Tuesday, August 21, 2007

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.

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Blogger Ripple said...

An interesting read for sure. Don't you think that the Vietnam war had something to do with the eventual thwarting of the spread of communism? It is only now that we can see the result of that war.

5:42 PM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

You have a suppressed premise, namely that Vietnam was critical to the spread of Communism either out of the S. Union (most likely since the Vietnamese hated the Chinese) or China. In fact, given its location and strategic importance, as well as its size and economic power, I can't see it as even a minor player in the International Communist Conspiracy, as it was called.

The US was at odds with the S. Union and China and China had shown no expansionist tendencies not involving land they saw as rightfully the property of China except for taking a vertical strip out of India. The Chinese didn't even invade Taiwan.

The S. Union and we each wanted places we could make mischief for each other. They got Vietnam and we got Afghanistan. That was a draw. Other than that, E. Europe was a buffer and provided some natural resources (oil from Romania, for instance, and to fight along side her should a ground war develop. We were doing the same in W. Europe.

I would say that Vietnam was, like Iraq, done out of ignorance by men who were out of their depth in dealing with people from other cultures.

8:25 AM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

I'm changing the subject from the post but, International Communist Conspiracy sounds as scary as International terrorist plot, so I started thinking about the parallels & the many ways this war is compared to the Viet-Nam war( by our President even).

I did read your post on Al Qaeda, The International Communist Conspiracy, and the Bogeyman here & also a wik article on McCarthyism & checked out some other stuff like quotes from Ann Coulter.

Lately, I've been called a communist (at least twice that I know of & of course by people that swing right) I'm not one BTW, in the conventional sense. I suppose I can thank the McCarthy era & also the Viet-Nam era fear-mongering in part for that since obviously real Communism is not the current threat. The word communism or communist being used here implies immorality i.e. godlessness, the destruction of "values", anti-patriotism, & probably many other heinous things. For sure it's a favorite epithet of the right.

What I find interesting is the words that are slung around based on the fears involved in the current war. I wonder what will be the linguistic legacy of this war, as it pertains to the nasty elements of politics? Any ideas on that?
One thing I find kinda funny is the right has a hard time calling the left "terrorists" although the left has no trouble slinging words like "fundimentalist" or "extremist" at the right.

4:05 PM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

concerned, this is perhaps the most insightful comment I have read in a long time, if not a very long time. People label you because they fear you in some way. And the right makes no real distinction between liberal, socialist, and communist. I am surprised you were called a communist. I thought no one used the word any more. They probably don't know what any of these terms mean.

The war as exacerbated the sharp divisions in the country but the Republicans have been waging the politics of fear all the way back to McCarthy with few respites, if any. The Democrats are playing catch up and now the political air is toxic. The only antidote is not to pay much attention.

Thanks for your comment.

8:03 PM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

I am surprised you were called a communist. I thought no one used the word any more. I'm kinda surprised you don't hear people use "communist" in that derogatory sense any more. On the other hand, this is a really conservative small town in a really rural part of the state. Organizing Concerned Citizens of Coquille & inviting the ACLU to speak at the Civil Rights Symposium, gave some people the excuse to try stick that label on me.

As a group we have been called among other things "rabble", "The unwashed unhappy"(my personal favorite), "disrespectors of the Law" & "malcontents". We are called "malcontents" the most.

People label you because they fear you in some way
I know the City Council & the Police department don't like what we are doing, that's clear.
The truth is, I'm trying to stay on top of what is happening here. I'm learning as I go along.
You are right to say the only antidote is not to pay much attention, because I see this political stuff whether it's local politics or federal government has to be approached thoughtfully & rationally, not emotionally. That seems obvious, but there are angry people on both sides, who can't seem to not get pissed off & react. It only makes them look foolish & it's counterproductive for the group.

BTW, thanks for the compliment.

9:20 PM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

Your comment about the City Council and the police is disturbing. I thought we were done with that kind of harassment.

I am pleased to hear of your work. There was a time when I was an activist and I survived. You will too. Unless this is no longer America. Bush has done his best to wreck our political value system.

7:06 AM


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