Sources: Sanitized/Repressed Vietnam

EDWARD P. MORGAN (epm2@Lehigh.EDU)
Sat, 3 Feb 1996 20:03:43 -0500

To Sixties folks,

I'm working on an article for Peace Review on the "invisible" Vietnam that
won't go away... my thesis is that the US suffers from a kind of "post-Vietnam
Stress Disorder" because throughout the official propaganda AND (virtually all
of) the popular culture, there is little explicit reference to the fact that
the US was engaged in an assault/ aggression against the PEOPLE of (South)
Vietnam, rather than a defense against communism/aggression from North Vietnam
which was a convenient propaganda characterization covering up the U.S.
action that ensured the existence of an artificial nation known as So.Viet.
That's the propaganda piece. It's invisible in Nixon, McNamara, etc. to say
nothing of the unrepentent types like Rostow, (the late) Rusk, Kissinger, etc.
And this is echoed by mainstream pundits commenting on the war, lessons of
the war, Mcnamara's book, etc.

The other piece is the popular culture which, in the US mainstream, has left
the Vietnamese people/victims of this oppression completely invisible
(unless, as in Platoon, they are victims of individual "bad apples") and, in
fact, have been transformed into the perpetrators, with the US (soldiers) as
victims (e.g. Deer Hunter, Forrest Gump most recently). In other words, the
popular culture reinforces the official propaganda of the war as something

Now there are two pieces I want to develop --I'd welcome suggestions or quick
sources... One is that there is a kind of metaphorical (at least) awareness
that the US did something morally wrong (above --cf, public opinion polling:
the war was "fundamentally wrong & immoral") --perhaps symbolized by
awareness of individual or individual-unit (My Lai) atrocities (again, these
are put off onto individuals who "lost it" and the preoccupation with the
traumatized vet, an image repeated again and again --right Rennie?) So
there's (1) a kind of collective guilt, not faced openly, thus the trauma
doesn't go away, and (2) the correlated inability to understand the suffering
of vets who were put in the god-awful position of essentially waging a war
against "a people," and therefore (3) the kind of collective disassociation
from vets that occurred in the 70s, which only exacerbates their trauma &
pain. Because this doesn't get out into the open; we (collectively)
never "heal" ---but, of course, it can't get out into the open and be taken
seriously because this would draw into question not only the entire war, but
American foreign policy generally, and all those who benefit from and
perpetuate it.

I'm feeling this through and would welcome reactions. But, I'd also really
appreciate hearing from those familiar with the research on PTSD --for
suggestions of a quick resource I could consult to see how much of a match
there might be between the individual cases we're familiar with and the
collective condition I'm trying to describe, or just YOUR reactions to this.
Also, anyone with a really good propaganda or popular culture example....


Ted Morgan