Ken Burns’ Reinvented Vietnam War History

Ken Burns’ Reinvented Vietnam War History

by Stephen Lendman ( – Home – Stephen Lendman)

In 2015, the Pentagon tried the same thing, a duplicitous 50th anniversary commemoration.

It reinvented naked aggression against a nation threatening no one – ending in a humiliating US defeat, slaughtering millions of Southeast Asians its only accomplishment.

Daniel Ellsberg’s release of the Pentagon Papers revealed what the Pentagon wanted suppressed. Burns tried the same thing in 18 PBS episodes, titled “The Vietnam War,” a deplorable exercise in deception.

It begins quoting unindicted war criminal Henry Kissinger, deplorably saying America needs to “heal the wounds and put Vietnam behind us.” It ends with Beatles’ anti-war activist John Lennon’s “Let It Be” over the credits.

His lyrics to “Imagine” and “Give Peace a Chance” communicated powerful anti-war sentiment. He was an iconic anti-war activist of his time.

Distinguished documentary filmmaker, author, writer, and imperial critic John Pilger served as a war correspondent in Vietnam.

Commenting on Burns’ reinvented history, he quoted him deplorably saying his Vietnam War series “will inspire our country to begin to talk and think about the Vietnam war in an entirely new way.”

His reinvented history ignored the rape and destruction of a country, the merciless slaughter of millions of its people, the deadly legacy of Agent Orange, the dioxin defoliant one of the deadliest substances known, minute amounts able to cause serious illnesses or death.

After watching Burns’ first episode, Pilger explained it left “no doubt of its intentions right from the start,” the narrator falsely claiming the war “was begun in good faith by decent people out of fateful misunderstandings, American overconfidence and Cold War misunderstandings.”

“There was no good faith,” Pilger stressed. “The faith was rotten and cancerous…no mention of Vietnamese dead, only Americans” – a deplorable whitewashing of one of history’s great crimes.

Burns is an apologist for imperial power, mindless of its ruthlessness, his Vietnam War episodes a shameful attempt to sanitize mass slaughter and destruction.

Over half a century after the war’s end, most Americans know nothing about the horrors their country inflicted on Southeast Asians – in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

They’re ignorant about ongoing US imperial wars, naked aggression against multiple countries, new ones threatened against North Korea, Iran, Russia and China, the possibility of catastrophic nuclear war.

Here’s what I wrote about US Southeast Asian aggression earlier – world’s apart from Burns’ propaganda series:

The late Gabriel Kolko wrote the definitive Vietnam War history. His “Anatomy of a War: Vietnam, the United States, and the Modern Historical Experience” explains what everyone needs to know.

Washington installed the authoritarian Ngo Dinh Diem regime to build military strength, crush opposition, and gain a reliable ally.

In the 1950s, military advisors arrived. Escalation followed. Lyndon Johnson wanted war on Vietnam. He got it.

The August 1964 false flag Gulf of Tonkin incident initiated full-scale conflict. It raged after Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.

Authorizing war without declaring it is longstanding US tradition. Big lies launch and perpetuate them.

Mass killing and destruction follow. In February 1965, Operation Thunder began, war without mercy, raging through October 1968.

It featured indiscriminate terror-bombing, using over a million tons of ordnance. Its aim was destroying Vietnam’s economy and will to resist.

Over the course of war from 1965 – 1973, eight million tons of bombs were dropped, threefold WW II tonnage, around 300 tons for every Vietnamese man, woman, and child.

Napalm was used along with other incendiary devices – terror weapons.

Anti-personnel cluster bombs spewing thousands of metal pellets, striking everything in their path. Indiscriminate land mines claim victims to this day.

War targeted Cambodia and Laos. From March 1969 through May 1970. Nixon ordered secret bombings without consulting Congress, allegedly to destroy North Vietnamese and Viet Cong sanctuaries. Around 3,500 sorties were flown.

About 600,000 deaths followed, mostly civilians, helping Khmer Rouge elements gain power in 1975.

Cambodia was bombed with over 500,000 tons of ordnance until August 1973.

Over 25,000 US ground forces invaded. Dozens of towns, villages and hamlets were destroyed. Many thousands more were killed, mostly peasants.

A 1962 Geneva Accord recognized Laos as a neutral state, banning foreign military personnel from its territory.

Reality was much different. From 1965 – 1973, America flew around 580,000 sorties, dropping over two million tons of ordinance, the equivalent of a planeload of bombs every eight minutes round-the-clock for nine years.

The objective was destroying North Vietnamese Ho Chi Minh Trail supply lines, targeting the Pathet Lao government.

Secret bombings again were used. So were terror weapons, including napalm, white phosphorous and cluster bombs.

Millions of unexploded bomblets remained buried in fields, roads, forests, villages and rivers.

Around one-third of Laos’s 6.5 million people were killed, injured or displaced. Southeast Asia’s wars were devastating, killing around four million people, causing mass destruction.

On August 10, 1961, America began spraying Agent Orange in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Operation Ranch Hand waged herbicidal warfare for 10 years.

Around 20,000 sorties were flown. Other spraying was done from boats, trucks, or soldiers mounted with backpacks.

Over five million acres were contaminated. About 20% of South Vietnam was sprayed at least once.

Millions of gallons of dioxin-containing defoliant were used across vast areas. Concentrations were 50 times greater than for other defoliation purposes. Horrific consequences followed.

Millions of combatants and civilians were irreparably harmed or killed. Washington wants its toxic legacy buried, its high crimes against peace forgotten, whitewashed from history.

Burns’ Vietnam War episodes tried making America’s ugly past look respectable – ignorant individuals alone buying it.

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: (Home – Stephen Lendman). Contact at

My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

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