Monday, May 25, 2020

Lies, Lies and More Lies: No Wonder Baby Boomers Have Such a Distrust of Authority

More Notes from Ken Burns' The Vietnam War.

Just as the French underestimated the enemy at Dien Bien Phu, so did the U.S. consistently underestimate the enemy's strength and resolve. Even when we knew it was a mistake to get more deeply involved, we barged ahead anyways.* And all throughout we attempted to conceal from the American public what we were up to.

At first, we only sent advisors. Inconsequential results.
Next, we sent more advisors. Because President Johnson didn't want this fact known to the American people, it was done without fanfare, quietly and unobserved.
Next we sent troops. "They won't fight," they said, but would just stay in the background. Even so, the president didn't want this fact known to the American people.
Next, we're sending still more troops, this time to fight. Again, the president didn't want this fact known to the American people and it was hoped no one would notice.
Even as our involvement mounted, we were losing the war. "Gotta send more troops," went the cry. Simultaneously and privately, "Better not let the American people find out."

As the war went on, it became increasingly necessary to step up our response. It's hard to send 100,000 and 300,000 and 500,000 young men to potentially die without someone eventually noticing at home.

Karl Marlantes: "My bitterness about the political powers at the time was, first of all, the lying." I can understand policy errors and mistakes, if made with noble hearts. "That McNamara knew in 1965, three years before I was there that the war was unwinnable, that's what makes me mad."

Making mistakes is one thing, Marlantes said. Covering them up is "simply killing people to protect your own ego."

It's a famous joke, but so frequently true that it's become cliche. "How can you tell a politician is lying? His lips are moving."

LBJ kept telling people we're all about peace. Simultaneously, we start bombing villages with napalm.

Once LBJ bailed and Nixon took the White House, the same game continued. Tell the people what they want to hear and do what you want to do.

"I have a plan for getting us out of Vietnam," Nixon said. He concealed the truth that his plan was to win the war, which was already proven unwinnable.

According to Albert Einstein the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result.

I like the refrain for "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?"  It goes like this: "When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?"

I am sad for our veterans who lost their lives in this meaningless conflict, and for those who have struggled with lifelong disabilities. Trivia: More than 200 journalists died covering the war.

* According to a recent New Yorker story on Kissinger, he knew the war was unwinnable as early as 1965.

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