The Military and the Media: Why the Press Cannot Be Trusted to Cover a War

By William V. Kennedy | Go to book overview

8
Aftermath

Even as he fairly boasted that the reporters "forced the withdrawal of American power from Vietnam," James Reston of the New York Times expressed a note of apprehension. The reporters also, Reston wrote, "are now being blamed for the defeat of American policy and power in Indochina." 1

Slaughter on a horrific scale in Cambodia belied journalistic assurances that no "bloodbath" would follow a Communist victory in Indochina. Scarcely lower on the scale of horror were unending tales of mass tragedy as tens of thousands of South Vietnamese chose the perils of the South China Sea and of robbery, rape, and murder at the hands of pirates over life under Communist rule.

American journalism became more and more uncomfortable with the exultation of such as Reston and Small over the U.S. and South Vietnamese defeat.

It found a most unlikely savior.

I first met Harry Summers when he was serving as a lieutenant colonel on the Army staff in the Pentagon and I was serving with that staff as a Reserve officer. I liked and, in the main, respected him.

An infantry combat veteran of Korea and Vietnam, Summers had returned as a staff officer during the last days of the Vietnam debacle and had dealt directly with North Vietnamese army counterparts in the sporadic "peace" negotiations. I found him to be intelligent and articulate, but tinged with the old Pentagon staff officer's greatest weakness -- a tendency to tell the boss what he wants to hear. Our paths were to cross on other grounds.

In November 1978, General Walter T. Kerwin, Jr., then vice chief of staff of the Army, had ordered that a study be done to find out what went wrong in Vietnam. 2 The strictly historical aspects of the study were contracted to

-109-

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The Military and the Media: Why the Press Cannot Be Trusted to Cover a War
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Notes xi
  • 1 - Why the Press Cannot Be Trusted to Cover A War 1
  • Notes 11
  • 2 - The Roots of Conflict 13
  • Notes 18
  • 3 - Television: The Here, Now, and Obituary Medium 21
  • Notes 39
  • 4 - The Dailies: Shaky Bedrock 41
  • Note 58
  • 5 - The Wire Services: The Weakest Reed 61
  • Notes 71
  • 6 - The Magazines 73
  • Notes 85
  • 7 - Vietnam: The Watershed 87
  • Notes 104
  • 8 - Aftermath 109
  • Notes 125
  • 9 - Managing the "Right to Lie" 129
  • Notes 140
  • 10 - How to Defeat the "Right to Lie" 143
  • Notes 154
  • Epilogue 157
  • Select Bibliography 159
  • Index 163
  • About the Author *
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