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Angela Encardone

Professor Stubee

College Composition II

March 26 2019

What You Probably Don’t Know About The Vietnam War, and Why You Don’t.

The Vietnam War, starting in 1964 and ending in 1975, was one of the most

controversial, and profound wars the United States had ever been apart of. However, most people

are not aware of how and why the war actually started, and what the US government did to get

involved. What is taught about the start of the war through the average educational system is

usually misleading to students, which can cause them to be very much unaware of their nations

past and intentions. The US narrative of the war revolves not around Vietnam, but about

America and its “justifiable” reasons for getting involved in the war, when those reasons were

actually out of ignorance and essentially immoral. Censorship of the war is still happening today

in schools, and doing so gives students a false impression of the government, leaves them unable

to form an opinion about the war, and it hides important truths about the US’ power and

authority.

A great misconception about the start of the war is how the US initially got involved, and

how it is taught differently here in the US, and in Vietnam today. Under the terms of the Geneva

Accords, a United Nations meeting held in July 1954, France withdrew their troops from

Vietnam, which was then temporarily divided into the North and the South. General elections
were supposed to be held in 1956 to officially unify the two countries and allow them

independence. However, due to US involvement, that step was never made. The US heavily

disagreed with the Geneva Accords policy, due to the rising communist power in the North. On

thevietnamwar.info, author Kenny Rogers wrote “First, they [America] feared that the general

elections would not be fair and free under the communists’ influence. Second and most

importantly, if the communists won in Vietnam, communism could spread throughout Southeast

Asia and become a greater threat to the U.S” (2013). As a result of this fear of the “Domino

Theory”, the belief if one country becomes communist then surrounding countries will too, the

US planned to team up with South Vietnam’s president, Ngo Dinh Diem, and help him win the

election against the communist North president, Ho Chi Minh. To preserve America’s “dignity”,

this is all that is usually said about the start of the war; that the war was a fight against

communism and to save America’s democratic government. However, Rogers wrote again that

in Vietnam, it is taught, unlike in America, that the US was another colonist power and

imperialist just like the French, and that Vietnam was not a civil war, but instead a war against

American invasion (2014). It has also been proved that the “Domino Theory” the US

government believed in is actually not true. Therefore the theory was an exaggerated influence

for war and was essentially a mistake.

In addition, another misconception about the start of the war, and something that is

usually not taught in an average history class is the immoral assassination of Diem by the

American CIA. In 1961, President Kennedy started to have direct involvement in South Vietnam

and hoped that Diem, a Catholic like himself who disliked communism, would make the

necessary shifts in policies before events [regarding to communism] spiraled out of control
(Kross, 2004). However, while creating various anti-communist movements, Diem also created

various infamous anti-Buddhism movements. Diem closed Buddhist schools and arrested

random Buddhist leaders, which ultimately led to the death of monk Thich Quang Duc, who died

by lighting himself on fire as a form of protest against Diem. “President Kennedy condemned the

violence and urged Diem to get his house in order” (Kross 2004). With the dwindling of Diem’s

success in South Vietnam, the US became unfaithful of him winning over Ho Chi Minh.

Therefore in 1963, the US government and the CIA decided Diem’s fate, and he was

assassinated on November 2nd, which left South Vietnam now under control of America.

The assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem was not only a surprise to President Kennedy, but

still to the US public to date. The entire concept of America overthrowing the Vietnamese

government is something that is lightly touched upon in history classes and doing so is

substantially censoring students of their governments wary past. Author and historian, Stephen

Kinzer says in an interview “Therefore we [the US government] decide that we need to

overthrow that government, not because of what it did to those companies, but because the fact

that it did those things shows that it poses a political or geostrategic threat to the United States”

(Black 2008). Here Kinzer describes the motivations behind why the US overthrows other

countries to begin with; it is when they do something to their government that jeopardizes the US

financially and politically. In the Vietnamese education system, this is talked about more freely

than in America. To date, Vietnam still denies the legitimacy of the South Vietnamese

government during Diem’s time. It is taught that the South had a “puppet” government that was

led by traitors, and how the civilians of the South were suffering. One specific example of

censorship of the war today was in 2014, at least 7 Denver school’s and hundreds of students
protested against their school’s history curriculum. CNN reported that the students claimed the

curriculum was not teaching them history that portrayed America in a negative light, and one

student claimed he was taught that the Vietnam War was a great victory for the US (Wallace

2014). Censoring history today essentially obliterates the purpose of taking a history class, and

causes students to be unable to be exposed to different points of views and perspectives.

Not only in Denver, but hundreds of schools across the country have been apart of

protests due to censorship on history curricula. The curricula was made to promote patriotism,

respect for authority and free enterprise. However, the New York Times reports one student

saying that what is not patriotic, is trying to erase our history (Lindberg 2014). Students and

teachers alone have made it clear that whitewashing US history will not be tolerated, and it

should not have to be. CNN reported that Julie Williams, a Denver school board member

advocating for the curricula change, said “Balance and respect for traditional scholarship is NOT

censorship” (Wallace 2014). However, shying away from teaching younger generations the

important truth about America’s past, blindly promoting patriotism is censorship.

The Vietnam War was a significant change in US history, and censorship of it is

seemingly making its way into classrooms where it should not. The start of the Vietnam War and

the assassination of Diem is the most controversial part of the war, and students everywhere

should be able to learn about it truthfully and form their own opinion. Even in Vietnam, it is not

surprising how their history curricula about the War varies greatly from the curricula in the US.

Ultimately, censorship of the Vietnam War is vastly present in the US educational system, and it

runs the risk of closing students minds when it comes to proper awareness of the world.
Works Cited

Kross, P. (2016, December 6). The Assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem. Retrieved from

https://www.historynet.com/the-assassination-of-ngo-dinh-diem.htm

Rogers, K. (2013, May 28). How did the Vietnam War start? Retrieved from

https://thevietnamwar.info/how-did-the-vietnam-war-start/

Black, E. (2008, May 6). Why does the U.S. overthrow regimes in other countries?

Retrieved from

https://www.minnpost.com/eric-black-ink/2008/05/why-does-us-overthrow-regimes-other-countr

ies/

Lindberg, M. (2014, September 25). The Danger of Censoring Our History. Retrieved

from ​https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/the-danger-of-censoring-our-history

Wallace, K. (2014, September 26). Denver-area students accuse school board of

censoring U.S. history. Retrieved from

http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/24/living/censoring-history-schools-denver-protest/index.html