The Myths of Vietnam

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Contending versions of the Vietnam War and the antiwar movement began to develop even before the war ended. The hawks' version, then and now, holds that the war was winnable, but the press, micromanaging civilian game theorists in the Pentagon, and antiwar hippies lost it. . . . The doves' version, contrarily, remains that the war was unwise and unwinnable no matter what strategy was employed or how much firepower was used. . . Both of these versions of the war and the antiwar movement as they have come down to us are better termed myths than versions of history because they function less as explanations of reality than as new justifications of old positions and the emotional investments that attended them (Garfinkle, 7).

Pro-war or Anti- war. In the generation alive during the 1960s and 1970s, few, if any, Americans could avoid taking a position on the United States' role in Southeast Asia. As the above quotation from Adam Garfinkle suggests, positions taken in the 1990s, over twenty years after hostilities ended, serve both as an explanation for the U.S. defeat and justification for the positions taken during the war. The hawks' view justifies those who served in Vietnam and appears to give meaning to the deaths of the 58,000 Americans who died there. Those who protested the war or evaded the draft can tell themselves that their actions were justified because the war was immoral, unwinnable and just plain stupid.

American combat involvement ended in 1973. Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese in 1975. Even though the U.S. military forces pulled out of Vietnam 25 years ago, the United States continues to be haunted by the specter of Vietnam. Even the most cursory review of the 1980s and 1990s reveals shadows of Vietnam. A ...

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...Robert S with Brian VanDeMark. In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam. Vintage Books Edition published by Vintage Books, New York, 1996. Original hardcover edition published by Times Books, New York, 1995.

Wilcox, Fred A. Waiting for an Army to Die: The Tragedy of Agent Orange. Cabin John, MD: Seven Locks Press, 1989.

Zumwalt, E. R., Jr. "Report to the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs on the Association Between Adverse Health Effects and Exposure to Agent Orange." May 5, 1990. The edition used for this paper was published as an addendum to Admiral Zumwalt's testimony before the House Science Committee Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, December, 13, 1995. Statement and addendum published by the Federal Information Systems Corporation Federal News Service and accessed through the LEXIS-NEXIS Academic Universe computer database.

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