The representation of the Vietnam War still dominant in America at the beginning of the twenty-first century is based on a series of fantasies originally constructed from 1954 through the 1970’s and then elaborated and embellished during the 1980s and 1990s, especially under the Reagan (1981-1989) and Bush (1989-1993) administrations. Among these fantasies are the following falsehoods, accepted as true by most Americans—or rather by most Americans other than those who simply prefer not to know anything about the war:
- Before the United States became involved, there were two separate nations called South Vietnam and North Vietnam.
- South Vietnam was a democracy with an elected government.
- South Vietnam was being invaded by North Vietnam, a communist dictatorship.
- This invasion was supported by China and the Soviet Union as part of a communist attempt to take over the world.
- In response to this invasion, the United States provided economic and military aid to South Vietnam.
- Then in 1964 North Vietnam attacked U.S. destroyers in the international waters off the Gulf of Tonkin, and the United States responded with a brief retaliation.
- North Vietnam then attacked U.S. advisers in South Vietnam, and the United States responded in 1965 by sending in troops and bombing North Vietnam.
- The 1968 Tet offensive by the “Viet Cong” and North Vietnam was really a military victory for the United States, but it was turned into a political defeat by the news media and politicians.
- The United States lost the war because we “weren’t allowed to win” and we were fighting with “one hand tied behind our back”; that is, the military was unduly restrained by politicians, the news media, and the antiwar movement.
- The United States may have lost the war but it never lost any battles during the war.
- The United States didn’t lose the war; the bombing of Hanoi in December 1972 forced North Vietnam to accept Washington’s peace terms.
- Before the Vietnam War, the United States had never lost a war.
- When American veterans came home from the war, they were routinely spat upon and abused by antiwar activists. Read More»
- After the war, North Vietnam secretly kept hundreds or maybe even thousands of American prisoners of war, to be used as slave laborers or hostages or “bargaining chips” or sources of technological information about U.S. aircraft or simply victims to be tortured. Read More»
[So, what’s the truth about America’s Vietnam War?]
This article is an excerpt from the book
Vietnam and Other American Fantasies»
Reprinted with permission.