The Editor: As the premier revisionist of American military history, Ken Burns in his latest docu-opus, Vietnam, chose to act as his own film editor for the production. He refused to permit producers to use the word “murder” to describe the 1968 massacre of more than 400 South Vietnamese men, women and children in the village of MyLai by U.S. ground troops. Lieutenant William Calley and 27 under his command were charged with committing diverse atrocities and court-martialed. (Calley’s sentence was later commuted by Richard Nixon in 1975).
Defending his decision to describe what happened at MyLai, Burns stated that the MyLai incident still has a “toxic-radioactive” effect on American public opinion almost 50 years later.
Burns hired General Merrill McPeak as an adviser for the film’s production. McPeak was a senior officer who flew 269 bombing missions in Vietnam. Interviewed in a recent New Yorker article about U.S. involvement in Vietnam, he acknowledged: “I believe that MyLai was my fault, my responsibility.”
Better late than never that the Pentagon chose to step forward and finally take responsibility. Pity that the general fell into line with Burns’s decision to mute the truth in portraying what could only be described as act of genocide (reminiscent of the 1942 destruction and execution of the Czech town of Lidice and its citizens by the Nazis).
In fact, MyLai wasn’t simply collateral damage as Burns chose to describe the loss of every human life in the village. It was in essence, the killing of humanity in another torrid chapter of a war run amok.
For my money, I would choose to watch the PBS/WGBH-Boston production of American Experience. Its documentary, Vietnam — An American History doesn’t shy from some painful truths about U.S. involvement. — Randy Fleming, Moose Jaw, Sask.
The Editor: We would like to add to all those who have written to the editor of the Prairie Messenger, to express our sadness and disappointment that our inspiring and much needed paper so full of spiritual nourishment will cease to be published next May.
Yes we too have saved many of our papers, but yet we look forward each week to what news our PM brings. Then we ask ourselves where will we find a new article from Fr. Ron Rolheiser’s “In Exile” encouraging us in our faith journey.
Where will we read articles on social and economic justice like those written by Yvonne Zarowney?
Where will we read who has been ordained as another new priest?
Where will we find the touching stories Leah Perreault is willing to share with us?
Where will we read about our Pope Francis who is reaching out to touch yet another excluded person.
The list goes on and on. — Elaine and Bill Uruski, Arborg, Man.