On Veterans Day weekend, many are thinking about veterans and past wars. Vietnam veterans were thinking about it when they sent a letter to PBS, Ken Burns and Bank of America, trying to set the record straight about the Vietnam War.
PBS has produced a new Burn’s documentary with funding from Bank of America about the war. Burns is known for his historical documentaries on such things as baseball and the Civil War.
But according to the Vietnam veterans, this documentary gets a few very critical things wrong.
Most importantly according to Lewis Sorley, it leaves out the Communism behind North Vietnam and the brutal repression because of that afterward.
From PJ Media:
“The whole cause of all this agony and bloodshed was the aggressive North Vietnamese invasion of the South. If it hadn’t been for that, none of this ever would have happened,” Lewis Sorley, a Vietnam War veteran, historian, and director at Vietnam Veterans for Factual History (VVFH), told PJ Media in an interview Wednesday. “Burns never seems to find that worth mentioning or condemning and I wonder why.”
Sorley alleged that Burns and his fellow filmmakers “had clearly decided that they wanted to tell the standard left-wing narrative of an unwinnable, unjust war.” The PBS documentary also obscured the evil of communism throughout the war and afterward. The veteran suggested that presenting the American and South Vietnamese forces as heroic would be “anathema” to the filmmakers.
In the letter VVFH sent to PBS, Burns, and Bank of America, Vietnam veterans emphasized four key omissions and distortions with broad-reaching consequences. The documentary presented a view of the war “very negatively slanted against both the nation of South Vietnam and American involvement there” that “exacerbates” the current cultural polarization in America today.
First, they note a bias in favor “a bias in favor of the militant leftist anti-war clichés of the 1960s.”
But 91% of veterans say they were glad they served and 66% said they would serve again, even knowing the same result.
According to VVFH, the Burns documentary “demonstrates a prejudice against” these veterans and “the more than 250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers killed by the Soviet-equipped and trained North Vietnamese Army and its Viet Cong subordinates.”
Second, minimizing the communism of North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh.
According to Sorley, you don’t see “Ho Chi Minh’s life-long dedication to ruthless Leninism, his years of Soviet training and professional work as a covert communist subversive, and the mass atrocities of his supporters in North and South Vietnam.”
He wasn’t just a nationalist, Sorley said, he was devoted to international communism. In the 1920s and 1930s, Ho worked for the Comintern in Moscow and advised Chinese Communist forces, returning to Vietnam in 1941.
The PBS documentary this, presenting Ho just as a ‘freedom fighter’ which Sorley called deceptive.
Third, was ignoring the valor of the South Vietnamese.
Sorley said that they fought heroically and could have won with the right backing. But that “the actions of leftist U.S. politicians in cutting off funding for vital military supplies for the South Vietnamese Army” and restraining U.S. air power cost them and us the war.
Yet that is not portrayed in the documentary.
Finally, fourth, failing to note the atrocities after the war, the thousands that were sent to re-education camps and the million-plus who fled the country for their lives. Some 200,000 to 400,000 died trying to leave.
“All those people were guilty of was trying to maintain their freedom,” Sorley said.
And as a result of the fall, Vietnam was able to help Pol Pot conquer Cambodia, which resulted in the massacre of a third of the people in Cambodia, the ‘killing fields.’
Many who fled came to the United States and made a great contribution to this society, but that is ignored according to Sorley.
“This Burns show doesn’t mention that,” he added. “I think it’s disgraceful.”
“In Vietnam, we have the worst of what communism brings to countries: There is no freedom of speech, the minorities are badly persecuted by the communists, and Vietnam is now viewed as one of the most corrupt and repressive societies in the world. How that’s better than democracy is very hard for me to see.”
Sorley had a message for millennials who have a positive view of socialism and even communism: “If they think communism as represented in Vietnam and elsewhere in the world is more attractive than what they can expect from a democracy like ours, they’re in for a shock.”
One of the best ways to honor veterans is to be truthful about what they fought for.
And with this, Burns had a golden opportunity to show today’s young people of military age a faithful depiction of what veterans went through.
But he failed to do that. And he, PBS and Bank of America should be ashamed.
[Note: This post was written by Nick Arama.]