Monday, July 12, 2010

Vietnam: An Independent Study (July 12)

Vietnam: A Television History - Part 4 1965-1967
This segment begins with the repeated framing that the war was to stop communists from taking over and that the advisory effort had failed. Annoyingly there is no questioning or contextualizing this and especially the 'advisory' effort.
It showed a US propaganda film and former soldiers discussed the complexity of Vietnam and how some ARVN wouldn’t fight. Basically the same people, one group won't fight and the other (VC) will fight to the death. Why? This is a question that wasn't really asked to their superiors.
One soldier said that most of the time they were dealing with mines and snipers while the villagers kept harvesting rice... therefore they must be VC sympathizers. It was hard not to see all the Vietnamese as the enemy.
The destruction of villages and people's homes really does seem absurd. I understand the tactics but it still seems like there should have been a better way (i.e., negotiated settlement)
There was a good interview with a guy realizing that maybe they were on the wrong side but he said that one didn't think about this at the time. Later we see him tearfully saying he does have nightmares about killing an old woman who was unarmed and running away in a rice field.
On January, 1967, there was a dramatic firefight in a village and we get to hear the story from both sides.
Americans were shot at for 36 hours, 19/11 died, they didn't know who was who and they were in panic mode.
The Vietnamese said they burned their houses, shot their farm animals and even burned the children they just killed so they couldn't even treat the body. An old woman spoke about Americans coming into her hut and then throwing a grenade in it and killing her 9 family members, she being the only one that survived. She didn't seem to understand why they would do it. Another man, who was a boy at the time, said things were so horrible he couldn't even say (he was only alive because when he was shot other dead people fell on him and he hid).
One American said he cared only about his comrades and it was almost like he was convincing himself that what he did was right. He also said "I didn’t shoot old ladies and kids... half the guys in my squad didn’t, because that wasn’t the fight." It really seemed like he didn't realize he implied that the other half did!
There was another veteran interviewed (in a wheelchair). He was drafted, young, self-described as naive and was in this odd situation where he realized people were going to kill him. He said he say 5-6 US dead before they shot at any VC due to their own errors. People would be shot in the back because the person behind them tripped or hit the trigger. It's just so absurd.
One of my favourite parts was this guy speaking out loud about his thoughts back then when he started to think that perhaps they might not be on the right side if the people are working so hard to fight them. “I started thinking for the first time... what the hell is communism. I couldn’t even define it.”

Chickenhawk 80% completed
Mason tells more stories of whoring, drinking, and friends dying. We also hear about his unit being shelled by the VC and almost dying. As well, that many of the troops thought the war would be over soon. McNamara said it might be over next year so some of the boys wouldn't even finish their tour (approx a year).
Mainly because of how he tells it, there is a funny story about Mason and a prostitute where he asks if she is sick down there. The girl is offended "Me sick? No!" ... and he later gets VD.
Democracy wasn't the only thing that was being spread. Hiyooooo


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