Those who have turned off the TV for sanity reasons will be forgiven for not knowing that PBS’s Ken Burns and Lynn Novick have come out with a documentary on the Vietnam War. American conservatives who are not consumers of liberal magazines will be forgiven for not knowing that the big bombshell of the PBS series was actually revealed in publications like The Smithsonian, and The Washington Post (George Will) in recent years.
What cannot be forgiven, though, is what Richard Nixon did before the 1968 election. Essentially, it is treason. The same sort of treason of which John McCain is accused. One critic of the Ken Burns effort explained:
What happened was this. President Johnson’s staff engaged in peace negotiations with the North Vietnamese. Presidential candidate Richard Nixon secretly told the North Vietnamese that they would get a better deal if they waited. Johnson learned of this and privately called it treason but publicly said nothing. Nixon campaigned promising that he could end the war. But, unlike Reagan who later sabotaged negotiations to free hostages from Iran, Nixon didn’t actually deliver what he had secretly delayed. Instead, as a president elected on the basis of fraud, he continued and escalated the war (just as Johnson had before him). He once again campaigned on the promise to finally end the war when he sought re-election four years later — the public still having no idea that the war might have been ended at the negotiating table before Nixon had ever moved into the White House if only Nixon hadn’t illegally interfered (or might have been ended at any point since its beginning simply by ending it).
With proof offered in a documentary, there is little doubt that Richard Nixon lied in his campaign promises as well, thus he was elected under false pretenses. (He also signed into law the Environmental Protection Act that gave us the meddling agency known as the EPA.) That war wasted a lot of American resources for no return in the end. We essentially surrendered after the politicians made it impossible to win.
The other questions raised by both the critic, David Swanson, and Ken Burns deserve more attention – war criminals, the legality and morality of the war to begin with, the results of agent orange, the toll on the survivors, the sheer number of civilian casualities – are best left for another time.