One Hour Video
One Hour Video - A Teaching Aide
This my outline of the script for a 1-hour video intended primarily for secondary school & community college teachers & their classes.
- It begins with a spokesman standing & speaking to the camera against a large background map of Vietnam. Film clips of Vietnam and the war would be interspersed into his narrative to maintain student interest.
- He would say Burns is correct in identifying the Vietnam War as the origin of the current polarization of American society, but to learn from that experience, we have to work with an accurate set of facts. He would praise the visual qualities & technical skill of Burns' film and say it contains some important facts. Examples include the facts that the 1964 attack on the destroyer Maddox is confirmed, and the fact that crewmen on the destroyer Turner Joy believed they were attacked is acknowledged. A communist says Ho Chi Minh was manipulative and implies that he was deceitful. The mass VC atrocities and murders of non-communist nationalists and Viet Minh veterans is confirmed. A former US Army advisor talks about some of the positive things done by US forces, such as helping people with construction and education projects, giving them superior rice seed, etc. A US military historian & Vietnam veteran states that the few US atrocities, unlike the communist mass atrocities, were aberrations, not government policy. Episode 7 acknowledges that North Vietnam was not free, that the communist government constantly lied to the people, and that the children of powerful communists did not have to go to South Vietnam. An anti-war veteran reveals his true beliefs as anti-US and pro-communist. He says some antiwar activists were so abusive that he strongly objected to their actions.
- Our critique of Burns is not a criticism of his skill as a film-maker; it is a criticism of Burns' lack of military & historical knowledge of the war & a criticism of the hidden biases & prejudices in his film that make it both more & less than an objective history lesson. Burns said that his production was not attempting to define the Vietnam War; his role was just to "call balls and strikes." One person suggested that Burns was doing so with an amorphous concept of the strike zone and that he had cherry picked the lineups for both team. Neither Burns nor Novick has any military or historical credentials & the lack of credibility of the historians & military consultants Burns used for his script. Tom Vallely and Merrill McPeak are prime examples (listen to Sorley's radio presentation.)
- The first fundamental problem with the film's interpretation of the war is that it repeats many of the superficial clichés of the 1960s anti-war protesters. Examples are Ho Chi Minh as a nationalist, U.S. and Diem preventing reunification elections. Diem as biased as a Catholic governing a Buddhist nation, Tonkin Gulf being used as a pretext for a belligerent LBJ, Tet as a military defeat for the U.S., South Vietnamese military unwilling to fight. The second fundamental problem is that the facts it omits are at least as important as, if not more important than, the nonfactual claims it asserts, implies, or insinuates as factual. Examples of critical omissions in Note (4) below. Examples of non-factual claims, implications, & insinuations include Ho Chi Minh's long involvement with communism is mentioned, but the film falsely implies that he was primarily a nationalist. (Ho was a founding member of the French Communist Party, was trained for years in Russia as a covert, subversive USSR agent, spent decades recruiting and organizing communist cells in Asia, and was a founder of the Indochinese Communist Party before returning to Vietnam 30 years later.) The claim that 200,000 civilians were imprisoned in South Vietnam is false. The claim that elections in South Vietnam were promised but denied is false. (The Geneva Accords of 1954 mentioned elections, but the Final Declaration calling for UN supervised elections was not signed. The Republic of Viet-Nam had no obligation to accept the unsupervised elections that Ho demanded.) The film claims the South Vietnamese did not change” & implied that their chronic corruption and fractious politics made it impossible for South Vietnam to ever defend itself. (The destruction of most of the VC main force troops in the battles of Tet 19’68 changed the attitudes of most Southern civilians. Political unrest subsided; voluntary military enlistments increased dramatically; ARVN training improved; and civilian discussion about the possibility of surrendering to the North Vietnamese ended.)
- Where to go from here? Burns wanted his video to spark a dialogue about our history. This is a contribution to that dialogue, offered with the hope/warning that to accept the Burns version of history at face value would add to the dangerously imbalanced aspects of our educational system today. There are many fine books about the Vietnam War for those interested in more information. Such information and a list of those books is available at our wiki at http://wiki.vvfh.org If it is true that the youth of today is not into heavy reading, then the one book we recommend as an introduction is Phillip Jennings "Politically Incorrect Guide to the Vietnam War." If you have already had some classroom instruction about the Vietnam War, then you need to read Whitewash/Blackwash to get all that misinformation corrected. For the serious students, we again refer you to our wiki and website, which have videos, commentary and reading suggestions.
- It has been suggested that if any Civil War veterans had been around when Burns made his Civil War docu-tainment piece, there would not have been such a widespread reception. Fortunately, there are still a large number of Vietnam Veterans around to oppose the views of the Vietnam War that Burns and Novick offer you, and you would be well advised to listen to what they have to say. When they are gone, the society in which you live will be determined by the views of yourself, you fellow countrymen and of your country that you hold. The degree to which your society continues the polarization we have today will be up to you.
The books & the specific content of the omissions & nonfactual statements, implications, & insinuations can be finalized by the consensus of the VVFH directors with input from all the VVFH members & supporters.