Episode 10. The Weight of Memory (March 1973-Onward)

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Episode 10. The Weight of Memory (March 1973-Onward)

Annotated Transcript Of Episode 10

Terry Garlock

Great lies have an element of truth, and while Burns tells a great story in film, that does not make his stories true.
The documentary misleads viewers from the beginning with two false premises, first that Ho Chi Minh and his North Vietnamese were nationalists dedicated to reunify North and South Vietnam.
In fact, the North was determined to impose Communist rule by force on South Vietnam. We were there to stop the spread of Communism in southeast Asia. The difference is vast.
America’s part in the war was certainly not immoral or misguided as Burns portrayed, and the war was not unwinnable from the get-go, the second false premise the film pushed repeatedly from different angles.

Bing West

Inevitably, the tide of history doomed America.
Not so fast; an alternative case can be made that our military and political leaders doomed their own mission by strategic confusion and entropy of will. Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford is quoted as telling President Johnson, “We’re not out to win the war. We’re out to win the peace.”1 Such psycho-babble led to baffling negotiations, with war-fighting without a clear objective. We pursued a half-hearted strategy of attrition, which is the lack of strategy. We granted the enemy ground sanctuaries in North Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. After we withdrew in 1972, Congress forbade all future bombing and slashed aid to the South Vietnamese, while the Soviet Union and China provided heavy weapons to the North. Those actions certainly contributed to the collapse in 1975.

Bing West 2

The purpose of a film, however, is to stir emotions, not to convey a reasoned analysis. In emotive power, Burns succeeds. An audience with no prior knowledge of Vietnam will come away convinced this war was a colossal geopolitical error, a waste of lives on all sides and absolutely without redemption. Every fact and picture is accurate, and the cumulative process of selecting some facts and omitting others is devastating.

John Del Vecchio

Now I think, “Thank God that series is over.” But it’s not over. This series will likely be picked up by thousands of school districts and colleges across the country and around the world, and used to indoctrinate the next generations of young minds. This should be opposed. The series is offensive not only to millions of American veterans who served honorably and with pride, but to anyone who still believes in truth and academic integrity.

R.J. Del Vecchio

. . . . [I]t's nice that the antiwar woman now regrets the vicious nastiness of the antiwar people towards us coming home. But it's a bit late.....
Overall, this is a terribly frustrating series for me and many others. It has some really good history in it, but the false parts, the omissions, the partial information, and above all, the slant on who spoke about what, make it so flawed that it hurts to know that for many it will be hailed as a great piece of work that really tells everyone what they need to know about those events. A whole lot of us know better, but trying to fight the combined media and academia and leftist establishment is like shoveling crap against the tide. Still, we all need to stay as witnesses to the truth.

Dan Kellum

I think this documentary has the potential to create a widening rift in this country between (active/inactive) military service members and those on the Left, and acerbate perceived racial issues. As I pointed out before, politicians seemed overly concerned about re-election, e.g., Kennedy, LBJ and Nixon to their demise in office and mortality rate of their armed forces. I would think anyone watching this documentary would come away with a major disillusionment of politicians in general. And if that's kicking off discourse it will be more of a yelling match in today's climate towards politicians. I was proud of my service in the Marine Corps and fighting in Vietnam as I'm sure the majority of servicemen and servicewomen feel the same.

Charles Krohn

Army deserter Jack Todd who defected to Canada says now "it's the greatest mistake I ever made in my life." Other activists apologize for their youthful errors. "To abandon the South Vietnamese when all we were providing them was money was reprehensive and disrespected the sacrifices of all soldiers, ours and the Vietnamese," says historian Lewis Sorley of President Ford's final effort to keep provide minimal support to the sinking Thieu government. More telling, "Most Americans I think would not like to hear it said that the communists were more faithful allies than the United States, but that in effect is what the case was."
Veterans will remember their service in different ways, mostly with pride, some with shame. But until the majority of people in this country agree to close ranks when the nation goes to war, however imperfect the cause or results, the memories of Vietnam will linger.

Thomas Ricks

Still, I thought it could do more than present a basic conventional history with some good footage.
That said, I don’t entirely trust my own assessment. My wife, a 19th-century historian who hasn’t read much about the Vietnam War, found it fascinating. I suspect that her valuation is closer to that of most viewers than mine is.

William Stearman

Had the series contributors done their homework, they would have known that after the final communist victory in 1975, a senior North Vietnamese general wrote in the party newspaper that by the fall of 1972, his troops were on the ropes and on the verge of defeat.
The series did not describe how the communist side avoided defeat by conning my boss, Henry Kissinger, into resuming negotiations and offering Mr. Kissinger concessions he had been trying to get.
The series should have stressed how Washington micromanagement prevented us from invading Laos and Cambodia for fear of “widening the war.” Had we been able to block the Laos Ho Chi Minh Trail with ground forces and denied Cambodia to enemy headquarters and logistic centers, we would most probably have won the war.

Hoi Tran

As a soldier, I fought in both Viet Nam wars. From the Dien Bien Phu battle in the North to the long war in the South in various capacities. Now as a living witness, I feel compelled to refute the shameless lie by this Viet Nam War series when they praised and glorified Ho Chi Minh as a dedicated nationalist patriot. Additionally, I also want to erase the unjust stains smeared upon the U.S military annals by the bold-faced Vietnamese communist propaganda machine in North Viet Nam stupidly backed by the ignorant, left leaning news media and film makers in the U.S.

Washington Post

ALYSSA ROSENBERG: So what, if anything, has changed in the way Americans talk about Vietnam while you were making the movie?
BURNS: Not a whole bunch, because as you say it’s framed by the same manipulation of facts that had a significant impact on the 2004 election between John Kerry and President Bush. And we see the same sort of gross manipulation of these facts for political gains without much thought still taking place.

W.R. Baker WSJ Blog

The documentary cherry-picked American actions during the war – just as many predecessors have in books and films. But this was, unfortunately, predictable and expected. Even before the first show aired, some in the press claimed the documentary to be a masterpiece, blah, blah. Now that they may have seen it, they won’t change their evaluations, egg on their faces are not something they know how to handle.
Too bad the documentary will be pushed as history – accuracy used to be something the press strove for, “but that was yesterday and yesterday’s gone.” A major problem will be in our schools, however, where accuracy will be presumed.

Christian Appy (Covers Episodes 9 & 10)

Burns and Novick have frequently stated their desire that The Vietnam War will help to heal the bitter and polarizing divisions created by the war. But even if that were possible, would it be desirable? What forms of forgetting and avoidance would that healing require? Would we have to ignore the most important lesson from the Vietnam War: that the United States is not an exceptional force for good around the world? Is the primary job of history to pay homage to “stories of courage, and comradeship, and perseverance, of understanding and forgiveness and, ultimately, reconciliation”? Or is it to awaken our critical understanding of how the past has brought us to this precarious present?

Interview with Christian Appy by Salon.com

Code red: "The Vietnam War" purports to be our document of record, a film meant to bring us all together in some kind of agree-to-disagree unity. Forget it. There are two sides to every story, but in this case one is right and the other very wrong. It cannot be made otherwise, and Burns’s failure lies in his failure to acknowledge this.

Comments on Christian Appy's analysis.

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