"When faced with a problem you do not understand,
do any part of it you do understand; then look at it again."
~(Robert A. Heinlein - "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress")

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Sunday, July 03, 2011

Vietnam's most infamous photo ...

... has so much back story that you probably never knew.

Foxfier  has just done what I sometimes do on occasion;  publish a post that is mostly a reference to another post by someone else, because it is almost impossible to build and improve on what that someone else has said.

So, she brings it to your attention.

And, here I am adding yet another link to the chain, because I can't improve on it either.

So, PLEASE, go to her Pictures Lie  post, and find and click on the  "a post on a very famous picture" link.  It ain't pretty, but it sure as Hell is an eye-opener. (Changed link - see update at end.)

If the late Paul Harvey was still reporting, it would be one of his "... and now, you know the rest of the story." pieces.

Give her blog a try; she's very smart, very interesting, and very patient.

How do I know that last part?

In a recent comment exchange, she expressed worry (not too much worry; she keeps things in perspective and has a sense of humor) that she might have annoyed me over a slight political difference.  I reassured her, beginning,
  "Kid, you don't know what annoyance is."

As soon as I had hit the "Post Comment" button, the thought came,
  "Did I just say that to a mother of teen-agers?!!!".

That I'm still breathing is a testament to her patience (or, perhaps to the 2000+ miles separating us :-)

Update - 20:40, 03 Jul 2011 - FYI - Neo-neocon covered much of this ground in Jan 2008 in A mind is a difficult thing to change: (Part 7B: the Vietnam photos revisited)

Addendum - 05 Jul 2011 - Here's a bit more of what Foxfier's post was about.

Synopsis...

Using "infamous" in terms of "spin" (The photos becoming ammunition for protest against the war), the two most infamous photos to come out of the Vietnam War were:
 1) The photo of South Vietnam's Chief of National Police General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan summarily executing a captured Viet Cong by shooting him in the head.
 2) The "Napalm Girl" photo of a young girl running naked down the street from a napalm attack on her village.

Neo has dealt with both of those photos in her post.

Foxfier concentrates on the first;...
 (Photo from neo-neocon's post linked above)

... her post mostly referring to the link I mentioned.  Comments on Foxfier's post make essential reading, for reasons that will become clear below.

From Who, what, where, why and when?  (This is the post that Foxfier linked to) ...

...the picture was taken on February 1st, 1968 in Saigon.  This information is significant because the Tet Offensive, a well coordinated countrywide North Vietnamese attack, was launched the day before, on January 31, 1968.
...
"Nguyễn Văn Lém [the executed man] commanded a Viet Cong death squad, which on that day had murdered South Vietnamese National Police officers, or in their stead, the police officers' families; these sources said that Lém was captured near the site of a ditch holding as many as thirty-four bound and shot bodies of police and their relatives, some of whom were the families of General Nguyễn's deputy and close friend, and six of whom were Nguyễn's godchildren." (Emphasis mine)

A bit confusing because of the common family names (which come first in Asia), the bottom line is that the General was the godfather of six of the murdered children.

So, he's got this bastard, who is NOT in any kind of uniform and is therefore subject to summary execution by the laws of his country.  His city is in chaos and there's no guarantee that he could even find a safe place to hold this guy.  What would you do in his place?

The AP photographer, Eddie Adams, later said... 
“The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them, but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths

Adams continued, "This picture really messed up his life. He never blamed me. He told me if I hadn’t taken the picture, someone else would have..."

Adams was very remorseful about the effect that his photo had on the rest of the General's life (after the fall of Saigon, the General, on his own, managed to get out and made his way to Virginia, where he died in 1998).

That picture contributed to our weariness of the Vietnam War and therefore can be legitimately considered as helping the country to eventually fall.

In the comments to her post, Foxfier opens up on Adams with both barrels...
The General was a better man than I am-- I most assuredly would have held the man that lied about me like that responsible for the results, as well as the massive amount of damage to my home nation.

A little further down from that comment, she reloads and let's loose with what would suffice as a bottom line, but she still has more to say.  Very definitely worth a look.

Update 03 Jun 2012 - Foxfier used to have a blogspot (Google's Blogger.com) address. She had issues with them (she ain't the only one) and finally said "adios", and is now on Wordpress. So, I fixed the links.

Update 04 Jun 2012 - In the 05 Jul 2011 Addendum, I vented (at length) about people not following links. While it may have felt good to get it out of my system, it contributed absolutely nothing to the post, and pretty well obliterated the focus.  After some encouragement from a writer to whose attention I brought this post, I decided to weed that out. While still not all that great, the post is definitely better without the rant. And it only took me eleven months to figure that out. :-)
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2 comments:

Foxfier said...

Not teenagers, a toddler, with another on the way. Close enough, though, especially since she's a smart toddler. ;^p

And there's ALWAYS more to learn-- I've been incredibly lucky. (Although my folks would assure you that my brother and I get along like vinegar and baking powder at times. Like, when we're breathing and don't have a mutual enemy.)

Thank you for the link!

Foxfier said...

Latest update:
like I said, the General was apparently a better person than I am.

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