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A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
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How Americans Remember (and Forget) Their Wars
Some years ago, a newspaper article credited a European visitor with the wry observation that Americans are charming because they have such short memories. When it comes to the nation’s wars, however, he was not entirely on target. Americans embrace military histories of the heroic “band of [American] brothers” sort, especially involving World War II.... Read More
Poets Phan Nhien Hao and To Thuy Yen (far left) in New Haven
I’ve only been to New Haven four times, and last week, it was only to participate in the commemoration of the Fall of Saigon, as organized by the Vietnamese Studies Program at Yale. I was one of three poets invited. The other two were Phan Nhien Hao (b. 1967) and To Thuy Yen (b. 1938).... Read More
It was one of the worst moments of the Vietnam War era in America. U.S. troops had just invaded Cambodia and the nation’s campuses erupted in a spasm of angry and frustrated protest. At Kent State University in Ohio, National Guardsmen had killed four students. In Washington that day in May 1970, the first of... Read More
Giang in Fort Indiantown Gap, 2016
It’s remarkable that I’ve been friends with Giang for nearly four decades. We’ve spent but a year in the same state and, frankly, have little in common. Giang studied computer science, business administration and engineering technology. He makes more in a year than I do in ten. He drinks Bud Lite and recycles corny metaphors... Read More
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The Best Picture winner at this year's Academy Awards was Spotlight, which seemed an excellent choice to me. That powerful ensemble performance showed a handful of daring investigative reporters at The Boston Globe taking on the political and cultural establishment of their city, breaking the story of how the Catholic Church had long shielded its... Read More
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Last week America suffered the loss of Sydney Schanberg, widely regarded as one of the greatest journalists of his generation. Yet as I'd previously noted, when I read his long and glowing obituary in the New York Times, I was shocked to see that it included not a single word concerning the greatest story of... Read More
Sydney H. Schanberg, center, in Cambodia, August 1973
The death on Saturday of Sydney Schanberg at age 82 should sadden us not only for the loss of one of our most renowned journalists but also for what his story reveals about the nature of our national media. Syd had made his career at the New York Times for 26 years, winning a Pulitzer... Read More
If you happen to be a potential American war criminal, you've had a few banner weeks. On May 9th, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter presented former Secretary of State and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger with the Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Award, that institution's “highest honorary award for private citizens.” In bestowing it on... Read More
[Note for TomDispatch Readers: On this Memorial Day weekend dedicated to remembering those who died in America’s wars, TomDispatch brings back a powerful 2008 Nick Turse piece about two civilians, two Vietnamese, who did not, in fact, die in the long ago American conflict in their country, but did lose parts of themselves. We hope... Read More
America's Forgotten Vietnamese Victims
Nguyen Van Tu asks if I'm serious. Am I really willing to tell his story -- to tell the story of the Vietnamese who live in this rural corner of the Mekong Delta? Almost 40 years after guerrilla fighters in his country threw the limits of U.S. military power into stark relief -- during the... Read More
Vietnam War Montage, Credit: Wikimedia Commons
War may be thought of in two ways. First, as a football game between armies, in which the function of the citizenry is to cheer for the home team. In football, success is measured in points scored, yardage gained, brilliance of play, and time of possession. In war as football, it is battles won, enemies... Read More
Last week Defense Secretary Ashton Carter laid a wreath at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington in commemoration of the "50th anniversary" of that war. The date is confusing, as the war started earlier and ended far later than 1966. But the Vietnam War at 50 commemoration presents a good opportunity to reflect on the... Read More
Vernon (Right) in Friendly Lounge
Looking for Vern for over a week, I finally found him in the Friendly Lounge. Vivacious Kelly was bartending. Overhearing Vern say how he had to take his helmet off because of the letters “VC,” Kelly looked perplexed, “Why?” “Because VC stands for Viet Cong,” Vern clarified. “Viet Com?” When you’re young and beautiful, you... Read More
Why do I always seem to be writing about Henry Kissinger? I once listened to the man who helped prolong the Vietnam War for half a decade declare that its “tragedy” lay in the fact “that the faith of Americans in each other became destroyed in the process.” I later took to the (web)pages of... Read More
War, Sunny Side Up, and the Summer of Slaughter (Vietnam and Today)
Let me tell you a story about a moment in my life I’m not likely to forget even if, with the passage of years, so much around it has grown fuzzy. It involves a broken-down TV, movies from my childhood, and a war that only seemed to come closer as time passed. My best guess:... Read More
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“It’s the beginning of the end for Donald Trump." "It disqualifies him as a presidential candidate.” “This is the end of his run.” So crowed the political operatives looking to take down Mr. Trump, and by so doing, protect the political status quo and ease themselves into positions of greater power. The egos in the... Read More
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The Secret Origins of the CIA’s Torture Program and the Forgotten Man Who Tried to Expose It
The witness reported men being hung by the feet or the thumbs, waterboarded, given electric shocks to the genitals, and suffering from extended solitary confinement in what he said were indescribably inhumane conditions. It’s the sort of description that might have come right out of the executive summary of the Senate torture report released last... Read More
It was 1967. The war in Vietnam was raging. I was 24 years old, just out of graduate school in New York City. Cambridge University had accepted me to do a doctorate history. But no. In a burst of youthful patriotism, I concluded it was every citizen’s duty to join the armed forces in wartime.... Read More
40 Years Later, Will the End Games in Iraq and Afghanistan Follow the Vietnam Playbook?
If our wars in the Greater Middle East ever end, it’s a pretty safe bet that they will end badly -- and it won't be the first time. The “fall of Saigon” in 1975 was the quintessential bitter end to a war. Oddly enough, however, we’ve since found ways to reimagine that denouement which miraculously... Read More
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What Was John McCain's True Wartime Record in Vietnam?
Although the memory has faded in recent years, during much of the second half of the twentieth century the name “Tokyo Rose” ranked very high in our popular consciousness, probably second only to “Benedict Arnold” as a byword for American treachery during wartime. The story of Iva Ikuko Toguri, the young Japanese-American woman who spent... Read More
Suddenly he appeared, riding in the back of a truck, his arms thrust to the heavens, his fists clenched tight. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was Ho Chi Minh, modern Vietnam’s founding father... and he was holding dumbbells. It was 2010, the eve of the 35th anniversary of the fall of Saigon -- though... Read More
How Thanking the Veteran Meant Ignoring What Happened
The 1960s -- that extraordinary decade -- is celebrating its 50th birthday one year at a time. Happy birthday, 1965! How, though, do you commemorate the Vietnam War, the era’s signature catastrophe? After all, our government prosecuted its brutal and indiscriminate war under false pretexts, long after most citizens objected, and failed to achieve any... Read More
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A Long Tradition of Those Who Walk Away From War
The United States military should consider itself lucky that it only has Bowe Bergdahl. During the Vietnam War nearly 420,000 soldiers deserted, which means that they left their posts without any intent to return or failed to show up for deployment. Those who were gone for more than a month were administratively categorized as having... Read More
A New Book Transforms Our Understanding of What the Vietnam War Actually Was
For half a century we have been arguing about “the Vietnam War.” Is it possible that we didn’t know what we were talking about? After all that has been written (some 30,000 books and counting), it scarcely seems possible, but such, it turns out, has literally been the case. Now, in Kill Anything that Moves,... Read More
Forty-six years ago, in January 1966, Jonathan Schell, a 23-year-old not-quite-journalist found himself at the farming village of Ben Suc, 30 miles from the South Vietnamese capital, Saigon. It had long been supportive of the Vietcong. Now, in what was dubbed Operation Cedar Falls, the U.S. military (with Schell in tow) launched an operation to... Read More
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The Pentagon’s Latest “Mission Accomplished” Moment
It’s 2053 -- 20 years since you needed a computer, tablet, or smart phone to go online. At least, that’s true in the developed world: you know, China, India, Brazil, and even some parts of the United States. Cybernetic eye implants allow you to see everything with a digital overlay. And once facial recognition software... Read More
Call me human. It turns out that I’m no better at predicting the future than the rest of humanity. If as a species we were any good at it, right now I would undoubtedly be zipping through the gloriously spired skies over my hometown, New York City, my jet pack strapped to my back, just... Read More
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It would seem the CIA has gone back into their archives, blown the dust off the Phoenix Program, and put it into play again as the "Drone War." The similarities with the Drone War are readily evident to anyone old enough to know of the Phoenix Program. For those who aren't old enough or who... Read More
There's a piquant contrast in the press coverage across the decades of Billy Graham's various private dealings with Nixon, as displayed on the tapes gradually released from the National Archive or disclosed from Nixon's papers. I'll come shortly to the recent flap over Graham and Nixon's closet palaverings about the Jews, but first let's visit... Read More
Topic Classics
What Was John McCain's True Wartime Record in Vietnam?