John Ketwig is retired from an automotive career, a lifetime member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, a member of Veterans For Peace, and the author of '…and a hard rain fell: A G.I.’s True Story of the War in Vietnam.' We're going to talk mostly about the Ken Burns' series "The Vietnam War".
Do you want to tell listeners how you ended up going to Vietnam?
Can you tell us a little about your time in Vietnam? How long were you there and what effect did it have on you?
"Ken Burns series is delivered to my living room with all the slick advertising and hype of a delivered pizza.... Like the abhorrent draft notice that showed up in my mail box half a century ago, this series is supposedly too important to ignore."
What is your feeling about the build up for Burns' series and the 50th anniversary commemorations set up by the government?
A lot of people have criticized Burns' for not taking a larger look at the causes of the war. As you stated in your article:
"This is nostalgia, focused upon old film clips and the memories or impressions of a few survivors."
"He recognizes the despair and disillusionment of a few soldiers, but he does not dare to explain the corruption, profiteering, mismanagement, attitudes, or strategic blunders that destroyed morale throughout the Vietnam-era military."
As someone who fought there, how could Burns' have better addressed the larger issues of the war?
JFK's change of heart
The problem of history brings us to the fact that our country still finds itself involved in similar wars today. You stated:
"vast quantities of dismembered bodies and plaintive disillusioned G.I.s are considered proper fare for my living room, but the obscene lies, distortions, and miscalculations that caused the tragedy are barely mentioned, probably because they are still happening today."
Who was the audience for Burns' film do you think? Was it the soldiers who fought there and the Americans who lived through it, or is it the generation learning about Vietnam?
You wrote "Ken Burns delivers pictures of dead people in disturbing quantities, but he does not dare to describe them as atrocities."
I'd like to read another segment you wrote:
"For a short while America lost its taste for militarism and war, then we saw Ronald Reagan... [sell] arms to the Iranians to help a bunch of thugs in Central America commit the very crimes that Isis commits today."
How did the country get back to where we find ourselves making the same mistakes today?
Let's wrap up with this: if you had the chance for 18 hours on national television, what are the points about the Vietnam War that you would like to impart to the next generations?