Two Days in October or 30 Years and Counting?

Nguyen-Khoa Thai Anh

Two Days in October is a moving documentary by director Robert Kenner that portrays two events in the fall of 1967 that are related to the Viet-Nam war. Based on the Pulitzer-Prize winning book, They Marched Into Sunlight by journalist David Maraniss, the film tells the story of those critical junctures of the two fateful days in October, which took place separately in America and Viet-Nam.

On October 17, 1967, Lieutenant Colonel Terry Allen marched his Black Lions battalion on a search and destroy mission deep into a Viet Cong ambush in the jungle of Viet-Nam. Of the 142 men of his special unit who went looking for engagement with the Viet Cong, 61 were killed, including commander Terry Allen, who received a bullet in his forehead, his hand still clutching a photo of his three little girls.

Half the world away, a day later, at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, a student-staged sit-in protest against the on-campus recruitment by Dow Chemical, the makers of napalm bombs, turned violent when university chancellor William Sewell called in the police to forcibly remove the students.

The melee sent 65 people to the hospital. The press later blamed the students for the violence and further alienated them. While reports of the massacre in the jungle tried to bolster American heroism in the sacrifices, the incidents were distorted and sanitized by the Pentagon, and disillusioned some of the Black Lions surviving combatants. The credibility gap in the Viet-Nam war took on added meaning.

While I watched the film with a heavy-heart, I should by now become desensitized by the antiwar messages of these docu-dramas, (e.g. Hearts and Minds, Regret to Inform, etc.). Although Robert Conner’s Two Days in October motifs are clearly anti-establishment, I can’t say that the film is totally biased, given the facts of the case. The director has every right to treat the subject based on the sentiments of the participants and eyewitness accounts of the happening especially if it furthers his view of the U.S. involvement, which one can surmise in this case, serves to demonstrate the futility and inhumane aspects of that war.

Yet, it seems the biggest trouble that American filmmakers, writers, even American soldiers face regarding the Viet-Nam war is that they completely forget about the Vietnamese side of the equation. Worse yet, often in their angst-and-guilt-ridden complex, Americans tend to equate the Vietnamese aggressors, the communist side with the people of Viet-Nam.

Nothing is further from the truth, when even today in the 21st century, the true voice of the Vietnamese people are still being suppressed by this dictatorial Party, and the democratic-minded sons and daughters of the regime, such as Pham Hong Son (1), Nguyen Vu Binh (2), and Nguyen Khac Toan (3) are still being oppressed and jailed while all the unelected leaders positions are being fortified and enriched by their corrupt amassment of ill-gotten gains from foreign investments.

While American can question their government professed ideals of democracy and self-determination for the people of Viet-Nam in that war, nationalist Vietnamese never wavered in our belief that the foreign and bastardly doctrine of Marxist-Leninism was the anti thesis of freedom, democracy and our people’s search for our voice and assertion of our nationhood in the geopolitics of the Cold war. Ho chi Minh and the Vietnamese Communist Party may have fooled his followers and outsiders, considering communism as the path to national salvation, but communism in reality is nothing more than the yoke that enslave the people of Viet-Nam and demand total devotion and sacrifice for the sake of one party.

Therefore, while it is de-rigueur for some American people to shout down their own manifest destiny and a government that forwards it; it is particularly shameful that they, too, had chosen to foreclose the dream of democracy, however incipient, on the whole people of Viet-Nam and helped enslave us for the last 30 years in the guise of allowing Vietnamese native insurgency or the communist revolution to thrive.

Americans can be smug in their peace loving habits, but they, too, should learn history in the process — that unlike Iraq — Viet-Nam was already asserting our voice in that nationalist-communist struggle, and thanks to that American debacle in 1975, Vietnamese are still continuing with that struggle for democracy today.

Nguyen Vu Binh, a journalist and writer. He was charged with “spying” and sentenced to 7 years’ imprisonment, plus three years’ house arrest on release.  His was arrested for writing a testimony to the US Congress about Human rights situation in Vietnam and an article entitled “Some Thoughts on the China-Vietnam Border Agreement”.

Dr. Pham Hong Son. He was arrested in 2002 after translating an article entitled “What is Democracy?” from the website of the US Embassy in Vietnam and sent it to his friends and senior Communist Party officials. He was sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment, plus three years’ house arrest on release.

(3) Nguyen Khac Toan, a former soldier, mathematics teacher and businessman. He was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment plus three years’ house arrest on release. He was arrested for passing via the Internet information on demonstrations and protests in Hanoi and assisting farmers to write petitions against corruption and land confiscation.

Re-print with permission of Nguoi Viet Daily News

©Vietnamese & American Veterans of the Vietnam War, 2005 All Rights Reserved

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