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A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present

Topics: Vietnam War, Ho Chi Minh, United States, Ngo Dinh Diem, Vietnam, South Vietnam / Pages: 3 (609 words) / Published: Mar 21st, 2012
A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present
Chapter 18 “The Impossible Victory: Vietnam”

For this assignment I chose to to find bias in Chapter 18 from Howard Zinn’s book, A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present. The chapter is entitled “The Impossible Victory: Vietnam”. In this chapter of his book, Zinn covers the Vietnam war and the resistance to it. As the chapter title states, Zinn argues that the U.S was fighting a war that they could not win as the Vietnamese people were in favor of the government of Ho Chi Minh and opposed the of Ngo Dinh Diem, thus allowing them to keep morale high. Meanwhile, the American military's morale for the war was very low, as many soldiers were put off by the atrocities that they were made to take part in, such as the My Lai massacre. Zinn also tries to dispel the popular belief that opposition to the war was mainly amongst college students and middle-class intellectuals, using statistics from the era to show higher opposition from the working class. Zinn argues that the troops themselves also opposed the war, citing desertions and refusals to go to war, as well as movements such as Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Zinn argues repeatedly throughout the chapter that the U.S. system is the "most ingenious system of control in world history", without providing any evidence for this contention and certainly ignoring the practices of leftis totalitarianism in places like the Soviet Union. He excoriates "traditional" historians who either ignore or downplay the brutal facts of American history. Reading Zinn's version of Vietnam would lead you to believe that the United States of America is the most cruel, inhuman, and evil place on the planet. He heaps praise on Ho Chi Minh as a benevolent leader who can do no wrong leading the righteous North. Throughout the chapter he has tons of first hand accounts from towns people who were living in Vietnam and the atrocities that occurred. For example, he includes an excerpt from a nurse from Xieng Khouang “[...] Each day we would exchange news with the neighboring villagers of the bombings that had occurred: the damaged houses, the injured and the dead. . .” What struck me about this was how biased he was in his writing towards Vietnam natives, where were the accounts of the American soilders? I’m sure their time in Vietnam was no picnic. It’s very clear in Zinn’s writing whose side of the story he favors. After reading the chapter I began to research about Howard Zinn and found out that he makes no bones about his socialist bias. Upon further reading of A People’s History of the United States, specifically the introduction, he openly admits that his objective for writing this book wasn't to tell the truth as honestly and truthfully as possible, but to interpret history in a way that would influence people's thinking and future society toward what he believes to be the best of all worlds. This statement that he makes really bothers me. While I believe that yes, history is up for interpretation to an extent, that shouldn’t be his main focus. Writing the truth should be. He later adds he adds, “because the mountain of history books under which we all stand leans so heavily in the other direction—so tremblingly respectful of states and statesmen and so disrespectful, by inattention, to people’s movements—that we need some counterforce to avoid being crushed into submission.” Perhaps the reason those other history books lean so heavily in the other direction is because they are based on facts, not leftwing prejudice.

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