Why I will NOT watch the Ken Burns Vietnam War documentary

Let’s face it, folks. Life in the U.S.A. = PTSD. For everyone. Automatically. “Shock and Awe,” over and over and over again — faster and faster and faster. At this point in time, there is basically, no time to process anything before the next shock hits. Which makes cultivating awareness of the present moment an absolute necessity.

This new, fear-mongering “Korean War” meme  just puts me right back there.

I remember exactly what I was doing when I heard over the radio that the Korean War started. That was in June, 1950, and I was 7 years old.

I remember being called out of the classroom at Catholic University to amass in the cathedral when JFK was killed.

I remember nursing my new baby boy — when I heard on the radio Johnson announce the Gulf on Tonkin “incident;” feeling that familiar dread, I knew internally that this was the start of another war.

While sitting glued to TV news: Robert Kennedy. Martin Luther King. The “first Gulf War” in Iraq. 9/11. 9/11. 9/11. Afghanistan. Iraq again.

That last was in early 2003. From then on the assasinations and (false) starts of wars grow hazy, confusing.  And there are no stops. Only endless, wrathful murder and destruction of what is not ours.

None of the assasinations occurred, and none of the wars started, the way we were told they did. 

So it’s very very difficult for me to even get past the whitewash (the red, white and bluewash) of the Vietnam War as a “fateful misunderstanding.” WHAT? Though that is how MacNamara later tried to rationalize the situation, the truth appears to be otherwise.

Robert S. MacNamara and the real Tonkin Gulf deception

Is the American public so brainwashed that we would actually sit through this series, when its assumptions are grounded in falsehood?

Here’s John Pilger, who watched the first episode.

The Killing of History


I watched the first episode in New York. It leaves you in no doubt of its intentions right from the start. The narrator says the war “was begun in good faith by decent people out of fateful misunderstandings, American overconfidence and Cold War misunderstandings”.

The dishonesty of this statement is not surprising. The cynical fabrication of “false flags” that led to the invasion of Vietnam is a matter of record – the Gulf of Tonkin “incident” in 1964, which Burns promotes as true, was just one. The lies litter a multitude of official documents, notably the Pentagon Papers, which the great whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg released in 1971.

There was no good faith. The faith was rotten and cancerous. For me – as it must be for many Americans – it is difficult to watch the film’s jumble of “red peril” maps, unexplained interviewees, ineptly cut archive and maudlin American battlefield sequences.


And here are two more opinion pieces, just in case you think Pilger is overstating the Burns bullshit.

Ken Burns documentary? Or should I watch Game of Thrones again.


The Storytellers of Empire





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5 Responses to Why I will NOT watch the Ken Burns Vietnam War documentary

  1. Rich Buckley says:

    I’m only pointing out how difficult it is for Ken Burns to break from the Deep State. I usually try to parse Victor Davis Hanson’s writings https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victor_Davis_Hanson , with the goal pointing to an alternative path from Hanson’s history. His staff blocks my comments always. A classisist, military historian, of such fame is kept above such things as, “magical” thinking and E.T. tweaking of our DNA for evolutionary progress. These concepts are so far outside Hanson’s domain, to engage anyone in such unworthy discussion would be seen as self-defeating, at least to his staff, if not also to Dr. Hanson. Keep Victor Davis Hanson’s own war writings in mind as you reflect on Ken Burns’ production. Had Hanson cast the script for Burns to follow, it would have been produced in perhaps 1-year and Hanson would be preparing you subtly for a preemptive military strike on North Korea, all under the panoply of his classicist’s reasoning.

    Carefully note Ken Burns’ immense list of program supporters in a project that Burns dedicated a decade of his life to produce. Finding public support meant dealing with the usual list of old money trusts. The usual list of big supporters inevitably bring us to the Deep State.

    If there is no other benefit derived from this Ken Burns series, the notion of the utter futility of war, makes the series worth watching. Each episode leaves you disgusted…and that is exactly what is needed as a peaceful catalyst for change. Namaste.

    • Ann Kreilkamp says:

      Excellent perspective which opens me to perhaps watching one episode just for the disgust factor. DO appreciate Burns’ effort, and what it takes to get anything into the public arena of this nature. Thank you.

  2. Fritz says:

    Watched 10 minutes just to see. So much suffering and misery for millions. All based on lies to make the rich, richer. That goes for all wars and includes the history we were taught in school. Everything is a lie!

  3. rose day says:

    Thank you Ann and thank you Rich…respectful dialogue such as that between the two of you seems the very thing that will enable Humanity to know the utter futility of war.

  4. CindyW says:

    And thank you, Ann, for Bruce Dixon’s post. There is a different “conservative” military historian that I started reading when I wanted to read a conservative view that wasn’t defending TPTB – Andrew Bacevich. He served as a commanding officer in Vietnam and doesn’t believe in the U.S.’ practice of interventions and coups around the world – especially critical of our foreign adventures in the Middle East. Lost a son there.

    I watched the Burns program, knowing that because it’s on “public” TV, it had to be more “mainstream” or “centrist” – it couldn’t be radical or antiwar. At least Lynn Novick included Vietnamese perspectives. Even some Vietnam vets I know who defend our participation in the war, privately concede violations of the Geneva Convention, and agree many of their fellow soldiers felt betrayed by commanding officers. What made me mad was standing in a mall in Ohio 10 years ago and seeing “Made in Vietnam” on a piece of trendy women’s clothing. I thought, “if I were a vet, or had lost a loved one there, it would really, really upset me that 59,000 young Americans died so companies can make big bucks off cheap Vietnamese labor producing imports for consumers.”

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