Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Arthur Herman, writing at Journal Online, offers vivid reminder of an earlier era’s false picture of defeat, which he asserts “gave antiwar activism an unwarranted credibility that persists today in Congress.”
None of what Herman reports is new. Talk at any length with actual Vietnam Veterans, or with experts conversant with the history of US Military involvement in Vietnam, and you would have to conclude much of what many people think they know about the war is based on lies and distortions.
Much of Herman’s narrative corresponds to a slow process of historical “correction” now taking place, where the effluences of
Here’s the briefest of summaries of the real story, courtesy of Herman:
The Tet offensive came at the end of a long string of communist setbacks. By 1967 their insurgent army in the South, the Viet Cong, had proved increasingly ineffective, both as a military and political force. Once American combat troops began arriving in the summer of 1965, the communists were mauled in one battle after another, despite massive
The Tet offensive was
Tet was a particularly crushing defeat for the VC. It had not only failed to trigger any uprising but also cost them "our best people," as former Viet Cong doctor Duong Quyunh Hoa later admitted to reporter Stanley Karnow. Yet the very fact of the
That Tet was “spun” by the
As the Washington Post's Saigon bureau chief Peter Braestrup documented in his 1977 book, "The Big Story," the desperate fury of the communist attacks including on
Their editors at home, like CBS's Walter Cronkite, seized on the distorted reporting to discredit the military's version of events. The Viet Cong insurgency was in its death throes, just as
To quote Braestrup, "the media tended to leave the shock and confusion of early February, as then perceived, fixed as the final impression of Tet" and of Vietnam generally. "Drama was perpetuated at the expense of information," and "the negative trend" of media reporting "added to the distortion of the real situation on the ground in
The North Vietnamese were delighted. On the heels of their devastating defeat,
Yet thanks to the success of Tet, the numbers of Americans dying in
Flash forward 30 some years, and we have a pretty accurate assessment of how it is that the US Military has achieved success in
Fortunately, some features of the media landscape today are quite different from the 1970’s. Bloggers, especially MILBLOGS, with allies in other alternative and vibrant conservative media, make it impossible for media distortions to go unchallenged.
The sad part is, I don’t really think most reporters and journalists today are intentionally distorting war reporting, any more than they did then. People’s experiences prejudice their perceptions, and their prejudices influence every aspect of how they describe what they think they perceive, and what they think they understand about what they think they experience. (As an aside, trial lawyers can expound at length about the sworn but false testimony of eye witnesses, who remain adamant about the “facts” of what they’ve witnessed that are, nevertheless, quite untrue.)
And precisely what’s sad about that, is what would be apparent to aging activists, were they to stop and consider a more truthful picture of: 1) what caused our involvement in Vietnam, 2) the true and brutal nature of our enemies, and their intentions towards the people they sought to “liberate,” 3) the conduct of the vast majority of our military; and 4) the true results of US renunciation of our security (and moral) commitment to the South Vietnamese, both for them, and for others in the region.
If those who think they know what Vietnam was all about, what a “disaster it was,” how wrong we were to be fighting there, and how rightfully we retreated, really assessed Vietnam objectively, they would have to confront some very unpleasant truths indeed.
First, most everything they thought they knew about
I don’t expect such introspection from many, just as I won’t sit as mute witness to continued media malpractice in misreporting about
In a similar way, those of us who see the valid, media parallels between
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