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“Another Vietnam” questions war, too “Another Vietnam” exhibit shows civilians behind war

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Feb 10, 2016 No Comments ›› Dan Bodine

"Perpetual war represents perpetual profits for the ever expanding business and government interests"

Perpetual war represents perpetual profits for the ever expanding business and government interests.” (AFP commons photo / Caption [w/o emphasis] from aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/01/big-money-behind-war-military-industrial-complex) Although reeking of inequality it reminds of the futility of the old Vietnam War’s hawk argument, as personified against the goat in Robert Crichton’s WWII classic novel, The Secret of Santa Vittoria — e.g.,  villagers determined to hide their wine harvest from the Nazis. [More below.   –DB]

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By Dan Bodine

 

 

Vietnam map

Vietnam

Samplings of photos from the book, “Another Vietnam: Unseen images of the war from the winning side” — viewed over the weekend– stirred in me old conflicts on America’s military-industrial complex. About who exactly wanted the war? And who won it? And as history seems to be proving now, whether or not it even matters?

Here’s a link to some of the exhibit’s photos and identifying captions, copyrighted and published by National Geographic Books.

They’re from an odd assembly of negatives, processed during the war mostly — often in makeshift jungle darkrooms. By (now) old, North Vietnam photo journalists — who when contacted decades later about a possible collection, uncovered them from the strangest of storage places in their homes. Talk about hoarding!

But they’re not the West’s usual blood-and-gore shots. Many are of the unseen civilian corps who made up the Vietcong guerrillas –- e.g., young women and children usually either in medical or supply roles, who are credited with helping to win the war.

Or rather, whose determination not to be outlasted by an invading force, finally wore out America’s will to win it.

It’s been almost 41 years since Saigon fell. Don’t want to open any old wounds; just, for me, strangely, this is the first I’ve dared to look at other side. It’s…Well, different!

Started not to view it. Then said, “It’s the other side, Jethro! You’re a big boy now. You never wondered what it was like on the other side!?”

In our contentious, political times, with 2016 election duties bearing down, I opened up part of my past. Studied photos and captions. And even got carried away to another time and place before all that.

“You know,” I reminisced, “that sounds like how our own parents banded together in WWII to defeat Fascism! Stories they told us kids, remember those? Women on airplane assembly lines? Others leaving at 4-4:30 each morning to drive 150-200 miles to dam construction site, to help with the nation’s electricity? These folks here are not us!?”

Admittedly, we’re not that democracy we once were. Social minimalism — the way many see those who don’t have it –has spread a cancerous sore! We’re oligarch now, we’re told — “a country run at the expense of its citizenry by and for the super rich” — our own capitalism has swung so far into the hands of military-industrial corpocracy.

Viewing this also reminded me of almost 20 years I spent in newspaper darkrooms myself once (prior to the internet era taking hold); developing film and making prints to publish. What these photographers did to get by under their conditions are stunning! Can’t imagine the difficulty! Mixing chemicals, i.e., in a small saucer!?

But they were driven on serving their beloved country — by documenting this war!

The most stunning to me is one a photographer never submitted. He didn’t think it was good enough for publication!

It’s a river field-hospital scene tucked away in a thick bamboo hideaway for injured soldiers. An operating room floating on water, with a flimsy mosquito net thrown around it! No lights! This is where they saved lives! And helped win the war! Civilian men and women!

Medics are seen knee-high in water hoisting a single stretcher, carrying a young man (or boy) with what looks to be a head wound.

Emotionless, female nurses stand by, non-emotion masking no doubt a screaming do-or-die determination about yet another ‘routine’ duty: Continue to fight; with whatever it takes; for however long it takes!

Two impressions swept me. After all these years, one, questioning the folly of this war. Two, a clearer understanding of how a third-world, rag-tag army of citizen soldiers — using often make-do, thrown together supplies and procedures — was able to defeat the mighty armed forced of the United States of America!

Simply because “the people” wanted to!

Indeed, there’s this WWII scene in Robert Crichton’s The Secret of Santa Vittoria that jumped in me. The people of this Italian, mountain village were damned and determined, too, that invaders (Nazis, in this case) were not going to find and destroy their season’s wine harvest.

Without it, they would have no resources for their lives. This was Europe before social democracy! Before economic safety nets! Without wine, they would likely perish!

So, they schemed. And hid their bounty. Again and again!

Crichton describes their come-hell-or-high-water determination by comparing it to a lofty, soaring hawk fighting a grubby, ignoble mountain goat.

When going after something mountain goats don't turn back. (Image from animals.howstuffworks.com

When going after something mountain goats don’t turn back.                                         (Image from animals.howstuffworks.com

“…The hawk is cold and aloof and dangerous, but there is something about a goat that must win,” the novelist wrote, “because the goat is better than the hawk and worse than the hawk, the goat will try anything; he will climb to the top of any mountain to get what he is after, and will grovel in the manure pile, he will be bold and weak, stupid and wise, beautiful and ugly, mean and gentle, and in the end the goat will win because the goat always wants something more than a hawk wants it.”

Words, of course, will never adequately describe — at least to the families and soldiers of this era — what the assassination of President John F. Kennedy meant. And, subsequently, the suspicious implications that arose later on why this nation’s military-industrial complex basically wanted to drive U.S. foreign policy in this war.

Because, if so, there’s one key point it failed to grasp. In proxy wars, soldiers are one thing. Civilian soldiers are far different. “War 101.” The Vietnam War was won by civilian soldiers! We had none over there!

And not a lot here, either. Civilian tech reps were deployed for the companies back home who made planes and bombs, and other materials or equipment needed to fight the war, yes. But they weren’t so involved in the on-the-ground fighting.

Back home, millions of others, instead, fought against the war! Protests! Service men and women returning home from fulling then required military duties didn’t expect ticker-tape parades or even welcome-home parties — outside of immediate families. You can smell tense air. Stay away!

Most Vets looked only to slip back into their community and resume life again — without being spit on or otherwise having to defend the nobleness of what they’d just participated in.

Done my duty for my country, it still was.

And now?

With more and more political proxy wars needed to justify a still-burgeoning, military supply business, the Great Recession has sharply delineated the starkness — and the movement’s speed, of this growing wealth divide in America.

The stink in that Vietnam didie — a cataclysmic event, it’s turned out to be; still unclaimed after all these years — now threatens to become the suspicious stench of a once great nation.

Whose country did you do the duty for!?

If not ours!?

And to carry it farther, if not ours then, with all the technological, financial and moral changes that’ve been swept in in its wake now — e.g.,  the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution that’s underway allegedly — does it even matter?

No ley asi it is?

With our new global citizens!?

Hello, is there anyone in there?

 

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