Vietnam: An Independent Study (July 10)
The Vietnam Wars (Chapter Five (1963))
A brief look at the press coverage and how it was negatively impacting the war (except for the positive fluff pieces), but more an analysis Diem and his resistance to US advice. Reading about Diem’s concerns, he really does seem like a nationalist, which is what Ho Chi Minh is, but to Minh I imagine Diem seemed like a US puppet... and even more interesting is that some in the US were concerned the US was a puppet to Diem because he took their resources but not their advice. Oh, self-interested clouded perceptions.
Following the Televised History (part 3) I read more about the Buddhist protesting and it provided much more context. Basically, Diem favoured the Catholics and this had been alienating the majority Buddhists. On Buddha's birthday, Diem's government troops would conduct sweeps each year. In 1963, there was a ban on the flying of any flat but the national one. Buddhist defied this in their villages, there was a clash and 9 Buddhists died when the troops fired on the crowd. Two days later, 10,000 Buddhists marched to protest the killings, Diem jailed the leaders - a move the US opposed. Publicly, the turning point was when the 66 Buddhist set himself on fire as this called attention to the issue around the world. One almost has to ask "why would someone set themselves on fire?"
This chapter had a bit more editorializing and we see Americans unwilling or unable to accept the notion of a political settlement and a non-US controlled, neutral South Vietnam (Diem’s brother even thought of negotiating with the North). Diem and his brother ended up dead. Young presents it as the US let the assignation happen, but the Televised history indicates they offered Diem an out but he was defiant. Ah, history...
An example of the complexity of the war can be seen in Kennedy's question to two advisers who had just reported on their experiences in Vietnam: Do you go to the same country?
Young makes an important point regarding the labeling of the Viet Cong. Attempting concision, the US thought it was creating a new state in South Vietnam instead of it really being 1/2 an old country that had long been fighting for its independence. Consequently, the US believed resistance to the government in South Vietnam couldn't have come from the South, it must be from the North. This resistance was called the National Liberation Front (NLF) and it was thought to be supported by Hanoi (the North). The fact that NLF had soldiers that were recruited locally didn't matter for "in the act of joining the NLF a villager become a Viet Cong, and thus an outsider. American reporters, like American government officials, never referred to the members of the NLF, civilian or military as South Vietnamese.
Chickenhawk (65% completed)
Mason discusses his denial about the politics of how the US got into Vietnam (obviously a retrospective), that the he thought 80% of the population support Ho Chi Minh except in the US controlled cities. It's about January 1966, and there are more tales of military operations and the different perspectives from grunts on pilots. An amusing story is when Mason tells of Nancy Sinatra's These Boots were made for walking being interrupted by some Viet Cong who tapped into the broadcasting frequency and would repeated say "F--k you GI!" They couldn't help but find it absurdly funny and the reader ends up feeling the same way.
Good Morning Vietnam (1987) Directed by Levinson, Starring Robin Williams.
This dramatic comedy takes place in 1965, and the first thing was noticing Forest Whitaker is in this (I had completely forgotten) and, forgive the esoterica, the guard in T2 who dies getting his coffee is in it (with his twin).
It was a comedy with few political messages, the primary one being that of censorship, as well as at one point an emotional Vietnamese who is found out to support the Viet Cong forcefully and emotionally tells Robin Williams that the US was the enemy.
A lot of it certainly was Williams doing improve, the stuff on the radio was better than that in jeep. What was really interesting (spoiler) was that the guy doesn’t get the girl which is so odd for movies, even of this type. It also ended a bit abruptly. Decent flick, but the plot was kind of thin.