Sunday, July 11, 2010

Vietnam: An Independent Study (July 11)

Vietnam: A Televised History - Part 3 - LBJ Goes to War (1965-1966)
Opens with clips of Kennedy and LBJ describing the domino theory; interesting to see footage of helicopters firing (as Chickenhawk obviously has no visuals); and LBJ mentions his war on poverty.
The doc stated that both parties had intensified support, VC stepped up their attacks and then they show little children being hurt or crying. I dislike this lack of context. Exactly what happened?
One good line was when an interviewee said "The final domino is not some Asian country but the presidency itself."
There was also an excellent explanation of the gulf of Tonkin incident, primarily because of the visuals. Basically, early morning July 31st, there were two attacks from South Vietnam against two small islands in the North (with CIA support). The next day the US Maddox was patrolling around the area, sometimes as close as five miles (not international waters). The next day, August 2nd, the Maddox was 10 miles off one of the islands raided early and the North linked this with the South attacks and attacked 6 hours later. A second incident was said to have happened, the North has always denied it and then the doc shows a deputy director of the CIA saying at the time he was unsure and then several days later believed it was unsound/unsupported. This incident was used by LBJ to push a 'war against Vietnam' resolution through (only 2 dissented out of the congress AND senate) and was able to remove the war as a campaign issue.
The doc describes three attacks on US in as many months and how various people within the US wanted to bomb the North (but Johnson resisted). Problematically, the doc doesn’t present what bombing/military actions were being taken against the North (as I now know this was already happening a bit) or against the NLF.... and why bomb the north?
George Bell remarks that bombing the North wouldn't be like it was with the Nazis in WWII because the North had no industry to destroy and the people were more determined.
The viewer is show footage of a bridge being bombed year after year (such is war I guess).
US troops were sent in to defend air base, but then given permission to patrol and kill VC. The press asked about this change in policy and it was shrugged off (almost with a good defense is offence line).
The doc gives the impression that Ho didn’t negotiate and turnd the US down (on a damming project). This seems peculiar and there is no mention of the US repeated denying the North's attempts to negotiate.
The doc quotes LBJ as saying "American wins the wars it is in... the war on ignorance... the war on poverty..." I don't know if I laughed out loud, but it was just so comical.
There was little analysis in this part so it was a bit disappointing for history without context is close to useless.

Air War in Vietnam (one hour doc from the Modern Combat series)
This is pretty much an apolitical American-centric presentation of the airplanes and helicopters used in Vietnam. At the beginning we hear America lost the war but it is framed as America helping the south from the North.
More bombs dropped than in WWII
The battle of Khe Sanh lasted 77 days. I know battles in other wars have lasted for months if not years but it still seems so absurd to think about.
It did seem like there was some generic “Asian” music for the Vietnamese scenes and more powerful music of the American ones.
At the end of the war there is the introduction of night vision from planes.
The lines at the end of the doc are worth quoting: "Tens of thousands of men fought in the skies above Vietnam and millions of rounds of ammunition were fired for very few tangible results."
Finally, it is "highly unlikely such a one-sided war in the air will ever be fought again."

Chickenhawk (70% done)
Not many notes but an important one: Mason describes the sophistication of a bench and a waterwheel (actually from previous part) and realizes that these villagers aren't so simple-minded and perhaps they are at the height of their designs given their level of technology. He was so impressed with a bench because it didn't have any nails in it yet it could support his weight. His fellow soldier wasn't because they were obviously too dumb to have nails.
Other than that, some missions and stories of drinking and whoring (trips were pretty much organized in the surrounding countries for when they had time off).

The Vietnam Wars (Chapter six (1963-1964))
A description of the movement to bomb the North even though internal documents indicate that it wouldn't change the war in the South. There were detractors and warnings that it would be in effective, but it was thought the threat of force would cause the North to cease operations/support for the South (which was a misunderstanding of the situation).
Gulf of Tonkin coverage was a little different from the Televised History, but basically similar. Young doesn't mince words "that was it; the first and only incident in the Gulf of Tonkin"
She really makes clear that Tonkin was used to give the President powers that Congress usually doesn't bestow (i.e., to wage war) and how there was little dissent among the politicians and some not even caring about the truth of the matter. Some politicians felt betrayed and lied to when the truth came out years later. Additionally, reporters did not question the validity of the Tonkin incident or whether the response was appropriate.
I may have been more skeptical had I not lived through the media and politics surrounding the invasion of Iraq. Sketchy intel and and unquestioning press?
It really seems like they don't learn from their own history.


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