In 1967 Army Gen. William Westmoreland, commander of all troops in Vietnam, was adamant that if he could lure the North Vietnamese communists and the southern Viet Cong guerrilla troops into a major stand-up fight with American and allied troops, the communists would get hammered.
The media at the time wasn't very friendly to the general, and many mocked him, based on their preconceived conclusion that we could not and would not win in Vietnam.
In late 1967 it was apparent that the communists were up to something, and it seemed that Gen. Westmoreland would be getting the fight he wanted. It has become part of the great myth that is Vietnam, that no one in America or South Vietnam had the slightest idea that the Tet Offensive of 1968, officially launched on the night of Jan. 31-Feb. 1, was imminent.
That simply isn't true, but it also is irrelevant. The fact was, the Tet Offensive was launched, and despite attacks on some 155 cities, villages and hamlets across South Vietnam, the communists got hammered. The Viet Cong strength before the offensive began was about 70,000 troops, many of them kidnapped conscripts who had been forced to serve to save their families from the communists.
But more than half, some 37,000 in all, were killed in the first three days of fighting. In fact with the exception of the Battle of Hue, where two North Vietnamese divisions, about 12,000 troops, infiltrated the undefended city and then staged a pitched battle in which an estimated 8,000 communists were killed, most of the fighting was over in the first 72 hours.
Hue lasted most of the month of February, and the siege at Khe Sanh went on into April with fighting flaring there until mid-summer when the base was officially abandoned as no longer necessary. Nonetheless, in every single phase of the Tet Offensive, including Hue and Khe Sanh, the communists were annihilated.
Westmoreland got his stand-up battle, and it turned out as he had predicted. Some historians now say that the North Vietnamese had actually planned an even bigger battle later in the spring, but had based that plan on their belief that they would score decisive wins over the US and South Vietnamese forces in the Tet Offensive.
It is generally accepted, based on admissions from the North Vietnamese communists since the end of the war, that more than half of all communist forces were killed in action in this period, and that doesn't include the numbers wounded or captured.
The communists were devastated in Tet 1968 and never mounted an effective campaign against the south again, so long as American troops were involved. In 1972, the communists launched the Easter invasion of the south, in which southern troops backed by American air power were the primary fighting forces. The communists suffered a similar defeat, losing up to half of all their invasion forces killed in action. But that is another story.
When it was apparent that the communist offensive at Tet had failed overwhelmingly, their allies in America realized that something would have to be done, and done fast, to offset the devastating battlefield losses. Communists have long been masters of the use of public relations and propaganda to divert attention from their real goals and actions, and the Tet Offensive was an extreme emergency for them, requiring emergency response.
So American newsman Walter Cronkite, the anchorman for the national CBS evening news, known as Uncle Walter, The Most Trusted Man in America, because his on-screen demeanor gave him a knowledgeable and trustworthy appearance, made an emergency visit to South Vietnam to give Americans the benefit of his view on the war.
There, Uncle Walter, who it would later be revealed was a communist sympathizer, if not an outright agent, lied through his teeth. Cronkite called the war "unwinnable" based on his review of the events in the field, a total fabrication and deliberate distortion of the true situation in South Vietnam.
There are many who say the role of the press in the outcome of the Vietnam war was minimal. Bull. The press played a major role, for a couple of reasons, not the least of which was that Cronkite, and some of his peers, were pro-communist and slanted the news over a period of years so that it focused on American troop losses as opposed to the victories that they died to achieve.
Even then, however, America solidly backed the war, and wanted a victory.
But American politicians, starting with President Lyndon Johnson, caved to the media pressure, and refused to acknowledge or didn't have the ability to understand, the battlefield situation. As a result of Cronkite's report and the media pile-on that ensued, Johnson refused to run again and the American political scene was thrown into turmoil at a time when victory was in our grasp and we most needed stability on the home front.
The rest is history and I'm not going to dwell on it, other than to point out the similarities between then and now, and to repeat, that as a result of Walter Cronkite's duplicity and the 'follow the leader' mentality of the American media, some 4 million residents of Southeast Asia were slaughtered by the communists after the fall of Saigon in 1975.
Now, about Brit Hume, the Washington D.C., Managing Editor for Fox News.
In my opinion, he is the single most influential and trusted newsman on the American scene today. This is not to say that he doesn't have some completely capable, knowledgeable and influential peers on the American media screen. He does, many of them colleagues at Fox News including Chris Wallace, Neil Cavuto and John Gibson.
But Brit Hume has the 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. evening news slot, a full hour of news stories, panel discussions, and perspective. He has competition in the networks to be sure, but let's be up front about this, the network news shows don't have the confidence of the American public any longer, and haven't for a long time.
Fox has replaced them in the trust and confidence category, and it is doubtful that any of the major network news shows could stand on their own, based on advertising revenues, if they didn't have corporate funds backing them.
In my opinion, based on his position in the news lineup, his status as the D.C. Managing Editor, and his weekly appearances on Fox News Sunday in which he shares his opinion on the news of the day, Brit Hume is on a par with Walter Cronkite, with one major exception - Brit Hume is honest.
I have seen nothing in the years I have observed his reporting that indicates he is a closet sympathizer for Islamo-fascists or the resurgent communists for that matter.
Thus, it didn't escape my attention this weekend when, on Fox News Sunday, during a discussion of Cronkite's betrayal of America, Hume queried whether another Tet Offensive is possible in the War on Terror.
It was obvious that he means another Tet Offensive in which we are overwhelmingly victorious on the battlefield, but in which the media and Congress portray the terrorists' ability to launch a coordinated attack as a total surprise to our political and military structure. This then would be used as an excuse for immediate withdrawal, surrender negotiations (does anyone know to whom we are supposed to surrender?), and ultimately the downfall not just of Middle East democracies, but the United States too.
Hume has raised a valid point and it is one that should keep us all on the alert. Hardly any news coverage in either Afghanistan or Iraq talks about American victories. In fact, if you only watch network news, or read the mainstream print media, you would probably be of the opinion that we have been getting our heads handed to us in the War on Terror.
The truth is our troops have been winning every time and have killed tens of thousands of terrorists since 9-11. If the terrorists do launch a coordinated attack in Iraq, Afghanistan, both, or even on our homeland, it should be no surprise. It would only mean that our methods to monitor what the terrorist leadership is doing have been compromised.
Remember, these are the people who have been attacking American interests and our homeland since the 1970s. They are ruthless, imaginative and capable.
The constant public waffling and debating in Congress is providing the terrorists with hope, the one thing that they need most to continue the war against us. That hope is useful in recruiting new fighters, new suicide bombers, and in providing the impetus to formulate new tactics.
If another attack, series of attacks, or coordinated attack is launched against us, overseas or at home, the one thing the news shouldn't do is label it a surprise or a defeat, as Walter Cronkite did in Vietnam.
Unfortunately, much of the mainstream media still plays follow the leader, and journalists who are on lower rungs of the network ladder tend to play monkey-see, monkey-do rather than think for themselves.
And, while many of our politicians still are swayed by headlines and haven't grown independent backbones, there are some major differences between now and the Vietnam era. We have the Internet, we have a healthy distrust of the mainstream media, and we have journalists like Brit Hume and they have an outlet to the American public.
It would be in America's best interests if that combination is successful in accurately informing us of the true implications and outcomes of any future attacks.
The slaughter of so many innocents in South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos was a tragedy of enormous proportions. And if a similar scenario plays out in the War on Terror and the Battle for Iraq, a similar tragedy could well occur again, right here in America where it will be American citizens who are unmercifully butchered.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007