Over the past couple of months we've run several articles here on Ken Burns The Vietnam War documentary.
There was no effort to balance the comments, but to regular readers of this blog, you understand muleorations attracts readers of the Duty, Honor and Country persuasion. Who take their patriotism seriously, almost as a religion. Don't make light of Jesus on the cross. Don't in any way disrespect our Flag. And we'll get along.
Among the disciples of my Patriotism religion is Mark Smith aka the Zip. He and I together began collecting reactions on the Burns series from those worthy of our cause to put in the series.
What follows below is the Zipper's final word.
Don Nichols, far left, in one of the few known pictures of the man
Some of the angst from Vets that a known liberal was goin' go on for 18 hours on his idea of Their War, seems to have subsided. Other than individual comments I and Zippo receive, and that are posted on this thread, there's no buzz out there in media land about the series. I don't know the viewer numbers, but I wouldn't be surprised if there is lagging interest across the country. Vietnam has gone from what one friend described as a "big mess" to just a big yawn. Maybe it's me but I don't hear as many boos anymore, or much applause.
There is the idea that Burns is making the case that the US men and women who answered their country's call and went to Vietnam - all 3 million of them - executed bad US policy and appropriately lost. Bill Sullivan was one of the top dozen or so war planners in the Kennedy/LBJ administration. He's what he had to say in retirement: “The great irony of our involvement in Vietnam is that we were better off having lost the war than we would have been if we had won it.”
Burns would probably agree, comparing the efforts of those valiant young American boys and girls who went to war in southeast Asia, to maybe the brown shirts in German in the mid 1930s who went to the streets to promote Hilter's policies.
That's one way to look at the Vietnam experience, that history making overarching look, but that shows no signs of sweat, and fear, and friendships and acts of courage, and the taste of a cold beer in middle of a hot jungle, or the challenges and rush of adrenaline in times of danger or the act of listening for the enemy like an animal on a jungle floor in the middle of the night. Meaty, men stuff. Not politics and policy work. I ask you as an individual, which is the more meaningful human experience?
Here are a couple of comments that have come in recently on the series, starting with what Dennis Myers' had to say. He and I returned to UNC after our combat tour in Vietnam. Me with the 1st Division, Dennis with Special Forces:
First the Bad:
This individual who has reached into the history bind that has a trillion items on the Vietnam War and selected a few to convey his idea of what went on is a strong, enthusiastic, lifelong supporter of the Democratic Party, with almost $180,000 in political donations. The Democratic National Committee chose Burns to produce an introductory video for Senator Edward Kennedy's August 2008 speech to the Democratic National Convention, a video described by Politico as a "Burns-crafted tribute casting him [Kennedy] as the modern Ulysses bringing his party home to port. In August 2009, Kennedy died, and Burns produced a eulogy video for, and again at, his funeral for the Kennedy Estate. He strongly endorsed Barack Obama for the U.S. presidency in December 2007 comparing Obama on multiple occasions to Abraham Lincoln.
He will tell you he is a master film maker, but resolute in his political beliefs.
Hard to image that he can be objective on such a political issue as Vietnam.
Now the Good:
Zippo, who started this thread last week, recommends the following link:
It's Dr James Willbank talking. He is a former Infantryman who contributed to the Ken Burns series and feels Burns and his co-producer did a good job.
Zippo said that in all his past dealing, he found the good Dr. Willbank to be a creditable historian and went on to say, "I may not agree with him but neither do I think he can be bought."
Willbank said that Burns' series is objective.
Also another friend, Mike Haas, author and retired USAF Special Operations Colonel said that he has found much to like about the series, and the way it has answered some questions he has harbored for years.
On Tuesday September 19, 2017, The New York Post ran an article written by a former Assistant Secretary of Defense, Bing West, titled Missing from Ken Burns’ ‘Vietnam’: The Patriotism and Pride of those who Fought.
Mr West asked a mutual friend to pass on the article to me.
I, in turn, recommend it to you and to others you know who might have an objective interest in our war. It is a benchmark piece.
A magazine, now web site, that has always been true to the spirit of the Army grunt in Vietnam is Soldier of Fortune. It's founder, owner and senior editor is Lt. Col (ret) Bob Brown, a friend of mine. Like Zippo, our guide-on in these discussions on the upcoming Ken Burns series, and Alan Dawson and Helen Murphy mentioned previously, I trust Bob Brown's opinions.
What follows are some thoughts from a Vietnam vet friend of his that Bob re-sent to a few of his buddies. He recommended it to us as something "worth the read."
I, in turn, recommend it to you.
For those not familiar with Maggie's Farm, well they're pretty clever out there and not tied to convention. Here's what they have to say about themselves:
"We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for."
Up until this day I had never heard of Maggie's Farm, or tried to figure them out. I was turned on to them by Alan Dawson, a journalist who started out a Canadian, before taking American citizenship, who has lived most of his life in Bangkok. He was among the journalist in Saigon at the very end and has a history of reporting pomposity and wrongheadedness with official US tactics/policies in SEA through the latter part of the last century. So far he has never has had an opinion that I didn't agree with.