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Rethinking Camelot: JFK, the Vietnam War, and U.S. Political Culture (Borgo Literary Guides; 1) Paperback – July 1, 1999

3.3 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Veteran critic/activist Chomsky ( Deterring Democracy ) analyzes the issue most prominently posed in Oliver Stone's film JFK : was President Kennedy a secret dove whose assassination extinguished a chance to end the Vietnam War? Those willing to follow Chomsky's dry, prosecutorial style will find strong arguments against Kennedy mythologists. He provides context for the Vietnam War with a history of U.S. "economic warfare" against "lesser breeds" and the roots of world inequality. Then, he analyzes the record of planning the war from 1961 to 1964. He notes that studies of the Vietnamese countryside showed overwhelming sympathy for the Vietcong, leading the U.S. to choose escalated violence. One of Kennedy's trusted, dovish advisors described the president in September 1963 as supporting the war, and Chomsky calls the record on this issue consistent. Shortly after the assassination, Kennedy doves supported Johnson's Vietnam policies, but changed their stance--and their historical memory--after the 1968 Tet Offensive. Chomsky suggests that fascination with Camelot, like support for H. Ross Perot, indicates a desire to project heroism in a time of cultural malaise.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Series: Borgo Literary Guides; 1
  • Paperback: 172 pages
  • Publisher: South End Press; 1st edition (July 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0896084582
  • ISBN-13: 978-0896084582
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.3 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,186,577 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Vintage Chomsky, destroyer of myths and our national iconoclast laureate. The fact that he resides in a never-never land of social virtue in no way diminishes the warm glow of psychic pleasure that we receive as he flays the national paladins. Hugely entertaining as he demonstrates that history is not always written by the victors.
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By A Customer on November 26, 1998
Format: Paperback
In a sharply argued, thoroughly researched book, Noam Chomsky shreds the notion that JFK was some kind of angel who would have ended the Vietnam War by bringing the US armed forces out of Vietnam, and letting the Vietnamese win. Rather, as Chomsky shows all too clearly, Kennedy was the criminal who escalated this war into outright aggression, and planned to withdraw - after victory. Chomsky's comparison of the Kennedy administration with the Reagan administration is certainly thought-provoking; it is good to know that there are Americans brave enough to expose men like JFK for what they are. One only hopes that books like this will destroy once and for all, the lies, deceptions and myths surrounding Camelot.
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Although I do not always find Chomsky's political analyses persuasive, this book is a well-presented, sharp rebutal to the theory that JFK planned to pull the US out of Vietnam. Chomsky examines the evidence to support this theory, clearly demonstrating the circumstantial and ambiguous nature of that evidence. He then proceeds to present well-documented information which indicates Kennedy's commitment to avoid losing Vietnam to the Communists. In addition, Chomsky raises a number of critical questions about the nature and intent of the policies which JFK was pursuing during the months prior to his assassination (particularly the coup against Diem), and asks how these can be reconciled with the withdrawal theory. This book should be read by anyone who has read the arguments (e.g. Newman, Prouty) in support of the "Kennedy was going to withdraw" theory before they make up their minds. At the very least Chomsky raises serious questions which must be answered by anyone claiming that John Kennedy had already decided to pull the US out of Vietnam, but was assassinated before being able to do so.
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Excellent overview of the relationship between American political/corporate culture and the origens of the Vietnam War. In this case, Chomsky looks at the historical revisionism that clouded the discourse on the assassination of JFK. The book does not debunk the notion that a conspiracy in Dallas occurred; rather the emphasis is on how JFK simply continued (and, in some cases,expanded) the basic thrust of American foreign policy. Using mostly the internal record, Chomsky details JFK and his virulent hawkish and anti-communist ideology, a fact which Camelot propogandists attempt to hide or minimize. Once again, the point is to highlight the reality: a single political party exists today to do the bidding for the corporate sector (of which the military-industrial complex is a large component). Remember, JFK had increased defense spending and forced through a great deal of pro-corporate legislation (while also dragging his heels on Civil Rights legislation and scolding the Warren Court for its progressive leanings) prior to the assassination. All in all, another worthy contribution from one of the great American intellectuals of the 20th century.
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“Untypical Camelot decisions?”

One could generalize that our country was forged in a sequence of wars we have fought. The Revolutionary and Civil wars ultimately forged a ‘United’ States. Our participation in WWI introduced us to the arena of international affairs and our part in them. WWII culminated our accession to status as economically and militarily most powerful nation in the world. It also significantly acted as a force in creation of present world order. ‘Our’ wars, good and bad, are an integral part of our history. Distinctly adverse to our best interests have been more ‘limited’, i.e. not ‘world’ wars in Viet Nam, Afghanistan and Iraq. Impact of these wars on our national character will continue to be analyzed. In this instance Chomsky evaluates the case of Viet Nam. Objectives identified in Viet Nam by Kennedy were not met as intended. Chomsky applies his typically thorough and incisive analysis to the readily available Viet Nam public record particularly as found in security action memos NSAM 263 and 273. Additional journalistic and book sources are also considered as in Schlesinger’s books on the JFK presidency. He analysiss spares no one!

More popular as well as pointed information is also considered from Daniel Ellsberg “The Pentagon Papers’. A combination of these papers and the hard, complete official documents are as conclusive a record to be found for any of our wars. This entire file of records for JFK’s presidency are readily available on-line for all to read. There is little doubt as to intended Kennedy objectives directed to his senior staff of advisors. His staff of advisors were cream of a national crop of fiscal, corporate and military experts.
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