Tuesday 25th of February 2020

the whitewashed tragedy of history...


A new American TV documentary series is rewriting the history of the Vietnam War, says John Pilger.

ONE OF the most hyped “events” of American television, The Vietnam War, has started on the PBS network. The directors are Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.  

Acclaimed for his documentaries on the Civil War, the Great Depression and the history of jazz, Burns says of his Vietnam films:

“They will inspire our country to begin to talk and think about the Vietnam war in an entirely new way."

In a society often bereft of historical memory and in thrall to the propaganda of its “exceptionalism”, Burns’ “entirely new” Vietnam War is presented as “epic, historic work”. Its lavish advertising campaign promotes its biggest backer, Bank of America, which in 1971 was burned down by students in Santa Barbara, California, as a symbol of the hated war in Vietnam.

Burns says he is grateful to “the entire Bank of America family” which “has long supported our country’s veterans”. Bank of America was a corporate prop to an invasion that killed perhaps as many as four million Vietnamese, and ravaged and poisoned a once bountiful land. More than 58,000 American soldiers were killed and around the same number are estimated to have taken their own lives.

I watched the first episode in New York. It leaves you in no doubt of its intentions right from the start.

The narrator says the War

“... was begun in good faith by decent people out of fateful misunderstandings, American overconfidence and Cold War misunderstandings."

The dishonesty of this statement is not surprising. The cynical fabrication of “false flags” that led to the invasion of Vietnam is a matter of record — the Gulf of Tonkin “incident” in 1964, which Burns promotes as true, was just one. The lies litter a multitude of official documents, notably the Pentagon Papers, which the great whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg released in 1971.

There was no good faith. The faith was rotten and cancerous. For me – as it must be for many Americans – it is difficult to watch the film’s jumble of “red peril” maps, unexplained interviewees, ineptly cut archive and maudlin American battlefield sequences.

In the series’ press release in Britain – the BBC will show it – there is no mention of Vietnamese dead, only Americans. “We are all searching for some meaning in this terrible tragedy,” Novick is quoted as saying. How very post-modern.

All this will be familiar to those who have observed how the American media and popular culture behemoth has revised and served up the great crime of the second half of the Twentieth Century: from The Green Berets and The Deer Hunter to Rambo and, in so doing, has legitimised subsequent wars of aggression. The revisionism never stops and the blood never dries. The invader is pitied and purged of guilt, while “searching for some meaning in this terrible tragedy”. Cue Bob Dylan: “Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?”

I thought about the “decency” and “good faith” when recalling my own first experiences as a young reporter in Vietnam, watching hypnotically as the skin fell off Napalmed peasant children like old parchment, and the ladders of bombs that left trees petrified and festooned with human flesh. General William Westmoreland, the American commander, referred to people as “termites”.

In the early 1970s, I went to Quảng Ngãi Province, where in the village of My Lai, between 347 and 500 men, women and infants were murdered by American troops (Burns prefers “killings”). At the time, this was presented as an aberration:'An American tragedy' (Newsweek). In this one province, it was estimated that 50,000 people had been slaughtered during the era of American “free fire zones”. Mass homicide. This was not news.

To the north, in Quảng Trị Province, more bombs were dropped than in all of Germany during the Second World War. Since 1975, unexploded ordnance has caused more than 40,000 deaths in mostly “South Vietnam”, the country America claimed to “save” and, with France, conceived as a singularly imperial ruse.

The “meaning” of the Vietnam War is no different from the meaning of the genocidal campaign against the Native Americans, the colonial massacres in the Philippines, the atomic bombings of Japan, the levelling of every city in North Korea. The aim was described by Colonel Edward Lansdale, the famous CIA man on whom Graham Greene based his central character in The Quiet American.

Quoting Robert Taber’s The War of the Flea, Lansdale said:

“There is only one means of defeating an insurgent people who will not surrender, and that is extermination. There is only one way to control a territory that harbours resistance, and that is to turn it into a desert.”

Nothing has changed. When Donald Trump addressed the United Nations on 19 September – a body established to spare humanity the “scourge of war” – he declared he was “ready, willing and able” to “totally destroy” North Korea and its 25 million people. His audience gasped, but Trump’s language was not unusual.

His rival for the presidency, Hillary Clinton, had boasted she was prepared to“totally obliterate” Iran, a nation of more than 80 million people.

This is the American Way — only the euphemisms are missing now.

Returning to the U.S., I am struck by the silence and the absence of an opposition — on the streets, in journalism and the arts, as if dissent once tolerated in the “mainstream” has regressed to a dissidence: a metaphoric underground.

There is plenty of sound and fury at Trump the odious one, the “fascist”, but almost none at Trump the symptom and caricature of an enduring system of conquest and extremism.

Where are the ghosts of the great anti-war demonstrations that took over Washington in the 1970s? Where is the equivalent of the Freeze Movement that filled the streets of Manhattan in the 1980s, demanding that President Reagan withdraw battlefield nuclear weapons from Europe?

The sheer energy and moral persistence of these great movements largely succeeded; by 1987 Reagan had negotiated with Mikhail Gorbachev anIntermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) that effectively ended the Cold War.

Today, according to secret NATO documents obtained by the German newspaper, Suddeutsche Zetung, this vital treaty is likely to be abandoned as'nuclear targeting planning is increased'.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has warned against

“... repeating the worst mistakes of the Cold War … All the good treaties on disarmament and arms control from Gorbachev and Reagan are in acute peril. Europe is threatened again with becoming a military training ground for nuclear weapons. We must raise our voice against this.”

But not in America. The thousands who turned out for Senator Bernie Sanders’ “revolution” in last year’s presidential campaign are collectively mute on these dangers. That most of America’s violence across the world has been perpetrated not by Republicans, or mutants like Trump, but by liberal Democrats, remains a taboo.

Barack Obama provided the apotheosis, with seven simultaneous wars, a presidential record, including the destruction of Libya as a modern state. Obama’s overthrow of Ukraine’s elected government has had the desired effect: the massing of American-led NATO forces on Russia’s western borderland through which the Nazis invaded in 1941.

Obama’s “pivot to Asia” in 2011 signalled the transfer of the majority of America’s naval and air forces to Asia and the Pacific for no purpose other than to confront and provoke China. The Nobel Peace Laureate’s worldwide campaign of assassinations is arguably the most extensive campaign of terrorism since 9/11.

What is known in the U.S. as “the Left” has effectively allied with the darkest recesses of institutional power, notably the Pentagon and the CIA, to see off a peace deal between Trump and Vladimir Putin, and to reinstate Russia as an enemy, on the basis of no evidence of its alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election.


The true scandal is the insidious assumption of power by sinister war-making vested interests for which no American voted. The rapid ascendancy of the Pentagon and the surveillance agencies under Obama represented an historic shift of power in Washington. Daniel Ellsberg rightly called it a coup. The three generals running Trump are its witness.

All of this fails to penetrate those 'liberal brains pickled in the formaldehyde of identity politics', as Luciana Bohne noted memorably. Commodified and market-tested, “diversity” is the new liberal brand, not the class people serve regardless of their gender and skin colour: not the responsibility of all to stop a barbaric war to end all wars.

“How did it fucking come to this?” says Michael Moore in his Broadway show,Terms of My Surrender, a vaudeville for the disaffected set against a backdrop of Trump as Big Brother.

I admired Moore’s film, Roger & Me, about the economic and social devastation of his hometown of Flint, Michigan, and Sicko, his investigation into the corruption of healthcare in America.   

The night I saw his show, his happy-clappy audience cheered his reassurance that “we are the majority!” and calls to “impeach Trump, a liar and a fascist!” His message seemed to be that had you held your nose and voted for Hillary Clinton, life would be predictable again.

He may be right. Instead of merely abusing the world, as Trump does, the Great Obliterator might have attacked Iran and lobbed missiles at Putin, whom she likened to Hitler — a particular profanity given the 27 million Russians who died in Hitler’s invasion.

“Listen up,” said Moore, “putting aside what our governments do, Americans are really loved by the world!”

There was a silence.


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the vanity fair's vietnam review of pumpkins...

"Most of the footage that Burns, Novick, and their crew had to work with was soundless. To make up for this, they layered certain battle scenes with up to 150 tracks of sound. (As Burns recalled, “We went out in the woods with AK-47s and M16s and shot up pumpkins and squash and stuff.”) They also commissioned blipping, pulsing electronic mood music from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, which they complemented with more organic contributions from the cellist Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble. "

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I have not seen the series but as emphatically described by Vanity Fair's writer, David Kamp, it seems to be another redemptive attempt at misunderstanding and rewriting political history.

God bless Yamerika... The soundless footage would have been best left with no sounds, especially NO music — even "evocative" music. Evocative music is used to chundering heights in US "guilt-erasing" drama-com (sitcom-drama) such as NCIS and other ilk... 

what are we doing at war over there?...

The late American historian and social activist, Howard Zinn, warned us that when governments kill in large numbers they always do so for a "good reason" and we must be on guard against that.

I’m particularly on guard when it comes to Australia’s military incursions. Like you, I care about what’s going on in the world and, at some point in your life, you have to decide what responsibility you have to others.

When I started writing opinion pieces on various issues many years ago, it quickly became clear to me that vigorous debate in Australia is encouraged only within the limits imposed by "unstated doctrinal orthodoxy", particularly in relation to foreign policy.

People who control what we know today are determining our future. The historical record is vital to understanding our time but difficult to access if it even exists, so I decided to focus on government documents to tease out the omissions and backstories.

When information comes from the inside there are fewer gaps and the government can’t deny it — it has to deal with it. When information doesn’t come from the inside you rely on inference and supposition from the outside to fill in the gaps, and then it’s easy for the power holder to deny and to ridicule your conclusions.

Syria seems to me to be a contemporary illustration of Australian historian Chris Clark’s stated conclusions in his book, Sleepwalkers: how Europe went to war in 1914He concluded that great powers had more than one enemy, that there was a chaotic quality of decision-making by executive structures, and that the war was a consequence of decisions made in many places with their effect being cumulative and interactive — decisions made by a gallery of actors who shared a fundamentally similar political culture. It was – and in Syria now is – genuinely complex and multipolar.

On 9 September 2015, the Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations, Gillian Birdwrote to the President of the United Nations Security Council claiming that Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations recognises the inherent right of the states to act in individual or collective self-defence where an armed attack occurs against a member of the United Nations. States must be able to act in self-defence when the government of the state where the threat is located is unwilling or unable to prevent attacks originating from its territory. She alleged that the Government of Syria had, by its failure to constrain attacks upon Iraqi territory originating from ISIL bases within Syria, demonstrated that it was unwilling or unable to prevent those attacks.

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the war temperature...

Geoffrey Murray reviews Marty Branagan's 'Global Warming, Militarism and Nonviolence', which exposes militarism as a major contributor to global warming.

AS SOMEONE WHO REPORTED the Vietnam War, including the famous Battle of Long Tan, I can relate to arguments that military activities are the main contributor to destructive global warming.

Officially, I was “on the team” supporting military efforts to prevent South Vietnam from going Communist – my masters wouldn’t have allowed anything else – yet privately appalled at the destruction of the social fabric of both parts of Vietnam and the ecology. American use of defoliants, such as Agent Orange, plus napalm and high explosive bombs raining down on a battered landscape left a horrible long-term legacy.

Of course, that’s only one example. Think of war-ravaged Iraq, transformed from a breadbasket of the Middle East to a basket case heavily dependent on food imports for survival. Branagan goes further, repeatedly punching home the message that militarism far exceeds other causes – industrial revolution, ravages of capitalism, consumerism – as a threat to the survival of Planet Earth.

Although Russia shares some of the blame, the Pentagon – a powerful symbol of the military-industrial complex – is accused, together with its allies, such as NATO, of contributing possibly 75 per cent of the ecological vandalism we see today, encouraged by profit-focused big business eager to supply the military with endless new toys.

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“we won’t be fooled again,” but instead we...

Though Ken Burns’s 10-part PBS documentary The Vietnam War doesn’t try very hard, he can’t be blamed for failing as a filmmaker even if he had. It can’t be done. There are too many Vietnam Wars to accurately portray in a documentary, even one 18 hours long. So fair enough. But Burns’ real failure is not as a documentarian per se, it is one of courage.

Burns teases us at the beginning of the series that there will be courage here, a reckoning of sorts, riffing off the final pages of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, showing war footage in reverse, so bombs return to their mother ship’s belly, rockets are sucked out of the bush back onto helicopters, and, in case the point wasn’t clear yet, the 1st Cav walks backwards onto their Hueys and departs the rice paddy. See, it’s an antiwar movie.

Well, not really, or maybe not also. Burns quickly moves on to the next test, getting all the greatest hits in. There’s the iconic image of a Vietcong prisoner being shot in the head, and Nick Ut’s photo of a naked Vietnamese girl running from a napalm raid, alongside that footage of bombs dropping, exploding Kodachrome orange against greener-than-green foliage. If the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black” hadn’t been written during Vietnam, it would be necessary to invent time travel to place it alongside the war. And yep, there’s Dylan, a hippie chick with flowers, grunts in the jungle, Marlboro hard packs and M-16s at the ready. Check, check, check—Oh, Suzy Q!

No, wait, it’s one of those balanced documentaries. Burns treats us to the trope-ish story of Ho Chi Minh foolishly writing fan letters to American presidents over the years, starting way back with Woodrow Wilson at the end of WWI, thinking the American love of freedom, ye olde tale of democracy, the experience as fellow colonialists—all of which should have bonded the United States to his side over the imperialist French. That didn’t happen, you see, so it’s ironic. There’s also a bunch of actual Vietnamese interviewed in Burns’ movie, albeit disproportionately far too many identified as formerly of the “South Vietnamese Army.” The ties to the CIA of several of those interviewed are also left obscured.

For the Americans in the audience, there’s also a dollop of “Vietnam as a test of manhood/the test of manhood is actually a metaphor for broken American dreams of the 20th century.” Burns had no choice with this one, as it is required as much as the shots of Saigon prostitutes in their tight ao dai’s. America loves the manhood story; it’s the version of Vietnam that allows us to revere a crusty old war monger like John McCain (Episode Four of Burns’ film even includes a shot of George W. Bush in the Air National Guard), and leaves people who took deferments like Donald Trump and Bill Clinton forever in shame.

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before the fake WMDs false flag...

Operation Northwoods was a proposed false flag operation against the Cuban government that originated within the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) of the United States government in 1962. The proposals called for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or other U.S. government operatives to commit acts of terrorism against American civilians and military targets, blaming it on the Cuban government, and using it to justify a war against Cuba. The plans detailed in the document included the possible assassination of Cuban émigrés, sinking boats of Cuban refugees on the high seas, hijacking planes, blowing up a U.S. ship, and orchestrating violent terrorism in U.S. cities.[2] The proposals were rejected by the Kennedy administration.[3]

At the time of the proposal, communists led by Fidel Castro had recently taken power in Cuba. The operation proposed creating public support for a war against Cuba by blaming it for terrorist acts that would actually be perpetrated by the U.S. Government.[4] To this end, Operation Northwoods proposals recommended hijackings and bombings followed by the introduction of phony evidence that would implicate the Cuban government. It stated:

The desired resultant from the execution of this plan would be to place the United States in the apparent position of suffering defensible grievances from a rash and irresponsible government of Cuba and to develop an international image of a Cuban threat to peace in the Western Hemisphere.

Several other proposals were included within Operation Northwoods, including real or simulated actions against various U.S. military and civilian targets. The operation recommended developing a "Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington".

The plan was drafted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, signed by Chairman Lyman Lemnitzer and sent to the Secretary of Defense. Although part of the U.S. government's anti-communist Cuban Project, Operation Northwoods was never officially accepted; it was authorized by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but then rejected by President John F. Kennedy. According to currently released documentation, none of the operations became active under the auspices of the Operation Northwoods proposals.

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The recently released batch of files related to the Kennedy assassination includes a curious document revealing secret plans by the US government to purchase or build Soviet aircraft for the purpose of staging false flag attacks on the US or its allies, thus giving Washington the pretext it needed to go to war with Moscow or its allies.

According to the partially declassified document, a March 22, 1962 meeting attended by the Special Group Augmented (SGA), a high-level Kennedy administration committee charged with overthrowing the Cuban government, included a discussion on the different possibilities for obtaining Soviet planes. 

The SGA group, which formally included Attorney General Robert Kennedy, CIA Director John McCone, National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Lyman Lemnitzer, could also be attended by Secretary of State Dean Rusk and President Kennedy himself.

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out of line, devious, lying con man...

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, speaking during a trip to Vietnam, has urged China's neighbours to resist coercion, warning the entire region would suffer if their sovereignty were undermined.

Key points:
  • The PM made a veiled swipe at China's aggression in the South China Sea
  • While business is the focus of his visit to Vietnam, but China is the subtext
  • Australia is seeking to diversify as China is its biggest trading partner


In a thinly-veiled swipe at Beijing's aggression in the South China Sea, Mr Morrison has used a speech he gave in Hanoi to emphasise the importance of an "open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific neighbourhood".

"An Indo-Pacific where we respect each other's sovereignty and independence, because if we allow the sovereignty or independence of any of our neighbours to suffer coercion, then we are all diminished," he said.

"We share a deep interest in the stability and prosperity of our region."

Mr Morrison's visit comes at a time of rising tensions in the South China Sea where Beijing has been accused of repeated incursions into Vietnamese-controlled waters, most recently sending an oil survey ship through Hanoi's exclusive economic zone.


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Has there been an invasion threat of Vietnam from China?

"We" (our idiots in charge) tend to forget that Vietnam IS  a communist country. That the West is trying to woo it back after that devastating war waged by the West is corrupt. The West only survives because of deceit and corruption (and debt), not that that there is no deceit and corruption in the Chinese or Vietnamese systems, but the West plays the hypocritical card of "righteous values for money" (on credit)... Scummo is a dead-shit, pentecostal, out of line, devious, lying con man... He used to be in advertising. This should say it all when the guy becomes a politician.


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