By Jim Klimaski
Got my invitation to the preview of Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s new documentary. So I went. The ticket, which you had to pick up at the Kennedy Center just before the showing, gave you an indication to where this was going: “Bank of America presents The Vietnam War.” There, it finally admitted to what we in the anti-war movement at the time already knew. My mind flashed back to the burning of the Bank of Amerika branch in California.
But that was not all that caused me concern. There was the listing of the underwriters of the series. After the usual public television sponsors, the last one had the screen to himself in letters at least twice the size of any of the previously listed credits — DAVID KOCH. There, that said it.
We were presented with clips from five of the episodes for a total of 45 minutes of preview. The total viewing time is to be 18 hours. They have captured some tremendous footage of the war and many of the interviews were gut wrenching. There even were interviews with former NVA and NLF (VC to the filmmakers) members. But even in this preview one can get an idea where this documentary is going. The war was an innocent mistake, but we could have won it if it wasn’t for the bad press. There was President Johnson commenting about the “fake news” spread by the press in reporting the Tet Offensive. “We won, dammit!” Oh, then why did you quit the race for re-election?
The anti-war actions were covered — Kent State, the Pentagon March in 1967 and others from various cities around the country. Some of military that were interviewed recognized we were fighting on the wrong side.
Should you watch it? Yes, but don’t expect a strong political analysis. After the preview there was a panel made up of Sen. McCain and former Senators John Kerry and Chuck Hagel. It was not at all enlightening and people were heading for the door before it ended. The filmmakers and Sharon Rockefeller, the President of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, couldn’t praise the Bank of America enough. With the Veterans dying off, the door on this chapter of our history can now be closed. So they say, so they want. So they can make the same mistakes in new wars.
Jim Klimaski was a co-founder of the MLTF and is the principal in the law firm Klimaski and Associates, P.C., located in Washington, DC. He practices in the fields of military law, employment law, security clearances, and freedom of information and privacy law.