All the shallow thinkers seemed to draw from Vietnam was that the brave military could have "won" that war, had not the craven, cowardly, hate-America-first media not stabbed them in the back.
So in our most recent misadventure in Iraq, the military set out from the outset to muzzle, coerce, co-opt and neuter the media. That was Job One, and they spent billions of dollars and millions of man-hours making sure that their talking points were crammed down the throats of any media outlet. The recent NY Times investigation revealed just how much all the "analysts" were being fed useless, false and ultimately harmful propaganda. In a recent Miami Herald article, Ed Wasserman convincingly argues that the media is going to have to self-police to rid itself of hacks disguised as objective, independent observers:
Some of the analysts confessed that to avoid displeasing their Pentagon patrons they choked back misgivings they had about administration claims of steady military gains.
One Fox News analyst came back from a trip and told his viewers, ”You can’t believe
the progress.” Actually, he told The Times, “I saw immediately in 2003 that things were going south.”
The report is based on 8,000 pages of documents that the administration spent two years fighting demands to disclose. It describes a cozy arrangement involving more than 75 retired military who consulted for Fox News, NBC, CNN and other networks with round-the-clock cable operations. Few of those operations made much effort to find out whether their analysts were benefiting from the policies they zealously defended.
It’s true, as Glenn Greenwald wrote on Salon, that “news organizations were hardly unaware that these retired generals were mindlessly reciting the administration
line on the war and related matters. To the contrary, that’s precisely
why our news organizations turned to them in the first place.”
Here’s a line of thinking – I hesitate to use the word "fact," since the Pentagon and the current administration have so discredited even the concept of "facts" – that I hope some of the brighter minds in the military arrive at: all the relentless bright & happy talk, the insistence on "progress is being made," the demands to blindly support our troops, the devotion to this vision of the U.S. military as an "Ever-Victorious Army," wreathed in golden glory, incapable of making a mistake …
…all that propaganda and denial of tough examination of exactly what was going on, where we were headed …
… that effort to castrate the media and control the message is what is going to ultimately going to be responsible for the disaster in Iraq. I talked last night to a formerly wild-eyed right-winger, who works with/for/in the military, and he admitted that it’s just a matter of time before we have the helicopters taking off from the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, just like Saigon in ’75.
If the military had acknowledged in the years 2003-2006 that perhaps things were not quite going exactly according to plan, that there were flaws in the Great Sacred Rumsfeld’s Master Plan, then perhaps, hmmm, I dunno, adjustments could have been made to that plan. Adjustments that have since been made.
Adjustments that would have saved American lives. Adjustments that would have stemmed or even reversed the disintegration of Iraqi society that has led us to the dead end where we now find ourselves.
Truthful reports in the media would have put pressure on the politicians above to change the plan rather than the insistence on "staying the course" despite the (OK, I’ll say it) fact that course was heading right straight off the cliff.
Here’s a last quote, ringing out from the lessons that should have been learned – were learned by Colin Powell, since he was in Vietnam, ignored by Cheney and Bush since they were not:
The armed forces contributed to their own defeat in Vietnam ”by fighting the war they wanted to fight rather than the one at hand.”
In the end it all boils down to one question: Could we have won a military victory in Vietnam? Record’s answer is: Yes, but not at any price even remotely acceptable to the American people.
One thoughtful former infantry battalion commander told me he had reflected long and
hard about what would have resulted from unlimited war, including an invasion of North Vietnam: ”We could have won a military victory without question. But today my sons and yours would still be garrisoning Vietnam and fighting and dying in an unending guerrilla
war.” The war was ours to lose, and we did; it was for the South Vietnamese to win, and they could not.