“It’s Not All about Us?”

by Mark Chmiel

Why is so much omitted from our most familiar Vietnam war stories? The very size, length, and complexity of the war’s history is a partial explanation, but the harder truth is that we have simply avoided a full public reckoning, the kind that would invariably confront us with unwelcome questions about American intervention in Vietnam—why it happened, why it was so vehemently opposed, what it did to the Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians, what it actually did to us, and who was responsible. Instead we prefer stories that make us feel better about our nation and ourselves. Even when we believe we have confronted the war’s most horrible realities, we often have been doing little more than licking our own wounds. For example, we tend to speak mournfully of the war as an “American tragedy,” as if it were a fated imposition beyond our control that afflicted only us.

 –Christian Appy, editor, Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered from All Sides