Vietnam Derangement Syndrome: A bit more on the bullshit Burnsumentary


So we here have been covering the lame PBS propaganda series on Vietnam, by Ken “Burnsy” Burns and Lynn Novick. Andrew Stewart has done most of the work, but Doug Valentine has contributed and I’ve pitched in too, if you include this item.

Anyway, we’ve already dissected this fraud thoroughly but I came across some remarkable information in this post at As author Thomas A. Bass notes, “More than eighty people were interviewed by the film-makers over the ten years they gathered material for The Vietnam War, but one glaring exception is Daniel Ellsberg.” Yeah, that’s pretty glaring since Ellsberg is the guy who, in this understated post at put it, “strengthened public opposition to the Vietnam War in 1971 when he leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times.”

Bass has some interesting observations about the vile role of the CIA’s Edward Lansdale, but I was most surprised by this lengthy excerpt below. It reveals precisely the scope of the Burnsumentary’s intellectual fraud and dishonesty, even if I have some problems with Bass’s overall observations.

Burns and Novick rely extensively on another person — in fact, she accompanied them on their promotional tour for the film — who is identified in the documentary as “Duong Van Mai, Hanoi” and then later as “Duong Van Mai, Saigon”. This is the maiden name of Duong Van Mai Elliott, who has been married for fifty-three years to David Elliott, a former RAND interrogator in Vietnam and professor of political science at Pomona College in California. Since going to school at Georgetown University in the early 1960s, Mai Elliott has lived far longer in the United States than in Vietnam.

Elliott, herself a former RAND employee, is the daughter of a former high government official in the French colonial administration. After the French defeat in the First Indochina War, her family moved from Hanoi to Saigon, except for Elliott’s sister, who joined the Viet Minh in the north. This allows Elliott to insist — as she does repeatedly in her public appearances — that Vietnam’s was a “civil war”. The war divided families like hers, but anti-colonialist fighters arrayed against colonialist sympathisers do not constitute a civil war. No one refers to the First Indochina War as a civil war. It was an anti-colonial struggle that shaded into a repeat performance, except that by this time Lansdale and Diem had created the facsimile of a nation state. Americans loath to help France re-establish its colonial empire in Asia could feel good about defending the white hats in a civil war. Elliott, an eloquent and earnest victim of this war, embodies the distressed damsel whom US soldiers were trying to save from Communist aggression.

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