Re: [sixties-l] Re POW-MIA post

From: Virginia Laffey (
Date: Thu Jul 06 2000 - 14:38:15 CUT

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    I am a lurker to this list, and am in the process of writing my dissertation
    on the Vietnam War "home front" from the perspective of the wives, mothers and
    girlfriends of the American soldiers serving in Vietnam. I feel compelled to
    write in defense of Phillip Daniels' excellent documentary of the POW/MIA
    movement, "Among the Missing". This is the first in a series of films which
    examines the POW/MIA movement, from its founding by military wives tired of
    feeling isolated, helpless and censored by the government's "keep quiet"
    policy regarding POW/MIAs during the Vietnam War. In this first film, Mr.
    Daniels traces the growth of the movement, its growing visibility as the women
    challenged the "keep quiet" policy, as well as their decision to remain
    focused on humanitarian rather than political issues: i.e. to challenge the
    North Vietnamese government to account for all POWS and adhere to the Geneva
    Convention rather than challenge the Nixon administration by calling for an
    end to the war. The film examines the split that developed among the women in
    the movement as a result of this policy of support for the administration, and
    Mr. Daniels interviews several women who became a part of the anti
    administration movement that called for an end to the war at any cost.

    Future installments will explore the ways that the POW/MIA gained momentum,
    changed character and took on a life of its own after the war had ended. My
    understanding is that these later episodes will examine the myth of the
    POW/MIA as it has developed over the past thirty years. Mr. Daniels was
    generous enough to share an advance copy of his first installment with me and
    I found it to be a wonderful work of history, exploring a relatively unknown
    aspect of the Vietnam War. It is especially valuable for putting names and
    faces to a few of the hundreds of women who campaigned tirelessly for their
    husbands and sons in the face of a nation that was often apathetic and
    unresponsive. Mr. Lauter argues that these women were organized by the Nixon
    White House and truly they were not. Co-opted, yes, organized no. The
    implication I read in Mr. Lauter's post was that Phillip Daniels' film is yet
    another instance where the well meaning but naive families of POW/MIA are
    being exploited, being "used for very cynical political purposes." Rest
    assured, this is not so. Better yet, don't take my word for it, watch the film
    and then make a judgment. Just because the topic is a sensitive one does not
    mean that a filmmaker/historian/scholar cannot handle it with fairness and
    accuracy. Mr. Daniels does this admirably with his first installment and I
    look forward to future episodes.

    Virginia Laffey
    Boston University wrote:

    > I found the post about the film on the MIA-POW families really disturbing
    > and distorted.
    > As H. Bruce Franklin has amply demonstrated in his book M.I.A. OR
    > MYTHMAKING IN AMERICA (Rutgers), these women were organized by the Nixon
    > White House
    > and the Pentagon. It was hardly the case that their sudden impassioned
    > appeals happened to lead to a groundswell of controversy. They were in
    > fact produced, like the Tonkin Gulf incident, for a political purpose.
    > And the mythology of Americans hidden away somewhere in Vietnam has been
    > kept alive all these eons for similar right-wing purposes.

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