Next in line for 'balance' will be Hitler, whose intention were 'good' according to the Burns balancing act... Historians and activists weigh in against Ken Burns's lies about America in Vietnam...

One of the most dramatic protests against the U.S. imperialist attack on Vietnam came in April 1971, when veterans organized "Operation Dewey Canyon III." As part of that protest, combat veterans threw their medals across at the U.S. capitol in protest against the war that was continuing under the Nixon administration. Photo above courtesy of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). One of the greatest lies of all is that tyrants did their deeds for the "best intentions" -- and that is precisely what Ken Burns is peddling in his latest foray into history, his Vietnam story. But even before the Burns fables finish their initial run on America's "public" propaganda network (consider how BPS and NPR cover "education reform" for some insight, or remember how much nonsense was published there in praise of corporate "reform" and Arne Duncan), those of us who worked to end the evil American aggression into Vietnam during the 1960s and 1970s are weighing in.

Burns's Vietnam War propaganda and its bias of so-called "balance" is almost as odious as the way he used one pro-Confederate historian (Shelby Foote) to explain the Civil War in Burns's Civil War production. In that context, Burns sent hundreds of thousands of readers to the Foote version of "history" that was really Confederate propaganda.

For teachers, a major tool for challenging the Ken Burns apologetics for U.S. Imperialism in Vietnam (and the rest of "Indochina") can be found in Rich Gibson's curriculum. "Each semester, I have the opportunity to teach for about six hours about the Vietnam wars," Rich wrote to Substance recently. "I created a web site that is helpful to me and available to the students permanently. Perhaps it will be useful to others"

The best critique of the current Burns propaganda that I have read so far is below, a series of comments that has been trending on Facebook courtesy of Portside. This reporter, who worked for more than seven years within the "G.I. Movement" against the war in Vietnam, agrees with those who charge that Burns's work is hypocritical and that the United States was continuing the Western imperial project during the "Second Indochina War."

The comments below are the beginning of a lengthy discussion. I hope that people will in particular note the wry takedown of Burns by proposing that Burns's next work will be to "balance" the history of Hitler. One of the most insidious lies of recent centuries is that someone's "good intentions" can overcome the evil of what that person does.

Anti-Vietnam War Activists Comment on Burns’ Sentimental Lies About Vietnam, by Lemisch; Gehan; Collins; McReynolds; Mirelowitz; Young

September 20, 2017, Portside

The current PBS series on the war in Vietnam is stirring discussion throughout the country on the U.S. war in Vietnam; the longest war in Afghanistan; and now Donald Trump's threat to use nuclear weapons to annihilate the people of North Korea.

Portside readers have responded to posts about the series in emails and posts on Facebook. Here are comments by Portside readers on the Burns and Novick series. Reposting by Portside is with permission of the writers.

By the late 1960s, protests against the Vietnam War included "Gold Star Mothers" (mothers of children who had been killed in combat). As the anti-war movement grew, so did the participation of mothers and fathers who had lost their sons to the U.S. imperialist adventure in Vietnam. Waist deep in the Big Muddy; And the big fool says to push on; Waist deep in the Big Muddy; And the big fool says to push on; Waist deep! Neck deep! Soon even a Tall man'll be over his head, we're Waist deep in the Big Muddy!, Waist Deep in the Big Muddy by Pete Seeger, Burns’s Sentimental Lies About Vietnam

Burns tugs at our heartstrings on behalf of Americans, not Vietnamese. His fiddles steal our music to skew the balance of sympathies for the American war. When he gets to Tonkin Gulf, he focuses on disputes among VN leadership, pretty much missing what was known of the US lies within three weeks via IF Stone. He misses the fact that Morse and Gruening voted against the resolution – which that great liberal Fulbright shepherded through the senate, and which LBJ then used to justify everything, carrying it around in his pocket.

I was arrested at State and Madison in Chicago in March 1965, protesting the air escalation. As the only faculty member in the group of arrestees, I acquired my own Red Squad guy, and the judge singled me out. The U of Chicago fired me a few months later, and I was blacklisted in my profession. I would not trade having been part of the Movement for anything. So much of Burns’s sentimental lies are unrecognizable to those of us who are also in that sense VN veterans. And where are the tears for how many million Vietnamese? He tells us that the US did all these things in good faith. (Jesse Lemisch, Posting on Facebook)


Re: Burns and Novick, Masters of False Balancing

Ken Burns' attempt at a "balanced" and "healing" account of Vietnam is baloney. The U.S. aggression against Vietnam was an imperialist cold war attempt to control that region of the world that cost three million lives. The U.S. war criminals are still on the loose.

John Gehan, Posted on Portside's Facebook page


At least Germany has the good grace to be ashamed of their past deeds. But we have this narrative that poor Eisenhower, poor Truman, poor JFK poor LBJ, poor Bushes, poor Obama were all sincerely seeking peace when somehow they made mistakes and misjudgements that have continued the killings for decades. It we do not reject this long line of BS, then how can we ever stop? This current one wants to control Venezuela, Iran and Korea by bully methods of some kind. Let's be frank. We are a colonial power with great wealth and hubris.

Sonia Collins

Posting on Facebook


I thought the first episode was fair and the treatment of Ho Chi Minh was generous. We'll see where it goes from here

David McReynolds

Posting on Facebook


Many of us are not going to agree with some -- or much -- of what is presented. But millions will watch and discuss it.

I take David McReynolds' point above. But it seemed to me the initial argument presented is that U.S. involvement in Vietnam began as a "mis-step" of some kind, which I don't believe is true. (And I doubt David believes that either.)

But again most important is the discussion the show will provoke, and the responsibility many of us can share to try to set the record straight in whatever ways we can.

Geoff Mirelowitz

Posting on Facebook


This iconic photo from the Vietnam War, taken by AP photographer Nick Ut, depicts the brutal and heart-wrenching aftermath of an allied napalm strike near a native Vietnamese village. The photo shocked the U.S. public, sending waves of horror and discontent rushing through the already disgusted citizens. For those opposing the war on foreign soil, Ut's photo bolstered the already established animosities toward the U.S. government. However, President Richard Nixon and other government officials doubted the authenticity of the photo: “I'm wondering if that was fixed”, expressed the president to one of his advisers. The photo's authenticity has been confirmed; the young girl in the photo, Phan Thị Kim Phúc, survived the attack and has advocated her story over the last thirty years.


Actually Geoff, I do think it was a mis step, and accident- our anti-communism made it easy (inevitable?). I have never believed the US planned to occupy Vietnam and stay there. I do think, among other reasons, the primary one was the nonsense of the domino theory and one problem was that the State Dept. did not have people in it who knew anything about Vietnam.

A kind of ps - last night there was a half hour on how badly veterans were treated. This does NOT seem to have been done by Burns but by some private party. It was deeply dishonest - ask any of us who where "there" when the vets came home. We helped them with "bad papers", we saw them as David McReynolds victims, we worked closely with them. So that half hour which was not Burns, was dreadful. Otherwise I guess my politics don't fit the right (or left) framework. I thought both shows I've seen were good, fair (I did not expect to see our precise version). It was good to see Saigon and Hanoi, which I remember well, and very good to see the Vietnamese giving their own view of things.

David McReynolds

Posting on Facebook


Wasn't it about containment? If so, it was not misguided in the sense that they had an empire to maintain, and the war was both necessary and beneficiary. Losing was a mistake. To a nation of empire breaking rice farmers, winning was simply a matter of time and doing war Viet style.

Ethan Young

Posting on Facebook


Levine Museum of the New South


David I agree there were "missteps," and definitely more than one on Washington's part. And I also do not disagree that there was no original plan to, "occupy Vietnam and stay there." At the beginning U.S. imperialism could not really imagine the depth of Vietnamese resistance to foreign domination or the utter corruption of the small capitalist layer the U.S. had to work with in South Vietnam. (Though in retrospect the outcome of the Korean War -- which the U.S. also did not win -- should have been a clue.)

But I agree with Ethan, the bipartisan agreement to maintain the empire, the idea that the second half of the 20th century would be a "Pax Americana" was very strong. I don't think we should miss the conscious political strategy that was in place, even as it was carried out with one blunder after another. "Blunders" are inevitable when one completely misjudges one's enemy and Washington completely misjudged the Vietnamese people's determination to resist.

Geoff Mirelowitz

Posting on Facebook


What was heroic about the Vietnam war? In ascending order:

(5) Daniel Ellsberg, for The Pentagon Papers.

(4) Martin Luther King Jr, for A Time to Break Silence.

(3) The American peace movement, whose invention of Vietnam syndrome shook the empire.

(2) The American GIs who fragged their officers and threw their medals at the Capitol.

(1) The people of Vietnam, north and south.

Ethan Young

Posting on Facebook


South Vietnamese Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, chief of the national police, fires his pistol into the head of suspected Viet Cong officer Nguyen Van Lem, also known as Bay Lop, on a Saigon street, early in the Tet Offensive on Feb. 1, 1968.

AP Photo/Eddie Adam



422 Episodes

Funding: David and Ilse Koch Foundation

National Endowment for Democracy (Allan Weinstein)

Bank of America, seeking civil discourse

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Voiceover (English with heavy German accent): They had good intentions. A few Jews got hurt, but our aim is to heal. When all is said and done, Hitler acted legally.

Hitler: A Complex and Multi-Faceted Human Being

Bavarian beer hall music on fiddle

Pan over stills: men in lederhosen dancing; people hoisting tankards while singing anthems; Oktoberfest revelry

Cabaret: degraded culture before Hitler

Hitler’s art: humane themes

Jewish bankers in Munich

Communists set Reichstag on Fire.

Menace of Communism

Domestic life at Berchtesgaden: Hitler and Eva Braun

Nuremberg: excerpts from Leni Riefenshtal, “Triumph of the Will”

Blitzkrieg: Great Battles of WW II. Hitler’s military genius. Communists spit at returning veterans

Yellow Roses: the anti-Hitler types: their psychological motivations and later expressions of regret

Did Adolf and Eva ever marry? Two hours

Hitler dies: triumph of Communism and Judaism

Conclusion “Deutschland Uber Alles” scene in “Casablanca”

They had good intentions.

Jesse Lemisch

Posting on Facebook


September 22, 2017 at 12:38 PM

By: Al Korach


As I push toward 90 years of age I recall the old phrase, "We should not be the policemen of the world.' It seems that this is what we have now become.

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