Aletho News


The Killing of History

By John Pilger | Consortium News | September 21, 2017

One of the most hyped “events” of American television, “The Vietnam War,” has started on the PBS network. The directors are Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. Acclaimed for his documentaries on the Civil War, the Great Depression and the history of jazz, Burns says of his Vietnam films, “They will inspire our country to begin to talk and think about the Vietnam War in an entirely new way.”

An American soldier walks by a burning Vietnamese home
(From the PBS’ series, “The Vietnam War.”)

In a society often bereft of historical memory and in thrall to the propaganda of its “exceptionalism,” Burns’s “entirely new” Vietnam War is presented as an “epic, historic work.” Its lavish advertising campaign promotes its biggest backer, Bank of America, which in 1971 was burned down by students in Santa Barbara, California, as a symbol of the hated war in Vietnam.

Burns says he is grateful to “the entire Bank of America family” which “has long supported our country’s veterans.” Bank of America was a corporate prop to an invasion that killed perhaps as many as four million Vietnamese and ravaged and poisoned a once bountiful land. More than 58,000 American soldiers were killed, and around the same number are estimated to have taken their own lives.

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. In the series’ press release in Britain — the BBC will show it — there is no mention of Vietnamese dead, only Americans.

“We are all searching for some meaning in this terrible tragedy,” Novick is quoted as saying. How very post-modern.

All this will be familiar to those who have observed how the American media and popular culture behemoth has revised and served up the great crime of the second half of the Twentieth Century: from “The Green Berets” and “The Deer Hunter” to “Rambo” and, in so doing, has legitimized subsequent wars of aggression. The revisionism never stops and the blood never dries. The invader is pitied and purged of guilt, while “searching for some meaning in this terrible tragedy.” Cue Bob Dylan: “Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?”

What ‘Decency’ and ‘Good Faith’?

I thought about the “decency” and “good faith” when recalling my own first experiences as a young reporter in Vietnam: watching hypnotically as the skin fell off napalmed peasant children like old parchment, and the ladders of bombs that left trees petrified and festooned with human flesh. General William Westmoreland, the American commander, referred to people as “termites.”

General William C. Westmoreland. (Wikipedia)

In the early 1970s, I went to Quang Ngai province, where in the village of My Lai, between 347 and 500 men, women and infants were murdered by American troops (Burns prefers “killings”). At the time, this was presented as an aberration: an “American tragedy” (Newsweek). In this one province, it was estimated that 50,000 people had been slaughtered during the era of American “free fire zones.” Mass homicide. This was not news.

To the north, in Quang Tri province, more bombs were dropped than in all of Germany during the Second World War. Since 1975, unexploded ordnance has caused more than 40,000 deaths in mostly “South Vietnam,” the country America claimed to “save” and, with France, conceived as a singularly imperial ruse.

The “meaning” of the Vietnam War is no different from the meaning of the genocidal campaign against the Native Americans, the colonial massacres in the Philippines, the atomic bombings of Japan, the leveling of every city in North Korea. The aim was described by Colonel Edward Lansdale, the famous CIA man on whom Graham Greene based his central character in The Quiet American.

Quoting Robert Taber’s The War of the Flea, Lansdale said, “There is only one means of defeating an insurgent people who will not surrender, and that is extermination. There is only one way to control a territory that harbours resistance, and that is to turn it into a desert.”

Nothing has changed. When Donald Trump addressed the United Nations on Sept. 19 – a body established to spare humanity the “scourge of war” – he declared he was “ready, willing and able” to “totally destroy” North Korea and its 25 million people. His audience gasped, but Trump’s language was not unusual. His rival for the presidency, Hillary Clinton, had boasted she was prepared to “totally obliterate” Iran, a nation of more than 80 million people. This is the American Way; only the euphemisms are missing now.

Returning to the U.S., I am struck by the silence and the absence of an opposition – on the streets, in journalism and the arts, as if dissent once tolerated in the “mainstream” has regressed to a dissidence: a metaphoric underground.

Missing What Trump Means

There is plenty of sound and fury at Trump the odious one, the “fascist,” but almost none at Trump as the symptom and caricature of an enduring system of conquest and extremism. Where are the ghosts of the great anti-war demonstrations that took over Washington in the 1970s? Where is the equivalent of the Freeze Movement that filled the streets of Manhattan in the 1980s, demanding that President Reagan withdraw battlefield nuclear weapons from Europe?

The sheer energy and moral persistence of these great movements largely succeeded; by 1987 Reagan had negotiated with Mikhail Gorbachev an Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) that effectively ended the Cold War.

Today, according to secret NATO documents obtained by the German newspaper, Suddeutsche Zetung, this vital treaty is likely to be abandoned as “nuclear targeting planning is increased.” The German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has warned against “repeating the worst mistakes of the Cold War. … All the good treaties on disarmament and arms control from Gorbachev and Reagan are in acute peril. Europe is threatened again with becoming a military training ground for nuclear weapons. We must raise our voice against this.”

But not in America. The thousands who turned out for Sen. Bernie Sanders’s “revolution” in last year’s presidential campaign are collectively mute on these dangers. That most of America’s violence across the world has been perpetrated not by Republicans, or mutants like Trump, but by liberal Democrats, remains a taboo.

Barack Obama provided the apotheosis, with seven simultaneous wars, a presidential record, including the destruction of Libya as a modern state. Obama’s overthrow of Ukraine’s elected government has had the desired effect: the massing of American-led NATO forces on Russia’s western borderland through which the Nazis invaded in 1941.

Obama’s “pivot to Asia” in 2011 signaled the transfer of the majority of America’s naval and air forces to Asia and the Pacific for no purpose other than to confront and provoke China. The Nobel Peace Laureate’s worldwide campaign of assassinations is arguably the most extensive campaign of terrorism since 9/11.

What is known in the U.S. as “the Left” has effectively allied with the darkest recesses of institutional power, notably the Pentagon and the CIA, to prevent a peace deal between Trump and Vladimir Putin and to reinstate Russia as an enemy, on the basis of no evidence of its alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The true scandal is the insidious assumption of power by sinister war-making vested interests for which no American voted. The rapid ascendancy of the Pentagon and the surveillance agencies under Obama represented an historic shift of power in Washington. Daniel Ellsberg rightly called it a coup. The three generals running Trump are its witness.

All of this fails to penetrate those “liberal brains pickled in the formaldehyde of identity politics,” as Luciana Bohne noted memorably. Commodified and market-tested, “diversity” is the new liberal brand, not the class people serve regardless of their gender and skin color: not the responsibility of all to stop a barbaric war to end all wars.

“How did it fucking come to this?” says Michael Moore in his Broadway show, Terms of My Surrender, a vaudeville for the disaffected set against a backdrop of Trump as Big Brother.

I admired Moore’s film, Roger & Me, about the economic and social devastation of his hometown of Flint, Michigan, and Sicko, his investigation into the corruption of healthcare in America.

Filmmaker Michael Moore

The night I saw his show, his happy-clappy audience cheered his reassurance that “we are the majority!” and calls to “impeach Trump, a liar and a fascist!” His message seemed to be that had you held your nose and voted for Hillary Clinton, life would be predictable again.

He may be right. Instead of merely abusing the world, as Trump does, Clinton, the Great Obliterator, might have attacked Iran and lobbed missiles at Putin, whom she likened to Hitler: a particular profanity given the 27 million Russians who died in Hitler’s invasion.

“Listen up,” said Moore, “putting aside what our governments do, Americans are really loved by the world!”

There was a silence.

September 22, 2017 - Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | ,


  1. Pilger again, goes straight to the truth. They say the ‘Vietnam’ was the first televised war, and it was. The Carpet Bombing, the Napalm, the Helicopter gunships, spraying the peasants with hot lead, and I do recall seeing some sort of tanker planes spraying the jungle with what became known as ‘Agent Orange’. It was truly disgusting, and if Pilger is right(and I have no doubt that he is) the new Ken Burns film does his(up until now) excellent reputation no good at all.
    The only thing that American people know about the Korean War, is what they saw on TV show called MASH, but what they don’t know is that Vietnam wasn’t the first country subjected to Carpet bombing, which resulted in the Destruction of 90% of the buildings and 20% of the Korean Population.
    The new Korean leader KIM Jong In, portrayed as a hideous villain on America’s MSM, is doing what he does because he wants to ensure that Korean War Mark II doesn’t repeat the original. He’s seen what the USA did to Iraq, and Libya, so why wouldn’t he develop whatever weapons are needed to repel the USA?.

    The Military Industrial Complex(USA) is beginning to make Adolph Hitler look good.


    Comment by Brian Harry, Australia | September 22, 2017 | Reply

  2. curiously,

    if the movie “Roots” is viewed in reverse it has a happy ending

    but who owned the slave ships,

    who pays cartographers & writes the history

    who prints the currency
    Owns the media & pays the crack whores
    in Congress…to avoid Justice for the USS LIBERTY
    JFK, MLK, RFK, WALLACE, Gordon Kahl, Weaver Family,
    Waco, OKC, 9/11….

    Truth isn’t on holiday on account of Ken Burns
    or any other crack whore


    Comment by Anthony Clifton | September 22, 2017 | Reply

  3. “Where are the ghosts of the great anti-war demonstrations that took over Washington in the 1970s?”

    I am one of those ghosts, having seen my share of demonstrations from inside the crowd. Where am I now? After seeing the US and the world go from bad to worse to clinically insane, I sit at home in my dotage, repeating to myself daily, “There’s never been a better time to be old.” All hope has been drained from the future, and we only await the final curtain on a failed experiment. From my lifetime of study, my parting observation is that humans are really, really stupid monkeys who wear suits and drive cars. Pity the youth who are now so brainwashed they’ll only make things worse for themselves.


    Comment by Tom | September 23, 2017 | Reply

    • Very sad, but also very true. There are no ‘Great Leaders’ today. Just politicians who only have to please the “Moneymen” to ensure themselves of a ‘successful’ career……’Democracy’ is for sale.


      Comment by Brian Harry, Australia | September 23, 2017 | Reply


    Japan (1945)
    China (1945-46)
    Korea & China (1950-53)
    Guatemala (1954, 1960, 1967-69)
    Indonesia (1958)
    Cuba (1959-61)
    Congo (1964)
    Peru (1965)
    Laos (1964-70)
    Vietnam (1961-1973)
    Cambodia (1969-70)
    Grenada (1983)
    Lebanon (1983-84)
    Libya (1986)
    El Salvador (1980s)
    Nicaragua (1980s)
    Iran (1987)
    Panama (1989)
    Iraq (1991-2000)
    Kuwait (1991)
    Somalia (1993)
    Bosnia (1994-95)
    Sudan (1998)
    Afghanistan (1998)
    Pakistan (1998)
    Yugoslavia (1999)
    Bulgaria (1999)
    Macedonia (1999)

    US Use of Chemical & Biological Weapons

    The US has refused to sign Conventions against the development and use of chemical and biological weapons, and has either used or tested (without informing the civilian populations) these weapons in the following locations abroad:

    Bahamas (late 1940s-mid-1950s)
    Canada (1953)
    China and Korea (1950-53)
    Korea (1967-69)
    Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia (1961-1970)
    Panama (1940s-1990s)
    Cuba (1962, 69, 70, 71, 81, 96)

    And the US has tested such weapons on US civilian populations, without their knowledge, in the following locations:

    Watertown, NY and US Virgin Islands (1950)
    SF Bay Area (1950, 1957-67)
    Minneapolis (1953)
    St. Louis (1953)
    Washington, DC Area (1953, 1967)
    Florida (1955)
    Savannah GA/Avon Park, FL (1956-58)
    New York City (1956, 1966)
    Chicago (1960)

    And the US has encouraged the use of such weapons, and provided the technology to develop such weapons in various nations abroad, including:

    South Africa

    US Political and Military Interventions since 1945

    The US has launched a series of military and political interventions since 1945, often to install puppet regimes, or alternatively to engage in political actions such as smear campaigns, sponsoring or targeting opposition political groups (depending on how they served US interests), undermining political parties, sabotage and terror campaigns, and so forth.

    It has done so in nations such as:

    China (1945-51)
    South Africa (1960s-1980s)
    France (1947)
    Bolivia (1964-75)
    Marshall Islands (1946-58)
    Australia (1972-75)
    Italy (1947-1975)
    Iraq (1972-75)
    Greece (1947-49)
    Portugal (1974-76)
    Philippines (1945-53)
    East Timor (1975-99)
    Korea (1945-53)
    Ecuador (1975)
    Albania (1949-53)
    Argentina (1976)
    Eastern Europe (1948-56)
    Pakistan (1977)
    Germany (1950s)
    Angola (1975-1980s)
    Iran (1953)
    Jamaica (1976)
    Guatemala (1953-1990s)
    Honduras (1980s)
    Costa Rica (mid-1950s, 1970-71)
    Nicaragua (1980s)
    Middle East (1956-58)
    Philippines (1970s-90s)
    Indonesia (1957-58)
    Seychelles (1979-81)
    Haiti (1959)
    South Yemen (1979-84)
    Western Europe (1950s-1960s)
    South Korea (1980)
    Guyana (1953-64)
    Chad (1981-82)
    Iraq (1958-63)
    Grenada (1979-83)
    Vietnam (1945-53)
    Suriname (1982-84)
    Cambodia (1955-73)
    Libya (1981-89)
    Laos (1957-73)
    Fiji (1987)
    Thailand (1965-73)
    Panama (1989)
    Ecuador (1960-63)
    Afghanistan (1979-92)
    Congo (1960-65, 1977-78)
    El Salvador (1980-92)
    Algeria (1960s)
    Haiti (1987-94)
    Brazil (1961-64)
    Bulgaria (1990-91)
    Peru (1965)
    Albania (1991-92)
    Dominican Republic (1963-65)
    Somalia (1993)
    Cuba (1959-present)
    Iraq (1990s)
    Indonesia (1965)
    Peru (1990-present)
    Ghana (1966)
    Mexico (1990-present)
    Uruguay (1969-72)
    Colombia (1990-present)
    Chile (1964-73)
    Yugoslavia (1995-99)
    Greece (1967-74)

    US Perversions of Foreign Elections
    The US has specifically intervened to rig or distort the outcome of foreign elections, and sometimes engineered sham “demonstration” elections to ward off accusations of government repression in allied nations in the US sphere of influence. These sham elections have often installed or maintained in power repressive dictators who have victimized their populations. Such practices have occurred in nations such as:

    Philippines (1950s)
    Italy (1948-1970s)
    Lebanon (1950s)
    Indonesia (1955)
    Vietnam (1955)
    Guyana (1953-64)
    Japan (1958-1970s)
    Nepal (1959)
    Laos (1960)
    Brazil (1962)
    Dominican Republic (1962)
    Guatemala (1963)
    Bolivia (1966)
    Chile (1964-70)
    Portugal (1974-75)
    Australia (1974-75)
    Jamaica (1976)
    El Salvador (1984)
    Panama (1984, 89)
    Nicaragua (1984, 90)
    Haiti (1987, 88)
    Bulgaria (1990-91)
    Albania (1991-92)
    Russia (1996)
    Mongolia (1996)
    Bosnia (1998)

    From US Military Interventions & Propping Up Corrupt Dictators (using the most conservative estimates)
    30,000 dead
    100,000 dead
    4 million dead
    200,000 dead
    20,000 dead
    El Salvador
    63,000 dead
    40,000 dead
    10,000 dead
    10,000 dead
    10,000 dead
    10,000 dead
    1.3 million dead
    30,000 dead
    8-10,000 dead
    50,000 dead
    5,000 dead
    140,000 dead
    10,000 dead
    5000 dead
    150,000 dead
    100,000 dead
    Dominican Republic
    10,000 dead
    500 dead
    1000 dead
    South Africa
    10,000 dead
    10,000 dead
    40,000 dead
    1 million dead
    East Timor
    1/3-1/2 of total population
    10,000 dead
    600,000 dead
    1 million dead
    300,000 dead
    500 dead
    2 million dead
    10,000 dead
    1.5 million dead
    50,000 dead


    Comment by Buddy Silver | September 24, 2017 | Reply

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