A Disrespectful Loyalty, Episode 9
The Vietnam War
Directed by Ken Burn and Lyn Novick
Last night Maori TV showed part 9 of the Vietnam War series.
During the period covered (February 1970 – March 1973), Nixon’s sole focus with to withdraw US troops from Vietnam without losing the 1972 election. He knew he would be defeated if Saigon fell. Much of this episode consists of tape recordings of Nixon’s Oval Office conversations with his chief security advisor Henry Kissinger.
Although the filmmakers refer to 1/4 of US GIs using marijuana in Vietnam and 40,000 being addicted to heroin, for some reason they neglect to mention the South Vietnamese army was the main source of these drugs.
They do report on the growing influence of Vietnam Veterans Against the War and play an excerpt of former naval lieutenant John Kerry’s (a VVAW member) compelling testimony before a Senate investigative committee.
1971 also saw the New York Times publican of the Pentagon Papers, leaked by whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg. This Defense Department study, covering 1945-1967, revealed successive US presidents had been continuously lying to the American public regarding their true motives waging war in Vietnam.
Nixon’s paranoia about documents Ellsberg and others might possess about his own lies led him to create “The Plumbers,” a secret team that broke into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office (in the hope of finding material they could use to blackmail him).
Much of this episode focuses on the Paris peace talks, and Nixon’s efforts to force North Vietnam to agree to a favorable peace treaty. To this end, he resumed bombing raid on North Vietnam, which were far more brutal (in terms of civilian casualties) than those Johnson had been condemned for.
I was surprised to learn that Nixon’s recognition of Communist China (after nearly 40 years) was part of a ploy to increase Chinese and Russian pressure on their North Vietnamese allies to sign a peace settlement favorable to the US.
The latter would be signed on January 23,1973, and over the next few weeks the last US troops would leave Vietnam.
As of March 1973, over 58,000 GIs and 2 million Vietnamese had been killed in North Vietnam.