Ken Burns’ “Vietnam” Lacks Critical Consciousness

By S. Brian Willson (September 29, 2017)

I am interested in history, and recognize the importance of story telling as part of the process of understanding people’s history. But it is important as well to distinguish between the art of story telling, and the critical historical analysis of structural patterns and causes.

US policy in Viet Nam is well established in the historical record, and it is unambiguous. As Noam Chomsky has long concluded, the US intended “a conscious application of principles of imperial planning” immediately following Japan’s surrender in WWII, enabling re-establishment of French colonization.

And correspondingly, the record is clear that the Vietnamese intended to assert their independence even a few days BEFORE Japan’s announced surrender in August 1945, which had occupied Viet Nam during the war, after more than a century of French occupation.

So, the historian’s task is to frame the record from the evidence in which the interesting and important story telling occurs. In Viet Nam the historical record is very clear:

On June 22, 1945, six weeks after Germany’s surrender, and almost eight weeks before the increasingly expected Japanese surrender, President Truman issued a policy statement supporting France’s efforts at re-colonizing Viet Nam following Japanese surrender, in opposition to aspirations of self-determination.

On August 11, 1945, learning Japan was planning to announce surrender on August 15, the Vietnamese began preparation for retaking Hanoi from the still present Japanese, and by late August was re-seizing other areas of Viet Nam.

In late August, 1945, French General and head of the then Provisional Government of the French Republic, Charles de Gaulle, met with President Truman in Washington, DC, at which time discussion included a revived post-WWII France, including the future of its Viet Nam colony wherein US interests would be preserved in the future of a French Indochina.

August 29, 1945, the Vietnamese established their first national, provisional government.

August 30, 1945, long time Vietnamese leader of the Vietnamese independence movement, Ho Chi Minh, sent the first of eight letters to President Truman requesting support for Vietnamese independence. All letters went unanswered.

September 2, 1945, before 400,000 people in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh announced establishment of Viet Nam’s independence. Guest included several US OSS officers who had worked with Ho’s guerrillas at the end of WWII rescuing downed US air crew, while also providing the US intelligence on Japanese military activities.

By mid-September, President Truman was providing weapons to the revived French military inside Viet Nam. On September 22, the US-armed French attacked Saigon seizing it from the Vietnamese who had begun to re-claim areas throughout the country.

October-November 1945, Truman provided as many as a dozen US military troop ships transporting thousands of US-armed French and Foreign Legionnaires to assist France re-colonizing Viet Nam.

And this pattern of US criminal and immoral invasion, occupation, and destruction of Viet Nam to thwart genuine Vietnamese aspirations for the simple goal of self-determination, continued until April 30 1975.

So, I find Burns and Novick’s promotional comments for their PBS series, “The Vietnam War” – that they wanted a “fresh eyes” about the war, that there is “no single truth” about the war, that they wanted to “be strictly neutral” about the “civil” war – to be disingenuous. They frame the series as a war “begun in good faith by decent people out of fateful misunderstandings”, and that “we are all searching for some meaning in this terrible tragedy”.

This is ahistorical framing that sets up the viewing audience to overlook the silence of the great lie of the war – that it was needless in the first instance, and all the suffering and misery and mass murders were for naught except for one very clear cause – that of the intent of the US to thwart Vietnamese independence by any and all means necessary.

Thus, the grotesque immorality and criminality of the US, that began in the genocide of the Indigenous Americans masked by our divine predestination for being the good guys, continues. The shame is just too painful to acknowledge and honestly face.

Of course, the 18 hours of footage reveals historical, riveting graphic war footage, complemented by many interviews with Vietnamese and US persons. The viewing audience is provided with a variety of perspectives to discuss, and reflect upon about the long war. So, there is voluminous important history to provoke national conversation on the war.

But the critical question that is obsfuscated in the intriguing 18 hours of this momentous documentary has been omitted – the Lie that led to the greatest crime of the latter half of the 20th Century. We escape again into perpetual war, into silence.

In conclusion, I submit the PBS series is severely misnamed. Its honest title might be “The Vietnam War from many perspectives”, or something similar. But it is not about “The Vietnam War” – it is about the war from many perspectives, absent the historian’s analysis of the structural causes of the needless suffering due to the behavior of the US.
The critical “search for meaning in this terrible tragedy”, the search for “healing”, the desire to “inspire thinking and talking about Vietnam…in an entirely different way”, is again an opportunity lost.

It does inspire more needed conversation about the war, as it omits the critical framing that could potentially radically alter the US American consciousness – that our cultural consciousness has always been self righteously imperial, and has been accomplished with virtual impunity. We are not the good guys, and never have been. We are in perpetual war as we watch TV, as we shop, as the government bombs, and the war-makers make obscene profits.


Notes to a White Person Trying to Figure Out How to Talk With White People About White Privilege

By Chris Crass (Sept 15, 2017)


My goal in talking with white people about racism is to generate outrage for racial injustice and a passion and urgency for racial justice. My goal is to awaken a hunger for justice in the hearts and minds of white people that leads them into confrontation with the death culture that is white supremacy, a death culture that devours, restricts and imprisons life in communities of color and malnourishes and suffocates the humanity of white people with fear, misplaced anger and resentment.

Given this goal, I rarely begin conversations with white people by talking about white privilege. I talk about the racial injustices in society, about the ways that white people are pitted against people of color, about the ways that our shared humanity is pulled apart, and then I’ll bring in white privilege as a way that those with power and wealth have divided working people from each other.

White privilege developed over the hundreds of years that the U.S. was a slave society, it developed as a method to divide indentured and poor Europeans from uniting with enslaved Africans, to overthrow slave masters and fight for a better world. Laws had to be made to prevent Europeans, Africans and Indigenous people from marrying, forming family, building friendships, forming bonds of love and solidarity. Denying people of color rights and opportunities for economic advancement, while granting rights and economic opportunities to Europeans was a way to create a structurally unequal racial hierarchy of Black and white and those who wanted to concentrate wealth and power to the few, used racism, racial antagonism, and racial divisions as a way to both create and maintain vast political and economic inequality.

White privilege is a set of very real material benefits where for most white people, the police are in fact there to protect and serve, where your name and ancestry help you get, and keep a job, where your family has had access to lower interest loans to buy housing in white only suburbs, where the color of your skin makes you appear more innocent, where being white means you don’t have to think about race or the history of racial oppression and racial inequality, and how this history shapes the world around you and impacts your daily decisions and future experiences.

So white privilege is a system of benefits for white people and a system of denial of those benefits to people of color. And it is fundamentally a strategy of dividing the vast majority of us from uniting for economic justice and building an inclusive multiracial democracy where human rights and dignity for all, are at the center, rather then a white supremacy worldview that justifies and maintains devastating poverty in communities of color and in white communities while the 1% has vast wealth and power.

How I talk about white privilege does change depending on who I’m talking with. I try to think about what will resonate with the person. Different things work for different people: some are moved by poetry, others through personal stories, and others through coming to and experiencing a community event or protest for racial justice. But what is key, in whatever approach, is sharing your own experience of becoming aware of racism and white privilege. Sharing your own discomfort, fear, denial, and other barriers you have had to work through. This is so important, as a way of normalizing what the person you’re talking with may be experiencing, as a way of providing insights from your own experience of what helped you move out of white denial, white silence, white obliviousness, and into white anti-racist action.

But what’s most important to moving and supporting white people into racial justice values, commitment and action, is your relationship with them, inviting people into the work, and helping connect people with opportunities for learning, growth, and action.

There are times when we must confront racists about their racism. But more often, it’s about engaging white people on the sidelines, who are confused, who might be open if given the opportunity, who know in their gut racism is wrong, but have never been exposed to a deeper understanding of white supremacy, let alone an action plan for racial justice.

With folks who I am trying to move, I’m not trying to make them feel guilt and shame about having white privilege, my aim is to generate a deep passion and hunger for racial justice as central to winning and creating collective liberation that frees us all, and help give them opportunities to take the next few steps, from where they’re at, and get them moving.

Remember the people who have supported you, reflect on what has helped you, and bring those lessons with you. Love and courage to you.


The Grotesque Immorality of the US War Against Viet Nam, Laos, and Cambodia

By S. Brian Willson (September 10, 2017)

If the Burns-Novick 18 hour, 10 part PBS Series is to be an authentic revisiting the US War, then brutal honesty is necessary, which would certainly prevent such a pubic airing funded by US corporate monies.

As a Viet Nam veteran, I know the kinds of pain and suffering incurred by over three million US soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen, more than 58,000 of whom paid the ultimate price whose names are on The Vietnam Wall in Washington, DC.

However, if there is any redemption to the US culture It is imperative to identify very concretely the pain and suffering we caused the Vietnamese, the Laotians, and the Cambodians – people who only wanted to be independent from foreign occupiers, whether Chinese, France, Japan, or the United States of America. It was not a civil war, as the US concocted it to preserve imperial interests in Asia. The footage and stories told by Burns and Novick will be entertaining as war stories usually are, even sickening sometimes, and even educational, but will not ask or pose the fundamental questions that are imperative for the US American public to understand the utter immorality and diabolical nature of the criminal US invasion, occupation, and destruction of civilian societies committed with malice aforethought. In effect, the documentary will distract from any serious questions to challenge the myths of the US culture and nation state that have been perpetuated since our origins.

As honorably, and in some cases heroically, our military served and fought in Southeast Asia, we were nonetheless serving as mercenary cannon fodder for reasons other than what we were told. When I came to understand the true nature of the war, I felt betrayed by my government, by my religion, by my schools, by my family – in effect by the total cultural conditioning into “American Exceptionalism,” which did a terrible disservice to my own humanity, and in fact a disservice to all of us.

I am staggered by the amount of firepower the US used, and the incredible death and destruction it caused on innocent people:
• Seventy-five percent of South Viet Nam was considered a free-fire zone (i.e., genocidal zones)
• Over 6 million Southeast Asians killed, in Viet Nam, Laos, and Cambodia
• Over 64,000 US and Allied soldiers killed
• Over 1,600 US soldiers, and 300,000 Vietnamese soldiers remain missing
• Thousands of amputees, paraplegics, blind, deaf, and other maimings created
• 13,000 of 21,000 of Vietnamese villages, or 62 percent, severely damaged or destroyed, mostly by bombing
• Nearly 950 churches and pagodas destroyed by bombing
• 350 hospitals and 1,500 maternity wards destroyed by bombing
• Nearly 3,000 high schools and universities destroyed by bombing
• Over 15,000 bridges destroyed by bombing
• 10 million cubic meters of dikes destroyed by bombing
• Over 3,700 US fixed-wing aircraft lost
• 36,125,000 US helicopter sorties during the war; over 10,000 helicopters were lost or severely damaged
• 26 million bomb craters created, the majority from B-52s (a B-52 bomb crater could be 20 feet deep, and 40 feet across)
• 39 million acres of land in Indochina (or 91 percent of the land area of South Viet Nam) were littered with fragments of bombs and shells, equivalent to 244,000 (160 acre) farms, or an area the size of all New England except Connecticut
• 21 million gallons (80 million liters) of extremely poisonous chemicals (herbicides) were applied in 20,000 chemical spraying missions between 1961 and 1970 in the most intensive use of chemical warfare in human history, with as many as 4.8 million Vietnamese living in nearly 3,200 villages directly sprayed by the chemicals
o 24 percent, or 16,100 square miles, of South Viet Nam was sprayed, an area larger than the states of Connecticut, Vermont, and Rhode Island combined, killing tropical forest, food crops, and inland forests
o Over 500,000 Vietnamese have died from chronic conditions related to chemical spraying with an estimated 650,000 still suffering from such conditions; 500,000 children have been born with Agent Orange-induced birth defects, now including third generation offspring
• Nearly 375,000 tons of fireballing napalm was dropped on villages
• Huge Rome Plows (made in Rome, Georgia), 20-ton earthmoving D7E Caterpillar tractors, fitted with a nearly 2.5-ton curved 11-foot wide attached blade protected by 14 additional tons of armor plate, scraped clean between 700,000 and 750,000 acres (1,200 square miles), an area equivalent to Rhode Island, leaving bare earth, rocks, and smashed trees
• As many as 36,000,000 total tons of ordnance expended from aerial and naval bombing, artillery, and ground combat firepower. On an average day US artillery expended 10,000 rounds costing $1 million per day; 150,000-300,000 tons of UXO remain scattered around Southeast Asia: 40,000 have been killed in Viet Nam since the end of the war in 1975, and nearly 70,000 injured; 20,000 Laotians have been killed or injured since the end of the war
• 13.7 billion gallons of fuel were consumed by US forces during the war
If there was space for all 6,000,000 names of Southeast Asian dead on the Vietnam Wall in Washington, DC, it would be over 9 sobering miles long, or nearly 100 times its current 493-foot length.


No Bogus Compromises About the Dreamers!

By Chuck Morse (September 7, 2017)

This is what we’re looking at:

Trump: We’re going to deport the Dreamers in six months!
Democrats: Don’t do that!
Trump: Ok, I won’t deport them, but you have to support my plans to further militarize the border. 
Democrats: Ok, sure. No problem.

We can’t allow this to happen. The militarization of borders breeds pure misery. We have to fight bogus compromises. No human being is illegal. The right to migrate is a human right!


Targeting Immigrant Children is the Work of Racist Authoritarians

By Steampunk Emma Goldman (September 6, 2017)

Targeting immigrants is to be expected of racist authoritarians.
Specifically targeting immigrant children is to be expected of racist authoritarians who believe the populace will let them get away with anything.
It is our duty to prove to them that neither are to be tolerated.


Urban Planning for #Blacklivesmatter

By Teka Lark (September 4, 2017)

The freemarket is a hell of a drug. More rain is coming. Heaven and hell is right here. Satan is the freemarket! Satan is Citizens United!

These pompous ignorant rich fucks built and built and built. Continue reading “Urban Planning for #Blacklivesmatter”