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on November 12, 2001
As a Vietnamese living in America, I have always been puzzled by different historical accounts of what went on during the Vietnam war. One account was what I learnt while growing up there. Another account was the Vietnam that many Americans know from the media. This book explained some of those differences well. The two Viet Nam (North and South), the gulf of Ton Kin incidence, the liberal press, antiwar activists spitting on returning GI, and the emotionally afflicting POW/MIA myth were the few fabrications concocted by various imperialistic American administrations. With the help of the jingoistic corporate press, they brainwashed the ill informed American public to garner support for the genocidal war in southeast Asia. Four million Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians died from the "good intentions" of the United States.
Americans may have a free press. But are Americans free from the bias, prejudice, and bigotry of men who decide "all the news that's fit to print" and what is fit for us to read? Read the book and make up thy own mind.
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on June 9, 2001
This book provides a gripping examination of how the Right has redefined "Vietnam" (a war, not a country). Franklin reviews the horrors inflicted by the United States on the people of Vietnam, and shows how our culture has made us the victims. He shows how the famous photo of the Saigon Chief of Police executing an enemy prisoner has been reversed in movies showing Americans POWs in cages with the gun to their heads. He reminds those who would blame the anti-war movement for our failure, that every President from Truman to Nixon ran as a peace candidate, knowing the American public would never support the war. He discusses the first American anti-Vietnam-war protests, in 1945. Franklin himself was fired from a tenured position at Stanford for his stand against the University's involvement in making napalm, a truly horrific weapon which has only been used against people of color. He reveals that Nixon's need to prolong the war and declare victory by focusing on the Americans unaccounted for (extremely few though they were) led to the creation of the post-war POW/MIA myth. This myth, never substantiated, has justified our refusal to pay Vietnam the reparations we promised in the Paris Peace Treaty and our longstanding lack of diplimatic relations with the country. This book explains the war and its cultural fallout better than anything I've read. Reading this book made me truly alarmed for the lack of democracy in the United States.
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on December 9, 2008
Franklin's text reviews the history of military aggression against the Vietnamese and the efforts of U.S. citizens to stop this aggression from the end of World War II, beyond the official cessation of hostilities, into the economic warfare that followed the withdrawal of U.S. forces. Having been born several years after the aggression in Vietnam, my understanding of the war came primarily from history textbooks and popular accounts. If I were to regard this popular story of Vietnam as a repainting of the war, then Vietnam and Other American Fantasies revealed the canvas upon which these lies were printed. Franklin has completely redefined my understanding of what happened both in Vietnam and in the United States before, during and after this horrible war.

Franklin gives lie to many of the popular myths about the war against Vietnam. One of the first myths that he attacks is that the so-called "liberal media" was responsible for "losing" the war by attacking the leadership and turning the public against a noble cause. The text establishes the blatant lies in this claim by reviewing coverage of the war before and after the Tet "turning point". If anything, the mainstream media was simply a mouthpiece for government propaganda, forcing the substantial proportion of the population opposed to U.S. aggression to use alternate media resources. If the mainstream media truly "lost" the war against Vietnam, then it did so by failing to bring the truth to the people and by blocking the growing voices of dissent from the public forum.

A second common myth that Franklin undermines is that U.S. actions in Vietnam were driven by a misguided effort to protect the people of South Vietnam from communist aggression. Instead, Franklin offers information that implicates the U.S. as the aggressor. Rather than responding to pleas for protection from the people of South Vietnam, the U.S. leadership actually incited aggression against both parties in an attempt to prevent a diplomatic resolution that would have prevented the U.S. from exploiting the nation as military foothold on the Asian continent. Moreover, farms, villages and entire cities were decimated by aerial bombing and ground assaults on both sides of the 17the parallel, and the South Vietnamese had as much to fear from U.S. forces as did the North Vietnamese.

A third myth that prevails today is that of the "Prisoners of War" and "Missing in Action". The claim that the Vietnamese government was secretly holding U.S. personnel or the remains and refusing to hand them over apparently has no evidential support, and historical records indicate that North Vietnamese leadership maintained careful records of U.S. prisoners and casualties and supplied all of these records to U.S. leadership upon request.

Many other popular myths, such as the practice of spitting on returning soldiers or the infamous photograph of the prisoner being executed (in reality, by a South Vietnamese officer) are also discussed in this engaging text. As a first-hand observer of some of the events he describes, Franklin manages to weave the story into an engaging narrative that holds your attention throughout. While I had planned to spread the reading out over several weeks, I found the story so engrossing that I finished it two days after I began. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in examining the history of the war against Vietnam and the people who opposed it.
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on July 1, 2013
Now that polls show that a majority of young people think the US won the Vietnam War (actually, no, the NLF won and the US withdrew after the 1974 Paris peace treaty), it's useful for those who value truth more than comfort to see how it was done. The military right wing couldn't get over that fact that a small country could defeat a huge military industrial complex and set out to make sure little Vietnam suffered as long as it could before it could rebuild, by justifying breaking the Peace Treaty terms for reparations and withholding trade agreements. Wonderful detail. This is especially useful for college and high school students and could be used to teach them how to question conflict-related news stories and go behind the headlines.

Despite the POW-MIA crowd's success in persuading many of the next generation to see the Vietnamese as devils and to harm Vietnam economically, Vietnam has won again. Their economy is booming; they have joined the international economic system; lots of Vietnam vets are visiting, helping with little projects, and trying to restore, rather than destroy.

Who should care, besides the Vietnamese (and other Southeast Asians), who suffered enormously at our hands as part of a global power struggle with the USSR? The next generation of Americans, who will be fooled again into wars that aren't necessary, kill our sons and daughters, break the budget, and justify big brother levels of snooping in the name of comfort (instead of truth).

You might note the couple of negative reviews. Read them the judge whether they are thoughtful or ranting. After reading this book, then read William Shawcross' book Sideshow, for a meticulous study of the role of Henry Kissinger and the US in the secret bombing of Cambodia written in 1979. No leftwing ideologue him.
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on November 22, 2000
Wow! This book is an eye opener. It takes the last half of the century and turns it inside out. If the research weren't so thorough, it would be unbelievable. As someone who lived through most of that period, I was amazed by how much I had forgotten and never knew in the first place. I'm giving it to my teenage daughter, who didn't live through much of it, but really wants to understand the world she lives in. I'm giving it to reading friends for Christmas. I wish I could give it to everyone under 50. We'd all understand our country and ourselves in a whole new light!
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on August 16, 2014
This book will give you an idea of how creepy US foreign policy and fear-mongering really is
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on January 22, 2001
To whom it may concern:
As a pacifist and one who was, actually, a participant in the evil and avoidable Vietnam "undeclared" war, a FACT that Mr. Franklin didn't bring out, and the ONLY war that this country ever lost (another FACT that wasn't brought out, either), I still live with the horrors and traumas of that miserable war, even though it has been over 35 years since I was part of the initial invading forces in the spring of '65. Since I had the great misfortune of being drafted, I had really no choice as to whether to serve or not. When the "peace" president, LBJ, specified in his campairgn rhetoric, that as long as he was president, there would be peace for ALL Americans and that he would NOT send American boys to do the fighting that Asian boys ought to be doing themselves, I felt very secure and I was married on these false promises while stuck in the hated army, and as a slave! By being drafted, it violated the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the U.S. which guarantees freedom from involuntary servitude! So much for those empty words. I returned "home" as a total stranger with an entirely different outlook on life. My "thanks" to the empty words and promises of two "peace" presidents, LBJ and Nixon, and those other leaders, going back to 1945, for making the writing of this superb book possible. I highly recommend it for anyone's library.
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on January 12, 2013
Honestly, I only bought this book because of a class. But it wasn't good enough to convince me to actually keep it, and add it to my growing library of academic books. It provides a excellent source, though, of how the Vietnam War was reflected in Popular Culture which helped when I wrote a 20 page paper on how the events of 9/11 had been portrayed in films since. But otherwise, some of the things Franklin wrote seemed to be boreder on being "conspiracy theories." Then again, I really don't know much about the Vietnam war other than what the textbooks (which we all know are oh so accurate. *Sarcasm*) told me.
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on March 2, 2009
the tone and direction of this book is set in the prologue. some thirty years after Professor Franklin was fired by Stanford, he sat down with the intent to prove he was right. from his point of view, he probably was.

[for a taste of the original context of this book, pick up the un-redacted bomb-throwing original of this piece, Professor Franklin's post-RU From the Movement Toward Revolution, which I see is missing from his Amazon author's page.]

Franklin was America's greatest Melville scholar, and Stanford lost a great professor when he was purged. he is a genuine victim of the Vietnam war, and his victimhood lies in believing that history both started and stopped with Vietnam.

in his prologue, he is ecstatic that "the Vietnam War shattered many of the traditional narratives to formerly prevailing visions of the United States and its history." history is finished, yet he then links Vietnam with "various kinds of subsequent warfare, including bombings or invasions, in Grenada, Panama, Libya, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Iraq, Somalia, Haiti, Sudan, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia." this is supposed to be an acknowledgment by Professor Franklin of an historical web, and it seems compelling at first.

of course, this "shattering of narratives" forgets our own Indian Wars, not to mention the Spanish-American war and subsequent century-long involvement in Philippine politics. hardly an historical break.

the main problem remains Professor Franklin's inability to deal with the greater Cold War that is the context of Vietnam. nowhere is the former Soviet Union. his interminable mouthings of phrases like "anti-imperialism" -- totally detached from any cogent philosophical system to explain this termo -- seem to lead to the conclusion that history did end (for Franklin) in Palo Alto.

Franklin admits that Stanford was right to fire him. well, I disagree. he should have apologized and kept his job. he should not have taken such an agitational marxist tone against the campus cops. he got swept up in it.

also despite the nice cover, the qualities of the fotos in this book are awful, like they have been printed on paper towels -- a real disservice to Mr. Franklin and his reflections on culture and politics.
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on May 9, 2006
Party line leftism from a dedicated enemy of America. Nothing good about this book.
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