[sixties-l] We Were Soldiers tries to turn the war into a U.S. victory (fwd)

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Date: Thu Mar 28 2002 - 00:06:53 EST

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    Date: Mon, 25 Mar 2002 11:41:37 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: We Were Soldiers tries to turn the war into a U.S. victory

    http://socialistworker.org/2002-1/399/399_08_RealVietnamStory.shtml

    We Were Soldiers tries to turn the war into a U.S. victory
    What really happened in Vietnam?

    March 22, 2002 | Page 8

    PAUL D'AMATO exposes the lies of the new blockbuster movie We Were
    Soldiers.

    HOLLYWOOD HAS released a string of movies lately that claim to
    give us a more realistic portrayal of war. But almost every one
    combines gritty battle "realism" with corny dialogue,
    one-dimensional stock characters and patriotic sentimentality that
    compares with any John Wayne movie.

    Apparently, a war movie counts as "realistic" if the blood and
    dismemberment look "real"--even if it fails to say anything honest
    about the war it's supposed to be depicting. This is certainly
    true of the new Vietnam War movie We Were Soldiers.

    Its purpose is clear--to encourage Americans to feel good about
    going to war, even though it may be a terrible thing. But We Were
    Soldiers is more than another post-September 11 movie that's gung
    ho about the U.S. military.

    It is about reviving the Vietnam War as a noble U.S. victory
    instead of what it really was--the miserable defeat of a colonial
    army by a poorly armed but highly motivated people.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    HOLLYWOOD'S WE Were Soldiers contributes to the effort to wipe out
    the Vietnam syndrome. The film stars Mel Gibson as Col. Hal Moore,
    who leads his 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry (known as the Air Cav)
    into the first major U.S. military engagement in Vietnam--the
    battle of the Ia Drang Valley in November 1965.

    The screenplay is based on the book We Were Soldiers Once^Ňand
    Young, by Moore and a reporter who accompanied Moore's battalion
    into the fight, Joseph Galloway.

    The story is about how 400 U.S. soldiers held out and triumphed
    against "overwhelming odds" during three days of fighting in a
    place that the Pentagon called LZ (landing zone) X-Ray.

    But this "line" is contradicted by how the fight actually unfolds
    in the film. As both the movie and the book show, the Vietnamese w
    ere outgunned because of their lack of air power.

    "As we dropped behind the termite hill, I fleetingly thought about
    an illustrious predecessor of mine in the 7th Cavalry: Lt. Col.
    George Armstrong Custer and his final stand in the valley of the
    Little Bighorn in Montana 89 years earlier," Moore and Galloway
    write. "We were a tight, well-trained and disciplined fighting
    force, and we had one thing George Custer did not have: fire
    support."

    The authors make the same point again later in the book: "No
    matter how bad things got for the Americans fighting for their
    lives on the X-Ray perimeter, we could look out into the scrub
    brush in every direction, into the seething inferno of exploding
    artillery shells, 2.75-inch rockets, napalm canisters, 250- and
    500-pound bombs and 20mm cannon fire, and thank God and our lucky
    stars that we didn't have to walk through that to get to work."

    The movie shows this barrage effectively--so effectively that
    viewers are left wondering not how the Americans made it, but how
    the Vietnamese could have possibly survived, let alone fought,
    under such conditions.

    Conveniently for his purposes, director Randall Wallace--who also
    wrote the script for the bomb (no pun intended) Pearl
    Harbor--decided to end the film two-thirds of the way through
    Moore's story, after 79 U.S. soldiers were killed and the
    Vietnamese offensive against LZ X-Ray was turned back.

    But the battle didn't end there. The next day, remnants of the
    U.S. fighters at X-Ray, along with the newly arrived 2nd
    Battalion, 7th Cavalry, were caught in an ambush after a forced
    march to another landing zone.

    In what the Moore and Galloway book calls "the most savage one-day
    battle of the Vietnam War," North Vietnamese attacked and wiped
    out 155 U.S. troops and wounded another 124--with most of the
    casualties coming in the first half-hour of the battle.

    The book quotes a North Vietnamese Col. Nguyen Huu An as saying:
    "I gave the order to my battalions: When you meet the Americans,
    divide yourself into many groups and attack the column from all
    directions and divide the column into many pieces. Move inside the
    column, grab them by the belt, and thus avoid casualties from the
    artillery and air."

    The movie has Col. An say something similar--only on the last day
    of the LZ X-Ray battle. Thus in the film, it seems that An's plan
    didn't work. Yet it did work--the following day.

    The movie would have been entirely different if it had shown this
    phase of the Ia Drang campaign--where U.S. troops were almost
    annihilated before the survivors were, once again, saved by
    massive air strikes that not only killed hundreds of Vietnamese
    soldiers, but also finished off many wounded Americans.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    IN THIS film, there are no cowards, no racists. Everyone pulls
    together, everyone fights hard, nobody runs in fear, and everybody
    holds their ground. U.S. soldiers die saying things like "Tell my
    wife I love her" and "I'm glad I had a chance to die for my
    country."

    Some movie reviewers made a lot of the fact that the Vietnamese
    are portrayed as serious, hard-fighting men--noble and worthy
    adversaries. This is in contrast to the standard story about
    Vietnam.

    But it was done for a specific reason. The idea that the enemy was
    "inferior" wouldn't have provided the proper backdrop to showcase
    the heroism of the Americans.

    This also explains why the film depicts the first major battle in
    Vietnam. At this point, U.S. soldiers were gung ho, ready to die
    for what they believed to be a good cause. In short, they were
    naive.

    It would have been impossible to make this kind of movie about a
    later battle, because by 1968, the U.S. army was already beginning
    to disintegrate. U.S. forces increasingly came to see all
    Vietnamese as the enemy and were wiping out villages and
    committing countless atrocities.

    One of the key elements leading to the U.S. defeat in Vietnam was
    the breakdown of discipline and the quasi-mutiny of troops in the
    field. So David Cortright's book Soldiers in Revolt tells a very
    different story about Company C, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry--the
    very unit that was nearly wiped out at the end of the Ia Drang
    campaign. In April 1970, the men of this reconstituted company
    refused a direct order to go down a dangerous jungle path--right
    in front of a CBS camera crew.

    Such incidents became commonplace in Vietnam. But showing them
    wouldn't fit the aims of We Were Soldiers.

    If Ia Drang was put in its proper historical context, it would be
    portrayed as a battle in which poorly armed but more motivated
    Vietnamese soldiers, fighting for their homeland, confronted
    forces with far greater military capabilities and showed for the
    first time that the U.S. had a fight on its hands.

    In order to avoid this kind of realism, the movie has to show the
    battle close up--with a tight focus on the gritty,
    look-after-the-guy-next-to-you pseudo-realism that was perfected
    by Steven Spielberg in Saving Private Ryan.

    Any pullback of the camera would have revealed a deeper
    truth--that these soldiers were cannon fodder for a U.S. military
    engaged in an imperialist adventure.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    BOTH COL. Moore and the filmmakers portray the Ia Drang campaign
    as a U.S. victory. But this is completely shortsighted.

    As "Cincinnatus," a U.S. officer who wrote an anonymous history of
    the disintegration of American forces in Vietnam, put it: "The
    United States Army faced a guerrilla war in Vietnam, a small
    Southeast Asian country of some 65,000 square miles with a
    population of about 16 million people. That nation fought to a
    standstill the United States of America, with over 200 million
    citizens--one of the largest nations on earth and, surely, one of
    the most powerful."

    "America's fighting men won every major battle, including such
    crucial conflicts as Ap Bia...in the Au Shau Valley, Khe Sanh and
    Tet 1968, yet they lost the war."



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