TO: Editor of Commentary Section
1320 S.W. Broadway
Portland Oregon 97201
Your paper printed a lengthy diatribe by ____________ on January 13 that “the liberal media” (not defined, but apparently any journalist who dares disagree with him) was responsible for “losing” the Vietnam War. In selecting that piece for prominent display, did you happen to notice there was not a word either by him or you on whether we should have been there in the first place? That’s surprising given the recent admission the Gulf of Tonkin “Incident” used to justify the massive escalation was entirely fabricated by our leaders at the time.
Even if the Vietnam ruse de guerre had not been a bold faced lie, did you happen to notice there was not a word about whether the government there actually deserved to be propped up? And if it did, did it deserve the profligate expenditure of young American lives, not to mention our treasury and out hard earned credibility at all levels? Even ignoring genuinely debatable issues about South Vietnamese dictatorship and official corruption, didn’t you at least find it interesting that the same Communist government of the North we fought so hard against back then was last year loudly trumpeted by avowed Conservative Bush to award them “favored nation” trading status (the same Bush, by the way, who somehow found a way to avoid going there when he was in uniform)? So much for preserving the “national honor” which Conservatives profess they love when the prospect of new sources for lining their pockets apparently so easily trumps it.
There seemed to be a lot of pride in Mr. ___’s description of how good we were at piling up bodies back then. It’s true. The average grunt, particularly of the field ranks usually did his best which was pretty good despite the risible brass foolishly dictating frontal assault tactics like at Hamburger Hill (my old unit). On the other hand, shouldn’t there have been at least some reflection by Mr. ___ or your paper that a B-52 bomb run from 20,000 feet is not very good at discriminating between armed combatants and unarmed two year olds (not that we were ever very good at telling friend from foe even from across a table). There was not a word, not even an obtuse expression of regret, about the perhaps millions of admittedly dead and maimed, many of which were uninvolved, the “collateral damage” so blithesomely still being dismissed today as irrelevant?
It is conceded that Mr. ___ is probably correct when he claims reporting the actual news, rather than merely parroting whatever the military press releases said, hastened our exit. He is also spot on that the Viet Cong apparatus was essentially eliminated during the Tet defense. Nevertheless, he seems to have forgotten, as you apparently have, that the devastating Tet “surprise” which finally converted the journalists from being Army PR flacks back into genuine reporters was how stunningly massive the Tet attacks were in contrast to what our military had been alleging the Cong was still capable of doing. That was the big “surprise,” not the mere date of the attacks. The reporters might never have stopped trusting the military so completely but for the deceptions and duplicities the military had been playing up to that point. Unfortunately, once credibility has been lost due to exaggeration, it takes a generation to rebuild.
Mr. ___ is entitled to his forgetfulness, even his animosity toward the press in general. My problem is not with him although I disagree with his conclusions. I too share a modicum of that antipathy toward the Oregonian editorial staff or possibly the ownership if it is steering the direction.
I do understand why the Oregonian would want to print traditional right wing opinions like those of Mr. ___, no matter how much they ignore now confirmed history. After all, the word “Liberal” has been so smeared by people like Mr. ___ that your paper has become terrified of a mere label. But, isn’t your job description as journalists to resist such debasing of the English language? More over, isn’t it your ethical responsibility to courageously and, more importantly, accurately report the facts rather allow your readership to be mislead out of fear?
Your printing without comment correcting Mr. ___ rewriting and obfuscation of history sadly perpetuates a number of myths that became popular after that misadventure in Southeast Asia. The dangerous aspect is that because of that institutional memory loss we ended up repeating in Iraq many of the same arrogant ill considered mistakes.
So, stop being so gutless. When you print something, add the corrections. Certainly do so when the preponderance of the evidence is in. Perhaps the Democrats will never grow a backbone to stand up to such misinformation being disseminated by individuals like Mr. ___, but our democracy might not survive unless at least the press does.