A History Lesson for Oliver Stone on Vietnam

The neo-Communist filmmaker doesn't find communist objectives and atrocities worth mentioning.

Editor’s note: The following is the seventh installment of a series of articles Frontpage is running in response to Oliver Stone’s neo-Communist documentary series, “The Untold History of the United States.” Frontpage will be reviewing each episode of the Stone series, exposing the leftist hateful lies about America and setting the record straight. Below is a review of Part 7 of the series.

In Episode 7 of Showtime’s Untold History of the United States, “Johnson, Nixon & Vietnam: Reversal of Fortune,” Oliver Stone continues his concocted fantasy of how American history allegedly was with the brave John F. Kennedy set to pull Americans out of Vietnam. Lest we forget last episode, in truth, it was Mr. Kennedy who began with a mere 600 advisors there, then ramped up the troop total to over 14,000—some estimates put it at 25,000. If this is the Left’s definition of “withdrawal,” it’s easy to see why Shawty Lo has 10 Baby Mamas. But I digress.

Lyndon Johnson, according to Stone, disregarded JFK’s “memo” about withdrawing troops and instead escalated. We shall return in a moment to the timeline of the program—which begins with a litany of American/CIA “plots” to destabilize Latin American governments—but it is critical that a clear understanding of what Johnson did vs. what the Joint Chiefs said to him occurs. In a meeting in 1965 with his JCS, Johnson bluntly asked if the U.S. could win the Vietnam war. The Chiefs responded with a qualified “yes”: if the U.S. put in 500,000 ground troops immediately, if the U.S. mined Haiphong harbor and sealed off Soviet and Chinese aid; and if there was round the clock bombing of the north, the U.S. would win.

Keep in mind these were the requirements in 1965, although as late as 1969 the U.S. never reached 500,000 troops (when at least a million troops would have been needed due to the escalation by the North), and there were dozens of “bombing pauses” and “peace offensives,” all useless to the cause of peace. While the military may have lied about enemy body counts and the course of the war later, in 1965 the brass was crystal clear that this was a war, and a major commitment if America wanted to win.

That brings us to Stone’s other contradiction: while Vietnam was not a “declared” war, without realizing it he makes clear that Congress easily would have declared war had it been requested—the vote was unanimous in the House and only two senators voted “no” on the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.

Stone, however, opens the episode on Vietnam with a review of American intervention in Latin America – again, supposedly a departure from the JFK’s “reform” efforts, as he labels them. Presumably these Kennedy-esque “reforms” would include the assassination of Ngo Dien Diem (an ally) or the multiple Kennedy-initiated assassination attempts on Fidel Castro. One could argue that at least LBJ managed to target our enemies and was effective enough to remove them. Not once during this harangue about U.S. involvement in the southern hemisphere or the Caribbean are Cuban and Soviet efforts to impose totalitarian gulags on their victims taken seriously. Indeed, throughout the program, if there was a counter-demonstration against a so-called “democratic” Communist government, it was always at the instigation of the CIA and American agents. But if there was a “peace protest” at home, it was never because of KGB agents, who were proven to have been incredibly active throughout the U.S. peace movement. (See the Venona Project for more information.)

Stone accurately notes (with glee, it seems) that there were atrocities committed by American and/or South Vietnamese troops, although he sloppily shows the “napalm girl,” who was badly burned due to a South Vietnamese attack, while narrating about U.S. atrocities. But this is where the entire series becomes a joke: context. Not once are North Vietnamese or Viet Cong atrocities even mentioned, let alone catalogued—the chopping off of villagers’ arms for supporting the Americans, the genocide of the Hmong, the beheading of village elders who opposed Communists, and so on.

Context aside, Stone perpetuates the same stupid myths in this supposedly “new” and “untold” history. He implies that Vietnam was disproportionately fought by blacks and flatly states that they died in disproportionate numbers. This is absolutely incorrect: blacks comprised 12% of American forces in Vietnam and 12.5% of casualties, which was almost exactly their share of the U.S. population at the time. Indeed, men with a college degree (most of them pilots and the heavy majority of them white) were disproportionately killed. There is the implication, though not specifically stated, that Vietnam was a “draftees’ war,” which again is simply wrong. Contrary to the Stone counterfactual history, two-thirds of Americans who fought in Vietnam were volunteers. When these statistics are connected, it means that in reality the type of person who had the highest likelihood of dying in Vietnam was a white college graduate. An even more astonishing fact is that more Canadians fought in U.S. armed forces in Vietnam than there were Americans who fled to Canada to avoid the draft – by a factor of three-to-one.

Stone revels in the mass anti-war demonstrations and insists that professors and journalists received CIA money to challenge anti-war views. Of course, to a leftist there can never be an honest disagreement with a leftist policy: it must always come because someone is paid to oppose the Left. Again, we have no mention of the infiltration of campuses by active Soviet sympathizers and devout Communists, which continues to the present.

Throughout, Stone is perfectly willing to believe anything the North Vietnamese say when they are ridiculing or contradicting American claims. But when Gen. Vo Bam later admitted that he was given the task in 1959 of beginning an invasion of the South, somehow the North Vietnamese were not to be believed. Indeed, the testimony by Communist officers is completely relevant and revealing. A 1995 interview with Co. Bui Tin, who served on Ho Chi Minh’s general staff, said, “Gen. [Vo Nguyen] Giap [commander of the North Vietnamese army] believed that guerrilla warfare was important but not sufficient for victory.” Tet, wherein Stone ignores entirely the role of the American media, we now know was a desperation move by the North. Again, Bui Tin:

Our senior commander in the South, Gen. Nguyen Chi Thant, knew that we were losing base areas, control of the rural population and that his main forces were being pushed out to the border of South Vietnam … .  Tet was designed to influence American public opinion … . Our losses were staggering and a complete surprise. Giap later told me that Tet had been a military defeat, though we had gained the planned political advantages.

Yet when unnamed North Vietnamese leaders said that the United States would use nuclear weapons in Vietnam, well, that must be a statement of truth for Stone because it’s what he wanted to believe.

American “fear of weakness,” according to Stone, resulted in Vietnam. It couldn’t have anything to do with Communist expansion. In the peace settlement, the South “dithered” about allowing elections, but Stone never mentions that the North never had elections at all.

The post-Vietnam material is equally silly. Stone ignores John Dean’s role in overseeing, and possibly ordering, the Watergate burglaries. But surprisingly Stone spends little time on Watergate because of his obsession with foreign intrigue, this time Chile, where the U.S. was blamed for denying Salvador Allende aid. Yet the contradiction of why a socialist paradise would need outside aid in the first place—especially after stealing foreign assets—is never mentioned. Without doubt, many repressive dictatorial regimes in Latin America killed or “disappeared” (one of Stone’s favorite phrases) tens of thousands of people. Again, context: where is the condemnation of the millions killed in communist purges, or the slaughter of hundreds of thousands by African governments that had nothing whatsoever to do with the United States or the CIA? Stone is so paranoid of the CIA that it must have millions of covert agents to achieve what he credits it with accomplishing, yet at the time of the Iranian takeover of the U.S. embassy in 1979, we could hardly field any agents inside the revolutionary movements.

Continuing through the 1970s and into the 1980s to blame all of America’s woes on Vietnam (this is the “reversal of fortune”), Stone finally drifts into one of the most absurd complaints for a leftist ever: the deficit. He actually laments that Nixon took us off the gold standard (but of course it was Johnson’s Great Society spending, not Vietnam, that destroyed the budgets) and calls a deficit of $258 billion in 1968 “staggering.” FDR and LBJ were pikers in jacking up deficits compared to the current incompetent in the White House, who needs to ponder a trillion-dollar coin as a means to address our shortfalls.

Vietnam did leave a lasting scar, one that was not fully healed until American forces effortlessly kicked Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. The nation was divided, but this was in no small measure due to the fact that many passionately understood that America’s cause against Communism was righteous and necessary. Nixon’s narrow election in 1968, for instance, was only “narrow” because George Wallace, even more committed to defeating the North Vietnamese, siphoned off millions of votes from Nixon. Stone’s series is only “untold” because few have had the temerity to portray Soviet propaganda on cable TV as historical fact. If we are lucky, it will continue to be “untold.”

Related articles on Stone’s series:

1. Bruce Thornton’s introduction to this Frontpage series.

2. David Horowitz’s analysis of the meaning behind the warm reception of Stone’s Kremlin propaganda.

3. Matthew Vadum’s review of Stone’s first episode.

4. Daniel Flynn’s review of “Roosevelt, Truman and Wallace,” the second episode.

5. Daniel Greenfield’s review of “The Bomb,” the third episode.

6. Bruce Thornton’s review of “The Cold War: 1945-1950,” the 4th episode.

7. Matthew Vadum’s review of “The 50s: Eisenhower, The Bomb & The Third World,” the 5th episode.

8. Larry Schweikart’s review of “The Cuban Missile Crisis,” the 6th episode.

Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.