roll, we will learn that here we find that the war’s architects have had their say in the film, even if they are not likely to get much attention after the series is shown. As I said above, we all know that no one today, supports the Vietnam War. It is only in exploring whether the war was a mistake or a crime that the debate will revolve.”

Again, Uhl’s entire essay is here;  he recommends passing Thomas Bass’s  thoughtful, truthful, and realistic take widely among your networks.  Oh, and adding insult to injury, the film is narrated by none other than overly-ubiquitous…Peter Coyote; guess hiring him to narrate documentaries has become the gold standard, and is now essentially  de rigueur.  Good Gawd all-Friday.

Before closing, I’d like you to be able to listen to ‘It was just finishing school’ from Karl Marlantes very well-decorated former US Marine, and add one more quote from Bass:

“And instead of its search for closure, and healing reconciliation, what if the film had reminded us that US special forces are currently operating in 194 countries, or 70% of the world?”

29 responses to “Up Yerrrs, Ken Burrrns 4 yerrr PBS ‘The Vietnam War’

  1. for me, this epitomized the soundtrack of the criminal vietnam ‘war’:

  2. Don’t fergit it’s P0TUS (Piece 0f This Utter Shite) : https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2012/05/25/presidential-proclamation-commemoration-50th-anniversary-vietnam-war
    For me, this brought It H0ME :

    N0W we know, it was All About THE POPPYS !
    And it was, and $TILL REMAIN$; A CRIME.

    • obomba may even have kinda sorta meant it. yeah, those are my long ago stompin’ grounds, hard to watch. queer, isn’t it, that the jackson state killed and wounded never got a song dedicated to them, at least as far as i know.

      sleep well, i’m out for the night. and even tho dylan apparently wrote it in ’63 as an objection to the cold war arms race, sam owns the song w/ his cover. g’ night.

      • Well, that’s because the Jackson State students were……black.

        • OMG! did anyone tell them that?!? ay yi yi! but srsly, didn’t any black blues riffers write one? i’d forgotten to check what with so much time on my hands./s

          i just put up a hurricane irma tracker, and i hope y’all stay safe, seeker. ya hear?

          • Thanks wd. I’m in Northern central Florida so these things don’t usually hit us too hard (though I was without power for a week in 04 during Charlie, that was kinda rough.)

  3. Haley: “…we have engaged in numerous direct and multi-lateral talks w/ the NK ‘regime’, and time after time they have not worked.” when were those direct talks, nikki? the ones that you’d proposed with the pre-conditions that NK ends its nuclear ambitions?

    but the RT guests: “US officials should be on a plane right now to Pyongyang in a bid to lower tensions, says Eric Sirotkin, co-founder of the National Campaign to End the Korean War. Professor Joseph Cheng also joins the discussion.
    ‘Despite our efforts, the North Korea nuclear program is more advanced and more dangerous than ever,” Haley told the council on Monday. “War is never something the United States wants. We don’t want it now. But our country’s patience is not unlimited.’

    RT: It appeared to end in a deadlock, as the US dismissed possible plans for de-escalating the crisis. Why do you think the US rejected the plan for dialogue, put forward by Russia and China?
    Eric Sirotkin: It is befuddling to Americans and to the whole international community as to why at this point and time we would declare that discussions and dialogue have failed when we have never gone into discussions in so many years. And that they have been asking sit down with the US. I cannot understand why we don’t have US officials on a plane right now to Pyongyang to lower tensions. It seems like a simple task and a step to take.

    RT: Do you think a plane loaded with American diplomats would be well-received by Pyongyang?
    ES: Yes, they have said all along that they would be willing to discuss even the nuclear issues if the hostile US policy was worked out. Look, in 1953 we signed an armistice agreement with them promising several things. One that we would leave Korea, and two, that we would never introduce new weapons into Korea. The US imported more than 600 nuclear weapons over the years – took them taken out in the early 1990s, and now we are talking about reinserting nuclear weapons into Korea. This is a step backward, rather than a step forward. We need clear eyes to look at this, to approach this, to listen to dialogue to apply mediation-type principals, and get off your high horse and stop threatening the use of force and nuclear weapons on both sides, which is a violation of international law. There is no military solution to this conflict… This is a crisis that is escalating because the US is not willing to talk and engage. They believe the underground testing of nuclear weapons by North Korea is illegal when in actuality it is not, but the threat of using them is, and that threat is coming from both sides right now, and that needs to stop and they need to grow up.”

    from wsws: “In a belligerent and provocative speech, US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, delivered an ultimatum to China and Russia: end all economic relations with North Korea or face a full-blown trade war with the US. Moreover, if Beijing and Moscow did not bring Pyongyang to heel, the US would do so through military means.
    Standing reality on its head, Haley declared that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was “begging for war.” The Pyongyang regime is escalating its nuclear program in a desperate and misguided attempt to ward off a devastating war with the United States that it would inevitably lose. Its latest nuclear test, which it claimed was a hydrogen bomb and had an estimated yield of 100 kilotons, came just days after the US and South Korea finished major annual joint exercises to rehearse for war with North Korea.

    Haley demanded that the UN impose “the most stringent set of sanctions on any country in a generation.” She warned Washington would not accept what it regarded as half-measures. “We have taken an incremental approach and despite the best of intentions, it has not worked,” she declared.” [lengthy snip]

    “After lashing out at South Korea on Sunday for “talk of appeasement,” President Donald Trump spoke with his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in yesterday. Trump agreed to end the limit, imposed by a treaty between the two countries, on the payload that can be carried by South Korean missiles. In return, Moon gave the green light for the US to fully deploy its Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile system. A White House statement said Trump gave “conceptual approval” to the sale of “many billions of dollars” worth of military equipment to South Korea.”

    “Last week, the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported that President Moon had ordered the military to formulate new war plans that “could quickly switch to an offensive posture in case North Korea stages a provocation that crosses the line or attacks the capital region.” The aim of the plan was to “infiltrate Pyongyang to quickly bring down the North Korean regime.”

    elsewhere in the in fascist imperialism and putative allies:

    • Oh no, Eric Sirotkin makes too much sense and we can’t have that now, can we? Nikki Haley needs to go in that 200 ft. deep pit with Samantha Power and both Rices, Clintons and half the Bush and Obama administrations ( and throw in Ted Cruz on general principles), cover the top with lead and salt the eath around it so nothing ever grows there again.

      And somehow trick Trump into going into one of Elon Musk’s spacecraft, with Ryan and Pence as his crew members, and shooting that thing into the sun.

      Insane. ( oh sorry, that was ableist).

      • i did grab the link to sirotkin’s organzation, but OMG, all the bolds made my brain ache. ack, i found it; the word doc for this diary is six pages long. http://www.endthekoreanwar.org/
        missed the ableism; guess i’m not sensitive enough, lol. but we won’t see any of them in the hague, now will we? did the BAR authors note that that body is only for trying black leaders? anyway, ‘we’ look forward, not backward, but hey, peggy noonan gave our rulers the right justification by obfuscation, didn’t she?

        gotta go take care of some obligations now.

  4. duke, by phil collins

    this a.m., in honor of Trump’s pending decision on DACA, there was a small contingent of elderly dedicated pro-DACA DREAMERS w/a sign & waving at cars on Interstate 5 passing underneath the overpass; had a nice chat w/ one dude, but I, me in my safe space, I doubt the anti-fa cred of people who get full & throaty about 11 years of indentured servitude for los indocumentados as proposed in the dream act. talk about lack of vision. milky & toasty. i also met a 70 yr old Vietnam Vet who got exposed to agent O, ate away his right arm. He was a little skeptical about the new PBS special. He joked about Burns’ jazz thing: PBS presents, the history of jazz, as written by Kenny G, guest starring, Winton Marsalis. anyway, who knew that many US soldiers lost limb & sometimes life from all the unexploded ordnance & landmines the French left just lying around everywhere? whodda thunk it?

    but thanks to people like ken burns, who among Murkins has a clue what the US has done to Korea? when we reinvade Vietnam in 20 years, kids today will have had to sit thru the Ken Burns’ dramaganda in public school & so will be conditioned to ponder the nuances & ambiguities of the US bombing countries on the other side of the planet. yeah, real ambiguous. Casualty figures, numbers of displaced, etc., could tell a tale, as could certain military stats (tnt tons dropped) but, nah, that would ruin our precious narrative of ambiguity & wrongs being done on all sides, wouldn’t it?

    later. winter is coming, as that hbo show so helpfully reminds us.

    • duke, by phil collins

      OT, I know: http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/09/05/harv-s05.html
      The other main source of “relief” funding will come in the form of loans from the Small Business Administration, headed by former *pro wrestling executive* Linda McMahon. Anyone applying for SBA funds must prove that they will be able to pay back their loans before their application is accepted, with the vast majority of applicants rejected, according to Politico.

      ain’t that America?

      • arrrgggh x 10, and it’s not altogether OT, duke, as it’s war by other means, including ‘houston’s open for bidness, resilient!’, and pelosi and schumer’s ‘willingness’ quotes. at least the author gets in spades that all of this has been baked in for a long, long time. this came in via popular resistance,
        and points the finder at trump in several explicit ways (delaying epa risk evaluations, etc.), an yeah, the epa wouldda jumped right on it and enforced their ‘standards’, right?

        As Arkema Plant Burns, Six Things We Know About Petrochemical Risks in the Wake of Harvey‘, union of concerned scientists

        on edit: i’ll add this hideous murder of a journalist/editor who’d even been jailed for calling out hindu nationalist bjp members.

    • dunno your reference to duke, phil collins, and i admit to ignorance on
      DACA. but it’s kinda trending in the amerikan twittersphere.

      christ, yes, agent orange, we’ve had friends whose faces are ravaged, almost non-existent sperm counts, who knows? as an aside: ‘gulf war syndrome’. but what i smelled was napalm, or what i’d imaged that its odor would have been. more later, i yam so depleted of energy, but korea by craig murray, and yes, long ago i’d posited in kinda jest that every nation should be required to own one nuke:

      “How did we get here? In the 1950s the USA dropped 635,000 tonnes of bombs on North Korea including 35,000 tonnes of napalm. The US killed an estimated 20% of the North Korean population. For comparison, approximately 2% of the UK population was killed during World War II.”

      amerika the beautiful…god shed his (her) grace on thee…

      • “I didn’t like their earlier work…too intellectual,” American Psycho. who the hell titles an album “Duke”???

        if only we could get the wildfires here out west to mix & mingle w/the hurricanes…on the bus ride out here, one lady was talking about the “cancer alley” (one of many in this country, I know) recently created (or greatly exacerbated) by all the fricking & fracking going on along the coast b/n Corpus Christi & Houston, TX. unheard of spiking of leukemia in the Children, Who Are The Future ™. they can take comfort in knowing they may not have to pass on those leukemia genes to their kids, if they work hard & get health insurance to pay for gene therapy. see? something to live for. Ronald McDonald’s Houses for all the kids!

        oh no! ESPN here at Mickey D’s is using all its brain wattage to ponder how the NFL (spouse abuse) & MLB (spying on the enemy Yanks in Boston) can restore its squeaky clean (hahahaha) image after such scandals. Amerika needs heroes now more than ever! The Houston Astros will go on. The Houston Texans (wtf kind of name is that?) will kick off as scheduled to prove our collective resilience. Ken Lay will do the coin toss (oh wait…sometimes heart attacks are a convenience, amirite?)

        Never take anything amiss or suspicious or awful & evil as normative & routine. it’s always a few bad apples, an aberration. and getting our national spectacles back to full throttle…yeah, our priorities need a long visit w/the chiropractor.

        • er…i guess they did. ‘course there was always ‘the duke of earl’, lol. i bailed out after two full minutes of Big Sound!

          ouch on the kids not passing on their genes, brrrr. lazarus was born in beaumont, one of his sisters and a bro still live there; beaumont’s been out of potable water for a week now. gawdess knows what they’re breathing, will be drinking soon, how much corexit will sink to the ocean floor, etc. but at least the house passed a bill adding $7.1 billion to the emergency coffers, as the ‘relief fund’ is about empty.

          can i pile on namoi klein again? headline at DN with her recent interview was ‘after harvey, now is the time to talk about Climate Change!’ fuck that, naomi: now is the time to watch for moar shock doctrine!!!! will it all be like new orleans? of course it will.

        • Well, Mr. Patrick Bateman, you may scoff at my business card, but I loved the artsy intellectualism of early Genesis with Peter Gabriel, even though it didn’t (makes face)…..sell.

          Thanks for the comment, I needed a laugh just about now.

  5. fascinating news: ‘The BRICS strike back’, pepe escobar RT, sept. 6, a couple outtakes:

    “But just as the BRICS wrapped it all up in Xiamen, the action started at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok; once again, all about economic convergence, focusing on Russia, China, Japan, Vietnam and crucially, both Koreas.
    Enter RC, once again, as peace negotiators, able to practice diplomacy with both Pyongyang and Seoul at an international forum. RC – with Russia in the forefront – solved the Syrian tragedy. While RC [he’s dubbed the russia/china alliance] has a plan for both Afghanistan and North Korea, the unipolars only have sanctions and bombs.”

    “That might as well represent the burial ritual for the US sanctions dementia. It’s a categorical imperative for Eurasia integration to be able to bypass any manifestations of this disease by trading energy in yuan or in their own, local, currencies.
    In parallel, something RC, via the Central Bank of Russia and the People’s Bank of China, have been developing all these years – ruble-yuan swaps – will spread out to other BRICS/BRI/SCO members. The concept of trading in their own currencies will reach, of course, all number of aspiring BRICS Plus members.

    “The late Zbig ‘Grand Chessboard’ Brzezinski Doctrine – preventing, by all means, the emergence of a peer competitor – has long ago been pronounced dead. What we see instead is the emergence not only of a peer competitor, but an alliance of peer competitors (RC), with a geo-economic pull all across the Global South.
    More than enough for any unipolar brain to go nuclear.”

  6. I read that article this morning (tale of two critics) and it made me retch. Burns is a pro-establishment hack. Maybe the only decent film he ever made was the one about baseball, but i didn’t see that one.

    I remember reading several articles last year that the PTB were putting a lot of money and effort into Vietnam revisionism, and i guess this is a prime example. Since the liberals are now becoming slavering warmongers, i wonder sadly if the antiwar movement is going the way of the dodo…..Obummer really wad an effective establishment shill. I can hear the words of Timmy Wise & Co. “Vote for Obama, lesser of two evils, then we will all pressure him to end the wars. Yeah, right. That was back when i was still attending MOVE ON meetings and trying to revive the protests we did during the Bush years, when I was younger and somewhat less…..cynical.

    This all reminds me of Reagan and his “noble cause” and “Vietnam was two countries for milennia” bullshit. The one positive note was the presence of Tim O’Brien, whose Vietnam fiction is imo beautiful and accurate. I think the author pf the article noted that if O’Brien and somebody else were allowed to converse on camera, that would destroy the argument that the facts on the ground are unable to be determined, but…..can’t have anything to make the government/MIC/ news media look bad now, can we?

    Wonder when Kenny Boy’s gonna make a documentary called “Why Trees are the Primary Cause of Pollution.”

    • Oh, and I wrote a long response on the Po-po thread in response to you and Tarheel Dem, but it wouldn’t go through because it said I needed to enter my username and e-mail. But I was already logged in and there were no boxes in which to enter those items. I sometimes think I emit some kind of mental force that causes tech glitches. I almost had five heart attacks today trying to submit bankruptcy orders at the last minute, which I’d been trying to accomplish for over a week. Strange errors and error messages….oh well…done now but I’m a basketcase.

      Anyway, I copied the response in longhand, but the gist of it was: while I’m disgusted with CP’s deliberate mischaracterizations of Johnstone’s ideas, I still read them because there are very few writers I agree with nearly always. The closest one I’ve found is you, wd….and if you think her writing is ‘craptastic’ as you put it, I will certainly look at her writings with a more critical eye. I’m less interested in discussing her personally than the ideas being expressed and debated.

      Another thing i want to clarify…..when i said i thought we all wanted the same things, i meant those of us on the left and right who are good-faith actors who value truth – not oligarchs or their minions, bigots or bad actors…..i should have been more specific. I admit I’m still naive about many things, but maybe not as much as i sound sometimes….

    • yep, glad you caught the one paen that thomas bass had offered on burns; dreckmobile. i’d already pasted too much in. i don’t think i read any tim o’brien, though; must have missed some good stuff then. but see, like ed snowden: all he wanted was a conversation! and to show some emo!

      i simply don’t get the trouble you’re having commenting here, seeker. is the off and on trouble dependent on which platform you’re using? is that the right term? or…browser, as in firefox, IE, chrome, etc.?

      it’s not just that i think what she writes is so craptastic in form or some such, but so obvious, and gadzukes, she points out how this ‘side’ or that will be pissed at her so often that i wanna say ‘grow the fuck up’, but i do think it’s part of what she depends on to get more readers, as in basking in the glow of some imagined alliance w/ the ‘alt-lite’ while being ‘attacked’. see how brave i yam??? i’m just not seeing where the venn diagram of left, right intersection has any lasting or meaningful value. her new ‘fight the propaganda’ one…will be new ground for some, for me…mebbe i’m just too old to… not fall asleep at it. i dunno, mebbe her astrology book was a better read.

      • Well, I’m going to try again with that comment sometime, but, from where i sit, i have more than a few trump voters among my clientele, and some are intent on telling me all about it, and these are people who are losing their homes, and my feeling is that they voted for him not because they are racists or deplorable in any way, but out of sheer desperation at the ravages of neoliberal policies, and they are all sick of the wars. So they fell for his snake-oil. These kinds of basically decent people I think would make good allies in. an antiwar or anti-big-banking/business movement. I think it’s clear that was what CJ is saying, certainly not advocating an alliance with neo-nazis or unsavory elements of the alt-right (though I’m still scratching my head about cernovich).

        And I’ve seen this same sentiment expressed on counterpunch for years. Articles saying that a limited and reasonable right-left alliance is the PTBs’ worst nightmare: whether tea partiers, libertarians, some zerohedgers…..which is why the intensity of the backlash surprises me….a cp writer called her a ‘weirdo’ the other day…

        It’s not like such a thing has not been successful in the past. The union organizers of old had to deal with racism in uniting black and white workers, and they had some pretty good tricks. I remember an old interview on PBS where the organizer said when white workers complained about the presence of blacks, he would tell them, “you’re right. This meeting is for farmers only. They probably think this is an NAACP meeting or something. You go tell them if they’re not farmers, they have to leave.” And it worked. When they found out they wrte farmers, their racism began to dissipate and they started to realize they had more in common with the black farmers than they did the “man”…

        But times have changed. An overt racist in this day an age is probably unreachable, but an unconscious (or willfully blind) racist may not be….it frustrates me that elite liberals just want to write these people off as deplorables because they don’t use PCspeech or have fancy degrees…
        it’s as if they care more about words and symbols than they do actions.

        I support the basic idea of removing Confederate monuments, especially because of the effect on black people, but Robert E. Lee? Nathan Bedford Forest and his ilk I can understand, bit Lee believed slavery is wrong and backed it up by freeing his slaves before the war, whereas Washington and Jefferson kept theirs until death. Whete does it end? You would have to take almost all of the statues and monuments down to be consistent. And i can’t help wondering if that energy could be put to much better use protesting the wars, the N. Korea bellicosity, Yemen, torture, “terror tuesdays” etc. I and other writers i read wonder if this is another Clinton Dem move to distract from “Russiagate” losing credibility and further divide people, so they will vote for another cruise missile Democrat (which it’s absolutely clear to me nowTulsi G. is one of) to save us from awful Nazi inspiring Trump….just some thoughts…

  7. Even Ken Burns’s shading will be controversial with those who want to keep the official story alive.

    The load on the vehicle was there from the beginning. All these sponsors had to do was threaten to stop their money flow. The PBS that did gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Watergate hearings was caged during the Reagan administration, gelded during the Clinton administration, and corrupted during W’s administration.

    Deconstruction of what Ken Burns has produced in light of this history will provide some interesting insights. And this is the lens through which to deconstruct: “Funded by Bank of America and David Koch and other corporate sponsors” The full list would be helpful.

    What made The Civil War so fascinating viewing it as a Southerner was Burns’s insistence in the end that the USA won the war at the same time that he peddled the sentimental judgments of the middle class (who wrote) about the “rich man’s war and poor man’s fight”. And spun the hope of healing and reconciliation that few pf his critics would say at that time were all about (1) Southerners admitting that they got whupped by stronger army with greater resources; (2) the contemporary US (1990s?) admitting that the war was about extension of white supremacy slavery societies to points outside the 11 Confederate states as a domestic US political strategy to avoid Congress voting to eliminate slavery ever in the future; (3) the post-Civil War history of Jim Crow and civil rights being a struggle over the Southern aristocracy of capitalists seeking to recreate the power of plantation management. That the liberal rule of the “good ole boys” was not in fact one of rapid progress. That at the time cut over against the “Gone with the Wind” narrative imposed as a counter to the New Deal. “Tomorrow is another day.” “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

    I still have a lot of the books (no many of the magazines, though) that informed me about the Vietnam War as it was going on. Bernard Fall’s The Two Vietnams now suffers from the same defects as are described in Burns’s documentary. Indeed, the title points to that — civil war instead of “naked Communist (with a capital-C) aggression”. Fall and a French author whom I can’t remember (and have lost the book) had me questioning the war before LBJ’s escalation after the Gulf of Tonkin. I have a vague memory that Gen. James Gavin was responsible for pushing the notion of strategic hamlets, but I could be wrong on this. That creation of concentration camps to “liberate” the people was what got me thinking that the war was going south as early as 1964.

    And yes, one wonders how the Pentagon Papers got read as a source for this project.

    But the American can do no wrong and cannot fail (but only be failed) folks will still be after Burns’s hide. He is abrasive enough to the approved standard narrative to get that response.

    It is almost as if the US primary documents and Vietnamese primary documents have not been released and translated into the other’s language.

    It was and is a moral catastrophe for which we are still paying in all sorts of ways. Not the least of which is standing up an African-American soldier to support a primary Nixonian narrative about returning veterans. (LBJ is a different matter; he did hear the chants at Washington protests — “LBJ, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”

    I wonder if the shift in police treatment in October 1967’s march on the Pentagon will be remarked upon. Middle-class America’s children suddenly became seen as the enemy. And the warhawks armed the working class against them. Rich man’s war, poor man’s fight. Seems to be perpetual.

    • official story? peace w/ honor or wot? yes, the fuller major funders list, but the importance of thomas bass noting that reminded me of “we’ve already established the fact that you’re a whore; now we’re just haggling over your price”. but also as he noted: as the final credits roll, we’ll possibly see who among the interviewees were generals and cia. *if* they’re named as per occupation, but i was glad that he discovered and remembered mai’s bio and subsequent employment. and yes on the pentagon papers, and the rest of your questions. only those w/ 18 hours to spare will watch, but i hope j is wrong and school kids aren’t subjected to it.

      “opposition to the war is the greatest single weapon working against the us.”

      see y’all later; this day is srsly on fire here. i’m already feelin’ rode hard n put up wet, and it’s barely after noon. but the moon was full last night, and the wildfire smoke isn’t as thick today.

      on edit: but lt. Hut-hut-marlante was named, and wtf was the subtext to his it’s just finishing school’? (the final video)

  8. Unpack this statement of Burns from a typical interview

    “KB: There’s nobody sitting there like a villain in a B movie, saying, “Oh, good, let’s go ruin this country and sully the name of the United States.” There are jerks and idiots at various points, but most of them are acting in good faith. This was something that was begun in secrecy and ended 30 years later in failure. That was a word we spent literally a year arguing over. It wasn’t a defeat; nobody took over the United States. It was not surrender. We failed.”

    He says: this was begun in secrecy, without questioning why its beginning was secret or the fact that so much of the failure was the result of secret policy, secret actions, dissembling with the public. It was secret because it was grounded on a fundamental lie. That lie became a self-deception that was the cause of failure.

    • And Tim O’Brien is worth reading…..his prose on Vietnam is majestic. And Robert Mason’s “Chickenhawk” – the Masons live in Gainesville and his son is a friend of mine, excellent musician who I’ve jammed with….it was strange reading that book and seeing him in there as an infant, though Mason the elder is not the wordsmith that O’brien is.

      • Yes TD, I thought like that for a long time….that the US was basically good, and Vietnam and the domino theory wete just a mistake. The early 70s were a time of optimism….i thought the protests ended the war, and we got rid of Nixon….the Church committee hearings reigned in the CIA and FBI…and our society seemed to have shed the dismal conformity of the 1950s…..enter Powell memo and out current cycle of reaction.

        My political awakening began when a girl i dated in college, who was the daughter of a progressive Methodist minister, and had been a missionary to several South American countries. She told me that the US routinely supported dictators all over the world and I was shocked. Then I read A People’s History of the United States and Sojourners magazine, and began to realize the truth was uglier than I imagined.

      • Ken Burns’s statement is where he places the context of the Vietnam war from the point of view of understanding the time. That anachronistic view of the contemporary zeitgeist need not be taken as the final view but the pivot around which his interviews pivot. It will be up to those other people, especially the ones labeled “protesters” to explain a wider view and what we’ve learned from what has been declassified.

        My own view now (as opposed to then) is that the going to war was baked into the 1946 election in which the GOP won a surprise victory to control Congress. That resulted in: (1) a turn to hard-nosed anti-communism (which was welcomed by a lot of liberals and Democrats); (2) the institutionalization of the military-industrial complex (thanks, Ike, for the words); (3) the establishment of a permanent standing army in the National Defense Act of 1947; (4) the institutionalization of secrecy within the US government with the establishment of the Central Intelligence Agency and the Central Intelligence Act of 1949; (5) the political push to retreat from the architecture of the United Nations that Eleanor Roosevelt had brought into being and the double-faced policy of US foreign policy towards ending colonialism and imperialism; (6) the use of the Marshall Plan and NATO to bind what was then a broken Europe to US policy. In return France had expectations for defense of its colonies.

        The US was being pressured by the UK, who had lost India (and separated Pakistan), had established Israel in the heart of the Middle East UK and French colonies, and by France who were already engaged in war with Ho Chi Minh’s insurgency. The US had nominally granted the Philippines its independence, but continued a neo-colonial relationship that continues in the remaining US colonies (Puerto Rico, Guam, US Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa). The US empire then was built on tributary alliance and economic exploitation instead of direct administration for all other countries.

        Then add into the mix the personalities who headed the military services, the Department of Defense, and the Central Intelligence Agency between 1945 and 1968. Allen Dulles especially, who in the interwar period as a fixer operating out of Switzerland found some of the future Nazi bureaucrats congenial company. And who developed a singular distaste for the Soviet Union and communism, given his Wall Street and imperialist upbringing. Add in the ignorance of Harry Truman, who depended of friends like Jimmy Byrnes of South Carolina to provide advice. And the effects of George Kennan and Dean Acheson in seeing all things Soviet through the lens of the various Internationals.

        As of 1947, international relations was a worldwide Cold War that the US was determined to win. In that context, containment was the only strategic tool, and Vietnam was seen as a breakout to be resisted or a pushback to be pursued to further contain. You see the adage of never allowing a single power to dominate Eurasia being the spectre that haunted the policy makers. And you see the push of the emerging postwar US economic titans seeking to profit from the American Century. But Vietnam was not narrowly motivated by resources or economics (markets, labor). It was the symbolism of the line between the “Communist World” and “the Free World” that became all-consuming as the propagandists “got high from their own supply”. After 22 years, the illusion was so inpenetrable that Richard Nixon believe his own “peace with honor” bullshit.

        I hope that there are few people interviewed who have this long view. And I hope that there are a bunch of “protesters” who have clarity about what motivated their younger selves. That is, all of the propaganda about Americanism in the 1950s, the martyr JFK’s “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” And Martin Luther King’s complicated Dream that saw the moral issues of our time as being war, racism, and poverty. And the experience of seeing that the “adults” really didn’t mean it at all nor did they have the courage of the convictions they thought that their offspring should have. Huge culture-shaking cognitive dissonance. I hope someone notes the enforced patriotism, the enforced innocence, and the parental shock that the “younger generation” took them seriously. (Cynicism came later, in the 1970s. And it was carefully cultivated by the establishment. By then, they knew that cynicism kills all opposition.)

    • cripes, i’d read it, saved the link; oh for the long go days of dead tree MJ when they really were doing investigative journalism. i’d also grabbed this from the bah…sten globe:

      ““THE PAST LITERALLY DRAPES Ken Burns’s life in the small town of Walpole, New Hampshire. Antique quilts hang on every available wall of the classic post-and-beam guesthouse he helped design a few years ago, just across the driveway from the modest house he’s lived in for more than 35 years. As the documentary filmmaker strolls through the guesthouse, he proudly points out his collections of old American flags and Shaker furniture.
      But it’s the patchwork patterns of his prized quilts that provide the most conspicuous metaphor for how he sees America’s history — and its complicated present, too. Burns likes to quote a line by the late historian Arthur Schlesinger about the United States motto E pluribus unum — “Out of many, one.”

      As the American experiment continues to unfold, we’ve come to have too much pluribus, Schlesinger lamented, and not enough unum. “We spend way too much time deciding how different we are,” says Burns, whose latest project, The Vietnam War, deals with one of the most divisive eras in the country’s history. “I’ve been about unum my entire life.”

      my apologies, but i’m swamped w/ cooking for lazarus’s meals tomorrow, next day, and trying to learn how to unzip a file his now-departed sister’s sent, giving us our..jobs. be back as i’m able.

      and stay safe from irma, tarheel dem.

  9. Strange summary of the Vietnam release press conference and summary of what was shown.


    Based on this report, the best case is for Burns to shove the consciousnesses of those people for whom the Vietnam War is ancient history and have them experience the information environment we who live through that period were in and what we know from historical research since. This is a commercial site with a specific audience; watch how this review plays to this audience.

    This section is particularly interesting:
    Five years after the fall of Saigon, Boston Publishing put out a three-volume work called “The Vietnam Experience.” It had a foreword from Henry Cabot Lodge, who was ambassador to Vietnam before he was dumped by LBJ.

    He posed a series of questions:

    1. Was the United States mistaken in its determination to intervene? Or have subsequent events in Southeast Asia confirmed the necessity of what we set out to do?
    2. Did the limitations on our use of military force keep us from a swift and decisive victory? Or were we engaged in a war that could not be won even with the most sophisticated and lethal weapons?
    3. Were the Viet Cong freedom fighters seeking to liberate their country from centuries of foreign domination? Or were they simply terrorists, willing to use any means to gain power?
    4. Did the ultimate collapse of South Vietnam signify a loss of will on the part of the American people? Or were we fighting the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time?

    Lodge had no answers to his own questions and, decades later, neither do Burns and Novick. “This film is not an answer but a set of questions about what happened,” Burns said.

    “I was not engaged in some proto-Freudian exercise” to plumb the psychic netherworlds that trigger wars, he said.

    THD again:
    Having people who understand what the Vietnam War was, holding the poles of controversy, serves to bring to ground lots of stuff that has been manipulated symbols for 50 years. Is it possible to de-Bernays a war? I am doubtful, but confrontation with the data might attack some of the glibness with which Gen-X and later folks think about war (those who have not actually been in our recent ones).

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