Americans, particularly after World War II, tended to romanticize war because in World War II our cause was the cause of humanity, and our soldiers brought home glory and victory, and thank God that they did. But it led us to romanticize it to some extent.
These men were wrongfully rejected, the veterans. The fighting man should never have been blamed for Vietnam.
You remember all those phrases about how 'these people' - Asians - don't value human life like we do. Well if you spend any time around them, you discover that they love their children just as much as we love ours. That is certainly true of the Vietnamese.
I think you have to remember that Americans saw their purpose as so innately good that they could excuse the pain they would inflict on others to carry out those purposes. Because the purposes were so good, they would justify this pain we were inflicting on other people.
We had a military and political leadership at that period which was genuinely deluded.
People talked to me in a way I think they would not have talked to somebody who hadn't shared the experience; they gave me their papers, they gave me their diaries. I found people constantly opening up to me. And I think they did because I had shared that experience with them.
We wanted to see this country win the war just as much as those advisors did. We felt we would help to do that by reporting the truth. And so there was the moral outrage over this general and the ambassador in Saigon who kept denying the truth we would see.
The unthinkable occurred: two communist countries went to war with each other.
We thought that whatever we wanted to do was right and good, simply because we were Americans, and we would succeed at it because we were Americans.
World War II had been such a tremendous success story for this country that the political and military leadership began to assume that they would prevail simply because of who they were. We were like the British at the turn of the 19th century.
I went to Vietnam; it was my first assignment as a reporter for the UPI, and I never could get away from the war.
I never got away from the war. Not because I was obsessed with it in those years, but because it was the event of my generation and I started out covering it so I stayed with it.
Just because you put higher-octane gasoline in your car doesn't mean you can break the speed limit. The speed limit's still 65.
At least I'm at peace with myself. I have done my best to write a book about what really happened there and why it happened and it's done, it's published. I won't write another book on Vietnam.
The destruction of civilian hamlets, the killing and the wounding of civilians, became vastly greater than it had been before, and it was very upsetting; but I still couldn't bring myself to understand that the policy itself was wrong.
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