History channel rejects another look at Vietnam

Posted: Aug 24, 2002 12:00 AM
I've long believed that America learned the wrong lessons from its Vietnam experience, which is why I was gratified to hear about a new award-winning documentary that might help set the record straight. Sadly, it appears, the History Channel doesn't share my view. "The Long Way Home Project" (TLWHP) is a four-part digitally recorded film series on the Vietnam War. So? There have been some 600 documentary films, feature films and television projects on the Vietnam era, so what's newsworthy about yet another one? Well, its producers say that it is "fact-based, well researched, and incorporates startling new revelations about the period with input of many of the top surviving leaders of the time." Most other films on the subject, they say "are based loosely on earlier works, many of them fundamentally flawed ... both in their source documents and their basic perspective of the war era." The series includes a moving introduction by General H. Norman Schwarzkopf. The project won the prestigious Gold Special Jury Award for Documentary/Television Series at the Houston International Film Festival. "TLWHP's" producers believe their work is unique among films on America's Vietnam experience in three primary ways: It is fact-based (not largely characterized by unsupported opinion); it seeks to avoid strong political bias, and is uplifting and inspirational. Who can deny that the Vietnam legacy promoted by America's cultural elite is that we had no business in this "civil war" in the first place and our resulting defeat vindicated that position? How often, if ever, do you hear the opposing view: that America was justified in defending South Vietnam against the North Vietnam communist aggressors who were heavily backed by Red China and the Soviet Union? When have you heard that we could have won the war (and almost did) had the protestors and feckless politicians not interfered? And how many times have you heard about the slaughter of millions by the Communists after we withdrew? Before you liberals get worked up, understand that I'm not saying that "TLWHP" presents this countercultural view, which you might argue is biased the other way. I'm saying that its producers pride themselves in having "taken pains not to introduce their own opinions about the validity of the war, cast particular blame, or to judge harshly those who were charged with the prosecution of the war." It's not that "TLWHP" includes no opinions by those interviewed. But when opinions are offered, they are clearly recognizable as such and not presented as objective facts. Of course, if the film series doesn't dutifully toe the liberal line -- even if it doesn't take the opposition position, but merely stays neutral -- you can bet that many on the left will argue that it has a right-wing bias. In fact, you should make such a bet, because that's exactly what has happened. "TLWHP's" producers approached A&E's The History Channel because it was the most logical home for the first viewing of this historical series. Through their creative agency ICM, they delivered a copy of "Men Versus Myth," the first of the four-part series, to the History Channel. ICM was convinced that selling "TLWHP" would be a "no-brainer." Instead, they ran into a fully enforced brick wall. The head of The History Channel's acquisition team reportedly said that the series "does not set the proper tone for The History Channel." When pressed to elaborate they reportedly said, "We're not going to air anything with that right-wing General Schwarzkopf." Is this not another example of intolerance and close-mindedness by those who hold themselves out as enlightened, unbiased and scholarly? What do they so fear about a balanced work, for a change, on the Vietnam War? What would be wrong with exposing American television viewers to such revelations as: "the best and brightest served in Vietnam" and "The soldiers in Vietnam had the highest rate of volunteerism (and) were the best educated ... (of) any fighting force that America ever fielded." Wouldn't it be constructive for Americans to learn, contrary to popular myth, that the overwhelming majority of Vietnam Vets served honorably, are not psychological basket cases and are not suffering from exposure to Agent-Orange or PTSD? Does the left (at least its powerbrokers) have an agenda to perpetuate these one-sided, negative images of the war and of its veterans? If not, why won't they let you see "the rest of the story"? What is it about balance and accuracy that strikes such fear in their "open-minded" hearts? They owe us an explanation -- and an apology.