Burns’ Vietnam: Other Problems and Lies... Vietnam lies by Ken Burns. More factual contradictions to the Ken Burns false historical 'objectivity' that is trying to sustain American myths about the Vietnam War...

Among the many half-truths and outright lies promulgated in the Ken Burns series "The Vietnam War" is the notion that the anti-war movement was somehow also immoral because some of its cadres (many of whom were induced by police agent provocateurs to violence) was somehow equal to the violence utilized by the U.S. government both in Vietnam and in the USA. I found the 9th and 10th episodes to be the most egregiously wrong and sometimes disgusting. In order to overcome the fog of lies that follows the fog of war in Vietnam (in the context of U.S. and French imperialism, the "Second Indochina War"), viewers and especially teachers will have to re-engage with history and insist that there is no such thing as fatuous "objectivity" in the fact of something as atrocious as the American War against Vietnam. For example:

-- Why does Burns utilize the war criminal who participated in Operation Phoenix, a massive, illegal action within an illegal war, that killed somewhere far more than the 20 thousand Vietnamese, supported his actions--and is now a judge? The CIA's William Colby (who later became CIA chief in Washington) led the Phoenix Program. Colby remained respectable and later became head of the CIA. Later, he revealed the “Family Jewels.”

-- Among the Jewels, but left out of Burns’ Vietnam, was Cointelpro, an intelligence operation coordinated between the FBI and the CIA that included murder, drugging unsuspecting people, black propaganda, targeting radicals and leftist in the US (including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) and massive propaganda in the corporate press again anti war protesters.

-- The hysteric MD, Hal Kushner, who was held as a POW was, indeed, a war criminal. He had been doing his war from a helicopter when he was captured. Also criminals were the bomber and other pilots who were held as POWs. The fact that he is given more screen time in the Burns version of the Vietnam war than all of the anti-war GIs combined exposes a great deal about the biases Burns and his team brought to their version of the history.

A good example of how biased is the Ken Burns version of Vietnam comes when the viewer asks why one POW -- Hal Kushner -- is given more screen time in the show than all of the anti-war soldiers and Marines (and later, sailors and airmen) who actually forced the Nixon administration to begin the all-volunteer Army, ending the Draft. The general strike of those in the "service" against the war (which included massive resistance to the war on at least six aircraft carriers) is almost whited out by Ken Burns, while Kushner's versions of reality are highlighted. -- The notion that people living in the South, under the US’ created and controlled puppet government were “freer” than those in the North is preposterous (as is the endlessly repeated lie that the North and South were real, separate and distinct countries--the north communists).

Obviously, for example, conscripts in the puppet Southern army did not want to be there, and fled when they could. NLF and VC troops were overwhelmingly committed to the ideology the NLF leadership put forward--peasant nationalism with a small dose of “equality” that was, to a considerable degree, practiced in the Ho/Giap led military.

It’s simply wrong to overplay a divide between Ho Chi Minh, Giap, and Le Duan. They were all fighting to end the division of Vietnam, which had been artificially imposed when the United States condoned the refusal of the “South” to hold the 1956 elections (because Ho Chi Minh would have been elected) while condoning the government of the Diem and Nhu families.

The only fundamental truth presented in episode nine: We were fighting on the wrong side.

Episode ten was, notably, worse.

-- There is no mention of the reparations promised to Vietnam, but never paid (that doesn’t get noted untl the vey end of the series, and almost in passing). -- There is no mtnion of the Long Binh Jail (“LBJ”) prison uprising by the GIs. Prisons to hold GI’s who disobeyed (illegal within a illegal war) orders were jailed all of the south, but the biggest jail was Long Binh Jail where forced labor and torture in sweat boxes was common. The prison was overcrowded: nearly 750 men in a jail built for 400. The prison was known, famously, as LBJ.

-- In August, 1968 (after Tet, the murder of Dr King, Kennedy, urban uprisings all over the US) the Long Binh prisoners, not surprisingly mostly black, rebelled. The uprising lasted more than a week. The jail was destroyed. More than 100 court martails were levied. After the uprising, which received nearly no mention in the US press, conditions improved at Long Binh.

-- On a parallel note, there is no mention of the thousands of “bad conduct” discharges the US services handed out, effectively destroying the lives of, mostly, draftees -- most of them suffering from PTSD. It was not until 2014 that the US government began to re-think that policy and offer some of those living a re-examination. -- What George Schmidt has rightly called a “general strike” of US troops, is grossly underplayed, setting aside the profoundly political, and passionate, underpinnings of the actions. See the film, “Sir No Sir,” online at

One of the most dishonest versions of reality in the Ken Burns Vietnam story is when Burns creates a false equivalence between the National Guardsmen who murdered students at Kent State and the protesting students. According to Burns, both groups were "frightened young people" -- ignoring the fact that the young people in the National Guard with loaded weapons were dodging the Vietnam Draft (in those days, National Guardsmen like Richard M Daley and George W Bush didn't get sent to Vietnam for combat) while the students were protesting in broad daylight without violence.-- Following the end of the American war, the Vietnamese did, as per Burns, invade Cambodia in the late seventies. They did so to stop the Khmer Rouge, authors of the “Killing Fields,” that is, the murder of about 2 million Cambodians, from continuing their deadly policies.

That the Khmer Rouge came into existence because of the US bombing of Cambodia, and the fact that the US paid for and supported the Khmer Rouge as they later conducted a guerrilla war against Vietnam for more than 20 years, is wiped out.

-- The idea that today Vietnam’s countryside is for the most part alright was contradicted moments later by the narrator offering a side note indicating the country is littered with unexploded ordinance and land destroyed by Agent Orange--set aside the tens of thousands of wounded and disabled Vietnamese.

-- The focus on US’ MIA’s, which leaves the matter up in the air--is without any basis. The US long ago admitted there are none, and further, that Vietnam had made every effort to locate bodies of US soldiers. Everyone who knows anything about any war knows that there will always be “MIAs” – as bodies can be obliterated (by artillery for example) or simply disappear quickly in a hot jungle. The false narrative about retrieving all “MIAs” was part of the Big Lie followup to the Vietnam War promulgated by Reaganites and draft dodgers like Sylverster Stallone.

-- Highlighting US senators John Kerry (cold warrior, hot warrior, political war criminal), John McCain (bomber pilot--see above) and especially Bob Kerry who wrote that as a leader of Navy Seals, he found killing Vietnamese civilians like “drowning cats”.

-- Absent in Burns is the indisputable fact that tens of thousands of young Americans became radicals during the war in Vietnam, reading Marx, Lenin, Lukacs, Mao, Sun Tzu, Giap, and many others. Some developed a fairly sophisticated analysis of capitalism, imperialism, racism, and later, sexism. Perhaps one in fifty never gave up. But the ideas remain and proliferate, despite Burns’ (and American education) efforts to obliterate them.

Witless patriotism, particularly in regard to the Vietnam Wall fetish, is written all over every aspect of Burns’ work, on both sides.

-- The conclusion, a rendering of the billionaire Beatles’ John Lennon’s song, “Let it Be,” is exactly what should not happen in a nation writhing in color coded inequality and promising endless war, led by political, economic, and military classes who are simply not fit to lead anything.

Reconciliation with what is now a fascist state? Hell No.

Read Marx. Make class war versus the empire. The Vietnamese proved we could, all, win.