On Believing Generals on Active Duty
It occurred to me after doing my last blog on the Petraeus report that I missed the deeper point that it doesn't really matter whether he or George Bush writes this report. George Bush isn't believable because he has proved over and over that he will lie when it suits his purpose. Hell, I'm not sure he has ever told the truth. But what about Generals?
During the Vietnam War, there was an early phase in which reporters would hang out in Saigon bars as well as Saigon brothels, I would imagine, and show up for the daily briefing. This would be swallowed whole and regurgitated on the pages of our newspapers and our nightly news broadcasts. Then reporters started going into the field and they saw a very different picture from what was being told to them in these briefings and coverage of the war began to change. I didn't have a TV at the time but I understand that moving pictures of some of the events of that war were presented on national news shows while people ate their dinner.
I knew that war was a fraud almost before it began, thanks to a two page piece in the Houston Chronicle sometime in the late 50's on how the S. Vietnamese people felt about the Viet Minh (the precursors to the Viet Cong) and the Saigon government. What became a permanent memory for me is that it was reported that the people didn't seem to care who was in control of the part of the country they lived in. I decided that if they didn't care, why the hell should I?
As is well known, General Westmoreland and the rest Generals and the Pentagon and our Department of Defense lied through their teeth every day about progress in Vietnam. They had to lie because they had no clue whether they were making progress or not. Body counts began to be the norm as a way of keeping score. Unfortunately for the truth, an individual dead body, identity unknown, would be seen as a bad guy (unless he or she was an infant), and would routinely be counted multiple times as each unit that encountered it would count it. It could be that General Westmoreland's minions inflated the body counts so as not to piss him off with bad news.
The generals and the Pentagon civilians lied to our Presidents who, themselves, did not cover themselves with glory either. Indeed, the infamous Gulf of Tonkin incident was a total fabrication, probably ordered by the President. I know that the incident was a total fabrication but can't tell you how I know. Even the report refenced in the link just given admits that we provoked the attack. But, believe me, there was no attack. I have a record for telling the truth as I know (remember) it so I hope you will accept this as an honest report of the facts. We needed reasons to level N. Vietnam. We finally had it. The problem with trying to level any third world country is that it is so easy for them to rebuild. The N. Vietnamese recovered from the destruction of its buildings way faster than New York has recoverd from the 9/11 attack. Indeed, some firemen were killed yesterday trying to put out a fire in a building damaged in the 9/11 attack. The reality is that nothing we did seem to inhibit the ability of the Viet Cong and the N. Vietnamese Regulars to kill enough Americans to make this war intolerable to the vast majority of Americans.
The fact that the Right Wing has no problems lying has led to a great deal of revisionist history about that war as part of their effort to smear Sen. Kerry. I have a Right Wing relative who told me that we actually won that war since we are now friendly with N. Vietnam. This is a highly educated person. But this is among the most stupid things I have ever heard. It provides a nice picture of the workings of the Right Wing brain.
Our current war is intolerable and has gone on too damn long. One reason is that the American people actually believed the Shrub, Rummy, Chaney, and the war leaders. They were heroes for good long while. But they lied through their teeth about everything concerning Iraq. I fully expect that Petreaus will lie about progress in Iraq. He has a reputation to try to uphold. If he really wants to do the right thing and possibly salvage his personal reputation (though also destroy his career) he will tell the truth. Whether the Shrub would have the guts to fire him after that would be fun to watch.
Do not ever believe what any General says about a war he is in charge of. The military is the paradigm Cover your Ass organization.