I definitely agree with Kael
And I don’t think the Viet Nam war was at all ambiguous. The US was involved in the country’s politics from 1945 onwards. They would not recognize Vietnamese independence after WWII and in fact were funding 80% of France’s war efforts against VN by the end of the First Indochina War. This conflict started as a continuation of the colonial enterprise. In 1954, the country was split up between two governments, the Ho Chi Minh-led government centered in Ha Noi, and the government that centered in Sai Gon that France helped to create, and which was again backed by the US. The SG government was extremely close to being a puppet government for France and the US and committed absurd atrocities all the way up through 1975. Anyways, there were supposed to be elections to decide which government would take over the entire country (despite HCM’s government already declaring independence 9 years earlier). The elections never happened because Ngo Dinh Diem, the leader of the SG government, did some silly organizational changes that “voided” the Geneva Accords. It’s very possible that the US was involved in this subversion of an international agreement. The US knew HCM’s government would win the election since they were extremely popular due to being at the forefront of independence movements for decades and the SG government having a poor reputation as a colonialist government. This antagonism continued as later on policies such as the “strategic hamlets” and just major monetary support of a horrid regime really inflamed a situation that did not even exist just a few years earlier. Then of course the US invaded. The US and France created the entire conflict where one did not exist. The war was also heavily supported by the American people as late as the early 1970s, and the army was burgeoned with volunteers. This is an example of something that has been revisioned in VN war films, actually.
I don’t like the sort of diabolical way Vietnamese soldiers are portrayed in the films (or how Vietnamese women are portrayed either), or the way the films portray the American experience as one of great suffering when the US is responsible for around 4 million Vietnamese deaths, plus who knows how many more in Cambodia and Laos. And for what? Many scholars (and people such as MLK in fact) have argued VN was a war fought because of racism; I tend to agree, since the reason the US supported France to begin with and invaded themselves was because they did not believe Vietnamese people were capable of governing themselves. It was the same logic the US used in invading the Philippines in 1899 in fact (a 14 year conflict resulting in around 2 million Filipino deaths itself). The fact is that whether it is the director’s intention or not, it is impossible to detach politics from something real like this conflict. The US continues making films about VN that are essentially war porn all without making amends and reparations for what they did to Southeast Asia. To me, it is revisionism.
I’m not angry by the way. I’m saying all this because to me media and politics are always linked. Stone is obviously not a right-winger, but his movie has unintentionally contributed to a historical reimagining of the conflict by Americans. So has the Deerhunter. I don’t like films dealing with this topic because I think they help to foster more ignorance and less reflection on the American past. This is my view as someone who has studied the war and studied it in Viet Nam. I don’t think I am overthinking this issue, but I know that I am seeing it in a much different cobtext than most people.