A History Lesson for Oliver Stone on Vietnam

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.

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  • Richard

    According to Oliver Stone the key to America's reversal of fortune is the murder of Kennedy not by the hapless Oswald but by the military industrial complex. His thesis is that LBJ, the Joint Chiefs, the CIA, the FBI, the arms manufacturers, the Mafia, the anti-Castro Cubans and the Dallas police department all wanted JFK gone. Stone reduces American history to a Shakespearean fantasy but instead of LBJ's Macbeth succeeded by Malcolm and Donalbain (Robert Kennedy and Ted Kennedy) the successor is Richard III or Richard Nixon and Watergate becomes his Bosworth Field.

    • EthanP

      And of course, this would also require us to believe that the people involved (dozens, hundreds) never spoke of it, nor left any other evidence. And of course the record for keeping such secrets has proven out over the years. I think Stone is still stoned.

  • visitor

    Professor Schweikart asserts that "KGB agents …now have been proven by Venona to be incredibly active throughout the U.S. peace movement." As he surely knows, the Venona decrypts were of coded Soviet telegrams from the 1930s and indicate Soviet penetration of US government agencies in that era and confrim reports at the time by Chambers and Bentley. They have nothing to do with the Vietnam-era peace movement 30 years later. LBJ wanted to believe that the CPUSA was behind the anti-war protests but the FBI was unable to find evidence. Anyone who was actually involved in the anti-war movement, whatever their later politics, knows very well that the CPUSA played a very minimal role; the movement included among others pacifists, liberals, hippies, Yippies, students, Trotskyists, anarchists, Catholic workers, Quakers, New Leftists, and every type of person you can imagine. If Professor Schwekart knows of evidence showing that KGB agents were "incredibly active" in the protests, he should cite sources. Venona is not such a source. For that matter, rank and file CP members, like them or despise them as you wish, cannot be reasonably classed as "KGB agents" unless they are actually espionage professionals.

    • pagegl

      Venona was active until 1980, so, it is possible there was info collected about infiltrators in the anti-war movement.

    • Rostislav

      "Anyone who was actually involved in the anti-war movement, whatever their later politics, knows very well that the CPUSA played a very minimal role" – a very minimal role?! Do you take us for some Californian kindergarten kiddies? Just one name: the old dead professor Sidney Jackson from the Kent State! The excellent book "None Dare Call It Treason" quite deservedly calls him "responsible for the Kent State tragedy which robbed America of the victory in Vietnam". The traitor's funerals in 1979 were honored by the top Communists of the USA (Hall and Winston), with farewell word from Ohio state CP chief Jim West: "We are proud of his membership and his life's work" – a very minimal role?! As for the most active role of KGB in the "Peace Movement" all across the globe, America including, – Oleg Gordievsky in his detailed study "KGB, the Inside Story" writes that "In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the main focus of both World Peace Council public campaigns and of covert KGB "active measures" was on the Vietnam War". There are lots of other sources on "a minimal role" too, fully supporting this article's author. A very minimal role, that is, – sorry. Isn't your name Hillary, by the way? Rostislav, Saint-Petersburg, Russia.

      • visitor

        I think anyone who was there — David Horowitz, if you like — could inform you reliably that the CPUSA and its front groups such as the World Peace Council had little influence on the movement to stop the Vietnam War. This is not to say that they didn't want to, but they were very much on the sidelines. The main reason so many Americans turned against the war had to do with the nature of the war (e.g., the My Lai massacre) and the loss of life, especially the loss of American lives. Of course the CP, like the SWP, WWP, and a dozen other mini-sized leftwing parties tried to advance their cause by participating in the movement. I am just saying that the broad opposition to the war reflected revulsion to the war, not effective KGB manipulation.

        • Chezwick

          "The main reason so many Americans turned against the war had to do with the nature of the war (e.g., the My Lai massacre) and the loss of life, especially the loss of American lives."

          Only partly true. The MAIN reason for opposition to the war was the draft and the fact that millions of American young people did not want to participate in the fighting. The proof is in the pudding; after Nixon ended the draft in '71, the anti-war movement completely lost its steam, even though American participation would continue for another two years.

          • visitor

            I think your point is very valid. But the shootings at Kent State also scared a lot of students out of protesting actively, moving the antiwar movement from the streets to Congress.

        • Rostislav

          To say that "the broad opposition to the war reflected revulsion to the war, not effective KGB manipulation" is, in my opinion, the same as to insist that Auschwitz reflected Germans' revulsion to Jews, not effective Nazi propaganda (or that enthusiasm of our Soviet informers reflected their idealism, not effective fear of GULAG). Of course, both aims were made much easier by the absence of any strong opposition in media, education, law. It was annihilated in the Reich and in the USSR. Alas, there was, in fact, nearly nothing to annihilate in the USA. I remember well the horror with which we (young students during the Vietnam war) were translating clandestine rare copies of the "NYT", "Newsweek" or "WP": their Vietnam stories were the exact echo of our own "Pravda". We just honestly couldn't understand why "Newsweek" was forbidden in ours! As for KGB manipulations – well, this organization always was (and is) professional enough to work as invisibly as it was only possible, and I must say that with the general left-adoring US climate all around the task wasn't too difficult, to judge from many documental books published here after the USSR collapse – in yours such fine works as, say, Paul Kengor's "Dupes" explain the phenomena with perfect clarity (the worthy author devoted to it a separate chapter "Vietnam Dupes").
          Anyway, your strange hollow logic helps me to understand better Ann Coulter's need to supply her title "How to Talk to a Liberal" with the bracketed addition "(If You Must)". Thanks God, I must not!

      • visitor

        The problem with your logic is that you seem to equate the mere presence of a CPUSA member (eg., professor Jackson) to control by the CPUSA to control by the KGB. Look at it this way: if the advisor to the Young Republicans on a college campus is a vegetarian, that doesn't "prove" that all Young Republicans are vegetarians or that their club is being secretly controlled by PETA. It just means that the advisor is a vegetarian. The New Left student movment regarded the pro-Soviet CPUSA as a bunch of old fuddy-duddies and was much more in tune with their romanticized fantasy heroes in China and Cuba. Do you think that the Chinese or Cuban intelligence services were behind the peace movement too? In their wet dreams, maybe, but not in the real world.

        • reader

          The problem with your logic is that – and this is typical way to argue on the left – you're setting the bar just high enough to make a point. It's absurd to demand the proof of written orders or payment receipts. I think, it's safe to say that the mentioned groups used talking points and campaign strategy developed by KGB and channeled to them via CPUSA members – not necessarily in its entirety. I've already mentioned the former DIE chief Pacepa linking Stone's FDR story line with the disinformation campaign designed by DIE on orders from PGU KGB. Perhaps, you want a copy of the instructions written by Sakharovsky himself to accept this? Don't hold back.

    • ben t

      Yo Visitor,
      I, too, was very active in the left during the '50's, '60's, and '70's. I am 75 yrs old but my memory is still very sharp. Yes! There were heinz 57 varieties of anti- USA groups. I used to fall asleep counting the various parties, splinters, "church" groups, Trots, Maoists, et cetera. ad nauseum. Usually i got around 35-40 groups before I fell asleep. BUT, one would have to be extremely naive not to know that the CPUSA was more numerous and certainly more connected to actual politicians and power than all the other groups put together. I can, personally, bear witness to that assertion. Obviously you have not read the numerous KGB histories that have been published since the fall of leninism in the USSR. For example, KGB efforts to kill NATO and to help the "Finlandization" of W. Europe by the USSR placing IRBMs in Central Europe using anti-nuke, "peace" groups is extremely well documented. MAN!!! You gotta READ!!!!

      • visitor

        I've read the Mitrokhin archive and I don't doubt the effectiveness of mass CPs in western Europe in playing a substantive role in the protests in France, Italy, and Spain. I just think the American CP was a shell of its former self by the 1960s and was viewed as irrelevant by most of the antiwar students of the time. There was an influx of young blacks, the Angela Davis generation, but most CPers of the time were elderly and out of touch culturally with the younger generation. Sure the CP, SWP, and old line pacifists knew how to run organizations and could provide a platform (like the Mobe) but I still think direct CP influence was scant. And of course, the average rank and file CPer had no awareness of the secret apparatus of the 1930s and 40s. By that time Americans who spied for Russia tended to be venal types like Ames, not ideological zealots like Philby or Julius Rosenberg. The average "Jimmy Higgins" would have truly believed that spy accusations were lies, just as he believed that the USSR was a worker's paradise.

    • mlcblog

      I was there, too. Given that Verona authentication stopped in 1946, I have a different take on CP activity in the 1950's and 1960's, being able to observe first-hand certain activities. I assure you that communists were not a "minimal" influence in all these that you mention above, but a major, instigating factor in peace marches, women's protests, and every sort of thing, bringing people together through various methods. I saw it close up and personal. The professor is correct.

  • PAthena

    On the war in Vietnam: Oliver Stone's Communist apologetics say nothing about the truth about the war in Vietnam and people like him: President Nixon got a cease-fire in Vietnam, with an agreement that the elected government of South Vietnam would get military aid from the U.S. When the "anti-Vietnam War" crowd got control of Congress, they cut off the aid, and North Vietnam took over. These "anti-Vietnam War" people say nothing about the catastrophe in Vietnam, with so many Vietnamese fleeing in boats. There are many in the United States now.
    I still meet people who say that President Eisenhower in 1956 opposed elections in Indo-China because Ho Chi Minh would have won. What is their evidence that Eisenhower said this? I.F. Stone, KGB agent, in his I.F. Stone's Weekly? Actually, in 1956, over 100,000 Vietnamese FLED North Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh.

  • visitor

    PAthena: In his 1963 memoirs, "Mandate for Change," former president Eisehower wrote: "It was generally conceded that had an election been held, Ho Chi Minh would have been elected Premier. "
    Source: https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/vietnam/55e…. As you note, a substantial number of Vietnamese, mostly Catholics, regrouped to the southern zone. But they were a minority. To say that Ho would have won does not require one to approve, merely to note the reality. He had been the leading proponent of independence from French colonialism since the Versailles conference ending the Great War. Had president Wilson — or later Truman — chosen to ally with him, how different history would have b een.

    • EthanP

      What you say about Ho is correct. What you ignore was that he was a brutal communist who ruled using the same bloody terror as every other communist regime.

      • visitor

        I'm not a competent historian but I'd pose several "what if" questions. First, had the Western democracies supported independence for the colonial possessions following World War I, would Ho have turned to communism at all? He states clearly that "the path that led [him] to Leninism was the fact that at that time only the communist parties advocated independence for the colonies. Second, considering Ho's wartime alliance with America (cf. Pratt's memoirs of his assignment as an OSS officer with Ho), had Truman adopted FDR's anti-colonial stance instead of bankrolling the French effort to maintain their empire, would Ho have been an "Asian Tito"? Would US influence have prevented a brutal Chinese-inspired "land reform"? These questions are impossible to answer but worth considering. The US found it convenient to ally with Tito, certainly a communist tyrant, because he was the enemy of Stalin, and Nixon and Kissinger engineered an alliance with the communist tyrants in China because they saw their main enemy as the USSR, not America. Far-sighted leaders act out of the perceived national interest, not rigid ideology.

  • BLJ

    Oliver Stone is a clown. Malcolm X was not right about much, but his "Chickens coming home to roost" comment about the JFK assassination was spot on. Blowback is what too Kennedy out.

  • EthanP

    Thankyou for mentioning "Venona". You might have explained it though. When I mention it to anyone, I get a blank look. When I explain it, they don't believe me or think it's right wing propaganda.

    • visitor

      Yes, Venona is very relevant to the history of the 1930s (cf. Klehr and Haynes's work) but totally nonrelevant to the 1960s, which is what Dr. Schweikart is writing about here. Historians above all people should be scrupulous as to sources.

      • pagegl

        The Venona project was started in 1943 and terminated in 1980, see http://www.nsa.gov/public_info/declass/venona/.

        • visitor

          Yes the project continued, but the traffic being decrypted dated from the 1940s. After Philby defected, it was clear to western intelligence that the Soviets knew about Venona, as Philby had been the British liason to the project. There are no decrypts of 1960s traffic that I am aware of, nor does NSA claim any in its history of the project: http://www.nsa.gov/about/_files/cryptologic_herit…. If I am mistaken, please correct me.

  • Ghostwriter

    My mother recorded this and the last few episodes recently. I didn't watch a whole lot of this series. The whole series was just one big "Blame America First" thing and I didn't really like it all that much. My mom was a part of the peace movement back then and even now,she holds some pretty radical views. She didn't exactly like Jane Fonda a whole lot. I think she thought it made the movement look foolish. She's not a communist but she still holds some pretty radical views,as I've said before.

    • mlcblog


  • mlcblog

    CIA money to demonstrate against the war? That takes the cake.

  • Jack O'neil

    The Purge Continues – Stalin would be proud.
    Obama Fires Top General Without Even a Phone Call http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/obama-fires-t
    All the generals that won't go along with the globalist agenda, Obama's destruction of America and support of radical Islam are being purged.

  • http://twitter.com/matthewdowd @matthewdowd

    Oliver Stone is CIA.

  • John Stuff

    seriously? "…after stealing foreign assets…"? Would you consider everything in the U.S. to be "stolen assets" as well? If I'm not mistaken, (and I just checked, I'm not mistaken) it was aggressive wars with Native Americans and Mexico that led to the "expropriation" of our vast territory. You are not fit to teach if you believe nationalization is theft–if it were the U.S. nationalizing an industry we'd call it patriotism. What Allende tried to accomplish in Chile is a beacon of hope for true progress–which is not measured in skyscrapers and GDP, but the physical and psychological wellbeing of a people. Unfortunately capitalist interests in the U.S. sabotaged Allende's economic initiatives, bankrolled his opponents, and fomented the transition to power of a ruthless, neoliberal dictator in Pinochet who would craft policies that were economically favorable to the U.S. Your reading of history is founded in cognitive dissonance, and I am entirely sorry to the poor student of the University of Dayton who take your classes. Stone is not a neo-communist he's a goddamn realist, YOU, Professor Schwartz, are a neo-McCarthyist content with a lop-sided status-quo and suppressing any ideology that acknowledges the irrevocable shortcomings in social and economic justice that characterize modern liberalism and global capitalism.