R.J. Del Vecchio 10
Well, by now we know exactly why Novick told one antiwar person who questioned her about the series that "by the end, you will be happy". Even though there was coverage of the descent of the movement into being more pro-Hanoi than antiwar, with rampant violence and destruction, we are still left with the idea of how overall the movement was correct in its goals and had mostly good, sincere people in it. The detailed revelations about how stupid, dishonest, and self-interested those at the very top were reinforce the idea that the antiwar people were right, but how stupid your leaders are doesn't demonstrate that your purpose is wrong. As was said by the CIA guy, sometimes the good guys don't win, but that doesn't mean they weren't fighting for the right cause.
Now that it's finished, let's talk about the "balance" that Burns promised. Of 20 or so US vets, four of them were VVAW members, and six of the others had very negative views of the war. Those critical of the war got by far the most talking time, some of the others got very short cameos or only spoke of their personal experiences and no comments about what they thought about the war. Only a couple of comments by Willbanks and the CIA guy and Herrington were at all positive about our involvement. This is a balanced view of what vets say, feel, remember? Of the Vietnamese quoted at length, we have the woman who left the North as a young girl, then left in '75, who had essentially nothing good to say about RVN or the ARVN or any part of the history. And the guy who was a protester in Saigon, who fled to the USA and is a judge here, who also had nothing positive to say about anything, and only saw his brother's death as something stupid. Of the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese who came here they could not find any with positive views of RVN and the rightness of their cause to resist takeover by the North? They interviewed 5 or 6 VC or NVA vets, and gave them a lot of time. They talked to 3 ARVN, none of them got much time at all, even though two of them spent lots of years in "re-education". If that's balance, then I can put an elephant on one end of the see-saw and a toy poodle on the other and it'll just float in a level position.
That great Paris agreement that we forced RVN to sign left 145,000 NVA in the South, and that was OK? I know the pilot who flew Nguyen Cao Ky to Paris for the signing, and he was weeping in the plane because he knew the agreement was really a death knell for RVN. But hey, part of the agreement was the promise of Hanoi to never invade the South again, as they had in '72. That should have made things safe, right?
The buildup for the final invasion started planning before the ink was dry, they built paved highways into the South with convoys of 200 trucks at a time bringing down huge masses of materiel for the giant bases being built in Laos and Cambodia to stage the invasion. Just the way we sent ship after ship of stuff to England in WW2 to stage it all for D-Day.
Then there's the claim that the great majority of Americans were no longer supporting the war at all. Certainly support was down, but there were still many who understood we had pledged to support the South, that the North was a client of Russia and China, and communism was a bad thing. But with Nixon gone and much of Congress responding to the media and the antiwar movement's pressures, plus the fact that an awful lot of people had just burned out on the whole thing and wanted to move on to other things in the news, the commitment faded away, the flow of supplies was narrowed way down, and the real killer was the prohibition by Congress of any air power use by the USA in Viet Nam. That was the final nail in the coffin of RVN.
So the trial attack started, no reaction from us, the second attack, no reaction, and then it was Katy-bar-the-door and the huge columns of tanks started smashing their way in a very well planned and executed three pronged attack of 18 divisions. And now is when there are a few appearances of ARVN about how bad things were. And Burns even mentions the Convoy of Tears, but doesn't quite cover the fact that it was the massed NVA artillery that slaughtered tens of thousands there.
They show the interview with the general at Xuan Loc, but don't do the courtesy of identifying him, he was Le Minh Dao, a great general whose 18th Division held off three NVA divisions for 12 days of super intense fighting, until there were only a fraction of them remaining and ammo was about gone. Then the general surrendered them to save lives, and refused evacuation to the USA. His devotion to honor got him 18 years in re-education, the longest of any. (He lives now in Connecticut.)
No bloodbath, Burns says. Really? Somewhere between 50-70,000+ executed as "criminals" and "blood debt", 1.3 million or more in "re-education" for years of starvation, overwork, and brutality that brought on a substantial death rate, and that doesn't count? There there was the seizure of most property of anyone involved with the government at all, and from religious bodies as well, like the Catholics, Cao Dai, and others. And the cancellation of all pensions, including the population of badly crippled ARVN vets, plus the bulldozing of ARVN cemeteries in a culture where the graves of your family are really sacred.
And if you wanted to honor Ho Chi Minh, you'd naturally rename Hanoi after him, after all, he was a Northerner, buried there, had lived there. But renaming Saigon as HCM City is like after our Civil War forcing Richmond to be renamed Lincolnville. It's not a sign of "liberation", it's a huge kick in the head to everyone in the South, a sign that "We Won and now We Run Things".
Finally, life became so harsh that people started leaving any way they could, and here's a note of interest. 250K of them were from the North, people of Chinese extraction who became refugees in China! Starvation was rampant, there was total control of every facet of life, and it was so bad that a bunch of famous antiwar activists, headed by singer Joan Baez, took out full page ads in three major American newspapers calling on Hanoi to stop the repression and start living up to all the promises made by the NLF about how nice things would be once reunification was achieved. Only after '85, when the Soviet Union collapsed and no more aid could come from them did the politburo decide to scrap Marxist economics and convert to the government controlled capitalism they have today. And it remains a totalitarian state, utterly intolerant of the least dissent, even though it looks nice to tourists and there have been tours for our vets to go there for decades now.
Lastly, it'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.
Welcome Home, Brothers.