Did Cronkite and CBS offer assistance to anti-war movement?

posted at 7:00 pm on May 15, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

Many conservatives still have not forgiven Walter Cronkite for editorializing in early 1969 that the Vietnam War would end in a “bloody stalemate,” encouraging the S to abandon the fight at a time when the Communists appeared ready to throw in the towel.  If a recently-released FBI file is true, Cronkite may have gone farther than editorializing.  According to an FBI informant, Cronkite offered advice and CBS resources to assist the anti-war activists, including a helicopter to fly Edmund Muskie to a protest that CBS would then cover:

Legendary CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite allegedly collaborated with anti-Vietnam War activists in the 1960s, going so far as to offer advice on how to raise the public profile of protests and even pledgingCBS News resources to help pull off events, according to FBI documents obtained by Yahoo! News.

The documents, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, say that in November 1969, Cronkite encouraged students atRollins College in Winter Park, Fla., to invite Maine Sen. Edmund Muskie to address a protest they were planning near Cape Kennedy (now known as Cape Canaveral). Cronkite told the group’s leader that Muskie would be nearby for a fundraiser on the day of the protest, and said that “CBS would rent [a] helicopter to take Muskie to and from site of rally,” according to the documents.

The claims are contained in an FBI memo recounting a confidential informant’s report on a November 1969 meeting of a Rollins College protest group called Youth for New America. The group was planning rallies near Cape Kennedy on Nov. 13 and 14 — the latter being day of the Apollo 12 launch from Cape Kennedy, which President Nixon would be attending — as part of a nationwide Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam. That protest action culminated in a huge march on Washington on Nov. 15.

The file includes the following testimony, while redacting the name of the activist leader who related the offer to the group, including the informant:

“[Redacted] told group he had been to CBS Channel Six in Orlando prior to meeting to speak to newsmen about Vietnam moratorium activities. [Redacted] related that while at TV station, Walter Cronkite, nationally known radio and television commentator, spoke to him by telephone for approximately forty five minutes and that Cronkite reportedly told [redacted] that CBS would have thirty six hours of coverage on Vietnam moratorium with ‘open mike’ to give demonstrators a chance to be heard. Cronkite noted, according to [redacted], that Senator Edmund Muskie would be in Orlando, Fla., November 13 instant for Democratic fund raising dinner. According to [redacted], Cronkite suggested that [redacted] attempt to Muskie to come [sic] to Cape Kennedy to speak at Kelly Park rally to be held November thirteen instant. Cronkite allegedly told [redacted] that CBS would rent helicopter to take Muskie to and from site of rally at Kelly Park.”

Explosive — if true, which requires a couple of levels of faith.  First, the FBI itself may or may not have been telling the truth.  This seems like a story that would have been custom-made for the Nixon administration’s paranoia, and more importantly, J. Edgar Hoover’s own dislike of the media. Bear in mind that at this time, the FBI had serious issues of politicization, especially in regard to political dissent and organized opposition to government policies.  One cannot dismiss the FBI reports out of hand, but one must also remember the full context of the FBI’s activities at the time.

Second, even if the FBI reliably transmitted what the informant said, the informant may have been creating a tall tale in order to keep the FBI interested.  And even if the FBI and the informant were trustworthy, the group leader may have been blowing smoke to support his own power within the group.  After all, having a 45-minute conversation with the most trusted name in television news at the time would have been a very impressive feat.

In fact, the entire tale seems so fantastic that Cronkite’s son dismisses it out of hand:

Chip Cronkite, Walter Cronkite’s son, told Yahoo! News it’s highly unlikely that his father would ever have made such an offer. “It doesn’t have the ring of a reliable story to me,” he said. “Particularly at a time when FBI informants often told the FBI what they wanted to hear. I think it would be outside of what we know about Walter Cronkite and CBS News’ practices.”

It seems a little fantastic to me as well.  Cronkite may have sympathized with the movement, and may have offered advice — but unless he was working a story, spending 45 minutes talking to a rally organizer doesn’t sound realistic.  Neither does an offer to foot the bill for a helicopter to fly Muskie to the rally, a move that the FBI would have exposed as soon as they were aware of it, and one which CBS bosses would almost certainly have refused.  Unless Cronkite was prepared to pay for it out of his own pocket (or was blowing some smoke himself), it’s hard to believe.

That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, of course, and it would be interesting to see how deeply Cronkite involved himself in anti-war protests, if at all.  This is one piece of evidence, but it’s at best third-degree hearsay.  Perhaps we will see more direct evidence later, but at the moment, this is more of a curio than anything else.


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Comment pages: 1 2

Look Nixon was more right about the MFM then we gave him credit at the time. History has proven his “paranoia to be right. The enemy is the MFM and the cadre or regime now in power.

jainphx on May 15, 2010 at 10:31 PM

If everyone is thinking alike then someone isn’t thinking.
- Gerorge S. patton

No one bashes Obama and the left more than I do. I also do it better than just about anyone else around these parts, IMHO.

MB4 on May 15, 2010 at 10:33 PM

I’m very uncomfortable with a post about at event that cannot be proved, ending with “That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen”.

That’s “Truther” style.

rbk2000 on May 15, 2010 at 10:34 PM

Look Nixon was more right about the MFM then we gave him credit at the time. History has proven his “paranoia to be right. The enemy is the MFM and the cadre or regime now in power.

jainphx on May 15, 2010 at 10:31 PM

Yup, him and McCarthy were both demonized to the nth degree by a treasonous communist agitprop media.

doriangrey on May 15, 2010 at 10:34 PM

You sound like a liberal.

MB4 on May 15, 2010 at 10:27 PM

Whatever you say, Ho Chi Minh.

After months (years?) of reading your hot-headed opinions about “what really happened” in Vietnam, I’ve decided that you no more served there than did Eddy Murphy playing the legless, homeless vet in “Trading Places.”

Jenfidel on May 15, 2010 at 10:34 PM

IMHO.

MB4 on May 15, 2010 at 10:33 PM

ROTFLMAO… slight of hand, smoke and mirrors, distractions and obfuscations…

doriangrey on May 15, 2010 at 10:36 PM

No one bashes Obama and the left more than I do. I also do it better than just about anyone else around these parts, IMHO.

MB4 on May 15, 2010 at 10:33 PM

Given some of your other opinions, you have to wonder why and what your real agenda could be.

And of course, do be sure to finish your comments with a pithy quote from Mark Twain.

Jenfidel on May 15, 2010 at 10:36 PM

(“If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost the country.” Pure delusion!)

Again I say, that was as in if I have even lost Cronkite. It was not as in “I have 90% of the American people and climbing but Walter has more say than those 90%”.
His lies were starting to catch up with him and he was already losing America.

…which is why we suspect you of being a Liberal: every time the subject of Vietnam comes up, you play the Max Cleland/John Kerry card.

Jenfidel on May 15, 2010 at 10:31 PM

I do nothing of the kind. You need to learn to be more perceptive.

MB4 on May 15, 2010 at 10:38 PM

I do nothing of the kind. You need to learn to be more perceptive.

MB4 on May 15, 2010 at 10:38 PM

You may not think you do, but others mileage clearly differs.

doriangrey on May 15, 2010 at 10:43 PM

LBJ’s saying “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost the country.” is similar to, let’s say for example, Crist or McCain saying “If I’ve lost JetBoy, I’ve lost the state”. Cronkite had been a big supporter of LBJ.

MB4 on May 15, 2010 at 10:44 PM

I guess that the only way that we can settle this Cronkte/CBS issue is to ask John Kerry…but only if he is wearing his lucky hat that he wore in Cambodia at Christmas.

onlineanalyst on May 15, 2010 at 10:49 PM

Given some of your other opinions, you have to wonder why and what your real agenda could be.

You have found me out! My agenda is to reelect Obama, Pelosi and Reid. Boy, you are good!

And of course, do be sure to finish your comments with a pithy quote from Mark Twain.

Jenfidel on May 15, 2010 at 10:36 PM

If you don’t mind I think I’ll go with Sun Tzu’s nephew.

All warfare is based on deception. Hey, what’s that behind you?

MB4 on May 15, 2010 at 10:49 PM

Cronkite had been a big supporter of LBJ.

MB4 on May 15, 2010 at 10:44 PM

News to me and I lived through this.

Cronkite was a fan of JFK, who was soft on Communism.
Coincidence? No.
(Don’t forget JFK’s brother Teddy worked with the KGB against Ronald Reagan.)
These people are the parenthetical fellow travelers.

Jenfidel on May 15, 2010 at 10:49 PM

You may not think you do, but others mileage clearly differs.

doriangrey on May 15, 2010 at 10:43 PM

Well then maybe others need to add more air to their tires.

MB4 on May 15, 2010 at 10:51 PM

My agenda is to reelect Obama, Pelosi and Reid.
All warfare is based on deception.
MB4 on May 15, 2010 at 10:49 PM

I don’t know what your agenda is, but you’re dead wrong about the Vietnam war.

Jenfidel on May 15, 2010 at 10:53 PM

Cronkite was a fan of JFK, who was soft on Communism.

Jenfidel on May 15, 2010 at 10:49 PM

JFK’s being soft on communism would be news to JFK. Oswald assassinated him because he thougth he was too hard on communism.

MB4 on May 15, 2010 at 10:53 PM

Jenfidel on May 15, 2010 at 10:49 PM

You’re arguing with an ego maniac, I will no longer reply to anything he has to say. Don’t fan the fire he’s not worth it.

jainphx on May 15, 2010 at 10:55 PM

I’m very uncomfortable with a post about at event that cannot be proved, ending with “That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen”.

That’s “Truther” style.

rbk2000 on May 15, 2010 at 10:34 PM

You could apply that to religion. also.

OldEnglish on May 15, 2010 at 11:00 PM

I don’t know what your agenda is, but you’re dead wrong about the Vietnam war.

Jenfidel on May 15, 2010 at 10:53 PM

So I would have to “assume” that you think that the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the US Army War College and H. R. McMaster were all wrong too. What could we all be up to?

Indochina is devoid of decisive military objectives and the allocation of more than token US armed forces in Indochina would be a serious diversion of limited US capabilities.
- Joint Chiefs of Staff, 26 May 1954

The United States intervened in the Vietnam War on behalf of a weak and incompetent ally, and it pursued a conventional military victory against a wily, elusive, and extraordinarily determined opponent who shifted to ultimately decisive conventional military operations only after inevitable American political exhaustion undermined potentially decisive US military responses. Even had the United States attained a conclusive military decision, its cost would have exceeded any possible benefit. Vietnam was then, and remains today, a strategic backwater. The United States could not have prevented the forcible reunification of Vietnam under communist auspices at a morally, materially, and strategically acceptable price.
- The US Army War College Quarterly, Winter 1996-97

“Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam” by H. R. McMaster

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
- George Santayana

MB4 on May 15, 2010 at 11:01 PM

It seems a little fantastic to me as well. Cronkite may have sympathized with the movement, and may have offered advice — but unless he was working a story, spending 45 minutes talking to a rally organizer doesn’t sound realistic.

Ed come out from behind your computer and smell the roses. You also may end up smelling Dan Rather. Cronkite and Rather are from the same poison well–CBS. Cronkite was a died in the wool lib and he could no longer conceal it in hi latter days. A pox on him. A special place in you know where for these destroyers of nations.

wepeople on May 15, 2010 at 11:01 PM

You’re arguing with an ego maniac, I will no longer reply to anything he has to say. Don’t fan the fire he’s not worth it.

jainphx on May 15, 2010 at 10:55 PM

You sound like a liberal woman. Is that you Meagan? Nancy?

MB4 on May 15, 2010 at 11:04 PM

You’re arguing with an ego maniac, I will no longer reply to anything he has to say. Don’t fan the fire he’s not worth it.

jainphx on May 15, 2010 at 10:55 PM

You sound like a liberal woman. Is that you Meagan? Nancy?

MB4 on May 15, 2010 at 11:04 PM

I think jainphx may be my ex-wife.

KentAllard on May 15, 2010 at 11:05 PM

MB4 on May 15, 2010 at 11:01 PM

Yes, because the agitprop have infiltrated every segment of American society except that of the commissioned officers of the US Military…

Funny how the rank and file enlisted military personal are nearly all conservatives while the commissioned officers have such a large number of far left liberals amongst their ranks.

doriangrey on May 15, 2010 at 11:11 PM

MB4, I can agree with you, as I have little use for Johnson and McNamara, and their decision to involve us in a war with no intention of winning it. That is one of the stupidest things a president could do, and, I would have thought we would have learned that lesson in Korea, which we evidently did not. As far as Cronkite is concerned, I believe, and cannot prove, that he was part of a vast network of those, for whatever reason, who wanted to undermine America and our form of government because his actions pointed strongly in that direction. As far as Viet Nam goes, I can see that we just need to agree to disagree, just like I have done with some of my Progressive friends and family members. Take care.

Viet Nam Vet, 1966-7

DL13 on May 15, 2010 at 11:12 PM

Pretty much what I thought Mr. Cronkite was all along.

TimBuk3 on May 15, 2010 at 11:15 PM

So I would have to “assume” that you think that the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the US Army War College and H. R. McMaster were all wrong too. What could we all be up to?

You’re up to the same thing Obama and his minions (some of whom are in the Pentagon) are up to: the weakening of American power and military strength.

Indochina is devoid of decisive military objectives and the allocation of more than token US armed forces in Indochina would be a serious diversion of limited US capabilities.
- Joint Chiefs of Staff, 26 May 1954

And yet President Ike sent in “advisers” there anyway.

The United States intervened in the Vietnam War on behalf of a weak and incompetent ally,

???

opponent who shifted to ultimately decisive conventional military operations only after inevitable American political exhaustion undermined potentially decisive US military responses.

Note the implication that all things being equal, we would have won decisively.
Manufacturing the “American political exhaustion” is where Cronkite came in.

Even had the United States attained a conclusive military decision, its cost would have exceeded any possible benefit. Vietnam was then, and remains today, a strategic backwater.

The goal was to stop the spread of Communism in Southeast Asia, which the Vietnam war did, despite the less than optimal outcome.

The United States could not have prevented the forcible reunification of Vietnam under communist auspices at a morally, materially, and strategically acceptable price.
- The US Army War College Quarterly, Winter 1996-97

We most certainly could have prevented the forceful reunification of Vietnam and did right up until Congress pulled the plug on funds and the last helicopters had to take off from the roof of our embassy in Saigon.

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
- George Santayana

MB4 on May 15, 2010 at 11:01 PM

Another cute quote from you (Surprise!).
Santayana’s full of it: History never repeats itself, but it sometimes rhymes, per your man Twain.

Jenfidel on May 15, 2010 at 11:15 PM

Oswald assassinated him because he thougth he was too hard on communism.

MB4 on May 15, 2010 at 10:53 PM

Oswald was a nut and possibly a “cut out” for some one or something else.
JFK’s murderer’s politics doesn’t begin to disprove the obvious Harvard Leftist bent JFK had and the disastrous results his foreign policy efforts had.

Jenfidel on May 15, 2010 at 11:21 PM

Cronkite and the media became the voice of surrender, making it much more difficult for our soldiers to attain victory in Vietnam.

Cronkite reminds me of most of the current crop of journalists. Who knows how many of them are lending news resources for war protestors now.

Mark7788 on May 15, 2010 at 11:30 PM

This news is choice: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/05/14/94191/white-house-message-machinery.html

The ObaMaomedia bypasses even the MFM to Goebbelize its message. The twit-analyst who praises ObaMao for using one-on-one interviews more than did his predecessors doesn’t recognize the kneepads worn by the interviewer and the control the WH and the whole Axelrod-Emanuel troika has in getting a favorable, but not accurate, message out.

onlineanalyst on May 15, 2010 at 11:50 PM

I don’t doubt it.
Cronkite was doing the journalistic equivalent of a an exterminator unleashing bugs and rodents on people’s property then knocking on the door and offering his services.
Why not rent a chopper to fly Muskie to a rally then cover it, live and exclusively.
It is still done today. How many news stories deal with polls commissioned by the very organizations that report them.
Rather like the Beattles paying women to scream and shriek and “faint” when they came into town.

Bubba Redneck on May 16, 2010 at 12:42 AM

Well it’s a good thing nothing ever happens like this now. /sarcasm

shick on May 16, 2010 at 12:48 AM

So I would have to “assume” that you think that the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the US Army War College and H. R. McMaster were all wrong too. What could we all be up to?

You’re up to the same thing Obama and his minions (some of whom are in the Pentagon) are up to: the weakening of American power and military strength.

Indochina is devoid of decisive military objectives and the allocation of more than token US armed forces in Indochina would be a serious diversion of limited US capabilities.
- Joint Chiefs of Staff, 26 May 1954

And yet President Ike sent in “advisers” there anyway.

The United States intervened in the Vietnam War on behalf of a weak and incompetent ally,

???

opponent who shifted to ultimately decisive conventional military operations only after inevitable American political exhaustion undermined potentially decisive US military responses.

Note the implication that all things being equal, we would have won decisively.
Manufacturing the “American political exhaustion” is where Cronkite came in.

Even had the United States attained a conclusive military decision, its cost would have exceeded any possible benefit. Vietnam was then, and remains today, a strategic backwater.

The goal was to stop the spread of Communism in Southeast Asia, which the Vietnam war did, despite the less than optimal outcome.

The United States could not have prevented the forcible reunification of Vietnam under communist auspices at a morally, materially, and strategically acceptable price.
- The US Army War College Quarterly, Winter 1996-97

We most certainly could have prevented the forceful reunification of Vietnam and did right up until Congress pulled the plug on funds and the last helicopters had to take off from the roof of our embassy in Saigon.

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
- George Santayana

MB4 on May 15, 2010 at 11:01 PM

Another cute quote from you (Surprise!).
Santayana’s full of it: History never repeats itself, but it sometimes rhymes, per your man Twain.

Jenfidel on May 15, 2010 at 11:15 PM

I agree. Had we conducted the Vietnam War the way we conducted the Grenada operation, Operation Just Cause, and the Gulf Wars – massive, overwhelming force quickly and at the heart of North Vietnam, Vietnam would have been unified by the South. Cambodia would not have suffered the hell of the Khmer Rouge, and several million people would not have died horribly. The famine that gripped Vietnam after the war would not have occurred nor would the mass exodus of Vietnamese from Vietnam by any means at their disposal and the Soviets would have not been given access to Cam Ram Bay. The “Domino Theory” played out and look what happened to Cambodia. Johnson’s “limited” war just dragged it out and cost us, and the Vietnamese, much more casualties as well as emboldened the USSR and our home grown commies. Nixon’s use massive force allowed us to cut a peace treaty and exit; LBJ should have used much more massive force to have crushed the NVA much, much earlier. Johnson would have run and gotten re-elected, saving us Watergate and, more importantly, Jimmy Carter. I truly believe the Soviet Union would have collapsed much sooner, say around 1980, than it did had LBJ had “steel cajones”.

Bottom line: Cronkite and EVERY two-bit liberal who was against our involvement in Vietnam has the blood of every American, Vietnamese and Cambodian who died there on his hands. I have heard old liberals say their protests ended that war. They did a lot to end our involvement and as such condemned millions to death. But Communism has never been one to value human life, right Lenin, Mao, Stalin, Marx, Ho, Dear Leader, and Great Leader? When it comes to the Butcher’s bill, Communism is quite liberal in its spending habits; it makes Fascism look down right stingy.

Bubba Redneck on May 16, 2010 at 1:22 AM

Ed, at the time of this supposed incident there were very persistent rumors leaking off college campuses suggesting precisely such deals from all three of the major networks. Whether Cronkite was directly implicated or not I don’t remember. The rumors did cite CBS almost as often as ABC with NBC running third, if I recall that era correctly. (At the specific time I was freshly settling in to my first post graduate degree job after moving to California from Detroit. On the Univ of Michigan campus it was taken for granted that the Berzerkeley rioters were being paid and sponsored by the networks to get better news coverage. I think some of the people spreading that word were lamenting they weren’t in on the action.)

{^_^}

herself on May 16, 2010 at 1:42 AM

Yes, because the agitprop have infiltrated every segment of American society except that of the commissioned officers of the US Military…

Funny how the rank and file enlisted military personal are nearly all conservatives while the commissioned officers have such a large number of far left liberals amongst their ranks.

doriangrey on May 15, 2010 at 11:11 PM

Did you just call H.R. McMaster a “agitprop”?

As far as Viet Nam goes, I can see that we just need to agree to disagree, just like I have done with some of my Progressive friends and family members. Take care.

Viet Nam Vet, 1966-7

DL13 on May 15, 2010 at 11:12 PM

I am not a “progressive”.

RVN, 1971-72 1193, 8105

MB4 on May 16, 2010 at 1:58 AM

Some of you display an almost astounding tunnel vision when it comes to the Vietnam war, which cost 60,000 Americans their lives, and more than a little too much of a fondness for your own Dolchstosslegende.

You really should read read H.R. McMaster’s Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam.

As far as Vietnam Dolchstosslegende, you will likely have your Afghanistan Dolchstosslegende in a few years and a good chance at an Iraq Dolchstosslegende too. Then you will have a Dolchstosslegende triple header.

BTW, H.R. McMaster is a West Point graduate who earned a Silver Star for battlefield prowess during the 1991 Gulf War after his armored cavalry troop came across an Iraqi mechanized brigade in the middle of a sandstorm and destroyed it.

MB4 on May 16, 2010 at 2:11 AM

Bottom line: Cronkite and EVERY two-bit liberal who was against our involvement in Vietnam has the blood of every American, Vietnamese and Cambodian who died there on his hands.

Bubba Redneck on May 16, 2010 at 1:22 AM

Most Americans, you know them, your countrymen, ended up being against the war. Most Army troops ended up be being against the war. I know personally because as I had to deal with the moral problem.

MB4 on May 16, 2010 at 2:19 AM

who was against our involvement in Vietnam has the blood of every American, Vietnamese and Cambodian who died there on his hands.

Bubba Redneck on May 16, 2010 at 1:22 AM

This is probably the biggest case of scapegoating since Kristallnacht. If such things were possible Baines Johnson and Strange McNamara would probably be high fiving each other in Hell.

MB4 on May 16, 2010 at 2:27 AM

Does anyone doubt that msnbc, etc., would not do the same today?

Bambi on May 16, 2010 at 2:41 AM

Bubba Redneck on May 16, 2010 at 1:22 AM

An excellent analysis of Vietnam’s real truths–Thank you!

If such things were possible Baines Johnson and Strange McNamara would probably be high fiving each other in Hell.

MB4 on May 16, 2010 at 2:27 AM

Who says they’re not?!

LBJ should go to Hell for welfare and Medicare, also, as well as giving Texas a bad name as a birthplace for Liberal Leftists.

Jenfidel on May 16, 2010 at 2:43 AM

As far as Vietnam Dolchstosslegende, you will likely have your Afghanistan Dolchstosslegende in a few years and a good chance at an Iraq Dolchstosslegende too. Then you will have a Dolchstosslegende triple header.

MB4 on May 16, 2010 at 2:11 AM

My German’s not too bad but I had to look up “Dolchstosslegend”=”stab-in-the-back” German legend between 2 world wars.
America was stabbed in the back by the Left in Vietnam. Big time.
And if Obama has his way, the Left will so do again to our fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As in American and an avowed vet, however, you should not wish for this to happen, MB4.
We’re talking about soldiers lives lost and much worse.

Jenfidel on May 16, 2010 at 2:47 AM

who was against our involvement in Vietnam has the blood of every American, Vietnamese and Cambodian who died there on his hands.

Bubba Redneck on May 16, 2010 at 1:22 AM

This is probably the biggest case of scapegoating since Kristallnacht. If such things were possible Baines Johnson and Strange McNamara would probably be high fiving each other in Hell.

MB4 on May 16, 2010 at 2:27 AM

They are to blame as well for the way they prosecuted the war, which I believe was implied in the post.
I did NOT say, nor would I, that the blame rests in a single spot.

Bubba Redneck on May 16, 2010 at 3:48 AM

B

ottom line: Cronkite and EVERY two-bit liberal who was against our involvement in Vietnam has the blood of every American, Vietnamese and Cambodian who died there on his hands.

Bubba Redneck on May 16, 2010 at 1:22 AM

Most Americans, you know them, your countrymen, ended up being against the war. Most Army troops ended up be being against the war. I know personally because as I had to deal with the moral problem.

MB4 on May 16, 2010 at 2:19 AM

Being against the reasons we were fighting or being against the way the war was being fought? Had LBJ crushed North Vietnam quickly with massive force we would not be having this discussion and that is my point. Starting then stopping then starting bombing campaigns and placing obvious military and industrial targets off limits to bombing is not a way to win wars, it is a way to prolong agony. Not cutting off supply routes does not a war win.

Bubba Redneck on May 16, 2010 at 4:03 AM

MB4, your sincere convictions re Vietnam deserve to be discussed on their own terms. I have no questions about your “agenda” or overall orientation (and such things are irrelevant, anyway). But these convictions seem overly simplistic and too much cribbed from the (unusually off-base) conventional wisdom, however.

First some academic nitpicking. Kristallnacht was not actually a case of scapegoating but a fairly “logical” escalation by the Nazi regime against the German Jewish community – already long since marginalized and subject to economic and political persecution, demonized by the state, and also subject to violence – whose pretext was an assassination in Paris. But talking of scapegoating, I am surprised by your mishandling of the “Dolchstosslegende”.

First, it’s highly offensive that you would compare the concern of many Americans, in the 1960s and more recently, over the impact of domestic political behavior on foreign conflicts, with the utterly baseless and despicable scapegoating of the Dolchstosslegende, which was among the unfounded and vile slanders used to stoke and justify eliminationist anti-semitism in Germany before and during the Nazis’ reign.

Second, you cite domestic political opposition to Vietnam(though you date it incorrectly – public opinion was not against the war until very late), and even quote a war college article emphasizing the same thing, in your review of the Vietnam years. Thus – domestic politics were no “legende”, but a very real factor – whereas in Germany, of course, it was completely mythical. Wilhelmine Germany was defeated entirely on the battlefield – domestic morale there was better than that in most of its adversaries’ populations, and war policy did not rest with a truly democratic government, as it did in the (weary and wavering) Allied capitals.

The war college article quotation certainly is far from persuasive – in fact, it’s pretty ridiculous on its face in places. “Inevitable”? Wow – that’s some poor writing and editing, obviously. No “possible” benefit could justify the costs? As if the costs of decisive action were GREATER than those of the incrementalism that was the problem, mostly early in the war. Quite the contrary – and pretty militarily illiterate implication there.

McMaster is a great combat leader (and counter-insurgency tactician) and his lack of promotion (last I checked) is a major scandal of the current Army. But his findings about the Johnson Admin., while they have much merit, aren’t relevant to the larger issues, those being 1) was the war winnable 2) was it in fact largely won by the time the US pulled the plug on South Vietnam. In starker terms, the early stages of our involvement might have been steeped in deception and incompetence, which had precisely zero impact on the war’s importance or winnability down the road.

You’re way too lazy with Tet ’68. The way it was reported (see Peter Braestrup’s “Big Story” for a real journalist’s inside account), far more than any putative “credibility gap” that existed by that point, was decisive. It WAS Gotterdammerung for the VC. Based on what I’ve seen, it’s 50/50 whether the whole thing was INTENDED by the North’s leadership to bloody our nose while simultaneously getting rid of the VC (a former gf’s father, who was VC, firmly believed this and had reasons for so believing based on direct experience with NVA leadership – and you might have to spend time with Vietnamese there to understand the depth of the north/south divide, even among the commies). But there’s no doubt that the VC were gutted and never again a serious force after Tet ’68. 1969 casualty figures don’t tell much of a story, out of context. US WWII KIAs peaked in March/April ’45, by which time German forces were fighting there way through Russians to surrender to US units, and the Japanese were mostly a static punching bag we were beating the s**t out of daily, from Tokyo to Kure to Naha to the coastal waters of the Sea of Japan. That is, the war was essentially over, yet that’s when the butcher’s mill maxed out for us.

Turns out “body counts” in Vietnam were pretty accurate, in terms of describing an enemy being systematically annihilated (Tet was the equivalent of the Ardennes in December ’44 – very bad casualties for the allies, much much much worse for the krauts – lemme see, now how was German offensive power in the west after the Bulge? Oh, right ….)

Others here have obliquely referred to things that make your superficial “unwinnable and based on lies” slogans untenable.

Common sense told us, and Soviet archives and NV memoirs/interviews confirm, that Moscow was fed up with the war and resigned to stalemate after the harbors were mined, and NV leadership was resigned to defeat SO LONG AS US SUPPORT CONTINUED after their ’73 offensive was obliterated by US airpower and ARVN ground operations (not to mention being utterly desperate, to the point of serious internal struggles and a near rupture with the Soviets, after Linebacker). In the end, Vietnamization worked – because that concept included US airpower and ongoing material support. Only when those were removed, and a ginormous signal thus sent to the north and Moscow, did the end come. And it came at the hands of conventional NVA units, who would have been vaporized as easily as we destroyed Iraqi forces in 1991 and 2003, if the US had cared to do so.

Even your narrative about the early stages – again, logically separate from the war’s importance or winnability – is highly dubious (and yes, parts of McMaster’s thesis becomes less important) when judged against a thorough examination of all the facts, as done in the book Victory Forsaken.

As a final aside on V’nam, ignoring the effects of both the prolonged struggle and the ultimate (perceived) US defeat there on Soviet security and foreign policy strategy is ridiculous. As another commenter noted above, the impact was huge. I lived some of it working in Soviet affairs and foreign policy touching on many of the proxy conflicts in the 80s. War and casualties being “worth it” is a cosmic discussion, in all instances – in this case the breezy assertion that the war was not worth it does not seem to rely on any actual facts, but frustration and emotion.

Your low regard for Johnson and McNamara are well founded. Your analysis of Vietnam, militarily and politically, is not. Your apparent dismissal of the pivotal role played by distorted media coverage in undermining public support (which, again, did not decline until relatively late, and was not based on a very savvy appraisal of actual events, especially the very effective escalations under Nixon, which brought the north to its knees more than once) is surprising.

Your extrapolation of a sort of facile everything-is-unwinnable isolationism from your mostly-false lessons of Vietnam to Iraq is and was silly, even if tirelessly advanced. Taking out the Ba’ath regime was a very, very solid judgment call, whose benefits will be long-lasting and manifold, even if some of the short-term ones were squandered.

A’stan? Well aiming very low there would be wise, but intervening after 9/11 – and now – are no-brainer must-do moves, from every perspective. Keeping the lid on, having a platform for watching/engaging/recruiting/killing, is a spectacular success – precisely BECAUSE it was the “graveyard of empires” (hint – we’re not an empire). Success in an effed-up bizarre part of the world is, surprise surprise, likely to look a little effed-up and bizarre. That we can even be exerting our will to the extent we do in A’stan is a staggering thing, to anyone with a sense of the history, geography, and practicalities.

In both the ME and Cen. Asia, we cannot expect anything much more than treachery, misunderstanding, and distasteful compromise. But we’re not there because we like it, or care about being liked, but to influence events, kill people, capture others, and recruit and influence still more. Long past time Americans got past wanting to be liked, when killing and vital interests are the issues.

MB4, thanks for your service, and please do not misconstrue anything above as disrespect.

Oh – and beyond all that, anybody with the quirky knowledge and weird diligence to set contemporary political commentary to the melody of the Horst Wessel song, as you did a while back here in a comments section, has my special admiration ……

IceCold on May 16, 2010 at 4:26 AM

I suspect that most of us who served in Viet Nam knew that “Uncle Walter” Crapkite who a whore for Marxist causes.

oldleprechaun on May 16, 2010 at 8:06 AM

Good post Ice Cold at 05/16/2010 4:26 AM.

The media really did pollute discussion with untruths that sadly undermined public support for the war and that in turn led to defeatist conduct. What happened in Vietnam did not need to happen. I wish more people would read, among other things, Lewis Sorley’s “A Better War.”

Like Jane Fonda, Walter Cronkite could do what he did with impunity because the treason law became a dead letter.

Phil Byler on May 16, 2010 at 8:19 AM

MSM = The Fifth Column

petefrt on May 16, 2010 at 8:43 AM

“Did Cronkite and CBS offer assistance to anti-war movement?”

No. The anti-war movement offered assistance to Cronkite and CBS.

And they weren’t really ‘anti-war’–they were on the other side.

You’re in deep, deep denial, Ed.

Noel on May 16, 2010 at 8:44 AM

What a shame that this comes out after the guy is dead. It would have been nice to ahev seen this put in his face.

peacenprosperity on May 16, 2010 at 9:25 AM

Neither does an offer to foot the bill for a helicopter to fly Muskie to the rally, a move that the FBI would have exposed as soon as they were aware of it, and one which CBS bosses would almost certainly have refused.

Like they refused airing a story about fake documents? Was it cbs or nbc that helped set up the story about exploding trucks a few years ago? Like that story, ed? chronic was the boss at cbs news in those days and no one would have said no to him. Anyone who sees the media as it is, part of the self annointed political elite, would not blink an eye at this story. Not only does it seem likely but it doesn’t seem farfetched at all and actually pretty mild. But ed aspires to being part of that political elite so cronkite couldn’t be the blatant little creep that everyone else sees him as.

peacenprosperity on May 16, 2010 at 9:33 AM

Funny how the rank and file enlisted military personal are nearly all conservatives while the commissioned officers have such a large number of far left liberals amongst their ranks.

doriangrey on May 15, 2010 at 11:11 PM

Not true-I have researched this issue for well over a decade, and that research shows that in the US military, conservative officers outnumber their liberal counteparts by a 7 to 1 margin. I can also vouch for this on an anecdotal personal level as my Dad was a service academy graduate and spent 20 years as an officer.

The thing is, you never hear about all the conservative officers, as the media doesn’t care about them. But they are all in lovey with the liberal officers, people like Wesley Clark and Jean-Claude Kerri, because those people are Useful Idiots for their Leftist propaganda.

Del Dolemonte on May 16, 2010 at 9:52 AM

Please look into the Mitrokhin Archive.

This is important.

Cronkite was a traitor.

tetriskid on May 15, 2010 at 8:14 PM

Bing. Why would anyone even argue this subject anymore? It is simple fact, available to anyone with the ability to discern. Cronkite was a subversive leftist employed by the most influential U.S. news organization, which effectively engaged in left wing propaganda.

He was not a journalist.

Jaibones on May 16, 2010 at 10:50 AM

The objectives for starting the war in Vietnam were not military, they were diplomatic.

Nixon’s bigest mistake was continuing the bomb until the proven liars return to the negotiating table.

Second biggest was trying the cover-up. He should have fired and prosecuted the incompetent morons.

And always remember “Burn the d4md tapes.”

Slowburn on May 16, 2010 at 12:16 PM

No one bashes Obama and the left more than I do. I also do it better than just about anyone else around these parts, IMHO.

MB4 on May 15, 2010 at 10:33 PM

Nobody does it better
Makes me feel sad for the rest
Nobody does it half as good as you
Baby, you’re the best

I wasn’t lookin’ but somehow you found me
It tried to hide from your love light
But like heaven above me
The spy who loved me
Is keepin’ all my secrets safe tonight

And nobody does it better
Though sometimes I wish someone could
Nobody does it quite the way you do
Why’d you have to be so good?

The way that you hold me
Whenever you hold me
There’s some kind of magic inside you
That keeps me from runnin’
But just keep it comin’
How’d you learn to do the things you do?

Oh, and nobody does it better
Makes me feel sad for the rest
Nobody does it half as good as you
Baby, baby, darlin’, you’re the best

Baby you’re the best
Darlin’, you’re the best
Baby you’re the best

portlandon on May 16, 2010 at 1:01 PM

Turns out “body counts” in Vietnam were pretty accurate, in terms of describing an enemy being systematically annihilated (Tet was the equivalent of the Ardennes in December ‘44 – very bad casualties for the allies, much much much worse for the krauts – lemme see, now how was German offensive power in the west after the Bulge? Oh, right ….)

IceCold on May 16, 2010 at 4:26 AM

Your dissertation is way too long for me to read the whole thing, let alone comment on it all, and maybe that was on purpose, but I’ll pick this.

Body counts of the enemy in RVN were pretty much a running joke and pretty much everyone knew it. That you would say they were pretty much accurate pretty much spoils your whole barrel.

Saying Tet was the equivalent of the Ardennes is bizarre. To understand that all one has to do is look at the American troop death counts, which were pretty darn accurate, pre-TET and post TET and that should be crystal clear. TET was in Feburary of 1968. Most American troop deaths were after TET. Our “leaders” had said that the enemy was not even capable of anything remotely like TET and that is why TET was the beginning of the end for those who wanted to continue the war indefinitely. Although some fancy it, most Americans don’t like it when their “leaders” lie to them. They eventually catch on when the lies become big enough and go on long enough.

If you don’t believe me on the “Facts of Life” on RVN, you really should read H.R. McMaster’s book. It is a much shorter read for a book than you comment is for a comment.

If people want to fight wars in which a lot of American troops are killed and maimed, when the war is not in America’s vital interest, and may even be counter productive, they should fight those kind of wars on some kind of damn video game on a play station.

Indochina is devoid of decisive military objectives and the allocation of more than token US armed forces in Indochina would be a serious diversion of limited US capabilities.
- Joint Chiefs of Staff, 26 May 1954

MB4 on May 16, 2010 at 1:13 PM

Most American troop deaths in Europe were before the Battle of the Bulge. Most American troop deaths in RVN were after TET. See the difference – before and after – before and after? Equating the two is therefor pretty much 3200 mils out, or for you degree types, 180 degrees out.

MB4 on May 16, 2010 at 1:25 PM

Sink me, portlandon is a poet.

PercyB on May 16, 2010 at 1:37 PM

Sink me, portlandon is a poet.

PercyB on May 16, 2010 at 1:37 PM

Well he is alright for an infidel I suppose but he should have worked in at least a couple of “Allah be Praised” in there someplace. Now he has hurt the feelings of all good Muslims.

محمد اغتصاب الفتيات الصغيرات. وكان والده بقرة. كانت والدته خنزير. أحمدي نجاد الماعز الاغتصاب.

Aleph on May 16, 2010 at 1:42 PM

Gee, MB4, apologies, I greatly over-estimated your seriousness and heft. You make sophomoric snitty remarks about my comment but avoid addressing all of the key points.

US casualties were about evenly split, pre- and post-Tet. The VC, however, was finished as a major force, as it had been until then, which is one reason US losses dropped to very low levels by 1970. This is not even remotely in dispute – least all among Vietnamese who lived/participated in this period. How many of the US losses post-Tet came from the VC vs. the NVA? This is not academic, especially when one considers the other points you ignored, involving US offensive operations and the resulting desperation of the north. I didn’t even go into Abrams’ strategy changes, which along with other factors (including the cumulative near-destruction of the VC) had the north pretty much defeated by the time they tried their second-to-last gambit (the ’73 offensive). You apparently don’t understand the point about US WWII casualties peaking AFTER the Axis was 95% defeated.

My comment was long because many things aren’t as simple as you always assert/assume. You mostly do little more than refer to myths and distortions – all of them of course well-integrated into the conventional wisdom, which is sort of the larger point about the press and Vietnam and other topics – and assume your points are made. They’re not.

I assume from your earlier sign-off that you were a draftee. Well if I’m correct let me flip you the bird for your idiotic implied ad hominem about video war games and these mythical people who “want” the US to fight pointless wars (which Vietnam wasn’t, but that would require an adult understanding of war and foreign policy, somethine more than semi-informed grudges held from youth). Some of us volunteered to get involved in the current scraps, in fact schemed, begged, and waited, to jump into the heart of the supposed mess during the “worst” times, which of course were girl’s gym, historically speaking, once the hysteria of the elites and the b.s. of the media were peeled away.

Sore losers are never welcome, so just get accustomed to the fact that you ain’t getting the Ba’ath regime or Taliban regime back, ever. They’re gone. I know it’s unbearable that these setbacks occurred as the direct result of the use of force by America, even worse that they involved losses, mistakes, and delays. Perhaps video games are where YOU belong – they’re clean and over-simplified and not quite realistic.

IceCold on May 16, 2010 at 4:57 PM

IceCold on May 16, 2010 at 4:57 PM

That sir was the most factual and artistic take down ever. I salute you!

jainphx on May 16, 2010 at 7:22 PM

IceCold on May 16, 2010 at 4:26 AM
IceCold on May 16, 2010 at 4:57 PM

Thank you so much for 2 superb posts!
I haven’t seen you on HA before this weekend: If you’re new to posting here, I’d like to extend a warm welcome!

Jenfidel on May 16, 2010 at 10:20 PM

Man, did these “icons” of America have us duped or what?

Wonder how long until many, many others are exposed for what they really were?

Anybody wanna know about Lucille Ball for instance? Look up her FBI FOIA files.

Dr. ZhivBlago on May 17, 2010 at 12:04 AM

Anybody wanna know about Lucille Ball for instance? Look up her FBI FOIA files.

Dr. ZhivBlago on May 17, 2010 at 12:04 AM

I did: she admitting to registering to vote as a Communist in 1936 at the insistence of her grandfather.
That is hardly what I’d call an active fellow traveler working for the downfall of America and the triumph of Communism like Cronkite!

Jenfidel on May 17, 2010 at 1:49 AM

For starters Vietnam was Johnson’s war to start with thanks to the lies of the Gulf of Tonkin.

Second Cronkite was a CIA operative working with something called Operation Mockingbird, which if you ask me has led to the current state of the global banker backed media.

EVEN CARL BERNSTEIN WROTE ABOUT MOCKINGBIRD!

BobAnthony on May 17, 2010 at 8:25 AM

That’s “Truther” style.

rbk2000 on May 15, 2010 at 10:34 PM

I believe that Obama was born in HI. I think there is just something embarassing on the official birth certificate.

That said, the “proof” everyone uses that he was born in HI are the contemporaneous birth announcments in the news papers. Those that say this contemporaneous FBI report is falsified are agreeing with those that say the micorfilm of the two ads could have been falsified.

barnone on May 17, 2010 at 10:52 AM

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