by Ed Mattson
Being a writer has its benefits and drawbacks. The drawbacks are that anyone who has ever tried his or her hand at it professionally knows the term “writers block”. The longer one writes the more frequent the occurrence. They also need a thick skin, for surely if they are worth their salt, they will receive comments, no matter how mundane the subject, that they have ruffled someone’s feathers. While praise is always welcome knowing a writer has struck the right chord with the audience, criticism is inevitable and can ruin your whole day.
If you review the criticism honestly and with an open mind, it can either reinforce your position or become a point of view you never thought about which in turn can broaden your horizon. That’s why only honest writers can survive. By honest I don’t mean always right; I mean being a writer that has thought through a situation, done the homework (research), and tells it like it is. It can be a difficult task when writing about politics because everyone’s interests are polarizing, but writing about historical events can blindside even the best writers because of revisionist historians who have the benefit of 20-20 vision and time, or have events swayed by politically correct thinking that prejudices the readers. Today will be no different when talking about Vietnam and the dastardly politics that go with the territory.
I received a heads-up yesterday regarding today’s political presidential contest on the Republican side, from a fellow Marine, written by a writer named Scott Ott, discussing comments made by candidate Jon Huntsman responding to a statement by candidate Mitt Romney saying President Obama should listen to advice from his generals on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. Huntsman’s comment, “Of course you’re going to listen to the generals, but I also remember when people listened to the generals in 1967 and we heard a certain course of action in Southeast Asia that didn’t serve our interests very well.
Mr. Ott believes Huntsman’s statement totally distorts the facts about Vietnam and therefore should disqualify him to be considered for Commander in Chief. Unfortunately for all his claims to be the most qualified candidate by his foreign policy credentials, having served as a diplomat in Asia, Huntsman apparently didn’t learn a damn thing while on duty. He has been bitten by the “revisionist history bug”, and doesn’t have a clue about the Vietnam War or what went on in-country.
Mr Ott is 100% correct, and makes his argument that, “the implication that the war in Vietnam went awry when President Lyndon Johnson listened to his generals is either ignorant or an irresponsible twisting of history to fit the leftist narrative about the U.S. military”.
Ann McFeatters from Scripps, ever present to position debate topics with a heavy leftist, liberal slant, was quick to note that this was living proof that Huntsman is the candidate the White House fears most, and that Huntsman has a firm grasp of international issues. To most us who didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday, the mainstream media has become so obvious in their support of the President (let’s be honest and call it what it is-BIASED), that they would do anything and everything to get Obama re-elected in 2012…even down to helping the Republicans select a candidate that would be easy to defeat. They did it in the last election when they continued to reinforce McCain’s weak candidacy, failed to investigate Obama’s background and qualifications, and steered the voters around like a bull with a ring in its nose.
With each emerging Republican candidate that appears to be on the rise, the press is there to tear into his/her background, lay out the dirty linen, and focus their politics on personal destruction, without a second thought. But Obama is their darling no matter that he had not one qualification to be president, has completely gone off the deep end in pursuit of European socialism, spent the nation into oblivion (national debt), and hocked the country to the Chinese who are now becoming qualified to lecture us on economics, all while blaming everybody but himself…absolutely amazing!
Getting back to the debate at hand, Mr. Ott states that, “as stunning as the Huntsman remark was, the way CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and seven Republican candidates let it stand unchallenged, as if it were unassailable common knowledge is astonishing”. Ott goes on to document his thoughts by citing H.R. McMaster’s book Dereliction of Duty, wherein President Lyndon Johnson’s leadership of the war effort was characterized by marginalizing the Joint Chiefs of Staff, lying to Congress about troop levels, and pursuing Defense Secretary Robert McNamara’s tactic of “graduated pressure,” which treated the military as a communication tool rather than a way to achieve victory.
McMaster, now an Army general and historian, is well known to other military historians as the Gulf War tank commander whose courage and quick-thinking made the Battle of 73 Easting a textbook example for armored warfare. Then-Captain McMaster ordered his troop of tanks to fire upon a much larger group of Iraqi tanks and fighting vehicles, achieving total victory (a great video documenting General McMaster’s military acumen – victory without U.S. losses). In short…unlike any of the Republicans in the campaign, and unlike any from the other side of the aisle you can dig up, McMaster knows his “stuff”.
McMaster’s claimed that President Johnson was more concerned than anything about his reelection, and the passage of his so-called “Great Society” programs. The war could not be allowed to jeopardize either objective. Graduated pressure was intended as a low-cost way to avoid a distracting and embarrassing loss. “When the situation in Vietnam seemed to demand military action, Johnson did not turn to his military advisers to determine how to solve the problem. He turned instead to his civilian advisers to determine how to postpone a decision.
The relationship between the President and the Joint Chiefs led to the curious situation in which the nation went to war without the benefit of effective military advice from the organization having the statutory responsibility to be the nation’s ‘principal military advisers’” (from page 325, Dereliction of Duty). This totally destroys Huntsman’s argument that Johnson followed military advice from those on the ground and that lead to an unfavorable outcome of the Vietnam War. Again, this is revisionist history along with the fact that “we lost the war”.
The fact of the matter is that the Vietnam War first began in 1959, five years after the division of the country by the Geneva Accords. Vietnam had been split into two, with a communist government in the north under Ho Chi Minh and a democratic government in the south under Ngo Dinh Diem. Ho launched a guerrilla campaign in South Vietnam, led by Viet Cong units, with the goal of uniting the country under communist rule. The United States, seeking to stop the spread of communism, trained the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) and provided military advisors to help combat the guerrillas.
Huntsman wasn’t even a twinkle in his daddy’s eye at that point in history and wasn’t born until born March 26, 1960, so his only recollection of the Vietnam War or for the entire era for that matter, can only be expressed from what he learned in school by teachers who learned all they cared to know about by revisionist historians that will always paint the war as a war we lost…the same folks who spit on the returning troops calling them “baby killers“.
And it wasn’t just the schools that were teaching that stuff. Many veterans bought into such thoughts, hook, line and sinker, as well. The words “baby killer” are jarring, unsettling, and ugly, as paraphrased by Barnett Hoffman, who also called the war “unwinnable”. I am not denigrating Mr. Hoffman’s service as a member of the Army Special Forces, nor his opinion. Anyone who has ever served in the military knows that members of the active-duty military have an opinion on every side of an issue, BUT, the Vietnam War WAS NOT UNWINNABLE, and in the case of Vietnam Veterans, they were not baby killers any more than you could argue all soldiers killed women and babies in every war.
Certainly there are atrocities that occur in war just like they do on the streets of hometown America. Innocence is always a casualty and sometimes the pressures of war can create a monster out of the best soldier (does My Lai ring a bell?). To place that label on those who went to Vietnam, in the same breath you’d have to paint the same label on those who caused civilian death in WWI, WWII, Korea, and everywhere a war has been fought. And as the to The Vietnam War being unwinnable, we’ll tackle that subject Wednesday.
To those veterans who served in Vietnam, overcoming stupid and ignorant remarks from the uninformed, often misguided, and under-educated public and media is something that has made the transition from warrior to civilian almost unbearable, but to hear such crap from those running for office is untenable. Not only has such rhetoric been difficult to comprehend, but when you add in the Agent Orange debacle, the whole country needs a lesson in history, including the folks we elect to hold public office. Wednesday we’ll follow-up with presenting the facts.
Thank you Scott Ott, for re-awakening us to this important subject!