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The zombie lies of Vietnam

The truth of the Greek dramatist Aeschylus’s famous line that “In war, truth is the first casualty” keeps getting demonstrated over and over again. The latest example is the effort by the US government to revise the history of the Vietnam war. During that war, the US government kept insisting that things were going fine even as the reporters on the ground could see for themselves that things were going horribly wrong. The evening press briefings provided by the military became known as the ‘Five O’clock Follies” and the source of much dark humor.

Since the war ended, journalists, historians and other analysts have studied this debacle and documented all the lies and distortions that were promulgated at the time to try hide the truth from the American people and one would have thought that this consensus was now irrefutable.

But now the US government has created a website that claims to be the real history of the war and it turns out that they are resurrecting the same old lies that were thought to have been convincingly debunked. So says reporter Nick Turse, author of the book Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam, in an interview with Bob Garfield of On the Media. He says that reading the website is like being transported back into the 1960s and early 1970s, because the golden oldies of Vietnam war lies, like zombies, have come to life again, such as:

  • The Gulf of Tonkin is once more an unprovoked attack by the North Vietnamese on innocent US warships in international waters, instead of the reality that the US warships were engaged in covert attacks on North Vietnam.

  • Similarly, the My Lai massacre of 500 Vietnamese civilians is reported as an isolated incident by a single rogue officer instead of being emblematic of something that was practiced systematically and was dwarfed by even greater atrocities like Operation Speedy Express that was about 10 to 12 times the size of My Lai.
  • The infamous ‘secret’ war waged by president Richard Nixon and his henchman Henry Kissinger on Cambodia is now portrayed as if Nixon had been upfront about the bombings all along.

You can listen to the interview or read the transcript here.

Comments

  1. says

    Similarly, the My Lai massacre of 500 Vietnamese civilians is reported as an isolated incident by a single rogue officer

    Wow, I wonder how they described the Phoenix Program – perhaps a rogue program undertaken by a rogue chain of command?

  2. says

    I had the rather unusual experience a few years ago of telling someone who fought over there (and got shot a few times) that the Gulf of Tonkin Incident is now known to have been friendly fire. He sat there looking at his beer for a while then finally said, “Trust the navy to fuck things up.”

  3. Johnny Vector says

    “Secret bombings? What secret bombings? They were no secret; we knew all about them. My husband even remarked on them. ‘Here come the bombs,” he said.”

    One of those old Doonesbury strips I still remember.

  4. Rob Grigjanis says

    Similarly, the My Lai massacre of 500 Vietnamese civilians is reported as an isolated incident…

    John Kerry in 1971;

    These were not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.

    Could be embarrassing for the poor guy.

  5. Rob Grigjanis says

    On closer inspection, I think Nick Turse got some of it wrong. From the interview;

    We know now, of course, that American ships were there because there were covert raids being carried out on the North Vietnamese coast, and that’s why there was a first attack on a US ship. The second attack on a US ship actually never took place. But none of this appears in the timeline.

    From the website’s interactive timeline entry for the Gulf of Tonkin incident;

    More recent analysis of the American ships’ reports and additional information gathered later now makes it clear that North Vietnamese naval forces did not attack the Maddox or the Turner Joy on August 4, 1964.

  6. wtfwhateverd00d says

    I had the rather unusual experience a few years ago of telling someone who fought over there (and got shot a few times) that the Gulf of Tonkin Incident is now known to have been friendly fire. He sat there looking at his beer for a while then finally said, “Trust the navy to fuck things up.”

    Would you please update the wiki which doesn’t seem to detail anything about the Gulf of Tonkin Incident as friendly fire?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulf_of_Tonkin_incident

    I can’t really find this on google either: https://www.google.com/search?q=gulf+of+tonkin+friendly+fire Can you provide a few links?

  7. wtfwhateverd00d says

    Huh, I listened but I didn’t hear Robert McNamara say anything even remotely close to what you claim, that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was friendly fire. Do you have any more links, because this possibility really intrigues me and I would like to learn more.

    I don’t understand why when I suggested you update the wiki you told me to kiss your ass. Why wouldn’t you update the wiki Marcus? It’s clearly wrong!

  8. dean says

    Wow, I wonder how they described the Phoenix Program

    At the university where I took my first job the chair of the art department was a guy who served four tours in Vietnam – former Recon Marine. He said that after his first year he kept going back because he had no family at home. He talked about getting picked to take part in Phoenix in its early stages. Stated that he wasn’t sure about it but went but – when the CIA and their hand-picked former special ops folks took over, he “was scared for the first time in the war” because of the type of people who took it over and began running it. “I did my best to stay on the sidelines until my last enlistment was up and left.”

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