American War in Vietnam
By Al Donohue (reviewer)
The American War in Vietnam: Crime or Commemoration?
by John Marciano
(Monthly Review Press, 2016)
This book is great! It should be in the library of every high school and on the reading list of every college American History course. Many will already be familiar with some of the books referenced in the 27 pages of Notes or the 6-page Selected Bibliography in this concise 160-page history. But for whom the war was not personal, this is the book to read.
The late Professor William Griffen and Mr. Marciano did a study of how the war in Vietnam was presented in high school textbooks in 1979. It is an obvious tragedy that their insights and awareness contained in that book, "Teaching The Vietnam War," were not more widely disseminated.
"The American War in Vietnam" is comprehensive, from the first anti-war protest in 1945 (US sailors spoke out against being ordered to transport French troops to Vietnam), to the current propaganda campaign to justify the war. To quote W.D. Ehrhart, author of "Vietnam-Perkasie: A Combat Marine Memoir," the book "provides analysis and perspective on how the war ought to be remembered — and how it is being misremembered and misused."
The author cites H. Bruce Franklin, who has written on the POW issue in "MIA, or Mythmaking in America" and agrees with him that, "The main competing American stories of the war are the Noble Cause, the quagmire, and Imperialism." For Franklin, Marciano, and this reader, the imperial explanation is the only one that makes sense and can reasonably account for America's "half century of military, political and economic warfare against Vietnam and the hostility toward every other colony and former colony that resisted its aggression."
P.S. Half way through the book I thought of that movie scene where Jack Nicholson playing a Marine office in a court room drama says "the truth, you want the truth? You can't handle the truth!" It's time for America to "handle the truth." I'm sure it can.
Al Donohue, member of VVAW, served in the infantry in 1966.