Victory at Hue

I briefly watched a documentary about Vietnam yesterday. The documentary was exploring the heroic efforts of the United States Marine Corp at the battle of Hue during the Vietnam war. The snippet I watched was about 5 minutes long, but the tale it told was a little disturbing to me.

The battle of Hue began on 31 January 1968. The USMC mopped up their operations on 2 March 1968. The marines involved served heroically. This was the gist of the documentary’s narrative. I do not dispute this.

My first objection is a quibble. The battle of Hue seems to have been a marine battle these days. The efforts of the US Army and ARVN forces are forgotten, at least in the contemporary narratives. I may be able to blame the movie Full Metal Jacket for this, but since media analysis is not my forte it is hard to say. The only point I am trying to make is that battle was won by the combined efforts of US forces.

My main objection is that the battle is considered a US victory. The communist were driven out after a month of battle. This is true to an extent. If you can imagine that no communist sympathizers returned to the city after the battle, then you can undoubtedly declare victory. I doubt it was that simple.

The city was destroyed. People’s lives were ruined, military and civilian. The US controlled the rubble after the battle. However, the Tet offensive, of which the battle of Hue was a small part, played a large role in turning American public opinion against the Vietnam war.

What I find ghastly is that here we are, just a little shy of 50 years later, being shown documentaries that display no critical analysis skills. We are showing the battle of Hue as a great victory for the USMC.  We are being shown the Vietnam war as a noble cause.

What I thought about was all the death and destruction brought about by the war on people who thought that the capital and profits of a society ought to accrue to all citizens equally. Essentially, the US invaded Vietnam to be the thought police. That a contemporary documentary can advance the thesis that a city can be destroyed to save it from people who do not think correctly is an abomination.