Revisionist History

Finally, someone has approached the history of the Vietnam War from a context that includes all the key players, not just the US and Vietnam. And, from what I am reading and hearing, it draws rather different conclusions than those we have been (shall I say) spoon fed for the last forty years.

One of the main conclusions of this book will sound familiar to us today:

So why has Diem been depicted the way he has? First, he was a victim of press bias: No one did more to undermine Diem's reputation in the United States than David Halberstam and Neil Sheehan. Far from providing a balanced picture of the war, they pushed a decidedly anti-Diem view, and their prejudice was so transparent that a 1963 congressional mission described the American journalists as "arrogant, emotional, un-objective, and ill-informed."

But then, these same reporters were themselves influenced by others with axes to grind. Much of the criticism of the Diem regime's military policy was fed to them by the maverick U.S. Army adviser, Lt. Col. John Paul Vann. In addition, many American reporters relied on a Vietnamese journalist named Pham Xuan An, a Reuters stringer later revealed to be a Communist agent whose very mission was to influence the American press. As journalists such as Stanley Karnow later admitted, Pham was very good at his job.

I'll read this book and get back to you with a review. But meanwhile, let's hope the new media keeps us from making the same mistakes that the old media forced on us the last time around.


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