Vietnamand the Mediafrom the archives of VietnamVeterans for Academic Reform

Part 3 of a 10-part series. ByLeonard Magruder, President

Part3 – How the national media lied about the Tet Offensive

The Tet Offensive, which was portrayed by the New York liberal media as adefeat for the U.S. was in fact, as Westmoreland and all historians agree, analmost disastrous defeat for the North Vietnamese. Not only did they lose halfof the 90,000 troops they had committed to battle, the Viet Cong was virtuallydestroyed.

Contrary to the expectations of the North, the people of the South took notone step to assist the invaders. Instead, they rose up in revulsion andresistance, with the government and the people galvanized into unity for thefirst time and volunteers for the South Vietnamese army almost doubling.

In the U.S., the facts made clear by the Tet Offensive, that the war was notjust a “civil war,” that the South clearly did not wish to live underCommunist rule and welcomed American aid, and that it was the North Vietnamesewho were engaged in “genocide” and “aggression” with the mass murders atHue and the rocket attacks on helpless civilian populations, should have endedthe arguments of the “peace” movement. It was the moment of truth for thosein the universities and the media. They failed the test. The lying continuedwith renewed fury.

The NewYork media, recognizing an opportunity to manipulate the news toeffectively impose its view of the war on the American people now created,. anddeliberately sustained, an image of “disaster,” even in the face of incomingbattlefield reports that contradicted that image. This image was taken seriouslyby advisors to President Johnson, totally altering the outcome of the war at thevery moment when victory might have been possible. The liberal media robbed theUnited States government and the American people of the ability to make criticaljudgements about their most vital security interests in a time of war.

The true reason for the tragic change in policy after the Tet offensive isseen in what Johnson now told Westmoreland, that to pursue the war moreaggressively was politically unfeasible, that he had “no choice but to try tocalm the protestors lest they precipitate an abject American pull-out.”(America in Vietnam, Levy, l978) In one of the most incredible phenomenon in thehistory of warfare, there was during this period, thanks to the media, nological connection between what was actually happening in Vietnam and responseon the home front. The response to victory was despair. This is what the mediacalls the “psychological victory,” which they themselves created.

And to their everlasting shame, the “peace” movement responded to anyhint of success by American forces at Tet with panic, fearing that their owncountry might win the war. As presidential candidate George McGovern said toVietnam vet and former Sec. of the Navy James Webb, “What you don’tunderstand is that I didn’t want us to win that war.” (American EnterpriseMag. May/June l997)

The April-June l986 edition of The National Vietnam Veteran’s Review had afront-page article (with photo) titled “Professor Calls for CongressionalInvestigation of Media’s Treatment of the Vietnam War.” During that periodMr. Magruder had distributed a “Request to Congress” to most members ofCongress calling for a Congressional investigation into how it came about that amajor American victory had been reported to the American people as a defeat .Therequest was supported by twelve large Vietnam veteran organizations, and GeneralWestmoreland. As stated in the N.V.V.R. article, “General Westmoreland,who hasalready made one call to the Steering Committee, stated publicly this week,“Professor Magruder’s project is an extremely important issue and I supporthis efforts l00%.”

Copies of the material Mr. Magruder sent to Congress were distributed to newsorganizations throughout the National Press Building in Washinton, but nomention of it ever appeared in print.The media has always tried to dismisss thecharge of having lied about the Tet Offensive as a right-wing fantasy, but inhis material distributed to Congress Mr. Magruder quoted from 21 standardhistories and commentaries on the Vietnam War, as follows:

“Theenemy has been hurt badly he committed a total of about 84,000 men. He lost40,000 killed.” (Report of General Earle G. Wheeler, Chairman of the JointChiefs of Staff, on the Tet Offensive. Feb. 27, l968) (Note: the allies lost927. This is the disaster for the North Vietnamese that CBS called a“stalemate.”)

“The Allied counter-offensive following Tetdestroyed the Viet Cong based in the South and was a major defeat for the North.Yet despite this victory the press in the United States turned Tet into anAmerican defeat.” (Great Battles of the 20th Century – Sir Basil Liddell Hart)

“The Viet Cong was suffering severe casualties. ..but this situation was not being reflected in news reports or on television inthe United States.” (The Unmaking of a President – Herbert Schandler)

“Following Tet, the enemy was completelyvulnerable (but) the most powerful country in the world did not have the willpower to meet the situation. (Strategy for Defeat – Admiral Sharpe)

“The North Vietnamese regulars and the Viet Congguerrillas were defeated utterly on the battlefield. Granted the Americansuperiority at that time, there is at least the probability that North Vietnamforces could have been destroyed.” (Crossroads of Modern Warfare – DrewMiddleton)

“The impression created by the press andtelevision coverage of the offensive was of a great defeat for the Americans andthe South Vietnamese. (Why We Were in Vietnam – Norman Podhoretz)

“The war still could have been brought to afavorable end following the defeat of the enemy’s Tet Offensive. But this wasnot to be. Press and television had created an aura, not of victory, but defeat.(A Soldier Reports- General William Westmoreland)

“Newsmen countered official claims of a Communistdefeat by saying that even if it were true (which they refused to accept as theydid the official account of enemy losses) the communists had achieved apsychological victory. (The Vietnam War – an international panel of historians)

“This is the only war lost in the columns of TheNew York Times. They created an image of South Vietnam that was as distant fromthe truth as not even to be a good caricature. There were those who invented,distorted, and lied. (Certain Victory – Dennis Warner)

“Visitors to the Lyndon Johnson Library are told,“While the President was reading reports from the war that made it clear thatthe enemy had suffered a severe military loss (Tet), newspaper and TV gave theimpression that the loss was ours and that defeat was imminent.” (New YorkTimes News Service)

“COSVN, Viet Cong Headquarters, in its internalreport #6, March l968, admitted the Tet Offensive had been a failure. “Wefailed to seize a number of primary objectives. We also failed to hold theoccupied areas. In the political field we failed to motivate the people to stageuprisings.”(The Magruder Expose – Leonard Magruder)

“For the first time in modern history the outcomeof a war was determined not on the battlefield but on the printed page andtelevision screens – never before Vietnam had the collective policy of the mediasought, by graphic and unremitting distortion, the victory of the enemies of thecorrespondents own side.” (Encounter-British journalist Robert Elegant)

“It was the massive military defeat of the VietCong and NVA that proved the main turning point in the United States resolve. Inmilitary terms it was a massive defeat for Giap. However, on the televisionscreens of the United States Tet turned into a victory for the Communists.”(Vietnam – Ian Beckett)

“Jack Fern of NBC suggested to producer RobertNorthfield that NBC do a documentary showing that Tet was indeed a decisivemilitary victory for the United States. “We can’t,” said Northfield,“Tet is already established in the public mind as a defeat.” (Between Factand Fiction – Edward J. Epstein)

“When General Westmoreland publicly announced thatthe Tet Offensive had been a major defeat for the Communists and a major victoryfor the Allied forces, a fact obvious to anyone who viewed the eventsdispassionately, he was treated like a self-deluding fool by the news media.”(Battles and Campaigns – Tom Carhart)

“The Tet Offensive proved catastrophic to ourplans. It is a major irony of the Vietnam War that our propaganda transformedthis debacle into a brilliant victory. The truth was that Tet cost us half ourforces. Our losses were so immense that we were unable to replace them with newrecruits.”(Truong Nhu Tang – Mnister of Justice – Viet Cong ProvisionalRevolutionary Government – The New York Review, Oct. 21, l982)

“The military’s conflict with the Saigon presscorp was the crucible of the debate over the Order of Battle. But CBS chose notto explore that conflict – to have done so the network would have had to bareits own archives of the period, including Walter Cronkites’s milestonecommentary which declared, following Tet, that an American victory was unlikelyand that a truce must be negotiated. “ (A Matter Of Honor – Don Kowit)

“Though it was an overwhelming victory for SouthVietnam and the United States, the almost universal theme of media coverage wasthat we had suffered a disastrous defeat. The steady drumbeat of inaccuratestories convinced millions of Americans that we had lost a major battle.” (NoMore Vietnams -Richard Nixon)

“The myth was created (by the media) that the warwas unwinnable, and that had a decisive effect on American resolution. (War inPeace- Sir Robert Thompson)

“Rarely has contemporary crisis journalism turnedout, in retrospect, to have veered so widely from reality. Essentially thedominant themes of the words and film from Vietnam added up to a portrait ofdefeat for the Allies,. Historians, on the contrary, have concluded that the TetOffensive resulted in a severe military-political setback for Hanoi in theSouth. To have portrayed such a setback for one side as a defeat for the other -in major crisis abroad – cannot be counted upon as a triumph for Americanjournalism… and it could happen again.” (Big Story – 2 vols. – PeterBraestrup)

“If there is to be an inquiry related to theVietnam War, it should be into the reasons why enemy propaganda was sowidespread in this country, and why the enemy was able to condition the publicto such an extent that the best educated segments of our population have givencredence to the most incredible allegations.” (Final Report – Chief ofMilitary History – U.S. Government)

When does this inquiry begin? The last four years ofthe war,the lives lost, and the final abandonment by the U.S.of the peoples ofSouth Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, were prices paid to indulge the tantrums ofthe campus ‘peace’ movement and the New York liberal media. America, throughthe lack of moral and intellectual sophistication of its liberal academics andjournalists had succumbed to the most successful propaganda effort the world hasever seen. How the campus and the media lied about Vietnam is the one greattrauma in the tissue of American history that has never been dealt with.

This article may be reproduced in anyform.




Reprint with permission of Leonard Magruder.  Founder/President,V.V.A.R.

©Vietnamese & American Veterans of the Vietnam War, 2005 All Rights Reserved

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