Truth Is the First Casualty of War: But Whose?by Michael Patrick Brewer on Aug. 03, 2013, under Veterans Benefits
The First Casualty of War is Truth by Col.Joe Abodeley
The War on Truth was fought savagely by pro-Communist factions misrepresenting the reasons or causes of the Vietnam War, how it was conducted, and the quality of the veterans’ service and successes.
Reasons or Causes of the War
Irrespective of the controversy of the Gulf of Tonkin incidents (North Vietnamese speed boats attacking U.S. destroyers) or the argument that the Vietnamese were engaged in their own civil war or that the South Vietnamese government was corrupt—none of these positions justified the misrepresentations about why we actually engaged in the Vietnam War. These positions were all part of the “War on Truth”.
The “truth” was and is that the U.S. went to war in Vietnam for the same reasons it went to war in Korea—to stop Communist aggression and expansion. After WW II, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) to which the U.S. was a signatory obligated the U.S. to support the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) from Communist aggression. The truth is that the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army attacked South Vietnam, and we went to war to stop that aggression. The “war on truth” distorted the facts and was conducted by some politicians, some religious leaders, some Communist agitators (Students for a Democratic Society or SDS), anti-war protesters who did not want to serve in the war, and the media.
Television brought the horrors of war into the living rooms of the American public each evening, and large scale anti-war protests made great photos and stories for the press. Meanwhile Americans were fighting and dying in Vietnam.
The Conduct of the War
The anti-war factions presented and portrayed images with their spin to tell half-truths in support of their agendas.
Consider the Tet Offensive in 1968 when the Viet Cong (VC) and the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) conducted numerous attacks throughout South Vietnam hoping to engender a massive uprising of the populace in support of the Communist offensive. The truth is that the attacks were an abysmal failure.
The U.S. embassy in Saigon was attacked and occupied by the Viet Cong for only a matter of hours until U.S. MPs regained control, and the Marines retook the Imperial City of Hue from the NVA in a bloody battle; but the media portrayed these actions as evidence that the U.S. could not be victorious. The truth was that it was a resounding defeat for the VC and NVA.
After the battle for Hue, Walter Cronkite, the most trusted man in America contributed to the “war on truth” when he opined:
“To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion. On the off chance that military and political analysts are right, in the next few months we must test the enemy’s intentions, in case this is indeed his last big gasp before negotiations. But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.”
Even President Johnson recognized that when he lost Cronkite, he lost the American people. This was a dramatic event and a powerful statement for the “war on truth”.
There was little mention about the terrorism and atrocities the NVA committed on the people of Hue and reported only after mass graves containing thousands of bodies were discovered. The minimization of the enemy’s atrocities was part of the “war on truth”.
Remember the Vietnamese officer shooting the man in the head, the little girls running away naked from an air strike conducted on their village, and the helicopter on a building with people clamoring to board to go to safety? These images were to justify the “war on truth” which conveyed that the U.S. conducted this war in an “evil” manner or was driven out of South Vietnam. Neither of which is true.
The truth is that a Vietnamese Colonel summarily executed a Vietnam “sapper” whose job it was to go into the city and plant explosives to kill South Vietnamese people. The sapper was caught in the act. This action was in the heat of battle, but perhaps the Colonel should have convened a trial with a judge, jury, court reporter to make an appellate record; and of course, he should have appointed a defense counsel, too.
The girls running away from the village were fleeing from an air strike conducted by the South Vietnamese Air Force against enemy forces who had taken over the village and surrounding areas. Since the Vietnam War, we have become accustomed to the expression “collateral damage”, but we weren’t before we started invading Middle Eastern countries. We’ll never know if the girls would have survived the Communist forces occupation of their village, but the photo had fantastic propaganda effect for the “war on truth”.
The famous photo of the people trying to get on the helicopter showed a CIA helicopter on the embassy building at the very end of the war as the last remnants of U.S. personnel were being evacuated. Most of the people depicted were Vietnamese. U.S forces had been extracted in 1973—this event was in 1975—but the spin was to make it appear that the U.S. forces were routed and driven out of South Vietnam.
The truth about the conclusion of the Vietnam War is that the U.S. bombed North Vietnam into submission in December 1972. This brought the North Vietnamese to the peace table to sign the Paris Peace Accords in January 1973. The U.S. brought the war to a successful conclusion at that time as the war was over. U.S. POWs were returned and reparations were made to the South. The U.S. promised to resupply the South with military material it needed in case the North invaded again.
But in June 1974, President Nixon resigned due to the Watergate scandal, and in November 1974 there was a Democratic landslide of a Congress who was anti-Nixon and anti-Vietnam War. Congress immediately stopped funding logistical support to South Vietnam, and North Vietnamese Army tanks rolled into Saigon April 30, 1975.
The so-called “liberation” of Vietnam and Cambodia was catastrophic. An estimated 100,000 South Vietnamese were executed, as many as 250,000 more died in “reeducation camps,” and another 45-50,000 died in the “New Economic Zones”. An estimated 420,000 “boat people” died at sea fleeing the Communist tyranny in search of freedom. An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians were killed by Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge. A NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TODAY, January 2004 article on the “killing fields”, noted that “bullets were too precious to use for executions. Axes, knives and bamboo sticks were far more common. As for children, their murderers simply battered them against trees.” Those are facts. But the “war on truth” has conveniently omitted the “truth”.
Vietnam Veterans Service
In WW II, two-thirds of those who served were drafted while only one-third volunteered to serve. In the Vietnam War, two-thirds volunteered while one-third were drafted. During WW II, the infantryman served about 40 days in actual combat in a year. In Vietnam, the infantryman served about 240 days in combat.
Much has been made about 58,000 plus lives lost in the Vietnam War as though the whole effort was for naught. So what did the service of the Vietnam veteran really accomplish that the war on truth has misrepresented?
The Vietnam veteran served in the armed forces in Vietnam or contiguous waters or airspace or Thailand, or Laos or Cambodia in direct support of operations in Vietnam to help the South Vietnamese people defend themselves from the invading North Vietnamese Army and to help prevent the spread of Communism throughout Southeast Asia.
The Vietnam veteran served to protect South Vietnam until the end of the war in 1973, forcing North Vietnam to sign the peace treaty, to return US POWs, and to grant concessions to South Vietnam. He served to prevent the takeover of Southeast Asia and keep the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand free of Communism.
His service helped to develop weapons, tactics, transportation, medical evacuation procedures, and communications during the war which have proven beneficial to later military service members.
As a result of the “war on truth” he returned home to an ungrateful nation, but he endured and the vast majority of Vietnam veterans became productive, patriotic Americans whose nation is proud of their service. The stereotyping of the majority of Vietnam veterans as “losers”, “baby-killers”, “drug addicts”, “nut cases”, “homeless”, etc. were all part of the “war on truth”.
It is reasonable to deduce that because of a national guilt for the maligning of Vietnam veterans, the American public over-compensated with “support our troops” when the U.S. invaded (“shock and awe”) and occupied the Iraqi people who did no harm to America. This is another instance of the “war on truth”, but that is another story.
Our mission is to counter the “war on truth” about the Vietnam War.