*VMBB Senior Chief Of Staff*
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Marty Robbins old hometown, Glendale Arizona--a suburb of Phoenix.
THE PEN IS MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD.
The following is a letter written on June 6, 2004 by a former combat surgeon who served in Vietnam. It addresses the excesses and bias of our media, and is well worth the time it will take to read.
Press can wield a mighty pen
Martin L. Fackler, M.D.
Recently, Sen. Ted Kennedy compared the events in Iraq, particularly those in Fallujah, to the Tet offensive in Vietnam. That got my attention: I was a combat surgeon in Vietnam during Tet.
The Tet offensive occurred in early 1968 - less than two months after I had arrived at the Naval Support Hospital, DaNang. Although our major role was providing medical and surgical support for U.S. and allied forces, we also served as a prisoner of war hospital.
We received and sorted the enemy wounded right along with our own - the enemy combatants' priority for surgical care being determined by the seriousness of their wounds, not by the side they were fighting for.
The anti-Communist South Vietnamese Armed Forces and the Armed Forces of the United States, with allies (South Korea, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Philippines, etc.) opposed them.
After the Tet offensive, we saw a change in the type of our prisoners of war - the Viet Cong were replaced by North Vietnamese Regular Army troops.
Why the change? Because, in the Tet offensive, 60,000 of the estimated 80,000 Viet Cong combatants were killed virtually overnight. The Viet Cong ceased to be a fighting force after Tet and North Vietnam had to send North Vietnamese Regular Army troops to replace them.
The Tet offensive was an unmitigated military disaster for North Vietnam. The Viet Cong finally came out to fight (ambushes and guerilla tactics had been the norm previously) and they were destroyed.
Tet was a massive wild gamble - which failed. Its simultaneous countrywide attacks were supposed to incite a national popular uprising against the Americans in the south - but no uprising occurred.
The American military was well aware of the enemy's defeat in the Tet offensive. The North Vietnamese were painfully aware of it, as shown in subsequent histories from North Vietnam
Everybody grasped that fact except the American press, who not only falsely reported the Tet offensive to the American people as a defeat for the Americans, but also harped on their distortion incessantly until they had destroyed the will of the American people to continue support for the war.
Anyone who doubts the effects of the press coverage of Vietnam would do well to read "The Big Story - How the American Press and Television Reported and Interpreted the Crisis of Tet 1968 in Vietnam and Washington" by Peter Braestrup, longtime journalist and director of communications at the Library of Congress.
My year in DaNang (Dec. 10, 1967 to Dec. 11, 1968) encompassed by far the most active year in the Vietnam conflict. As a triage officer and operating surgeon, I evaluated or operated on several thousand of the wounded.
Hundreds had lost extremities, were permanently maimed, or worse. But our "free press" made their sacrifices futile.
The massive deception of our populace still seems, to me, as unreal and impossible as the haunting images of those planes penetrating the twin towers on Sept. 11, 200l.
But let's examine the effects of our withdrawal from Vietnam. The bloodbath of the South Vietnamese population by the North Vietnamese after they took over didn't get much attention from our American press.
The direct effects on the United States, our losses of life and limb - for naught - and our loss of respect and credibility, were not an obvious disaster.
And the Communist movement would later implode anyway, so their "victory" in taking over South Vietnam appeared to have little effect on the outcome of the Cold War.
The example set by our desertion of Vietnam, however, has certainly emboldened our enemy in the war on terror (one must wonder if 9/11 would even have happened had we stayed and won in Vietnam - showing strength and resolve, rather than trumpeting our weakness).
Our withdrawal graphically demonstrated the Achilles' heel of our democracy - its susceptibility to allowing its very freedoms to be used against it.
We say our freedoms do not include the right to falsely cry "fire" in a crowded theater. But we allowed our "free press" to do its equivalent in their agenda-directed distortions from Vietnam.
We are allowing the same thing in our media's current reporting from Iraq - which is frighteningly similar to that in Vietnam, in its misleading content, distorted focus, misplaced emphasis and effect.
In Vietnam, the Communists were trying to change our way of thinking. This time the threat is vastly more pernicious - Al-Qaida terrorists want us dead.
They suffer from a boundless psychotic hate born of envy: only our deaths will satisfy them - and they are willing to die themselves in their desperation to kill Americans.
I wonder if some of our own citizens are not afflicted with the same type of hate for President Bush that the Al-Qaida terrorists have for all Americans. A hate so blinding that they fail to see what losing the war on terror could mean to our civilization.
Right now, the battles in the war on terror are not being fought in our homeland - yet our press is too busy dwelling on anything they can interpret as bad to bestow due credit for that huge advantage.
American presence in Iraq continues to draw insurgents from neighboring terrorist-harboring states into Iraq, where we are very successfully annihilating them, just as we did the Viet Cong in the Tet offensive of 1968.
But our terrorist enemies are counting on the cooperation of our media to act as they did in Vietnam.
And our media are complying. Their subtle propaganda of ending daily news broadcasts with the names of those killed in Iraq tears at the emotions of a populace who have apparently forgotten their history and lost any sense of perspective.
On 9/11 we lost a thousand more Americans than we did in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Yet, in the battle for Okinawa alone, 12,520 American combatants were killed - more than 20 times the total deaths thus far in Iraq.
If our "free press" is allowed to continue its current jihad, history could repeat itself. Sen. Kennedy could prove to be right. We could see a repetition of the Vietnam debacle.
But Sen. Kennedy, our press corps, and the American people would do well to ponder, long and seriously, the consequences of losing the war on terror. Let's hope it doesn't take an encore of 9/11 to wake us up to reality.
Martin L. Fackler is a retired military officer and former combat surgeon who lives in Gainesville, Florida