RECOMMENDED READING


RECOMMENDED READING



GREAT MEDIA JOURNALISM

VICTORY AT SEA
Let me start this project of the secret war by my motivation.  If you asked me over the years, almost sixty, what journalistic work in any media really had an impact on me, my life changed when I watched the TV production series of Victory at Sea.  It was originally broadcast by NBC in the United States in 1952–1953.  It was and told a story, real, alive, visual, telling and truthful. I was glued to it.  

It was condensed into a film series released in 1954. Excerpts from the music soundtrack, by Richard Rodgers and Robert Russell Bennett, were re-recorded for record albums. Some of the music still rings in my mind from time to time. 

I have the albums, the entire show on DVD and digitized music on remastered DVDs. I must admit its the music that doesn’t go away.

The series, which won an Emmy award in 1954 as the  “Best public affairs program”, played an important part in establishing historic “ Compilation” documentaries as a viable television genre.  When I write about the military or war, this is my go to music as the tempo and pitch changes so does my creativity...


THE UGLY AMERICAN - Circa 1958

The multi-million-copy bestseller that coined the phrase for tragic American blunders abroad.In the episode that lends the book its title, the "ugly American" is Homer Atkins, a plain and plain-spoken man, who has been sent by the U.S. government to advise the Southeast Asian country of Sarkhan on engineering projects. When Atkins finds badly misplaced priorities and bluntly challenges the entrenched interests, he lays bare a foreign policy gone dangerously wrong.

The Ugly American is a 1958 political novel by Eugene Burdock and William Lederer. The book depicts the failures of the US diplomatic corps, whose insensitivity to local language, culture, customs and refusal to integrate was in marked contrast to the polished abilities of Eastern Bloc, primarily Soviet diplomacy and led to Communist diplomatic success overseas.

First published in 1958, The Ugly American became a runaway national bestseller for it’s slashing exposé of American arrogance, incompetence, and corruption in Southeast Asia. In linked stories and vignettes, the book uses gripping storytelling to draw a devastating picture of how the United States was losing the struggle with Communism in Asia.

The book caused a sensation in diplomatic circles. John F. Kennedy was so impressed with the book that he sent a copy to each of his colleagues in the United States Senate. The book was one of the biggest bestsellers in the U.S., has been in print continuously since it appeared, and is one of the most politically influential novels in all of American literature.


THE ‘UGLY AMERICAN’ HIMSELF
Was the GOOD GUY in this book. The people of the SE Asian country in which the book is set LIKED him, because he was unpretentious and humble and truly helpful to them. 

The "Ugly American" of the book title refers to the book's hero, plain-looking engineer Homer Atkins, whose "calloused and grease-blackened hands always reminded him that he was an ugly man." Atkins, who lives with the local people, comes to understand their needs, and offers genuinely useful assistance with small-scale projects such as the development of a simple bicycle-powered water pump.

Another example, he found a way to convert abandoned Jeep engines into pumps to help irrigate their rice paddies. Only his face was 'ugly' to them. So when you hear somebody refer to a loudmouthed know-it-all tourist as an “  Ugly American”  you can be sure they haven’t read the book!



THE VIETNAM WAR SERIES ON PBS 

THE VIETNAM WAR produced in 2017 by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick is an incredible piece of work.  It is readily available, and should be required watching by all students as well as Victory at Sea. 

In an interview with Simon Wiesenthal, the NAZI hunter who did the eulogy at my uncles funeral, Hy Katz , Sam Cohen, and others from the garment center in NY who were supporters of his work,  I asked him, “Why do you do what you do”?  

His answer was quite simple.  “Because if we forget history we will repeat it.  We cannot allow anyone to get away with these atrocities”.  We learn from the past and we have sworn to never let it happen again”.

It’s a crime that we do not we do not teach history, we teach kids to pass FCAT tests and other feel good programs.  History repeats itself and the studies of past history is a way of reducing and recognizing problems as they develop today.   

And not just a quote or statement, unfortunately as we have learned, history does repeat itself and man has not learned.  It is one of the most scared of truths.  I think of it as the eleventh Commandments. Our world today is complex, irrational, and doomed to failure using nationalism as the catalyst and the stupidity of the weak minded as the carrier.  And we learned little from those in power today... 

I had to find the origional quote...  It was George Santayana who said,  “  Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.  George Santayana 1863-1952 in Rome, Italy, was a philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist.

You may order the series on DVD  with the related book from PBS.com   You may stream  or download from APPLE, AMAZON and tie it together with another new book just out about the Secret War in LAO, this is the real thing once again.  




I was aware of most of the information in this series, I call it upfront and personal.  I’m adding, some information about the  “ Secret War” occasionally called the Left Side of Vietnam as borders do not exits there.  And it puts some parts of the puzzle into correct order. My findings were based on factual information secured from many sources, several in particular I believe to be the most complete.  There is a lot out there, finding and authenticating.

Fifty years after the war ended, the killing didn’t,  Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s ten-part, 18-hour documentary series, THE VIETNAM WAR, tells the epic story of one of the most consequential, divisive, and controversial events in American history as it has never before been told on film. 

Visceral and immersive, the series explores the human dimensions of the war through revelatory testimony of nearly 80 witnesses from all sides—Americans who fought in the war and others who opposed it, as well as combatants and civilians from both North Vietnam and South Vietnam. 

Ten years in the making, the series includes rarely seen and digitally re-mastered archival footage from sources around the globe, photographs taken by some of the most celebrated photojournalists of the 20th Century, historic television broadcasts, evocative home movies, and secret audio recordings from inside the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations. 

THE VIETNAM WAR features more than 100 iconic musical recordings from greatest artists of the era and haunting original music from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross as well as the Silk Road Ensemble featuring Yo-Yo Ma.  This is new music in my mind.

The importance of this piece of work is “Let the truth be told and the truth about this war will change your opinion about leadership in this country, that stretched clear to the top” and there is nothing nice about it.  From statements totally untrue to body counts and fake field reports, from stupid military miscalculations and stupidity of  irresponsible commanders resulting in 58,240 dead American soldiers, and millions of civilians.

 

A GREAT PLACE TO HAVE A WAR

MUST READ -THE WAR FOUGHT ON THE LAO SIDE

In his book, this is one you must read,  “ A GREAT PLACE TO HAVE A WAR ” Joshua Kurlantzick really explains in detail the establishment of the CIA and the real story behind the incredible “ Operation Momentum”, President Eisenhower’s last major military movement in the White House. 

It was Eisenhower’s fear if LAO fell to the Communists, then Thailand, Viet Nam, Taiwan,  would fall too and then the Philippines.  The so-called “ Domino effect".  It would, as explained, open the door to India.  And the information in the book is very descriptive and almost 50 pages of acknowledgements verify the information given.

At a time and place when both Congress and the American people knew little of the largest paramilitary operation by the CIA and kept under wrap till recently.  It was President Kennedy who carried forth President Eisenhower’s beliefs and Laos received more attention than Viet Nam.  

It wasn’t till 2000 and 2010 till the real stories of the Secret War came to the surface. The LAO government repressed journalism and even for the press visiting parts of LAO and talking to anyone about the war.  The “ Secret war” was really two wars under one roof.

The stoic war fought in the south of Lao using American, Thai and Lao air support close to Viet Nam and the “Secret War” fought in the jungles of the highlands and the Ho Chi Minh Trail by an incredible guerrilla army composed of the Mountain tribes like the Montenards, and Hmong tribes.

 

 

“ I LITTLE SLAVE ” by Bounsang Khamkeo

A Prison Memoir from Communist Laos

Raised in the hierarchical society of traditional Laos, Bounsang Khamkeo earned his doctorate in political science in France and returned home in 1973 to a country in political chaos in the wake of the Vietnam War. He worked for the government until 1981 before being imprisoned by the communist Pathet Lao government after running afoul of a politically ambitious boss.

 I Little Slave is the account of his seven-year struggle in prison to stay alive and keep sane in spite of harsh physical privation and endless psychological abuse. Khamkeo's story is a moving and important one at a time when political oppression and crimes against human rights are on the rise throughout the world.

Readers wrote:
I had the pleasure of taking a Mature Learning Course from Dr Bounsang Khamkeo at our local junior college. I bought the book to supplement his lectures and was almost overwhelmed by his details in the book. It was staggering for me to comprehend the mental strength he had to begin each day of his prison sentance knowing that he could be eliminated at a whim and no one would know. He survived over seven years without medical care, adequate food and clothing while knowing that his sentence might never end. 

Do not read this book unless you, yourself, are strong. It details a prison life in a country which does not respect the value of a human life. Be strong and grow to love our way of life by sharing his survival story after the Vietnam War.

ຂ້າພະເຈົ້າຂ້ານ້ອຍ


"Bounsang Khamkeo has given us all a tremendous gift: an extraordinary story of the power of the human spirit to overcome almost unimaginable odds." “ his memoir of the Laotian death camps is the first full account of the Pathet Lao's secret jungle prisons . . . a jolting reminder of the atrocities that states rush to commit once fanaticism--political or religious--rips off the precious shackles of human decency."

ຂ້າພະເຈົ້າຂ້ານ້ອຍ


"This memoir of the Laotian death camps is the first full account of the Pathet Lao's secret jungle prisons. As gripping as A Cambodian Odyssey, it is a jolting reminder of the atrocities that states rush to commit once fanaticism―political or religious―rips off the precious shackles of human decency. What a miracle that Dr. Khamkeo survived to write the story. And what a gift to us is this haunting narrative of undaunted will.” 

"Bounsang Khamkeo has given us all a tremendous gift: an extraordinary story of the power of the human spirit to overcome almost unimaginable odds. I Little Slave is not just a riveting story that will keep you glued to the page. It is also an important reflection on the seemingly limitless ability of humans to inflict pain on one another. In an age when the temptation to sweep aside civil liberties and give into fanaticism is all around us, I Little Slave is a book worth reading.


 ຂ້າພະເຈົ້າຂ້ານ້ອຍ


BOUNSANG KHAMKEO grew up in Laos but left at the age of seventeen to study in France. Thirteen years later, in 1973, he returned to his homeland, having recently completed a doctorate in political science at the University of Toulouse. Eager to help his country recover from the devastation of the Vietnam War years, he joined the staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where he continued to be employed after the Pathet Lao seized power in December 1975. 

In 1977 he was assigned to work with the Interim Mekong Committee, an intergovernmental organization devoted to regional development, and in the fall of 1978 was appointed the executive secretary of the Lao National Mekong Committee. He was arrested on the evening of June 1, 1981, at the home of the president of the Lao Mekong, with whom he had argued in the course of a business meeting. He was subsequently accused of entirely fictitious crimes and spent the next seven years, three months, and four days as a political prisoner.

In September 1988 the Laotian government chose to release Khamkeo from prison, and he was able to return to his family in Vientiane. His safety was by no means guaranteed, however, and in March 1989 he, his wife, and their two daughters fled Laos. After spending two months in Thailand, they emigrated to the United States, where Khamkeo was reunited with his two sons, who had left Laos prior to his release. Today, he works as a behavioral health counselor at Oregon Health and Science University, in Portland. He lives with his wife, Vieng, in Vancouver, Washington.

It was after leaving Laos that Bounsang Khamkeo began to work on the present volume. "Deep in my soul," he writes, "I had come to understand that if someone witnesses a great wrong and fails to speak out, he loses his place as a righteous man. And so I found my reason to survive and the purpose for my existence: to bear witness.”

ຂ້າພະເຈົ້າຂ້ານ້ອຍ


REVIEW BY THE JACOBS LADDER -  AL JACOBS:    This book will open your eyes to what survival is, oppression is real human rights and values mean little to some.  This is a  gulag memoir.  Starvation, brutalization, arbitrary executions, hope of release, are the consequence of countries without a Judicial System of protection for its people.   We live in a world that to some equality and a right to survive or live may be a luxury. 

Based on todays events and attacks on our freedoms and Judicial system I wonder how far away are we from a totalitarian form of government with a totally corrupt sole individual calling the shots on hirings,  firings, and exonerations by executive pardons for fellow crooks and corruptive, and a mentality that some people have more rights than others.

Never happen?   The haves and have-nots down through the ages have cost entire populations to vanish, If one was to Google bad people and ruthless dictators and regimes, it will shock you. Thats why I write about it on the Jacobs Ladder, and why we say history,  the past is the future if you do nothing about it.

Some great empires whose common denominator was brutality and murder sooner or later something will happen, just ask the many Romans, notably Caligula, the Mongolians Genghis Kahn, Torquemada the Inquisitor, The Tamerlane, Vlad the impaler, Ivan the IV,  Bloody Mary Bothory,  the Blood Countess,  Mehmet, and let us not forget Lenin, Mussolini, Stalin, Hitler,  Choibalsan of Mongolia, Franco, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot ( 2-3 million) Pinochet of - Chili, the Goths, the Huns, the Japanese, the Nazi’s, the Ottoman Empire,  and more currently North Korea, China and Russia, this list is growing. Modern tomes dictate, Syria, Russia, and North Korea are currently on the list.

My work with the Lao people on a few projects opened my eyes.

 


THE POST ( Movie )

The Post is a 2017 American political thriller film directed and produced by Steven Spielberg from a screenplay written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer. 

Set in the early 1970s, the film stars Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, Carrie Coon, and Matthew Rhys. The Post depicts the journalists from The Washington Post and The New York Times who published the Pentagon Papers regarding the involvement of the United States government during the Vietnam War.

Steven Spielberg directs Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks in The Post, a thrilling drama about the unlikely partnership between The Washington Post's Katharine Graham (Streep), the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, and editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks), as they race to catch up with The New York Times to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets that spanned three decades and four U.S. Presidents.  

The two must overcome their differences as they risk their careers - and their very freedom - to help bring long-buried truths to light. The Post marks the first time Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg have collaborated on a project. In addition to directing, Spielberg produces along with Amy Pascal and Kristie Macosko Krieger. The script was written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer, and the film features an acclaimed ensemble cast including Alison Brie, Carrie Coon, David Cross, Bruce Greenwood, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, Sarah Paulson, Jesse Plemons, Matthew Rhys, Michael Stuhlbarg, Bradley Whitford and Zach Woods.

Principal photography began in New York City in May 2017. The film premiered at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. on December 14, 2017, and had a limited release in the United States on December 22, 2017, before a scheduled wide release on January 12, 2018.

The Post received highly positive reviews, with specific praise for the performances of Streep, Hanks and Odenkirk, and critics noting the film’s comparisons of the administrations of Richard Nixon and Donald Trump. 

It was chosen by the National Board of Review as the best film of 2017, and was named as one of the top 10 films of the year by Time and the American Film Institute.At the 75th Golden Globe Awards, the film received six nominations: Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director, Best Actress – Drama for Streep, Best Actor – Drama for Hanks, Best Screenplay and Best Original Score. 


Throughout recorded history, the Hmong have remained identifiable as Hmong because they have maintained their own language, customs, and ways of life while adopting some of the ways of the country in which they live.   In the 1960s and 1970s many Hmong were secretly recruited by the American CIA to fight against communism during the Vietnam War and fought valiantly against the Viet Cong.  This is the beginning of their story, and their resettlement in the US.

In his book, this is one you must read,  “ A GREAT PLACE TO HAVE A WAR ” Joshua Kurlantzick really explains in detail the establishment of the CIA and the real story behind the incredible “ Operation Momentum”, President Eisenhower’s last major movement in the White House.  

It was Eisenhower’s fear if LAO fell to the Communists, then Thailand, Viet Nam, Taiwan,  would fall too and then the Philippines.  The so-called “ Domino effect".  It would, as explained, open the door to India.  And the information in the book is very descriptive and almost 50 pages of acknowledgements verify the information given.

At a time and place when both Congress and the American people knew little of the largest paramilitary operation by the CIA and kept under wrap till recently.  It was President Kennedy who carried forth President Eisenhower’s beliefs and Laos received more attention than Viet Nam.  It wasn’t till 2000 and 2010 till the real stories of the Secret War came to the surface. The LAO government repressed journalism and even for the press visiting parts of LAO and talking to anyone about the war.

TV ON DEMAND

If you watched Anthony Bordain’s visit to LAO on his award winning CNN show, the LAO journalist and his wife is hesitant to speak about things or subjects the “ handlers”  are listening to while sharing a meal with the late Anthony Bordain.  Even after a few drinks, words are very carefully chosen.  Microphones are probably hidden in the salt shakers.  His trademark, a love of good wine and beer to accompany good food, as it is with many high end chefs, alcohol is part of cooking,  
Beef Bourguignon without a good red French wine would be absurd and heresy. 

He was into and starting his tenth season, he does know what he is talking about.  I am a fan of his, his combination of exploration, unique cooking, story telling and a cold beer (spend your life in a hot kitchen, a cold beer is a sacred treasure) suits my palate.  

His interviews in LAO today will open your eyes to a land of beauty and enchantment ravaged by a savage brutal regime and war.... Today struggling to bury the past and move on.   To me it appears to be a long way off,  appearing very difficult.  Communist regimes have two speeds slow and oppression. Even those in this country, mostly the refugees lucky enough to get out, are  in their minds are still fighting a war almost half a century ago.

In another scene when you see the color of the MeKong River you readily understand the safest thing to drink is the following.  LAO beer, French wine, nothing of a local brew, anything alcohol in the 93% range, I do not recommend any water not bottled or sealed and rinse the bottle off before you drink or open it.  Make sure the seal is not broken.

 
ANTHONY BORDAIN    (Sadly he passed - June 2018)

Someone said on CNN, “ Anthony Bourdain admitted his own shortcomings in a way other men were afraid to”.  He didn’t want credit for it, he just wanted to be better.  Spot on. I loved and looked forward to his shows, he brought forth a unique style, through passion and love, through frank communication, an understanding and brilliant simple showcasing of what others have contributed to this world through customs, traditions and necessity using food as a medium.

Even the most controversial shows in Communist Countries like Lao, and Viet Nam which I am quite familiar with, as the real thing, right on the bullseye having worked with some of those people.   

He made the show not about himself but of those who were his friends and guests.  Music and food are common denominators, they are the bridge builders of humanities and sharing with others.

I think the entire world was a canvas for him, and he painted places and showcased others so they may be appreciated.  He will be truly missed as in this day and age of greed and self indulgent hypocrites, liars, uncertainty, insecurity, hate, isolation and popularism, negativism, and prejudice brought forth by people it seems with no passion or love.  

He was a light on when parts of the night were darkest.  He brought forth good and the Lord was pleased...  

 

  

TRUMP MAY REPEAT A TRAGIC HISTORY

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s comprehensive documentary series on the Vietnam War is filled with the stories and voices of ordinary soldiers on all sides of the conflict. But the most tragic aspect of the tale, for me, was hearing President Lyndon B. Johnson on tape, before full U.S. engagement, admitting that the war could not be won.  Johnson’s dilemma is one that presidents dread facing — and one that President Trump is bringing upon himself with North Korea and Iran.

In May 1964, when the United States had fewer than 20,000 troops in Vietnam, serving as advisers and trainers, Johnson said to his national security adviser, McGeorge Bundy, “I just stayed awake last night thinking about this thing. . . . It just worries the hell out of me. I don’t see what we can ever hope to get out of there with once we’re committed. . . . I don’t think that we can fight them 10,000 miles away from home and ever get anywhere in that area. I don’t think it’s worth fighting for, and I don’t think we can get out.”

“I look at this sergeant of mine this morning,” Johnson continued. “He’s got six little old kids . . . What in the hell am I ordering him out there for?  What the hell is Vietnam worth to me? . . . What is it worth to this country?”

Johnson was asking all the right questions. He understood that Vietnam was not actually vital and that it could easily become a quagmire. And yet, he could never bring himself to the logical conclusion — withdrawal. Like so many presidents before and after him, he could not see how he could admit failure. No president could do that. In another conversation, with his mentor from the Senate, Richard Russell, Johnson speculated that “they’d impeach a president, though, that’d run out of Vietnam, wouldn’t they?”

And so, because the President of the United States could not think of a way to admit that the United States needed to reverse course, Johnson increased troop levels in Vietnam from fewer than 20,000 to more than 500,000, tearing apart Indochina, American society and his presidency. The example is dramatic, but it is generally true that in foreign policy, when the United States is confronted with a choice between backing down and doubling down, it follows the latter course.

In two crucial arenas, North Korea and Iran, Trump has dramatically raised the risks for the United States, and for no good reason. Determined to seem tougher than his predecessor, he has set out maximalist positions on both countries. He wants a totally denuclearized North Korea and an Iran that stops making ballistic missiles and stops supporting proxy forces in countries such as Syria, Iraq and Yemen. There is a vanishingly small possibility that North Korea and Iran will simply capitulate because Washington demands it. And if they don’t, what will Trump do? Will he back down or double down? And where will this escalation end?

Trump seems to view international negotiations as he does business deals. He has to win. But there is one big difference. In the international arena, the other person also has to worry about domestic politics. He or she cannot appear to lose either.

As a leading businessperson recently said to me, “Trump is playing a two-person negotiation, thinking it’s just him and the other guy, two principals, making a deal, as in business. But actually there are people outside the room — the two nations’ publics — that place huge constraints on the negotiators. It’s not a two-person game at all.”

For any international negotiation to succeed, there has to be some element of “win-win.” Otherwise, the other side simply will not be able to sell the deal back home. But Trump seems to believe above all that he must win and the other side must lose.

A senior Mexican official told me that there would have been a way to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, even find a way to fund the border wall, “but Trump needed to allow us to also declare some kind of victory, give us some concessions. Instead he started out by humiliating us and made it impossible for [President Enrique] Peña Nieto to make a deal. After all, no Mexican government can be seen to simply surrender to Washington.”

Trump’s way of negotiating might have worked in his past life, although there, too, many argue it was not the way to build a great reputation. But he’s not doing real-estate deals anymore. The arena is different, the conditions are far more complex, and the stakes are higher — astronomically higher.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group


The movie... THE KILLING FIELDS...

The Killing Fields is a 1984 British biographical drama film about the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, which is based on the experiences of two journalists:   Cambodian Dith Pran and American Sydney Schanberg. 

It was directed by Roland Joffé and produced by David Puttnam for his company Goldcrest Films. Sam Waterston stars as Schanberg, Haing S. Ngor as Pran, Julian Sands as Jon Swain, and John Malkovich as Al Rockoff. 

The adaptation for the screen was written by Bruce Robinson; the musical score was written by Mike Oldfield and orchestrated by David Bedford.

The film was a success at the box office as well as being an instant hit with critics. At the 57th Academy Awards it received seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture; it won three, most notably Best Supporting Actor for Haing S. Ngor, who had no previous acting experience. 

At the 38th British Academy Film Awards, it won eight BAFTAs, including Best Film and Best Actor in a Leading Role for Ngor.  In 1999 the British Film Institute voted The Killing Fields the 100th greatest British film of the 20th century.  In 2016 British film magazine Empire ranked it number 86 in their list of the 100 best British films.

 

--------*02-18-2019 aljacobsladder.com