What you won’t see on PBS

September 25, 2017

Robert Kosuth, who served in the U.S. Army from 1971 to 1972, has some historical background to add to the documentary series on the Vietnam War running on PBS.

AFTER MONTHS of self-congratulatory advertisement, the Ken Burns PBS series on the U.S. war in Vietnam is off and running. What will be missing, however, is a larger historical context.

I'm not referring to fraudulent creation of the Republic of South Vietnam after the French defeat in 1954 or rationalizations about the Cold War, which, in the eyes of U.S. policy makers, necessitated that the Vietnamese forego their independence in the service of U.S. world power.

I am referring rather to the whole history of the U.S., back to the so-called Founding Fathers, who did not want to be exploited by the British, but did consciously exploit--if not outright kill--Natives, slaves, poor whites and women.

To this day, this same 1 Percent, with the help the Republican-Democratic duopoly, just as in the Kennedy-Johnson-Nixon prosecution of the war in Vietnam, continues to exploit, both in the U.S. and, most brutally, around the world. Donald Trump is only the culmination and personification of the worst of this 200-plus-year tradition.

Image from SocialistWorker.org

The U.S. war in Vietnam was anything but an aberration.

Rather than watch PBS, Americans would be better served by reading historian Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. Zinn demonstrates that while there are occasional public admissions of minor U.S. digressions, they hardly challenge the establishment focus on U.S. virtue and presumed good intentions.

Without the context of the whole long history of actual U.S. international aggression, the PBS series can only provide us with more murky equivocation of the kind we already get on the mainstream media.

We don't need PBS to take us by the hand via the garden path to Vietnam. To find out how we got there, we need only ask the Native people at Standing Rock, undocumented Mexicans or incarcerated African Americans here at home. In this context only can the difficult truths about the nature of the U.S. and its war on Vietnam be understood.

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