[sixties-l] Shine Light on the Lies Behind the Vietnam War

From: radtimes (resist@best.com)
Date: Sun Aug 26 2001 - 16:47:05 EDT

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    Shine Light on the Lies Behind the Vietnam War


    by Flora Lewis
    Monday, August 20, 2001

    PARIS -- More than a generation has passed. At last an important part,
    although by no means all, of the official U.S. documents on the Vietnam War
    are being declassified. A new book by Larry Bermam called "No Peace, No
    Honor: Nixon, Kissinger, and Betrayal in Vietnam" uses these records to
    confirm what was long evident.
    There is still a feeling of being sated with the stories of horror and
    deceit, so that more specifics, more facts are not drawing a lot of
    attention. But the importance of these revelations goes well beyond
    restoring some truth to the past. They hold the key to much of the
    skepticism and even a certain sense of hostility that have come to mark
    attitudes of the American press and public toward officialdom.
    That matters if there is ever to be a renewed sense of common interest and
    responsibility. There will probably never be a return to the discretion,
    really collusion, with which the media used to treat presidents, and it is
    just as well. The extravagance of John Kennedy's sexual indulgences both
    within the White House and outside and the extramarital affairs of Dwight
    Eisenhower and Franklin Roosevelt, among many other titillating stories,
    came to light well after their presidencies. They could count on a cover-up
    that is no longer available.
    There was a tendency to accept their presentation of policies at face
    value, without too much checking out of actual effects. Now the virtual
    certainty of doubt invites spin control, which in turn reinforces
    incredulity, sapping confidence on both sides. The result is public
    disbelief and disinterest in what should be public affairs.
    I remember the moment when it first struck me clearly that I was hearing
    the truth from a North Vietnamese spokesman while his American counterpart
    was lying to me. It was during the Paris Vietnam talks, in 1972, and it
    came as a shock that I could take the enemy's word but not my own countryman's.
    I had long understood that American officials answered questions in a
    manner to produce the most favorable effect for their explanations. But it
    was assumed that while there might be omissions, shading, a degree of
    misleading, they didn't tell us correspondents flat lies, while the
    representatives of hostile governments did. Again and again, as the war
    proceeded, that turned out to be the reverse of the fact. And it didn't
    start with President Richard Nixon. At the beginning of the American
    involvement, General Maxwell Taylor was sent out to recommend a policy by
    President Kennedy, who urged him to use the excuse of river floods in
    Vietnam to disguise the dispatch of American military advisers, calling
    them engineers. That was done.
    It was to make clear the steady, unremitting use of false information by
    one administration after another that Daniel Ellsberg decided to make
    public the Pentagon Papers. The disclosures of what the government had
    really been doing came as a thunderbolt.
    But until now the real purpose of his desperate decision has not been
    served. It requires a careful day-by-day collation of what was being said
    and done by the government in secret and what it was telling the public at
    the same time. That remains a worthwhile project, and no doubt it would
    answer a lot of questions that still are mysteries. When Robert McNamara
    was eased out of his job as secretary of defense by Lyndon Johnson, hiding
    the truth that he had come to oppose the war by giving him the new job of
    president of the World Bank, a Pentagon review of options was ordered. The
    Pentagon Papers showed that every possibility was discussed, including
    another big increase in the number of troops deployed, except for one. That
    was to get out of the war.
    Why? Because, I was told, everybody in the cabinet knew that President
    Johnson would never stand for anyone to tell him such a thing. After long
    agonizing, Mr. McNamara unloaded his conscience by writing a book that
    revealed for the first time the progression of his doubts and his final
    conviction that it was a tragic mistake. He was bitterly attacked, which I
    thought unfair because it was better to make the admission late than never.
    But I criticized him, in a conversation, for failing to take account of all
    the lies which had been told to justify the policy. To my amazement, he
    said, "I never told any lies." That was not true, but no doubt he believed
    it. Stanley Kutler, who reviewed the Berman book (IHT, Aug. 9), pointed out
    that "for whatever reason," Le Duc Tho, the North Vietnamese negotiator,
    never accepted the Nobel prize that he was awarded jointly with Secretary
    of State Henry Kissinger for their agreement, which Mr. Nixon claimed
    brought "peace with honor." But he did give his reason at the time. He
    said his goal was "not peace but victory," which Hanoi achieved in 1975.
    The truth can be painful, but a democracy is injured by lies. These must
    then be cleared away if it is to regain a healthy relation of the
    governing, the reporting and the governed. The United States has not got
    there yet.

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