Episode 2 of Ken Burns’ The Vietnam War was like Episode 1: an almost honest presentation of facts subtly shaped by a strong Leftist world view.
A few days ago, I offered my impressions about the new Ken Burns documentary, The Vietnam War. Since then, two things have happened. First, I watched the second episode and have a few points I’d like to make about it. (I haven’t yet watched the third episode, which is cued up on the DVR.) Second, I got some fascinating insights in my comments section. This post will have my new observations and some of the material my readers submitted.
Episode 1 of The Vietnam War focused primarily on the French role in Vietnam and the way in which the French — especially de Gaulle — inveigled America into opposing the Vietnamese nationalist movement. I commented that the episode seemed to admire Ho too much and that it pretended that Vietnamese history started with the French. That last point seemed to me to ignore tribal differences and cultural expectations that may have existed long before the French came along.
Episode 2 took the focus off Ho. To the extent he appears in this episode, he still comes across as a saintly nationalist who was, coincidentally, a Moscow-educated communist who wanted to throw his lot in with the communist bloc and who slaughtered his own countrymen en masse. There’s even appreciation for his understanding of optics — he purposely looked older than he was in a country that revered age, and he made much of his childless state in a country that revered family, so as to highlight his sacrifices on behalf of his countrymen.
Ho aside, the bulk of the episode focused on South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother Ngô Đình Nhu. The brothers come across as an unsavory, corrupt, and extremely stupid duo. Catholics in a majority Buddhist country (70% Buddhist, 30% Catholic), they attempted to impose severe restrictions on the country’s Buddhists, especially the priests. The result was that they gave birth to martyrs in the form of Buddhist priests who willingly and calmly self-immolated on the streets of Saigon to protest discrimination: [Read more…]