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Covering Up Debacles: The Sandusky Affair and the Vietnam War

This is a tidy abstract of how we too often selectively view our history and how, especially, our military works in the post-Vietnam era. It’s a process characterized by two very distinct modes of operation: Secrecy and Public Relations. For the public, the press and leaders outside the power loop, the facts of an operation -- even many aspects of the entire war -- are kept secret, and public relations is spoon-fed to the public. Between these two modes there is a major struggle for the secret facts, a struggle notable for famous cases like the Pentagon Papers and WikiLeaks. It’s also the playing field for good, solid journalism. At some point, too often, the issues of press access, power accommodation and good ol'boy relationships mitigate against the revelation of information.


The point is the struggle for the truth. In the case of a deeply dug-in National Security State like the United States, it’s very hard to lift the huge flat rock under which the facts of warfare and history reside in their wriggling and often horrific reality. Instead, we get the pretty narrative dished out to us by Public Affairs lieutenants and colonels.

In campaigns like the Vietnam Commemoration Project, the emphasis is drawn away from real, unpleasant history and questions as to whether or not the causes for the war really made any sense at all. Instead, the focus is put on honor and bravery and individual soldiers and veterans. This, of course, is intentionally designed to put on the defensive anyone emphasizing the war’s unpleasant history. One is suddenly put in the position of attacking the moral heroism of American troops.

At this point in the exercise I always concede that individual honor and bravery are possible in a disastrously wrong war like the one we pursued against the Vietnamese directly or indirectly from 1945 to 1975. But to only focus on American heroism and the suffering of Americans is a disservice to the truth. The fact is, the Vietnam War was a debacle for everyone involved -- no matter who won or lost. And it was the Vietnamese who were defending the unified Vietnam that exists today who suffered the most.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just toured Laos, where she witnessed kids still being blown up by the lingering munitions we dropped on innocent peasants. It’s hard to clean up a situation like the bombing of Laos -- unless you rely on ignorance of the facts. Likewise, there's the continuing generational legacy of Agent Orange in the ecosystem of Vietnam. And the many instances of My Lai-like atrocities that have never been fully reported. There are many dark, wriggling facts under the heavy rock being kept in place by the Vietnam War Commemoration Project.

It’s easy in retrospect to understand why the powers-that-be at Penn State covered up the facts of an assistant football coach’s criminal behavior. They did it to protect their institution’s image, to keep it clean in the public mind and to assure recruitment would remain robust in the future. This morally dubious equation is laid out unambiguously in the Freeh Report.

story | by Dr. Radut