Vietnam war

Remembering the Genius of Kurt Vonnegut and ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’

Adam Gravano

As a young man, few books exerted anything like the formative power held by Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. Despite the grim acceptance of a world with conflict and war, Vonnegut still fell into writing an anti-war book, perhaps an anti-war book highly ranked among the best. This year marks the 50th anniversary of its publication, and, accordingly, Modern Library has released a new edition with a foreword by Kevin Powers. And, as the foreword shows in splendid detail, the lessons of Slaughterhouse-Five are just as relevant today as they were in 1969. 

The Temptation of the Intellectuals: LBJ and the 1965 Festival of the Arts

Mike Peters

The Festival takes place at a critical and turbulent time in modern American history. In a society increasingly marked by division and conflict, due initially to the struggle for Civil Rights and then to the slowly gathering campaign to stop the War, the US Administration is keen to ensure that alternative voices to the those on the radical Left can be heard. For although Lyndon Johnson, from taking office in 1963, has been  a reforming president, introducing large-scale social programs to alleviate poverty, end racial discrimination and improve educational opportunity, he is in danger, as a result of his military interventions in Vietnam.

The Vietnam War 40 Years Later: How Capitalism Trumped Ideology

Andrew Lam

Forty years have passed since the Vietnam War ended, and a parade was staged in Ho Chi Minh City, formally Saigon, to commemorate that date. Yet despite the fanfare debates rage on both sides of the Pacific as to who really won and who lost that war. While the hammer and sickle and Uncle Ho’s image may still adorn T-shirts it sells to foreign tourists, Vietnam’s heart throbs for all things American, especially Apple. 

Documenting a Changing Vietnam Through Photographs

Andrew Lam

Though the country remained under a one-party rule, Vietnam has since the late 1980s eased its once-iron grip on the economy and cultural life, moving from a socialist to a free market economy. Gone are the days when citizens were required to discuss Marxist-Leninist doctrines at weekly neighborhood sessions. Gone too are the permits needed to buy rice from state-run stores, or to move from one city to another. The drab, impoverished and immobile nation that Catherine saw when she first visited in 1990 quickly shifted under her lens. And fascinated, she kept coming back. 

The Many Casualties of LBJ’s Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

Leonard Steinhorn

Fifty years ago, on August 10, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed what is known as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. It is a day that should live in infamy. On that day, the President gave himself the power “to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed forces,” to fight the spread of communism in Southeast Asia and assist our ally in South Vietnam “in defense of its freedom.” Or as former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara put it decades later, it gave “complete authority to the president to take the nation to war.”

Iraq Replaces Vietnam as a Metaphor for Tragedy

Andrew Lam

Two-and-a-half years after the U.S. pulled out of Iraq the country has crumbled into a bona-fide failed state, with Baghdad under siege by ISIS (jihadist militants from the Islamic State), who are having a run of Iraq, and some analysts now worry that ISIS will commit mass genocide against Iraq's Shi'a population if Baghdad falls. The war in Iraq started with Operation Shock and Awe but ended in a fizzle and, some would argue, in an epic exercise in human futility. 

Vietnam: A Country of Contrasts

Andrew Lam

Modernity, that is to say, seeps in. You can see it as a river of motorcyclists rushing by while above them looms a Starbucks sign. Or take a look at the farmer standing in his bare feet on the verdant slope: Two oxen graze nearby, but he is preoccupied with chatting on his cell. Or consider the new cityscape of Saigon, my birthplace, now renamed Ho Chi Minh City, with its high-rises being constructed -- and see the once-sleepy town of villas and lycees and tree-lined boulevards transforming itself into a bona fide 21st-century metropolis.

Vietnamese-Americans and the Lingering, Deadly Shadow of Agent Orange

Ngoc Nguyen

Vietnam War veterans in the United States, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea receive Agent Orange disability benefits through their governments. Canada has compensated citizens who were exposed to herbicides during pre-war testing of the chemicals. The U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs has paid billions in disability benefits related to herbicide exposure to eligible American veterans. In contrast, Vietnamese Americans who were exposed and are now sick - a group that includes both veterans and civilians - haven’t received a dime. 

Reading 21st Century American War Stories: Heroes, Hell, and Back

Kara Krauze

The 21st century in America has been permeated by war, almost from the start; even while most of America’s citizens remain unaffected—directly anyway—by its vicissitudes.  We need a literature that can begin to convey the multiplicities of war: the adrenaline; the sweat and blood; the isolation; the brotherhood; the memories and questions; and the return home. We need a narrative for America’s 21st century wars, and yet no single narrative will suffice.

Vietnam: Past Tragedies and Haunting Metaphors

Andrew Lam

On the eve of the presidential election, I wish to tell whoever will become the next president of the United States that the Vietnam syndrome cannot be kicked through acts of war, that only through a view that's rooted in people, rooted in human kindness, and not historical vehemence, would a country open itself up and stop being a haunting metaphor. That not until human basic needs are addressed and human dignity upheld can we truly pacify our enemies and bring about human liberty. And that more soldiers and bombs and drones in the sky will never appease the haunting ghosts of the past.

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