The Misremembering of Vietnam

With a national program to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Vietnam kicked off by Congress, one writer takes issue with five main themes other the commemoration as mandated by Congress.

Thanking POWs and MIAs for Their Service

The argument against this provision centers around the idea of that Vietnam was a heroic effort to begin with. In the minds of some the true heroes were those who fought against the architects of the war even as they served in it, such as Bob Chenoweth.

Highlighting the Armed Forces, and the support of government and non-government organizations

Soldiers who served on the battlefields of Vietnam are taken to task for carrying out policies which placed a premium on high body counts. In this way, opponents of the program find this position to be especially repugnant, calling for accountability on the part of all involved.

Commemorating the Americans Who Contributed to the War Effort

The American people don’t quite escape criticism in the scathing view of some. The portion of the electorate which brought Richard Nixon to power have been directly accused of enabling some of the intelligence excesses that occurred during that period. The FBI’s COINTELPRO surveillance program remains a contentious and better memory of the Vietnam War era. Additionally, some contend that the anti-war effort should be hailed as well for their efforts to bring the war to a conclusion. Interestingly, the efforts of John Kerry to end the war are hailed as well.

And finally, recognition of United States allies during the war

The argument rounds itself out by contemplating aloud the atrocities committed by Australian and South Korean troops during their time in Vietnam, as well as the effects of Agent Orange on the population of Vietnam, The Huffington Post reports.

The arguments levied against the war and its commemoration are strong and passionate, and anti-war sympathies burn in some just as hotly as they did during the summer of 1968. What makes these arguments unique is the change in attitude towards servicemen of the Vietnam period, which time and distance has certainly softened. A return of such critiques in the wake of recent wars and some of the unfortunate incidents which have fired have perhaps raised new sensitivities to the remembrance of the war.

Perhaps all that can be said is best summed up in the sentiments of those who raised these points. “As the victimizers,” they say, Americans need to “look back before they can move forward.”



Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE