LANGELLE PHOTOGRAPHY

Using the power of photojournalism to expose social and ecological injustice

Posts tagged ‘Vietnam War’

This critique is re-posted from Global Justice Ecology Project. No disrespect is intended for Vietnam Veterans or for any of us who stayed in the U.S. in the struggle to bring U.S. troops home and stop the war on the people and the land in IndoChina. – Orin Langelle – 27 September 2017

Members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) show their outrage as they protest the lives lost (both U.S. and Indo-Chinese) in the Vietnam War. Both VVAW members and thousands of anti-war demonstrators massed at the Republican National Convention, Miami Beach, FL to show opposition to the war. PhotoLangelle.org (1972)

Two critiques of Burns’ film The Vietnam War question its intentions

by Global Justice Ecology Project’s Orin Langelle – co-founder, consultant, and photographer

As someone who was active in the movement to stop the Vietnam War, I was asked to comment on two key critiques of Burns and Novick’s highly acclaimed series, The Vietnam War.  The first,“The Killing of History,” is by John Pilger and the other,“Ken Burns’ Vietnam Gives Corporate Sponsors Little to Worry About,” is by Frank Joyce.  [I include a few others as well.] I have found writing about that epoch deeply challenging, as that war forever changed me and my understanding of reality, as well as millions of others–some living, some dead. I carry the heavy load of that time every day.

It was a crash course in imperialism, racism, colonization and class.

On July 1, 1970 a “lottery” draft was drawn for all men born in 1951. I drew 031 out of a possible 365. I subsequently was ordered by my draft board to report for a physical.  I took the physical, but made sure I did not go to Vietnam. There was no guarantee of a round trip ticket and I had no desire to kill anyone.

I had a lot of friends who did go to Vietnam. One young man I knew was a conscientious objector but served as a medic refusing to carry a gun.  He received the purple heart three times and returned deeply disturbed. Another was a military combat photographer. The last time I visited him the only things he had in his refrigerator were bottles of vodka.

I had no animosity for those who went to Vietnam, nor did I or anyone I knew ever spit on any veteran–a myth perpetuated through endless propaganda to undermine the anti-war movement, which also included many Vietnam veterans.

Wounded soldier from Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) in a wheelchair during protests against the Republican National Convention, Miami Beach, FL. He was one of over 200,000 U.S. casualties in that war. PhotoLangelle.org (1972).      This photograph received the 2017 Exhibition Award from the CEPA Gallery (Contemporary Photography & Visual Arts Center) in Buffalo, NY during their Members’ Exhibition. Langelle will have a solo exhibit in January 2018 at CEPA entitled “Portraits of Struggle.”

I was arrested many times trying to end the war. But I wasn’t marching in circles like so many in the ‘peace” movement today – I was in the streets taking part in direct action to STOP the war.  Not to complain about it, to STOP it.

But back to Burns’ advertisement for Bank of America – I mean his series The Vietnam War. I have to congratulate Bank of America for their part in the making of this series. They sound so concerned and compassionate.  For those who suffer from societal amnesia or just weren’t paying attention or alive then, it sounds great. But I was suspicious from the beginning of all the film’s corporate sponsors, especially Bank of America. And I wasn’t the only one.

Noted journalist, John Pilger, in his article “The Killing of History” states of Burns’ movie, “It’s lavish advertising campaign promotes its biggest backer, Bank of America, which in 1971 was burned down by students in Santa Barbara, California, as a symbol of the hated war in Vietnam.

Burns says he is grateful to ‘the entire Bank of America family” which “has long supported our country’s veterans.’ Bank of America was a corporate prop to an invasion that killed perhaps as many as four million Vietnamese and ravaged and poisoned a once bountiful land. More than 58,000 American soldiers were killed, and around the same number are estimated to have taken their own lives.”

And Frank Joyce in the LA Progressive goes after PBS in “Ken Burns’ Vietnam Gives Corporate Sponsors Little to Worry About. “The corporatization of so-called public broadcasting is a fact of life, a prime example of how the machinery of manufacturing consent works ceaselessly to expand its influence.”

Joyce also discusses sponsorship of the film by the Koch Brothers. The Koch Brothers?

Last night I watched the film’s credits to see exactly who was behind the making of “The Vietnam War.” And yes, David H. Koch’s name (from the Koch Foundation) was displayed in great big letters.

David H. Koch has a track record of well, just plain evil. Jane Mayer in 2010, writing “Covert Operations” for The New Yorker says, “David H. Koch… and his brother Charles are lifelong libertarians and have quietly given more than a hundred million dollars to right-wing causes.”

Mayer continues, “A Republican campaign consultant who has done research on behalf of Charles and David Koch said of the Tea Party, ‘The Koch brothers gave the money that founded it. It’s like they put the seeds in the ground. Then the rainstorm comes, and the frogs come out of the mud—and they’re our candidates!’”

But that’s just the beginning.  In a Rolling Stone article, “Inside the Koch Brothers’ Toxic Empire” Tim Dickerson writes, “The volume of Koch Industries’ toxic output is staggering. According to the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute, only three companies rank among the top 30 polluters of America’s air, water and climate: ExxonMobil, American Electric Power and Koch Industries. Thanks in part to its 2005 purchase of paper-mill giant Georgia-Pacific, Koch Industries dumps more pollutants into the nation’s waterways than General Electric and International Paper combined. The company ranks 13th in the nation for toxic air pollution. Koch’s climate pollution, meanwhile, outpaces oil giants including Valero, Chevron and Shell. Across its businesses, Koch generates 24 million metric tons of greenhouse gases a year.”

So glad Koch and Bank of America now want to set the record straight on the Vietnam War.

John Pilger continues in “The Killing of History,” The ‘meaning’ of the Vietnam war is no different from the meaning of the genocidal campaign against the Native Americans, the colonial massacres in the Philippines, the atomic bombings of Japan, the levelling of every city in North Korea…

Nothing has changed. When Donald Trump addressed the United Nations on 19 September – a body established to spare humanity the ‘scourge of war’ – he declared he was ‘ready, willing and able’ to ‘totally destroy’ North Korea and its 25 million people. His audience gasped, but Trump’s language was not unusual.

His rival for the presidency, Hillary Clinton, had boasted she was prepared to ‘totally obliterate’ Iran, a nation of more than 80 million people. This is the American Way; only the euphemisms are missing now.

Returning to the US, I am struck by the silence and the absence of an opposition – on the streets, in journalism and the arts, as if dissent once tolerated in the ‘mainstream’ has regressed to a dissidence: a metaphoric underground.”

So The Vietnam War is another outrageous attempt by the corporations and corporadoes to absolve their transgressions through the re-writing of history in an attempt to win the hearts and minds of viewers and pave the way for future atrocities.

See: John Pilger’s “THE KILLING OF HISTORY”  http://johnpilger.com/articles/the-killing-of-history  Pilger is an Australian-British journalist based in London. He covered the Vietnam War for a decade.

Frank Joyce’s “Ken Burns’ Vietnam Gives Corporate Sponsors Little to Worry About”  https://www.laprogressive.com/ken-burns-vietnam/

Jane Mayer’s “Covert Operations” https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/08/30/covert-operations

Tim Dickerson’s “Inside the Koch Brothers’ Toxic Empire” http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/inside-the-koch-brothers-toxic-empire-20140924

 

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Tin soldiers and Nixon coming – 4 dead in Ohio

Protest at the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami Beach, FL. Photo: Langelle

Protest at the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami Beach, FL.      Photo: Langelle

Today is the 45th anniversary of the Kent State Massacre, when the Ohio National Guard killed 4 students during a protest against the war in Vietnam and the invasion of Cambodia. We should never forget. I know I will not.

Today, once again we see the National Guard in our streets, called into action to quell protests.  It is therefore even more important that we remember the results this had in the past.

Jerry M. Lewis and Thomas R. Hensley wrote  in a paper “THE MAY 4 SHOOTINGS AT KENT STATE UNIVERSITY: THE SEARCH 
FOR HISTORICAL ACCURACY” [1] :

On May 4, 1970 members of the Ohio National Guard fired into a crowd of Kent State University demonstrators, killing four and wounding nine Kent State students. The impact of the shootings was dramatic. The event triggered a nationwide student strike that forced hundreds of colleges and universities to close. H. R. Haldeman, a top aide to President Richard Nixon, suggests the shootings had a direct impact on national politics. In The Ends of Power, Haldeman (1978) states that the shootings at Kent State began the slide into Watergate, eventually destroying the Nixon administration. Beyond the direct effects of May 4th, the shootings have certainly come to symbolize the deep political and social divisions that so sharply divided the country during the Vietnam War era.

[1] PUBLISHED IN REVISED FORM BY THE OHIO COUNCIL FOR THE SOCIAL STUDIES REVIEW, VOL 34, NUMBER 1 (SUMMER, 1998) PP. 9-21

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When Bob Dylan wrote those words in 1965 for his song Subterranean Homesick Blues, he was not referring to the climate crisis, though these words are certainly appropriate today as we stare down the jaws of the oncoming climate catastrophe.  One does not need to be a meteorologist to know that if we do not begin taking real, effective and just action to address the climate crisis, we are all in deep s#*t.

I shot this portrait of Bill Ayers, former Weathermen and Weather Underground founder, prior to his event at local independent radical bookstore Burning Books, here in Buffalo on 21 May.  This is the first of a series of candid portraits I will be taking of radical movement figures in collaboration with Burning Books.  The point of this endeavor is to document some of the people that have participated in the making of history in the ongoing struggle for freedom and justice – a history of victories, losses, mistakes and successes, that we can and should learn from.

Bill Ayres 1 DSC_0031Portrait of Bill Ayers before he spoke at Burning Books on 21 May 2014 in Buffalo, NY.   Photo: Langelle

From Wikipedia (for what it’s worth):

William Charles “Bill” Ayers (born December 26, 1944) is an American elementary education theorist and a former leader in the counterculture movement that opposed U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. He is known for his 1960s radical activism as well as his current work in education reform, curriculum, and instruction. In 1969 he co-founded the Weather Underground, a self-described communist revolutionary group that conducted a campaign of bombing public buildings (including police stations, the U.S. Capitol Building, and the Pentagon) during the 1960s and 1970s in response to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

“He is a retired professor in the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, formerly holding the titles of Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar. During the 2008 US presidential campaign, a controversy arose over his contacts with then-candidate Barack Obama. He is married to Bernardine Dohrn, who was also a leader in the Weather Underground.”

More on Ayers in Wikipedia and in The Buffalo News60s radical Ayers still wants a revolution

About the Portrait

I met Bill in 1969 before he went underground.  Before taking his photo, I told him that.   Bill said, “You looked the same then as you do now.”  I returned the humorous compliment.

I was glad to have this chance to take candid photos of Bill, and to talk to and know him better.

I think that a portrait done well is very personal and can bring out the real person – which is my goal.  I want the real image of the real person.  The image of someone who is deeply committed to what they do and provides us a glimpse of why they do it.

This is history and these stories and faces need to be remembered.

About the radical independent bookstore hosting his talk, Ayers commented, “Burning Books stands strong as an essential community space where we can gather, dream big, and act on what the known demands of us.”

How true that is.  And I’m glad to be working with them to collaborate on this portrait project.  Special thanks to Leslie James Pickering and all at Burning Books for making this possible. More information on how Leslie and Burning Books are standing up to the FBI can be found here. – Orin Langelle

And from the archives of the FBI:

 

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