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Video Sources

There's an enormous amount of video material available on Vietnam. These are a handful of sources that seem to me particularly worthwhile.

This is a great little fly on the wall documentary following a disillusioned company of Marines for a few weeks in 1969. The tone is much more downbeat, much less portentous than Burns'.

Sir, No Sir. A truly amazing film. By the early 1970s one third of the US army were actively, yes actively, involved in the peace movement. This is their story and it is enormously uplifting. Burns' narration often seems driven by a desire for heroics. This film is a better place to look for heroes.

The Weather Underground This is a fascinating film. The members of the weather underground were plainly deluded in their belief that a revolution was coming. However, it is easy to sympathise with their amazed frustration at the willingness of the US population to accept the scale of violence being deployed in their name in Vietnam. 

The Uncounted Enemy A great CBS documentary about how Westmoreland faked the numbers of  opposing forces to create the impression he was winning. Foolishly he agreed to take part in the program then brought legal proceedings against CBS.

John Kerry's testimony Here's the whole thing. His actual testimony begins at 4.15 and it is all worth listening to.

If you don't want to read Kill Anything That Moves this interview  gives you much of what you need to know. In the course of the interview Nick Turse reports a conversation he had with one of the officers on the Vietnam War Crimes Working Group, the army body which investigated alleged crimes during the war.

"At the time he thought it was right that the records needed to be kept secret. It was for the good of the country, for the good of the war effort. In the years since he recognised that... he thought it was the wrong thing to do. Perhaps ... if we had been honest with the American people and open with these records maybe we wouldn't have had Abu Ghraib."

Two interviews with Nick Turse might seem excessive, but they are both good. In this one Turse addresses criticisms of his sources. He also explains how, once he started publishing articles based on the US records, those records were made much harder to access. And there's a bit more in the way of human interest in this conversation. His account of collecting evidence in Vietnam is fascinating and very moving.

Chomsky discusses US interventions, particularly in Vietnam, with William F Buckley. It's hard going because of Buckley's insufferable smugness and constant interruptions but Chomsky is excellent. Worth remembering that Buckley had previously worked for the CIA and as a journalist had, unwittingly or otherwise, repeated CIA lies about Pinochet's government not being involved in the murder of Orlando Letelier.

What's fascinating about this video is that, after the first twenty minutes, if focuses on the people of South Vietnam, from the Mekong delta, where a village might be part government controlled and part VC controlled, to a Saigon where, at times, it seems like there's no war at all. Which is a side of the story almost completely ignored by Ken Burns.

The Quiet Mutiny John Pilger's 1970 account of the disillusioned soldiers who increasingly simply refused to fight the war. He highlights something Burns pays little attention to, the gulf between "lifers" and "grunts." Arguments about whether America could have won often overlook the fact that by the early '70s the US barely had a functioning army.

No great surprises but a lucid summary of the issues.

Daniel Ellsberg found himself touring to promote his book Secrets in the run up to the second Gulf War, giving what he had to say a dramatic, not to say depressing, immediacy.

The Panama Deception won an academy award for best documentary. It makes for an interesting parallel with the US assault on Vietnam but is an important film in its own right. (The notice it is only available on YouTube has appeared since I first embedded the link. Do go and find it. It is excellent.

This is a brutal take down of Burns' film. The extraordianary thing about this interview is that Douglas Valentine, who wrote a book on the Phoenix Program, has not watched the film but accurately predicts most of the its failings.

NAPALM It is not possible to embed the video here because of privacy settings. The film won a Grand Prize at the 1967 Cracow film festival. It is a thoughtful, low key account of a protest against a napalm plant in California. I was particularly keen to include it because the film was in large part the work of Charles Horman, an American journalist who was murdered by the Chilean authorities shortly after the coup in 1973. There is strong circumstantial evidence that the CIA at least acquiesced in his murder. And the Weather Underground (see above) bombed the New York Headquarters of ITT, an international communications company, because of their involvement with CIA attempts to undermine Allende.

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