R.J. Del Vecchio 7
Episode 7 by R.J. Del Vecchio
OK, let's start with the good news for a change.
This episode did make it crystal clear that the South was free and the North was not. That is a huge point, and that there was serious corruption in the South is not overwhelmingly important. (Here's a shocker... there's ALWAYS corruption in war and war supplies, going back to the Romans and before. It's just worse now in some ways, and we saw it again in Iraq and Afghanistan.)
Secondly, we finally see a brave, decorated vet who manages to get through a lot of discussion without saying anything negative. Okamoto went to serve his country, take care of his men, fought both bravely and smart, and while sad about having to kill others, has no regrets about his service.
While we get the usual full dose of how idealistic and brave people on the other side were (and let's throw in the romantic bit about the woman truck driver and the man she loves both serving on the Trail but not seeing each other until later and then marrying), we also get to hear how Hanoi lied to their people, and how the sons of the rich and powerful got sent overseas to study or got exempted somehow from service. While the poor peasants, brainwashed with the slogans of the almighty Party, marched down the Trail to die in huge numbers.
We hear more of the story of the POWs held in the jungle by the VC under horrendous conditions that led to the deaths of many of them.
All of the above is not slanted, not inaccurate, it's really good history and flies in the face of some of the myths of the antiwar movement. Which is why some Leftists are trashing the series.
But now.... back to the "rest of the story".
We get to hear two vets talk disparagingly about things, like their small town culture, their disapproval of the war, their vacillating and agonizing and then going into the service against their own ideals. For one, NOT going to Canada was a failure in morality. And we later hear from the sister of a KIA (after we get the flashes of that man's childhood again, let's hit that emotional button as hard as we can) that the men who went to Canada were not cowards or unwilling to serve their country, in fact they were brave. Of course this neglects that if you were really principled against the war, you could try for Conscientious Objector status or just go to jail for a couple of years. (And I could respect those who took such steps. Most of all, I respected those who were conscientious objectors who volunteered to serve as medics.)
And we get the full story on Marlantes, who objected to the war from the get-go, could have stayed in the UK as a grad student, but decided to go to the war to serve as best he could as an infantry officer in order to save the lives of the men under his command. And who clearly loved his men, and was brave enough to charge up a steep hill into fire, save his men, achieve his objective, and win the Navy Cross. I wind up with a confusing mixture of feelings about this man, who deserves respect for his idealism and willingness to put himself at risk for others, yet is so full of negativity about the war, why we were there, who was really the Bad side, and of course, what the final results were.
But the real peak of meaning in this episode was McPeak, a retired AF general who spent months bombing the hell out of traffic on the Trail. He ends up coming out so clearly and directly as a total antiwar fanatic that it was a real mindblower for me. We were the "wrong side" and he would have preferred to be on the side of the truck drivers he was blowing up nightly?
The point keeps getting hammered that there were brave, dedicated people on the other side who believed totally in the justness of their cause. And here's the newsflash again.... there were brave, dedicated people in the Wehrmacht, the Luftwaffe, the Kriegsmarine of the Third Reich. So what? Hell, there were brave dedicated men among the Redcoats that tried to smash the rebellious colonists of America. Not everyone fighting on one side has to be an evil person for that side to be the one that is serving evil.
McPeak is the perfect example of what Lenin would have called a "useful idiot". He drank down the Kool-Aid of communist propaganda and leftist idealism and liked its taste. And remember, he was one of the principal assets that Burns relied on in developing the series. What should that be telling everyone about the actual focus of the series?
Lastly, we hear about the dirty politics of Nixon, and a lot of coverage of the rise of the antiwar movement, and of course the Chicago riot. But in the background more than once in pictures of the antiwar movement we see what flag being flown? The flag of the VC! Again, some protestors were just antiwar, but a lot of the leadership was really pro-Hanoi, and that's kind of a significant difference that somehow has not been even hinted at so far.
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