In the course of trying to understand my Dad's role with the CIA during the fall of Vietnam and subsequently the surrounding countries (including Laos) I talked to more than a few relatives who lived through it, read through stacks of my fathers notes and read more than a few books. These books included Robert McNamara's 'In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam' In the preface is a telling quote, it reads:

"We of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations who participated in the decisions on Vietnam acted according to what we thought were the principles and tradition of this nation. We made our decisions in light of those values. Yet we were wrong. We owe it to future generations to explain why." Even with this knowledge I haven't always been able to reconcile all the differing points of view until I stumbled across this gem on the internet. 'The Pinky Show's response to a viewers request that they explain how and why the U.S. fought the Vietnam War.'

In order to fully appreciate my next upcoming posts about the fall of Laos from an insider's perspective (my fathers) and the day my father made that fateful call to my mother, it is important that you understand the reasons the U.S. fought the Vietnam War. You'll be surprised to find that the seeds of our involvement goes all the way back to WWII.

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You can watch the 40-minute episode of the Pinky Show below, see it full screen on YouTube or if your internet connection is unreliable, read my cliff notes of the episode. Regardless, buckle yourself in, it's either a 40min video or a bajillion word summary — chopped into four parts released over four days. Perfect for Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon reading!


ABOUT THE PINKY SHOW: "The Pinky Show is the original super lo-tech hand-drawn educational TV show. We focus on information & ideas that have been misrepresented, suppressed, ignored, or otherwise excluded from mainstream discussion. Pinky presents and analyzes the material in an informal, easy-to-understand way, with helpful illustrations that she draws herself. Episodes are available on the internet for free at www.PinkyShow.org."
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THE CLIFF NOTES, edited from transcripts. Presented are the real reasons as well as the U.S. government presentation of facts to the American public.

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A lot of the information that people think they know about the Vietnam is wrong. Factually incorrect. There's a lot of misinformation and false assumptions.

"As you know, the U.S. for more than a decade has been assisting the government, the people of Vietnam, to maintain their independence."

~ John F. Kennedy

• There is a problem with this statement. It's problematic because the first half of the sentence is misleading, and the second half is simply untrue.

• When President Kennedy refers to, "the government, the people of Vietnam", he fails to mention which government, which obviously is very important. Because during the Vietnam War era, there was more than one government struggling for control - and the one that had the strongest support among the Vietnamese people wasn't the one the United States was supporting.

• When Kennedy said "assisting... the people of Vietnam, to maintain their independence", it sounds like the Vietnamese people were helpless in the face of some foreign aggressor, which the United States was helping them to repel. In actuality, the foreign aggressor was the United States. The word "independence" is problematic. By definition, 'independence' implies 'self-determination, sovereignty'. But the United States had only recently stopped bankrolling the French war against the Vietnamese people, in their attempt to try to keep Vietnam under French colonial rule. So a statement like this only makes sense if you accept the rather ridiculous idea that the Vietnamese needed our help in order to maintain their independence from... themselves.

• This is a simple illustration of why the Vietnam War is so hard to get a grip on. Most Americans think we know at least a little bit about the Vietnam War. Things we've seen in movies and TV, information received from the government, from newspapers, from high school textbooks — the problem is that so much of that stuff is factually incorrect or misleading. Interpretation of facts is one thing, but you can't have understanding built on outright misinformation.

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• Reading all of the the text takes a wee bit of time, something many in our attention-span challenged culture have so little of — so Chapter II of IV Chapters will be posted tomorrow. Or if you just want to know everything right now go back and watch the video above. It requires a 40 min and 23 second commitment.

Laotian Chronicles: A Life Story

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  1. Cultures in Conflict: The Viet Nam War. Robert E. Vadas. Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut/London, 2002.
  2. The Eyewitness History of the Vietnam War, 1961-1975. George Esper and the Associated Press. Villard Books, New York, 1983.
  3. Herbicidal Warfare: The Ranch Hand Project in Vietnam. Paul Frederick Cecil. Praeger Publishers, New York/Westport, Connecticut/London, 1986.
  4. The Illustrated History of the Vietnam War. Brian Beckett. Multimedia Publications (UK), 1985.
  5. The Pentagon Papers: as published by the New York times. Bantam Books, New York, 1971.
  6. A People's History of the United States, 1492 - Present. Howard Zinn. HarperPerennial, New York, 1980, 1995.
  7. A People's History of the Vietnam War. Jonathan Neale. The New Press, New York/London, 2001, 2003.
  8. Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers. Daniel Ellsberg. Penguin Putnam, 2002.
  9. The Truth About the Most Dangerous and Destructive Nation. Raymond Hirashima. Vantage Press, 1978.
  10. The Umbrella of U.S. Power: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Contradictions of U.S. Policy. Noam Chomsky. Seven Stories Press, New York, 1999.
  11. Vietnam. Larry Burrows. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2002.
  12. Vietnam: A Long History. Nguyen Khac Vien. The Gioi Publishers, Hanoi, 1993.
  13. Vietnam and Other American Fantasies. H. Bruce Franklin. University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, MA, 2000.
  14. Vietnam: A Visual Encyclopedia. Philip Gutzman. PRC Publishing Ltd., 2002.
  15. The Vietnam Experience: The Aftermath, 1975-1985. Edward Doyle, Terrance Maitland, and the editors of the Boston Publishing Company. Boston Publishing Company, Boston, MA, 1982.
  16. The Vietnam Experience: The Fall of the South. Clark Dougan, David Fulghum, and the editors of the Boston Publishing Company. Boston Publishing Company, Boston, MA, 1982.
  17. The Vietnam Experience: Raising the Stakes. Terrance Maitland, Stephen Weiss, and the editors of the Boston Publishing Company. Boston Publishing Company, Boston, MA, 1982.
  18. Vietnam Front Pages. Hal Drake (editor). Hugh Lauter Levin Associates, New York, 1986.
  19. Vietnam: The Secret War. Kevin M. Generous. Bison Books, New York, 1985.
  20. Vietnam: The War in the Air: A Pictorial History of the U.S. Air Forces in the Vietnam War: Air Force Army, Navy, and Marines. Col. Gene Gurney, USAF (ret.). Crown Publishers, New York, 1985.
  21. The Vietnam War: An Almanac. John S. Bowman (general editor) & Fox Butterfield (introduction). Bison Books, New York, 1985.