Ms. Song Chi on RFA (English Translation)

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Ms Song Chi on RFA

RFA Viet 25 Sept 17

"The Vietnam War," an 18-hour television documentary film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, was first aired on the Public Broadcasting Service in the United States on September 17th. It was mostly about America’s war in Vietnam. We know that the filmmakers took 10 years to make the film, interviewed 79 Americans who either fought in or protested the war, and also Vietnamese soldiers and civilians from both the North and the South. The huge volume of photos and documents they had to deal with can only be imagined.   So, 42 years after the war has ended, Americans and Vietnamese once again are looking back at the war, with its vivid images -- brutal, bloody, and painful. The first general impression of this writer is still that it is an American film about the Vietnam War, which has revealed the mistakes and crimes of Americans, especially the US government, and tapped into the mood of the politicians, presidents, and Americans who had participated in or opposed the war, and exposed the deep divisions within the United States throughout the war as well as all the consequences of the war --for the United States. But the film has not done so on the Vietnamese side, either with the South Vietnamese or the Viet Cong.

The image of the Republic of Vietnam is shallow, under-valued, even downplayed, from the leadership down to the soldiers, while the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese images (the two names refer to the North Vietnamese army and the Southern Front (GPND);  the following will use only the name Viet Cong for both) have received some emphasis, but only superficially. The truth about the communists has not been explored. It's unclear whether American generations before or now, when watching film, feel that the film has answered their questions or relieved their feelings about the war. But for the Vietnamese, whether they are the winners or the losers, and their descendants, there are certainly reasons to disagree with the film.

For South Vietnamese, it is because the image of the Republic of Vietnam regime has not been fairly presented.

Throughout the the film, you see only Americans fighting the VC, fighting the battles, what was on the minds of American soldiers, the losses ... while you don’t see the Republic of Vietnam’s army.. During the  period after entering the "Vietnamization of the war", that is, Vietnamese fighting Vietnamese, the film mainly focused on exploiting the contradictions, the divisions had become fierce in America. The film devotes a lot of praise to the iron will of the Hanoi leadership, their spirit of discipline, their determination to fight, the fighting quality of the communists; in contrast, very rarely was there praise for the Republic of Vietnam or their army.

Rarely was there such statements as: "Many of the ARVN units fought well, and as of mid-1969, 90,000 people were killed." An Loc recaptured Quang Tri in South Vietnam during the hot summer of 1972, etc. "Americans rarely acknowledged their bravery. We despised them, exaggerated their weaknesses, because we wanted to show off our talents. "(Excerpt from interview with Tom Vallery-Marines)

But, in fact, exaggerating the weakness of the Republic of Vietnam or the ARVN was intended to justify the Americans. For example, the justification for sending US troops into Vietnam in the 1960s was that Saigon could collapse, and the negative assessment of President Ngo Dinh Diem was an excuse for America ignoring or even encouraging the Ngo Dinh Diem coup.

The leftists or anti-war factions will always talk about the weaknesses of the Republic of Vietnam or the mistakes of the US government, but the truth about the errors and crimes of the VC are forgotten. As a matter of fact, the massacres at Mau Than, assassinations, bombings, and terrorist attacks by the Viet Cong that took place in Saigon, the big cities in the South, and the countryside during the 60s and 70s of the 20th century were never mentioned.

And there are many true stories that were documented a long time ago, but the film did not include them. For example, why did Nguyen Ngoc Loan, the commander of the South Vietnamese National Police at that time, execute the Viet Cong sabature Nguyen Van Lém on the streets of Saigon (later the author of the photo that shocked the world , reporter Eddie Adams, publicly apologized to Nguyen Ngoc Loan and expressed regret for the impact that the picture had on the life of the general); or why the character Kim Phuc in the famous picture "Napalm Baby" that was used by the Vietnamese government as a "war witness" and who was sent to Cuba to study, later seek asylum in Canada rather than just leave Vietnam to settle in Canada?

Half of the truth is not Truth. Regarding the Vietnam War, there are many things that the world only knows “half” of. Unfortunately, after more than 40 years, an elaborate documentary like "The Vietnam War" did not make that clear enough to show any objectivity/ open mindedness on the part of the filmmakers.   As for the Communist Party, they also have many reasons not to like the film. Whether or not many people already know the information in the film, Hanoi still does not want what they have propagated for so long, through generations of Vietnamese people, exposed. From the purges of the early communist party of all non-communist individuals and organizations, though the casualties were often higher than those from the enemy, through the Mau Than massacre and the erroneous and subjective “overall progress” at Mau Than that killed tens of thousands of soldiers, not counting civilians, in two subsequent defeats, to the wrong policies after the war ... The Vietnamese people who are propagandized and educated about the "holy war against America that liberated the South," will be able to understand why the Americans lost, the South Vietnamese lost and the communists won. In a war, when one side is always wondering, always questioning, always affected by the reaction of people (the anti-war movement in America or the anti-American protest in Saigon), while on the other side’s  only goal is to beat the other, to always be optimistic, to achieve victory, while the failures, the number of casualties, the number of deaths are never mentioned ... the party must certainly win.   Communists do not care about the price of blood or bone, or time, time is on their side, and that is what American people, the American public, never allows their government to forget. When American people want something, they jump into Vietnam to get it, when they have to withdraw, they find ways, including sleeping with North Vietnam, shaking hands with China, selling out allies.

Finished watching the film, believing that perhaps, except for the Vietnamese government, the ones who are drunk with the victories of the past or ignorant due to lack of information, most Vietnamese on the winning side or the losing side, whether they lived through the war or were born and grew up in the post-war period, feel pain, pity, and bitterness because of the grim fate of Vietnam. This nation has experienced a period of constant warfare, in which this war was an irreparable  tragedy, not only devastating to the country for many years but also leaving its wounds and scars to this day; the divisiveness  that has continued until now is due to the wrong policies of the winning side. Bitterness is a price that is too great to be paid just to put Vietnam on the world map as an independent country.  The freedom and happiness of the people has not been achieved.

There are many "ifs,” but it can be summed up that if the communist party had not wrested the government from Tran Trong Kim in 1945, the entire path of this country, this nation, would be different. And this war, as well as the war with the Khmer Rouge, and with China, would not have happened.

But history does not use the word, “If’  ...What's more, it's worth looking at now and in the future, that Americans have done a good job analysing the Vietnam War, not covering up their mistakes, or hiding their crimes. They have repented--both those who participated in the war and those who opposed the war characterizing the soldiers in very degrading language. They also built a memorial wall carved with the names of 58,000 Americans to commemorate those who fell, and vowed never to allow a second “Vietnam War.”

As for the Vietnamese people? The Communist Party has never dared to look back on history. History for them is history written in their own mind, regardless of the facts, even after more than four decades have passed. Not looking back on the past, not looking at reality, it is impossible to learn anything, or to escape the ghosts of the past. The problem is that the Communist Party, with so many wrongs and crimes, of course does not have the courage and the wisdom to repent, to wake up.  But but who among Vietnamese people, regardless of whether they belong to the party or not, dares to analyze the painful history of the past and present, to gain the right to decide the destiny, the future of the country, and to place it the hands of the people?
  • This article does not represent the views of Radio Free Asia