Ken Burns’ Vietnam Film Series: Critical Reflections by Veterans and Academics

  “all wars are fought twice, the first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory.”  –  Viet Thanh Nguyen   Nothing Ever Dies

Veterans For Peace (Chapter 92, Seattle) invites the public to a panel discussion and forum on the Ken Burns/Lynn Novick documentary series on the Vietnam War in conjunction with the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington.

Saturday, October 7, from 6-9 pm, at the Jackson School of International Studies, 101 Thomson Hall, University of Washington campus near Red Square.

Long anticipated and much promoted, the series promised a fresh perspective on one of the most controversial wars in recent history. Did Burns and Novick succeed? Did they get historical facts right? How were the various sides portrayed? How does the documentary help us in having the necessary and important conversations about the war? What does it tell us about America’s current wars?

Panelists will include Vietnam veterans Mike Dedrick and Dan Gilman of VFP, and professor Christoph Giebel, History Department, SE Asia . There will be short presentations and opportunities for discussion and commentary. The event will be filmed and made more widely available.

This event is free and open to the public!

Share widely

When will we learn the lesson of war?

Editor’s Note: The following opinion piece was written by Ground Zero member Marianne Mabbitt, and published in the Kitsap Sun on September 19, 2017. 

Sunday’s opening episode of the new Ken Burns documentary airing on PBS this week, “The Vietnam War,” exposed some history of Vietnam that was never common knowledge in the United States.
Most Americans knew that it was once called French Indonesia and that the French had a long embattlement and defeat in Vietnam. However, most of us never read of Hoh Chi Min’s experiences in the United States and England, or that he’d written letters to American presidents expressing his values as similar to many in the U.S. Constitution: of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, of freedom and independence. That was his goal for the people of Vietnam. Five American presidents, from Truman through Nixon, stated at one time or another their aversion to war there, and yet it continued.
The documentary reviews the horrors of war, the waste of lives and resources, the humiliation of our televised defeat after so long a struggle and the agony survivors endured and still do today. We are repeating similar painful experiences in the Middle East, the United States having been in Afghanistan for over 14 years with no end in sight.

Certainly, we as Americans have doubts about our mission and effectiveness in fighting foreign wars and we are tired of these unending wars that squander the lives and talents of our servicemen and women. The money, technology, research and energy should be redirected to life sustaining projects. The enormous tax dollars we spend on the military budget is obscene compared to the budget of our social programs needed at home such as schools, housing, energy, transportation, agriculture and preserving natural resources. The legislators and corporations that make up the war machine continue to lie to us so they can continue to rake in huge profits.

Various pieces of the military industrial complex are in every state in our nation. We are told we must keep supporting them for the jobs they provide us. But the money is siphoned from programs we need, from jobs we’d rather be doing that are constructive to our own society, not destructive to others. In the end, we are the ones we destroy as well. We bring home the guerrilla military tactics, the weapons, the nightmares and violence. The United States continues to escalate the level of violence in our own land in our media, in our schools, our games, our sports, on our streets and in our homes. “He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.”

When will we learn that war only begets more wars? When will we deny the war machine our tax dollars and demand that we build up our own nation again? Democracy demands an informed electorate to vote rationally but we have so limited our real news sources and dumbed down our schools that the future looks very bleak for the youth of the United States. Who is paying attention to the next war on the horizon?

Resist a first strike of North Korea! We must resist the litany of atrocities committed in our name in any country. Today we are on the brink of another war with North Korea. This one involves a nuclear weapons exchange that could annihilate the earth’s atmosphere as we know it. The planet cannot withstand any more nuclear explosions. Tell your representatives to support the Senate bill, ‘Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017.’ It requires Congress to authorize nuclear weapons strikes rather than the President alone. We must stop the cycle of violence our country imposes on others and on ourselves.

We must stop the bleeding and bind our wounds. We must dialogue and plan for the near future and envision a country that believes and ACTs towards liberty and justice for all. If not now, when? If not us, who will do it? If we don’t act, will we even be here after a nuclear war North Korea?

M.G. Mabbitt lives in Silverdale.

Share widely