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A sobering look back on an infamous chapter in history
April 21, 2013 10:17 PM   Subscribe

In the Year of the Pig is a documentary on the Vietnam war, produced and originally released in 1968 as the war raged. It begins with some background on the end of the French colonial period, then moves on to the American involvement. It features gripping historical footage from the war itself and from leading political players of the time. At the time of its release, a New York Times review said "There are no frills and few ifs, ands or buts about the stinging, graphic and often frighteningly penetrating movie". It is highly recommended for anyone seeking to understand more of the history of the war. Viewable in its entirety here.
posted by flapjax at midnite (27 comments total) 65 users marked this as a favorite

 
See also: Hearts and Minds (1974)
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:29 PM on April 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I believe this film is where The Smiths pulled their cover star for Meat is Murder from, albeit with doctored text on the helmet.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:10 PM on April 21, 2013


Lol duh. There it is in the cover itself.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:11 PM on April 21, 2013


I thought I was finished with Vietnam.
posted by philip-random at 11:20 PM on April 21, 2013


I thought I was finished with Vietnam.

I reckon we'll never be finished with it. We're kinda doing it all over again, so I guess there's the proof.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:34 PM on April 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


We're kinda doing it all over again...

But this time without ANY PROTEST AT ALL from Americans of draft age and liberal Democrats. Indeed, the lesson learned from Vietnam is use volunteer soldiers (leaving those college kids out of risk) and for Democrats to fall over themselves in their expressions of love and support for "the troops."

Lessons well-learned by the political elite and forgotten by today's youth.

1968 was a tumultuous year fueled by bitter and widespread opposition to the Vietnam war.

In 2013 absolutely no such tension or movement exists. Hardly anyone pays attention or cares.
posted by three blind mice at 11:47 PM on April 21, 2013 [14 favorites]


Year of the Pig in Chinese astrology is 1959 - The North Vietnamese Communist Party approved a "people's war" on the South at a session in January 1959, and invaded Laos that year. Not sure if this is the origin of the title.
posted by stbalbach at 12:41 AM on April 22, 2013


Watching the film I am reminded that the protests from Vietnam remain relevant in one, very significant way.

The film covers (at about 45:00) the (gruesome) self-immolation of Thich Quang Duc.

Tarek al-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi did the same thing in 2011 which started the so-called Arab Spring in Tunisia.
posted by three blind mice at 1:19 AM on April 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


In 1968, 17,000 US soldiers died in combat. In 2012 it was 300. As much as I disapprove of foreign troop deployment and drone strikes, you can hardly say we're "doing it all again".
posted by Brocktoon at 4:09 AM on April 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


You've defined the nature of it very narrowly. I took it to be the invasion and continued occupation of other countries that pose no threat to us. The point is not how many Americans die. Visiting war on populations who are mostly just trying to live in peace is something we do far too easily.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:19 AM on April 22, 2013 [14 favorites]


Kirth Gerson nails it just above.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:27 AM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


It was nice to see Senator Wayne Morse telling it like it is.
Wish there were more of his ilk in the senate today.
...The draft made such a huge influence. I wonder how
young people of today would react to it.
posted by quazichimp at 4:39 AM on April 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


BBC News Magazine 22 March 2013
The Lyndon Johnson tapes: Richard Nixon's 'treason'

--- brief excerpt follows -----
By the time of the election in November 1968, LBJ had evidence Nixon had sabotaged the Vietnam war peace talks - or, as he put it, that Nixon was guilty of treason and had "blood on his hands".

The BBC's former Washington correspondent Charles Wheeler learned of this in 1994 and conducted a series of interviews with key Johnson staff, such as defence secretary Clark Clifford, and national security adviser Walt Rostow.
Continue reading the main story
We now know...

After the Viet Cong's Tet offensive, White House doves persuaded Johnson to end the war
Johnson loathed Senator Bobby Kennedy but the tapes show he was genuinely devastated by his assassination
He feared vice-president Hubert Humphrey would go soft on Vietnam if elected president
The BBC's Charles Wheeler would have been under FBI surveillance when he met administration officials in 1968
In 1971 Nixon made huge efforts to find a file containing everything Johnson knew in 1968 about Nixon's skulduggery

But by the time the tapes were declassified in 2008 all the main protagonists had died, including Wheeler.

Now, for the first time, the whole story can be told.....
-----end excerpt---------
posted by hank at 5:53 AM on April 22, 2013


Only partway in, this is excellent. Thank you.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:15 AM on April 22, 2013


I have been looking for this video for years--you can track a straight line b/w Battle of Algeirs, This and current TV news.
posted by PinkMoose at 7:43 AM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


At about 55':

"I wouldn't trade one dead American for 50 dead Chinamen."

Could you at least use a racial epithet suitable for the nation that you are so concerned with saving from communism?

(about VC being good soldiers) "They're willing to die unquestioningly, as all orientals are."

There's the solution! Send all the American Chinamen to fight!

For fuck sakes it is had to believe how racist people were back then.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:47 AM on April 22, 2013


But this time without ANY PROTEST AT ALL from Americans of draft age and liberal Democrats.

Because protest doesn't work. Millions protested in the runup to the war, and it accomplished nothing. Displays of impotent rage may be good for the soul, but don't crap on people for making ineffectuality a vocation.
posted by fatbird at 7:56 AM on April 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fatbird, the demonstrations after TET ended the war. Even though to this day the military claims a resounding victory. The missing component today is the draft. As a college student in the 60's I saw many fellow students sent to war for failing a course and losing their deferment. Losing life or limb for flunking a Calculus final is pretty severe and it happened every semester/quarter. Professional armies are a cancer in the breast of liberty.
posted by shnarg at 8:26 AM on April 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


In 1968, 17,000 US soldiers died in combat. In 2012 it was 300. As much as I disapprove of foreign troop deployment and drone strikes, you can hardly say we're "doing it all again"

I took it to be the invasion and continued occupation of other countries that pose no threat to us. The point is not how many Americans die. Visiting war on populations who are mostly just trying to live in peace is something we do far too easily.


I agree with both of these statements. Indeed, the reason that we can be "doing it all again" is that we're not sending home 17,000 body bags in a year. And horrifying as that number sounds, consider that the total for America's less than four years involvement in WW2 was 418,000 dead.

I had more to say here, but that stat just killed it.
posted by philip-random at 9:14 AM on April 22, 2013


So Humphrey decided it would be too disruptive to the country to accuse the Republicans of treason...

Times have definitely changed
posted by TedW at 9:20 AM on April 22, 2013


Fatbird, the demonstrations after TET ended the war.

Only if you pay attention to them. Bush et al. demonstrated quite handily that you could simply ignore them, and get away with it.
posted by fatbird at 12:50 PM on April 22, 2013


If civilian protest is the result of merely counting bodies, then it's both craven and useless. The issue isn't how many, but why. I cannot join anybody in mourning the loss of his deferment while I'm contemplating what happens after B-52 opens its bomb-bay doors (and of course the contemporary equivalent). I don't distinguish between the draftee and the volunteer. The issue isn't the soldiers. The issue is, however, the dead people, either side, in uniform or not. Again: not how many, but why.

A careful study of the several wars in Vietnam shows a pattern that dates back to antiquity. A cursory look at the overall strategy and tactics of the Vietnamese during the American phase of their wars will show a chilling similarity to French involvement. We (America) did not lose because of the American anti-war effort. We "lost" because we had no definable objective. Our reasoning was built on mistaken notions about what was happening in Asia at the time, and a cynical concession to political intrigues outside the war zone itself.

A missive from Le Duan, written in 1965 (Letters to the South), outlined the battle plans for the war with the Americans. He predicted that it would take about ten years, and the Vietnamese would take heavy losses, and they would have to kill about 38,000 Americans. Vietnam would then persevere, and at last become free from Western oppression. Okay, he didn't discuss the war with China in this paper, but that's another story. American political leaders and military strategists juggled fallacies as best they could. We were bound to lose because Asians simply didn't share the same reality as the West. Ours was a political wish list, a fantasy our own creation, while theirs was more visceral: defending their country.


The similarity between now and then is depressing--it's as if nobody remembers how it works when an invading army sets up shop in a country. Our adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan resemble our stint in Vietnam in those three respects (unclear notions about the culture in the area, non-specific overall objective, and cynical political motives). A sort of Oz-like idea that we can get "them" to elect a government of their own which will do what we want it to do is almost charming in its naiveté . What's not charming is the assumption that you can either bomb a people in to political correctness, or win their hearts and minds using machine guns and strafing runs. This has never worked anywhere, by anybody, using any weapons of any period in history.

Also not charming is the shameful willingness to let "collateral damage" cover for not only strategic errors, but other outrages committed in the name of freedom and democracy.

Treason isn't even close to an issue: but maybe hubris is. As for the historical utterances that are flagged as racism: never mind. It's only one of the tools. As you can plainly see, we are now busy chewing off our own toes, just as we did back then. Meanwhile we'll get on with the business of pasting yellow ribbons on our SUVs and planting poppies, row upon row.
posted by mule98J at 12:57 PM on April 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


In 2013 absolutely no such tension or movement exists. Hardly anyone pays attention or cares.

Hmmm.

'Idle No More' inspires Canada's indigenous peoples
400,000+ in the streets? Quebec's carré rouge is winning...
Occupy Wall Street was this thing this one time too
From Arab Spring to Global Revolution

I agree with your point about what the state learned from Vietnam, but methinks your definition of "tension or movement" is extremely narrow.
posted by Catchfire at 1:00 PM on April 22, 2013


took it to be the invasion and continued occupation of other countries that pose no threat to us.

It's not fair to say that "the situation in" Vietnam did not pose a threat. Don't forget that the Americans were in the middle of an ideological Cold War, that they supported the French for many years in that area prior to any American stepping foot on that soil, so that you could say we were fighting a proxy war with the Communists well before 1955.

But what I wanted to add to this thread was that 10 years before the Americans came, Ho Chi Minh stood in a public square in Hanoi and read a declaration of independence for Vietnam that began with, "All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." Interesting that we ended up making an enemy of such a man. This is why the documentary refers to Ho as the George Washington of Vietnam.
posted by phaedon at 2:53 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Moyers & Company: Nick Turse Describes the Real Vietnam War. Journalist Nick Turse describes his unprecedented efforts to compile a complete and compelling account of the Vietnam War’s horror.

Excerpt: Kill Anything That Moves
posted by homunculus at 3:31 PM on April 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sadly, the effects of war on the "enemy" has never been a peace motivator. When the war brings horrible consequences to the door step of the home front that is another matter. That's what draftees provide. To the "conscious" of the Viet Nam era those consequences were visible everyday and that is what provoked widespread discomfort at home. If you weren't there you apparently can't understand the impact on society. Today there is no such motivators afoot in our society. Bush could ignore the protestors because most people have no dog in the hunt.

It's no coincidence that there was huge racial unrest along with the anti war movement. Both white and Black were ill served by the war.

These lessons were well learned by the war makers, control the press, raise a army of mercenaries made up of a specific class of cannon fodder and play the Patriotic Card at every turn. The greatest inspiration, wage war on a tactic, and a religion. Genius!
posted by shnarg at 3:55 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Emile de Antonio, I love that guy!

If you like In the Year of the Pig, I strongly recommend you watch his America Is Hard to See and Millhouse: A White Comedy.
posted by box at 4:47 PM on April 22, 2013


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