After everything, after all 18 hours of Ken Burns’ and Lynn Novicks’ epic 10-part documentary of the Vietnam War, what was their conclusion?
They framed it this way: the war was a terrible thing; leaders on each side of the war lied to and deceived their people; both sides did very bad things to the other side and to innocent people in the middle; and people who had fought each other in brutal battles and survived could still ultimately find ways to shake hands and even embrace years afterwards.
Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees! Although there is some truth to these points, their 10-part series—and I watched every one—ended up being an exercise in obfuscation and denial. And what was so insidious about it is that they actually reported accurately in the very first episode the truth which should have led to the right conclusion: that the United States should never have supported the French in their efforts to maintain brutal colonial rule over Vietnam after World War II, and that it should never have moved in to replace the French as a brutal occupying power after the French were forced to leave in 1954.
Why did the US do this? It isn’t complicated. Two quotes from 1954 make it plain:
“It is rich in many raw materials such as tin, oil, rubber and iron ore. . . The area has great strategic value. . . It has major naval and air bases.”
-Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, March 29, 1954
“”One of the world’s richest areas is open to the winner in Indochina. That’s behind the growing U.S. concern. . . tin, rubber, rice, key strategic raw materials are what the war is really about. The U.S. sees it as a place to hold—at any cost.” -US News & World Report, April 4, 1954