Vietnam veteran and retired Marine Lt Colonel Oliver North offers his take on Ken Burns' PBS documentary The Vietnam War in the Washington Times.
When Richard Nixon was in the White House, I was in Vietnam and he was my commander in chief. When I was on Ronald Reagan’s National Security Council staff, I had the opportunity to brief former President Nixon on numerous occasions and came to admire his analysis of current events, insights on world affairs and compassion for our troops. His preparation for any meeting or discussion was exhaustive. His thirst for information was unquenchable and his tolerance for fools was nonexistent.
Mr. Nixon’s prosecution of the war in Southeast Asia is poorly told by Ken Burns in his new Public Broadcasting Service documentary “The Vietnam War.” That is but one of many reasons Mr. Burns‘ latest work is such a disappointment and a tragic lost opportunity.
It’s sad, but I’ve come to accept that the real story of the heroic American GIs in Vietnam may never be told. Like too many others, Ken Burns portrays the young soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines of the Vietnam War as pot-smoking, drug-addicted, hippie marauders.
Those with whom I served were anything but. They did not commit the atrocities alleged in the unforgivable lies John Kerry described to a congressional committee so prominently featured by Mr. Burns. The troops my brother and I were blessed to lead were honorable, heroic and tenacious. They were patriotic, proud of their service, and true to their God and our country.
To depict them otherwise, as Mr. Burns does, is an egregious disservice to them, the families of the fallen and to history. But his treatment of my fellow Vietnam War veterans is just the start. Some of the most blatant travesties in the film are reserved for President Nixon.
Because of endless fairy tales told by Ken Burns and others, many Americans associate Richard Nixon with the totality and the worst events of Vietnam. It’s hardly evident in the Burns “documentary,” but important to note: When Richard Nixon was elected president in 1968, he inherited a nation — and a world — engulfed in discord and teetering on the brink of widespread chaos. His predecessor, Lyndon Johnson, was forced from office with a half-million U.S. troops mired in combat and fierce anti-American government demonstrations across the country and in our nation’s capital.
Ken Burns may not recall — but my family remembers: It was Lyndon Johnson who sent my brother and me to war. It was Richard Nixon who brought us home. It is very likely we are alive today because Mr. Nixon kept his word.
… President Nixon pressed on to all but finish the war. As promised, he brought our combat units home, returned 591 prisoners of war to their wives and families, ended the draft, leveraged the conflict to open ties with China and improved relations with the Soviet Union. He pushed both Communist giants in Beijing and Moscow to force their North Vietnamese puppet into a negotiated settlement. Yet he is portrayed in the Burns documentary as a cold-blooded, calculating politician more interested in re-election than the lives of U.S. troops in combat.
Contrary to the film’s portrayal, Mr. Nixon had a complicated strategy to achieve “peace with honor.” His goal was to train and equip the South Vietnamese military to defend their own country in a process he called “Vietnamization,” and thereby withdraw American troops.
President Nixon succeeded in isolating the North Vietnamese diplomatically and negotiated a peace agreement that preserved the right of the people of South Vietnam to determine their own political future. Imperfect as the Saigon government was, by 1973 the South Vietnamese had many well-trained troops and units that fought well and were proud to be our allies. This intricate and sophisticated approach took shape over four wartime years but receives only superficial mention in Mr. Burns‘ production.
… By the time President Nixon resigned office on Aug. 9, 1974, the Vietnam War was all but won and the South Vietnamese were confident of securing a permanent victory. But in December 1974 — three months after Mr. Nixon departed the White House — a vengeful, Democrat-dominated Congress cut off all aid to South Vietnam.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:
You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine interview with Oliver North via the below link: