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By Hisila Yami

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The year after the Motion Picture Academy canonized The Deer Hunter, another Hollywood product – Ronald Reagan – brilliantly 40 ‘Vietnam’ in the New American Century re-imaged the Vietnam War as part of his campaign to capture the White House. 16 By the end of the 1980s, the matrix of illusions necessary for endless imperial warfare was in place and functioning with potency. The two great myths – the spat-upon veteran and postwar POWs – were deeply embedded in the national psyche. What was needed next was erasure of memory of the reality.

If you threw the burden of shoring up credibility on limited war, it became impossible to withdraw without 28 The Long Shadow of Vietnam supposedly undermining the entire edifice of American power. And that was of course the teaching of the domino theory. Thus, the doctrine of credibility first helped push the US into Vietnam and then prevented it from extricating itself. The relationship of the Vietnam War to Cold War nuclear strategy – a relationship that turned military operations into chiefly psychological exercises, as I mentioned – is one of the most fascinating as well as complicated subjects of the period, and I will not pursue it further.

5 In 2000, Wolfowitz and his cohort from The Project for the New American Century published an astonishing manifesto and master plan that envisions a world of endless imminent warfare where the land, sea, air, and heavens swarm with America’s invincible weapons. ’ Writing in the year 2000, they see that ‘the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification’ for initiating their plan. ’6 Before exploring how the fantasy Vietnam functions in the actual twenty-first century America, we need to peel away the layer after layer of distortions, myths, and outright lies that constitute the dominant narrative of the Vietnam War, to remind ourselves that the war did not begin when the United States came to the aid of some democratic nation known as South Vietnam which was threatened by subversion and invasion from some evil Communist nation known as North Vietnam.

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