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Monday, September 08, 2003

Hearts & Minds
I just watched the 1974 documentary Hearts & Minds. It is an amazing look at the Vietnam war and the people that it affected. It features war footage, interviews with soldiers and pilots, generals, Vietnamese villagers, and politicians. The best insights come from Daniel Ellsberg.

Director Peter Davis makes several telling points just by letting the film run on for a while. In one scene, a funeral of a South Vietnamese soldier is shown. His son holds a picture of him and wails pitifully, on and on. The soldier's mother tries to get in the grave with the coffin, but is pulled out. She cries. The son continues to cry. Soldiers shovel dirt on the coffin. The son kisses the picture, then wails some more. This goes on for minutes. When Davis finally leaves this scene, he goes to a clip of General William Westmoreland, who was commander of US forces in Vietnam for several years. Westmoreland is saying that Orientals don't see life the same way we do--that life is cheap, that they don't hold it dear.

Highly recommended, and extremely relevant to what's going on today. The statements from Westmoreland, Johnson, Nixon and others sound so similar to what we hear from Bush, Rumsfeld and Powell today.

While the war itself was awful, I think the so-called "Vietnam syndrome" which followed may have been one of the best things to ever happen to this country. Ronald Reagan and especially the two George Bushes deserve eternal condemnation for "overcoming" it. A humble America terrified of getting into another insane war was exactly the America that the world, and Americans, needed. May the "Iraq syndrome" last forever.