When genocides collide

Who is Harrison Salisbury? You’ve probably never heard of him unless you’re a leftwing activist who has bought into his reporting or bought his books over the years. He was long feted by the left, was a friend of the Kennedys, and was against the Vietnam war long before that became a more mainstream position. As such, he was a poor choice to be a foreign correspondent (he had already taken a side in an ongoing war) but he became a foreign correspondent anyway. He played a little noted role in a genocide that the Democrats have never called a genocide, probably because they’re largely responsible for it. And, because it’s not far enough back in time for them to actually see it for what it was. They seem to need 8 or 9 decades before they can properly process moving history. The rest of us don’t have the luxury of waiting that long.

Let’s look back at the 1960s. Harrison Salisbury was the New York Times’ man in Vietnam. As I wrote about him on my old blog a few years ago:

During the spring of 1965 the United States was trying to find a way to end the escalating war that had by that time already been underway for several bloody years. So on March 5 President Johnson authorized the Air Force and Navy to cripple the North Vietnamese economy and war machine through a massive bombing campaign cheerily dubbed Operation Rolling Thunder. A couple of related campaigns were aimed at cutting off the Ho Chi Minh Trail, North Vietnam’s main supply route to its allies in the South via Laos. So Rolling Thunder rolled into action, systematically striking at military and industrial targets concentrated around Hanoi and elsewhere in the North. Rolling Thunder�s targets were military and industrial, but mostly military, in nature.

Civilians always die in war. Rolling Thunder took place in the days before smart weapons and Special Forces painting targets with lasers. Bombs back then were very, very dumb, but Rolling Thunder wasn�t. And it was working; the British charge d’affairs in Hanoi at the time later reported that the campaign halted just as North Vietnam’s economy was on the verge of total collapse by 1967, the same year the Johnson administration halted it. Had Rolling Thunder continued much longer, the United States probably would have won the war.

So why did LBJ pull his best punch just when it was about to bring victory? Because in the summer of 1966 Salisbury had written dispatches accusing the US of targeting and killing civilians intentionally. Mr. Salisbury, also a decorated veteran journalist like Duranty, reported from Hanoi scenes of nearly unspeakable devastation. He described the bodies of children killed by American bombs. He described buses obliterated by American aircraft. He described an American war against civilians, killing civilians intentionally. LBJ had not sent in the Air Force to kill Vietnamese children, but Salisbury reported that to be the case. The adverse publicity made Johnson gun shy, and he began orchestrating missions in ways not to win the war but to avoid Salisbury’s poison pen. Result: Johnson pulled back on Rolling Thunder, the war dragged on, and thousands more Americans died in what turned out to be a losing effort. After the fall of Saigon eight years later, a million South Vietnamese either died, were imprisoned by the Communists who took over, or tried to escape to the United States on whatever rickety craft they could find. Many of those “boat people” never made it across the Pacific.

The Duranty referenced above was Walter Duranty, the New York Times man in the USSR who glossed over the Stalinist genocide there. See any patterns developing? Commie genocides consistently get kid glove treatment by the NYT, for starters.

The aftermath of our exit from Vietnam might or might not properly be called a genocide, but only because the bloodbath wasn’t primarily ethnic in nature. It was primarily political. Nevertheless, about 1 million died and the Communist North took control. The killing fields in Laos and Cambodia sprang up from the chaos. The US Congress has never condemned the violence that followed its own actions in Vietnam: The South collapsed after Congressional Democrats cut their funding.

Bad journalism can get people killed, and Harrison Salisbury and Walter Duranty are prime examples of how that can happen. Newsweek is as well, for its made-up flushed Koran story. We’ve seen some awful reporting coming out of Iraq, too, where a premature exit on our part could lead to genocide there.

Bad politics can get people killed, too. Many of the Democrats who cut off South Vietnam’s funds are still in power (Rep. David Obey, for instance), and they’re intent on repeating the same actions in Iraq that led to the massive bloodshed in southeast Asia. Hypocritically, they’re also the ones voting to condemn the Ottoman genocide against the Armenians 90 years ago.

How about recognizing and condemning a genocide that you actually had a hand in causing, Democrats? And how about learning from that, so that you don’t end up contributing to another one?