Letters: Documentary graphically shows the reality of war

July 12, 2006

Recently, I watched a documentary in a DVD format that I found at Mead Public Library called “Hearts & Minds” which talks bout the U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

Many people are interviewed, including Gen. William Westmoreland and Vietnam veterans, who each had a different perspective of the war. There is footage of Presidents Nixon, Kennedy, Johnson and Eisenhower, who states that the U.S. needed to keep access to resources in Vietnam, making military intervention necessary. He doesn’t mention an altruistic reason.

This documentary shows all facets of war and should therefore be rated “R” because of parts of the film where they show U.S. military men shooting Vietnamese men in the head even though they are captured and restrained. The Vietnamese are treated as subhumans. There are also scenes of American military men having sexual relations with Vietnamese prostitutes.

The lack of reverence for life that these passages depict is alarming. There are scenes of U.S. soldiers setting fire to the thatched roofs of the modest huts of the Vietnamese peasants while they are forced to watch their homes being destroyed. We see U.S. warplanes bombarding entire villages. The pilots reported that destroying these people’s homeland was just a job. There were other soldiers who talked about how they got a thrill from killing the “enemy.” However the price to pay for this thrill was depicted when U.S. veterans who had lost limbs were being fitted for plastic ones.

The film did an excellent job of showing the contrast of a comfortable American lifestyle with the utterly poor Vietnamese. And yet their lifestyle was ecologically more sustainable than ours. The beauty of Vietnam was breathtaking and yet bombs were dropped indiscriminately.

There is a passage explaining how Vietnam was under Chinese rule for several centuries and then France colonized Vietnam for 100 years. Just when the Vietnamese had earned their independence from French Imperialism in 1954, America took over.

Gen. Westmoreland has the irreverence to say that Oriental people don’t place a high value on life like we do. However, there are scenes of children suffering from the effects of napalm, of Vietnam families mourning their dead children, of U.S. planes spraying Vietnamese fields with Agent Orange, and of testimony reporting U.S. soldiers torturing Vietnamese.

This documentary shows the reality of war by including real scenes from the Vietnam War. It shows how we are indoctrinated from a young age to think there is something honorable about invading another country far away that has done us no harm. One soldier is asked if we have learned something from Vietnam.

I think that everyone should see this film and replace the Vietnamese faces with Iraqi ones. Maybe the natural beauty of the country will vary, but the ugliness of war stays the same. This film was the 1974 winner of the best documentary.



2 Responses to “Letters: Documentary graphically shows the reality of war”

  1. Jeevika Says:

    Jeevika: South Asia Documentary Festival, which began in 2003, aims at capturing the livelihood challenges faced by the rural and urban poor and bringing it to the attention of current and future policy makers. Over the years, Jeevika has been successful in advocating for the cause of numerous entry-level entrepreneurs – rickshaw pullers, street vendors, prostitutes, child labour, farmers and forest-dwellers.

    The premier event of the festival to be held at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi will be the awards ceremony from 20-23rd July 2007, which will culminate four days of screening for the top films. The last date for the submitting the entries is May 31, 2007

    In addition as part of the festival tour, the award-winning films will travel and be screened in premier schools and colleges in over 20 states in India and other organisations working on livelihood issues as well as in our South Asian neighbours.

    Over the years, Jeevika has become an increasingly popular and news-worthy event as well as an important catalyst for positive social change. The Film-makers whose films have been showcased in the past include Rakesh Sharma (of the Final Solution fame), Sanjay Barnela (Turf Wars) and Shohini Ghosh (Tales of the Night Fairies).

    For further details, please log on : http://www.ccs.in/jeevika

  2. priyanka Says:

    Jeevika 2010: Asia Livelihood Documentary Festival. Call for Entry deadline: 30 June 2010
    Download Entry Form [PDF | DOC]

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