Seven Myths about the Vietnam War: Three Decades after Pulling out of Southeast Asia, America Remains Hostage to a Relentless Barrage of Distortion, Myths, and Outright Lies about the Vietnam War. (Cover Story: Vietnam)

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Napoleon is reputed to have cynically remarked that "history is a fraud agreed upon." A similarly cynical attitude is more than justified when it comes to the usual "history" of the Vietnam War, as presented by the prevailing liberal-left voices of the mass media, academia, and Hollywood. For the past four decades, the American public has been subjected to a relentless barrage of distortion, propaganda, myths, and outright lies concerning the war in Southeast Asia that claimed the lives of 58,000 of America's sons and left hundreds of thousands of others physically and psychologically wounded.

While many Americans, especially those under the age of 40, view the Vietnam War era as ancient history, the ghost of Vietnam is still very much with us, greatly affecting our culture, our beliefs, and our political, social, and military policies. Innumerable journalists, commentators, activist professors, politicians, novelists, and historians have stolen the truth and substituted the most contemptible lies. Consider, for example, the late, celebrated historian Henry Steele Commager. Author of many influential books and articles and an activist in many Communist front organizations and radical-left groups, Mr. Commager aggressively denounced U.S. military actions in Indochina and regularly distorted the facts concerning what was happening during the war. His distortions did not stop once the U.S. had pulled out of Vietnam. In 1998, for instance, he wrote the introduction to Loren Baritz's book, Backfire: A History of how Amen can Culture Led Us into Vietnam and Made Us Fight the Way We Did. Commager praised this anti-American propaganda assault as "the first full-length and scholarly account of why we got into Vietnam in the first place, why we fought it as barbarously as the Japanese in Manchuria or the Germans in Poland, and why we deserved to lose it -- indeed why we did have to lose it if we were to find any kind of ultimate peace.

Incredible! Can the overall performance of American troops in Vietnam truly be compared to the brutal rape of Nanking by the Imperial Japanese invaders of China or the atrocities of Hitler's forces in Poland? Such an obscene defamation of America's armed forces -- of America's sons, fathers, grandfathers, and husbands -- so blatantly contradicts the facts as to seem possible only from the hand of an enemy propagandist. Yet, this abominable screed came from one of our country's most highly praised historians. Many other prominent academics, journalists, commentators, and politicians share Mr. Commager's distorted views and have propagated them in the minds of millions of unsuspecting Americans. In what follows, we hope to inject some truth into the poisonous smokescreen that has clouded popular thinking and discussion concerning the Vietnam War.

Myth #1: The United States was defeated militarily in Southeast Asia.

Response: This, one of the most persistent and widely believed falsehoods, is refuted by overwhelming evidence and unimpeachable authorities. Virtually all military experts agree that America was never militarily defeated in Vietnam; we "lost" the war because of unconscionable political decisions that tied the hands of our fighting forces and prevented them from winning. General Curtis LeMay, a pioneer in the use of strategic bombing during World War II and chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force from 1961 until his retirement in 1965, said in 1968: "The only reason American soldiers are bleeding and dying in Vietnam today is because our leaders have tied their hands behind their backs. The only reason we haven't had victory in Vietnam is because our leaders have done everything possible to avoid it."

General Paul D. Harkins, commanding general of U.S. forces in Vietnam, stated: "The faster you move in a war, the fewer casualties there are, and the sooner the fighting is over. This war could be won in less than three months, but not the way it is being fought now. …