Episode 2. Riding the Tiger (1961-1963)

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Episode 2. Riding the Tiger (1961-1963)

Annotated Transcript Of Episode 2

Terry Garlock

By mixing facts with leftist distortions, like repeatedly stating the war was clearly unwinnable even before America became directly involved, Burns and PBS are driving the anti-war left’s stake through the heart of history. The leftist version is being made official among those who buy the PBS description of Ken Burns as “America’s storyteller.”

John M. Del Vecchio

Thus one wonders, had the newsmen not succumbed to the communist agitprop of the time, and had the ambassador not played to the newsmen but instead had focused on American State Department and military advisors, and on the South Vietnamese officials in the trenches combatting the insurgents and terrorists, how differently the next twelve years might have been.

John M. Del Vecchio

Monday’s episode, Riding The Tiger, was wonderfully produced propaganda. It was technically better than episode one, but it was also far more manipulative. I’m trying to be nice here. Other words come to mind. If I did not have a bit of more background info from years of studying and writing about Southeast Asia, Burns would have me convinced that Diem, the autocrat, was far worse to his people than Uncle Ho. Diem, the Catholic strongman ruling a gentle Buddhist nation, cracked down on Buddhist homes of worship. Ho, the sweet old man, who, despite other leaders in his faction having gotten a bit out of hand by murdering between 50,000 and 500,000 of their countrymen, was far more a gentleman. Socialist excesses aside, Ho was beloved, Diem was despised.

Dan Kellum

In Episode 2 unless I missed attribution, the narrator noted that Pres. Kennedy had made a comment to someone close to him that he couldn't withdraw from Vietnam as it might affect his re-election. I wouldn't think a documentary would go the "unnamed sources" route. And that was pretty damning to JFK to claim our continued presence in Vietnam was dependent on the prospect of affecting a re-election. That sure was an eye-opener that a lower echelon White House staffer was able to confuse JFK and his advisors to pass along a need to remove RVN Pres. Diem and his brother to the ambassador in Saigon when JFK and his advisors were away from the White House....JFK thought that was the consensus of his advisors and the advisors thought that came from Kennedy. It made them sound like disorganized Keystone Kops.

Charles Krohn

My first reaction to is this episode is the rough equivalent of seeing our Revolution through the eyes of George III. A few American rejectionists aside, the losers don’t write history, and usually don’t even try. Not so, here.

Dr. Geoffrey D. T. Shaw - Ngo Dinh Diem and the American News Media

Perhaps the most startling omission in Burns’ Vietnam series (episode 2) has to be the inexplicable casting-aside of what real counter-insurgency expertise was telling the Americans and the inclusion of non-expert, young news-reporters opinion on such warfare; an opinion, one must add, spoon-fed to said reporters by a veteran US soldier from the Korean conflict but, himself, no accomplished expert in the area of countering insurgency: one Lt. Col. John Paul Vann.

Christian Appy

One of the most impressive segments of Episode 2 is about the battle of Ap Bac, a hint that the larger documentary will give serious attention to military history. The story of Ap Bac has been told well and at length in Neil Sheehan’s magisterial A Bright Shining Lie, and Sheehan offers commentary here as well, but the archival footage and photography is as stunning as you might expect from Florentine Films. Most of the images Burns and Novick use have not been seen in lots of other documentaries on the war.

Comments on Christian Appy

Appy is very useful in pointing out the talking points of the Left.

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