July 19th, 2009

Cronkite and Vietnam: Part II

[Part I is here. Both parts are reprints of previous posts, but I have updated this one to reflect that fact that Cronkite is now deceased.]

In his introduction to that Cronkite interview featured in Part I, Dick Gordon writes:

It was February 1968, and in a three minute editorial essay on the CBS Evening news Cronkite quite simply changed the course of history. On that night, the anchor told Americans that the war in Vietnam was unwinnable; that the generals and pundits were wrong…

Think about that for a moment. Cronkite, a news anchor, goes on a trip to Vietnam (I can’t find any information on how long it lasted, but my guess is a couple of weeks at most). This happens around the time of the Tet Offensive, and he’s briefed on that, among other things. Then he returns home. With no particular military expertise—and, as it turns out, no basic understanding of the strategic realities of the Tet Offensive itself—he comes to the opinion that the war cannot be won.

Although prior to this he’s always considered his role to be the reporting of facts and events, he now develops the idea that he must use his bully pulpit, and the influence he’s gained throughout his years as a solid and relatively nonpartisan newsman, to tell the “truth” that the government and the military have been keeping from the American people.

Why Cronkite decided to make that transition is still somewhat mysterious, although I aired some theories about it in Part I. Of course, there’s no doubt that Cronkite had a right to his opinion; but we’re not talking about merely having an opinion. Did he have a right to leap over the traditional boundaries of news reporting and to intone, in a voice almost all Americans had grown to implicitly trust and revere, that the situation was hopelessly stalemated?

The rules about reporting were there for a reason, after all. The responsibility journalists have is an awesome one; we rely on them for the information on which we base our votes in a republic. Journalists need to make sure that the information they convey is correct, properly sourced, accurate. But anchors are generalists, not experts—except in a very narrow field, that of conveying the news. They are good writers and talkers. They are able to keep their calm with a camera on them, and even to ad lib if necessary. But reporters should guard against the hubris of thinking that they’ve become expert in every field they cover.

In his broadcast of February 1968, Cronkite was careful to say in his introduction that what he was about to say was “speculative, personal, subjective.” He then indicates he doesn’t know who won the Tet campaign. He goes on to list a series of battles and conflicts that haven’t been resolved to his satisfaction; according to him, the whole thing is a stalemate.

He then makes a rather extraordinary leap, saying it’s clear this will always be the case. He says that North Vietnam can—and most definitely will—match us for every measure we can come up with, not just in the past but in the future.

In fact, in clinical terms, one might say Cronkite was speaking of his own weariness and depression in the face of the ongoing conflict. He offers no proof of his assertions of hopeless quagmire, even for Tet—he just doesn’t know about it. But his language is the language of emotion, not facts or strategy. He is dispirited and disillusioned, experiencing a loss of faith more than anything else:

We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and Washington, to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds.

He calls the conclusion that we are “mired in stalemate” the “only realistic” one. And then he makes the most peculiar declaration of all:

…in the next few months we must test the enemy’s intentions, in case this is indeed his last big gasp before negotiations. But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.

So, even if Tet turns out to have been a last-ditch effort for the North and the Vietcong, and if the enemy really does prove to have nothing left (“his last big gasp”) before submitting to negotiations—Cronkite sees the US “not as victors, but as honorable people who…did the best they could.”

But under the circumstances, why wouldn’t the US then be negotiating as victors? We see that, even when Cronkite posits a relatively optimistic position as a hypothetical, he still can’t bring himself to draw the proper conclusions from it: that it would represent at least some sort of victory. What comes across instead is an utter weariness, a personal one: that of Walter Cronkite himself.

Cronkite remained exceedingly proud of this broadcast. He was often called “avuncular,” but I think the following statement of his could be more rightly called paternalistic:

There is a point at which it seems to me if an individual reporter has gained a reputation of being honest, fair as can be, and helps the American people in trying to make a decision on a major issue, I think we ought to take that opportunity.

This illustrates better than anything I can think of the slippery slope that comes from being a reporter and especially an anchorperson. For it’s clear that Cronkite had come to believe in his own persona, and to feel that it conferred a certain amount of wisdom on him. If he was honest and fair and trusted in his reportage of the facts, then he seems to think it followed that his own personal opinions and judgments—even about matters outside his field of expertise, journalism itself—were also reliable ones. And that he was therefore qualified to advise the American people in decisions they made on matters of national and military policy.

So, how wrong was Cronkite about Tet? About as wrong as can be, it turns out. History has declared unequivocally that there were winners and losers in Tet: it was a grand strategy that failed miserably for the North in the tactical military sense but succeeded beyond its wildest dreams as a propaganda ploy—due in large part to Cronkite and his colleagues in the MSM.

One of the oddest things about Cronkite isn’t what he did then; it’s that apparently he remained proud of it for the rest of his life. I’ve read and listened to a number of his interviews on the subject; at no time did he even address the fact that he was wrong about Tet in the military sense—nor did his questioners bring it up. Was this reticence on their part a show of respect for the frailty of an elderly man? Or were both he and his interviewers largely unaware of the discrediting facts that had been uncovered and widely aired in the intervening decades? Or did they not care if they were wrong about those things, because, after all, they were pursuing that “higher truth?”

The “lower” truth (otherwise known as the actual truth) is that Tet was a disaster for the Vietcong and the North—especially the Vietcong, who never recovered from the blow. But, in the end , it didn’t matter. How they managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat was detailed in the definitive work on the subject, Peter Braestrup’s 1978 analysis of MSM coverage of Tet, entitled “The Big Story.”

…the nationwide Vietcong offensive turned out to be an “unmitigated disaster” for the communist side. But the media consensus was just the opposite—an “unmitigated defeat” for the United States.

Cronkite, along with several hundred reporters from two dozen countries, focused on how the Vietcong guerrillas managed to blast their way into the U.S. Embassy compound (but didn’t make it past the Marines in the lobby). War correspondents were also impressed by the view from the cocktail bar atop the Caravelle Hotel: C-47s, equipped with three Gatling guns on one side, were strafing Vietcong pockets in Cholon, the capital’s twin city 2½ miles away.

Yet the Vietcong didn’t reach a single one of their objectives and lost most of their 45,000-strong force in their attacks against 21 cities. It was also a defeat that convinced North Vietnam’s leaders to send their regular army—the NVA—south of the 17th parallel to pick up where the Vietcong left off.

If you want to read a summary of the conclusions Braestrup—a seasoned war reporter and former Marine who had served in Korea—reached in his book, please see this. You’d do well to read the whole thing; it’s rich in important and informative detail.

Interestingly enough, Braestrup doesn’t posit press political bias as a major part of the problem. The real difficulty was sheer ignorance, especially about anything military. Here are just a few of the MSM-created myths about Tet that Braestrup effectively destroys:

There had been no warning of a coming offensive.

The offensive was a victory for Hanoi.

The North Vietnamese military initiative bared the unreliability and inefficiency of our own allies, the South Vietnamese.

The characteristic American response was to destroy city districts and villages with overwhelming, indiscriminate firepower.

The sapper raid on the American embassy, the fighting in Hue, and the siege of Khe Sanh typified the war.

Khe Sanh was to be America’s Dien Bien Phu.

How did the press get it so very wrong?

The press corps lacked military experience and the ability to grasp and present matters of strategy and tactics…The press’s lack of knowledge and maturity resulted in a lack of discrimination in the presentation of hastily gathered or incomplete facts and contributed to the disaster theme.

The views of experienced military commentators like Joseph Kraft and Hanson Baldwin and the analyses of Douglas Pike were virtually ignored. The press reflected American ignorance of Vietnamese language and culture, had no expertise in the area of pacification, and almost no sources on the South Vietnamese government or army.

…The press was impressionable. General Bruce Palmer succinctly summed up the problem when he stated that the foe “took the battle down around the Caravelle Hotel and, so, from the standpoint of the average reporter over there, it was the acorn that fell on the chicken’s head and it said ‘The sky is falling.’”

And then you have what I think are the three most important press failings of all, of which Cronkite was guilty as charged, their staying power reflected in his inordinate pride about his stance that persisted in the face of a book like “The Big Story” (one wonders whether Cronkite had ever read it):

There was no willingness to admit error or correct erroneous reporting after the fact. The classic example was the Associated Press’s continued assertion that sappers had entered the U.S. Embassy building in Saigon more than twelve hours after it was clear the attack had been repulsed on the grounds.

…By the time of Vietnam, it had become professionally acceptable in some media to allow reporters to “explain” news, not merely report it…

…In their commentary on events in Vietnam, reporters “projected” to the American public their own opinions and fears based on incomplete data and their own inclinations.

Has any of this changed today? I think things have gotten worse, if anything; the MSM failures illustrated by the press coverage of Tet have become institutionalized in the intervening years.

Tet was a turning point all right, but in a very different way than Cronkite envisioned it: it marked the beginning of a special and destructive type of MSM hubris, in which our own media—without realizing it was doing so, and without meaning to—became, effectively, the propaganda arm of the enemy.

49 Responses to “Cronkite and Vietnam: Part II”

  1. Baklava Says:

    As somebody who is only 39 (born in 1970) a lot of this is something I’ve learned in this last 10 years.

    Neo points out that the press really had no military expertise.

    Neither do they really have economic, business, technology, energy, environmental or scientific expertise.

    I laugh out loud sometimes when reading news articles with respect to computer technology as that is the field I’ve been in for 20 years.

    All of this being true, legacy journalism fails and the new age journalism succeeds because individual EXPERTS report on the subjects they are strong in. There are educator bloggers, economic bloggers, military blogs…

    TV News was the medium at it’s time. Most people had the news on at night.

    Let me quickly point out that i remember watching an old re-run of a debate with JFK. The tone, words, concepts used by the questioners showed that even back then the press did not get economics and felt it was their duty to right the wrongs of the world and bring social justice.

    While I didn’t grow up watching Cronkite, I get the sense that he is like most liberals a patriot – somebody who loves this country – but it doesn’t make him right on the issues.

    The problem for liberals is that 99% of the people here (well that might be less these days) love this country – we differ on the solutions we think would be helpful.

    Most of us ‘care’. Liberals think they own ‘care’.

  2. Jim G. Says:

    An outstanding reprise of Cronkite’s legacy vis-a-vis Vietnam.

    It’s amazing to me that some liberals were able to process the information that came out after the war – the re-training camps, the torture, and the massacres of Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians – and rethink their positions. Two that come to mind off the top of my head are Michael Medved and David Horowitz. Why not Walter Cronkite? The mystery of the liberal mind-set continues.

  3. Steve Says:

    I don’t see how reporters cannot interpret facts. That is part of writing a story. The problem is the pretense that reporting is unbiased and that the MSM is not pushing a liberal agenda. It is a bit like looking at a stereogram. Once you see the pattern, you are not fooled by someone saying the dots are all random.

  4. Thomass Says:

    I say double check it, but I thought I read he came out as a socialist (re: he said he was). It wouldn’t come up in an interview with a liberal so it might be hard to check… but if its true, call me a crazy winger but, I think it could have something to do with all this.

  5. Nolanimrod Says:

    Interesting. You note that Cronkite was careful to say in his introduction that what he was about to say was “speculative, personal, subjective.”
    Orson Welles issued a notice before his “Martian” broadcast, too.

  6. Wolla Dalbo Says:

    In this case, as always, we are here in Neo’s province, that of the mind.

    Here is the World, our experiences and observations of it, and information we are given about it. What are the underlying understandings we have formed about the nature of the world and how it functions, what do we think is likely and what is not, what are our expectations, the standards by which we filter and evaluate things—or do we have any expectations or standards at all; how does all that we see and experience, what we are told, fit in with all of this. How to make sense of all this, how to extract good information–truth–that will enable us to navigate around the rocks and shoals?

    Who or what should we believe; what we are told is the case, what might be pleasant and reassuring for us to hear, fit easily into our current beliefs, or what our eyes and ears report?

  7. Occam's Beard Says:

    Jim G., it does make one wonder what event exactly would make the scales drop from liberals’ eyes and make them say, “My God! What was I thinking?”

    One would think that realizing that implementation of one’s policy prescriptions led to skulls heaped up in mounds would give one pause for thought, but apparently not.

  8. Oblio Says:

    I’m reading Alistair Horne’s new biography of Kissinger in 1973 today, and it deals quite a lot with the Paris Accords and their aftermath. Horne makes the point that a lot of patriotic [he says] Americans couldn’t understand that in making joint political plans with the North Vietnamese, they were becoming what the WWII generation would have called a Fifth Column.

    I’m also reading Arthur Herman’s parallel biography of Churchill and Gandhi. Herman describes how Gandhi was deeply influenced by the New Age, free love, Tolstoyan, spiritualist, vegetarian, pacifist counter culture he experienced in 1890′s London while training as a barrister. Gandhi never could quite figure out how his nonviolent campaigns ended up with lots of people dead. I also never understood how essential was Gandhi’s alliance with Muslims agitated about the abolition of the Caliphate after the end of WWI.

    You can read John Buchan’s Mr. Standfast (1919) to see a description of pacifists and social radical that could have been lifted from any description of Berkeley in the 1960′s.

  9. Adagny Says:

    “speculative, personal, subjective.”

    At least he qualified his “opinions”. The MSM doesn’t have the class, or integrity to admit to the same. They cling incredulously to the belief that they are just reporting the facts without bias.

    Cronkite changed history with a three minute editorial essay.

    He indeed may also have changed the history of journalism from one of “reporting the facts”, to one of “reporting the facts the way I see them.”

  10. gcotharn Says:

    Outstanding, informative.

    …The press was impressionable. General Bruce Palmer succinctly summed up the problem when he stated that the foe “took the battle down around the Caravelle Hotel and, so, from the standpoint of the average reporter over there, it was the acorn that fell on the chicken’s head and it said ‘The sky is falling.’”

    Al Qaeda in Iraq followed this strategy. For the longest time – years – AQ in Iraq exploded a car bomb every weekday morning within earshot and camera shot of the media hotel in Baghdad: the Baghdad Hilton. The bombs were timed for the morning so that video of the smoke (taken from an upper floor of the Hilton) could be played on each day’s evening newscast in America. One car bomb, every weekday morning. That was part of the prescription for propaganda victory.

    Baklava – outstanding comment.

    Jim G – another (now former) liberal who processed the massacre was Jon Voight.

    A liberal who remains liberal, yet who did process the massacre and honorably express outrage against it: Joan Baez. Wikipedia:

    [Baez] organized the publication, on May 30, 1979, of a full-page advertisement, published in four major U.S. newspapers, in which the communists were described as having created a nightmare, which put her at odds with a large segment of the domestic left wing, who were uncomfortable criticizing a leftist regime. In a letter of response, Jane Fonda said she was unable to substantiate the “claims” Baez made regarding the atrocities being committed by the Khmer Rouge).

  11. Nolanimrod Says:

    re: Cronkite and changing history

    In the last election the Republicans had THE ENTIRE MEDIA against them promulgating vicious lies about both of the candidates whenever they left off cheering for the other side or savoring tingles, beginning with McCain’s “affair” in the Times, plus a financial mushroom cloud. And they lost by around 5%.

    LBJ seems to have lost his taste for the endeavor, maybe for the presidency, and to have used Kronkite as his towel to throw in.

  12. ad Says:

    “The responsibility journalists have is an awesome one; we rely on them for the information on which we base our votes in a republic.”

    And it is therefore a pity that they have almost no information sources of their own.

    All that reporters can do is report what other people have told them. If all the people telling them that victory is in sight have been doing so for the last five years, then all the reporters can do is report that all the people telling them that victory is in sight are unreliable.

    You will recall that one of Sorley’s points was that the Army had destroyed its own credibility. After that events in Vietnam no longer had any effect on American politics, because no one in America had any source of information about Vietnam that they trusted.

    The only rational reason to support or oppose the war was because all your friends did.

  13. neo-neocon Says:

    ad: Cronkite’s reasoning on Tet made no sense. He said to give up even if it turned out that Tet was the last gasp of the Communists.

    Also, are you really saying that Cronkite had no way to find out what was going on beyond the basic press releases of the military? No other sources of information? Isn’t that why he went to Vietnam—to find out more? And why would he—a man familiar with changes of approach in WWII, assume that just because things had been a certain way in Vietnam so far, that there was no way to change tactics or strategy?

  14. Old Dad Says:

    Vanity, vanity. Mr. Cronkite became a television star and it ruined him. Vietnam was the first televison war, and we were winnning on the ground but lost it on TV

  15. waltj Says:

    “…Cronkite was careful to say in his introduction that what he was about to say was “speculative, personal, subjective…”

    The problem with caveats like this is that they tend to get lost. Someone who was out in the kitchen getting a beer and thus missed Cronkite’s intro might not know that he was editorializing. Even someone who heard the whole thing would tend to forget the warning as the familiar and trusted voice intoned its gloom and doom.

  16. Occam's Beard Says:

    Waltj, quite right. In fact, even if someone hadn’t stepped out for a beer, a low-key caveat followed by a blockbuster pronouncement tends to get lost in the shuffle, overshadowed by the impact of the latter.

    Furthermore, the caveat should have been made (and may have been – I don’t recall) at the beginning and the end.

    Notice how often when a speaker is asked two questions he’ll answer the second one first – it’s the one on his mind – and have to be reminded of the first one.

  17. Baklava Says:

    Adagny: Profound

  18. Tatterdemalian Says:

    “While I didn’t grow up watching Cronkite, I get the sense that he is like most liberals a patriot – somebody who loves this country – but it doesn’t make him right on the issues.”

    Liberals don’t love this country for what it is, they love it ONLY for what they think they can force it to become. It is a tool to them, that needs to be made to work the way they want it to work… or be broken trying, in which case it really wasn’t worthy of their “love” in the first place.

    That isn’t really love, to me. It’s domination and control, and leads inevitably to abuse.

  19. Baklava Says:

    Tat,

    No. It’s pretty hard to see a leftist “leader’s” actions and see ‘care’ or ‘love’ or even good intentions.

    But all of the Democrat rank-and-file duped…

    Every one of them believe a few things:
    1) That they care
    2) That they love this country – yes they want to make it better and yes they see a lot of bad things about this country
    3) That the Republicans are bad.

    It is because liberal rank-and-file have this propensity to believe #3 (Republicans bad) that I personally get frustrated.

    It keeps their mind closed to good ideas and a different perspective.

    A perspective that this is the greatest country that is very very generous. A perspective about what is BEST for the economy. A perspective about the fact that there really isn’t 100 crisis’ and the solutions that leftist propose really do not solve the problems.

  20. Wolla Dalbo Says:

    Sorry if I am repeating a quote I have written about before here, but it seems so on target.

    The quote is from the late Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neil, who once spoke about all the “(government) programs that have made America great,” and this quote, I think, illustrates perfectly the Liberal view; it is not the people of America that make America great, it is the government programs that make it great.

  21. nyomythus Says:

    It wasn’t so much the end of the war as it was the beginning, why did America take Frances failed colonial adventure?

  22. Gray Says:

    why did America take Frances failed colonial adventure?

    One of France’s failed colonial adventures. Can anyone name a former French colony that turned out OK?

    Like the US or India or Australia; New Zealand? Any successes?

  23. Gray Says:

    All that reporters can do is report what other people have told them.

    Which is why actually embedding journalists with US units where they could actually observe first hand the event they are reporting is such an affront to journalism; as the NY Times, et al claimed.

    You’ve just made the best argument in the world for trusting private “war-bloggers” in country over the Walter Cronkite-like numbnuts….

  24. Mike O'Malley Says:

    I’m glad that I checked in with your blog tonight Neo.
    .
    .
    This is what I had drafted before I came to visit:
    .
    .
    Cronkite had to know that he was talking through his hat back in February 1968. He didn’t have the military training or experience to interpret what was going on. Liberal that Chronkite was, It seems to me that he just felt that what the people, who did had the necessary military experience and military training, were telling him about the war in Vietnam was something did not jive with his personal assessment. Thereafter millions died and not once did this pillar of MSM journalism ever ever set the record straight and acknowledge that he was wrong about Tet and Vietnam.

    Reread Chronkite’s the opening about the 1968 Tet offensive:

    optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and Washington, to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds. They may be right, that Hanoi’s winter-spring offensive has been forced by the Communist realization that they could not win the longer war of attrition, and that the Communists hope that any success in the offensive will improve their position for eventual negotiations

    In hindsight, it sure sounds as though someone in the US military was telling it to Chronkite straight?

    Now read the opening line of Chronkite’s second paragraph:

    To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past.

    What evidence could there have been that Chronkite was able to competently so interpret?
    Chronkite covered the Battle of the Bulge during WWII. Without doubt the Battle of the Bulge had to look no less dark than the aftermath of Tet in 1968. The German offensive of the Battle of the Bulge was planned with the utmost secrecy, minimizing radio traffic and conducting the movement of troops and equipment under cover of darkness. The German offensive took the Allies by complete surprise, in part due to American overconfidence. However, the German offensive ended as a severe defeat leaving many experienced German units severely depleted of men and equipment. German survivors were forced to retreat to the defenses of the Siegfried Line, the last of the German reserves were now gone; the Luftwaffe had been broken. [test adapted from Wikipedia] And four months later Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally.
    .
    Again in retrospect, the defeat administered to the indigenous Viet Cong in the South was no less devastating for them than the Germany’s defeat in the Battle of the Bulge. Remember four months later Nazi Germany surrendered. And someone in the military was surely telling Chronkite that we were closer to victory after Tet.
    .
    Now notice Chronkite’s fourth sentence in his second paragraph:
    .

    On the off chance that military and political analysts are right, in the next few months we must test the enemy’s intentions, in case this is indeed his last big gasp before negotiations.

    .
    Again in retrospective Tet 1968 was indeed the enemy’s “last big gasp before negotiations”! And some US military analysts were telling Chronkite as much!
    .
    .

    I’d guess that Chronkite never conceded his error about Tet because he was more comfortable with America’s failure in South Vietnam than he would have been with America’s success.
    .
    Yes IMHO there is blood on this man’s hands.

  25. Dan Says:

    I just watched the Cronkite retrospective on CBS. I am in Hawaii on vacation and the other day visited the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. I think Walter was war weary and really depressed about young Americans dying in a faraway country for a cause they didn’t understand.

  26. amr Says:

    Walter Cronkite was on my sh!t list for a long time, starting after Tet and then when my submarine, the USS Von Steuben, had an underwater collision on 9 August 1968. He reported on the most watched nightly news that the Von Steuben had been involved in a collision with no further details. Most spouses knew the general outline of the deployment and since FBM subs operated in deep water and with the USS Scorpion being lost on May 27, 1968, there was panic on the home front. One has to remember that communications were not as they are today. We had to schedule a long distance call from Spain to the US over a very poor system. I would have punched him in the nose had I ever met him for years later, I was so angry.

  27. sartana Says:

    “…young Americans dying in a faraway country for a cause they didn’t understand.”

    Oh good grief.

    Forget the violins, send in the clowns!

  28. Pragmatist Says:

    One poster asked why did America take over a failed French colony. Well lets see the ‘Cold War’ was at its height and Vietnam was next on the list to turn in to a Russian ‘client state’ which is what it eventually did become . Now you must add to that America’s avowed intentions after WW11 to destroy British, French, Dutch and Spanish Empires which they considered as their rivals to world ECONOMIC domination. America had already taken most of Europe’s money by sitting on the fence for years and selling to both sides in WW1 and WW11 so now they had to finish the job by stopping Europe becoming financially viable again and preventing American world financial control.

  29. Mike O'Malley Says:

    More on the fruits of Walter Chronkite’s labors.

    I’ll recommend a academic work in this regard Bush’s War: Media Bias and Justifications for War in a Terrorist Age by Jim A. Kuypers PhD, who teaches political communication at Virginia Tech.
    .
    You read Dr. Kuyper’s concise summary here:

    .

    It should trouble us all that for the second time within living memory of the Holocaust that powerful “peace movements” have emerged to undermine American military resistance to grave evil. It seems to me that there is a greater than remote risk today that our failure of will shall lead to death tolls that will dwarf those caused by our betrayal of South Vietnam.

  30. Mike O'Malley Says:

    Opps here is the link for Dr. Kuyper’s book:

    Media Bias and Bush’s War on Terror

  31. Pragmatist Says:

    Before WW1 America was a third rate power who found it difficult to even challenge Mexico as it had such a small unequipped Army and miniscule Navy. After WW11 it was the richest biggest world power . So how did that happen well as I said by sitting on the fence and selling to both sides then only joining the fight in WW1 when it knew which way the war was going and in WW11 by having Germany declare war on YOU.

  32. Oblio Says:

    pragmatist, you need to take something for that. Some history would help. For example, it was not at all clear in 1917 who would be the winning side in WW I. Selling to Germany was extremely difficult because of the British blockade. For another, I sincerely doubt that there were any oil sales from Venezuela to Germany after 1939: Germany was blockaded. Certainly shipments didn’t continue until 1945.

    Having lived in Switzerland for three years, I suggest the simplest explanation is that Europeans don’t especially dislike Americans, but they dislike Americans in the same way they dislike people who aren’t like them. Such a tangle of petty jealousies and resentments you can’t imagine, and when it comes to stereotyping people by national origin, the Europeans are the masters. Perhaps this is the residue of Europe’s intense racism. Add to this, Europeans always feel resentful of whatever country is Top.

    They are free to show contempt and loathing for Americans because they understand that we are civilized and won’t do anything about it.

  33. Mike O'Malley Says:

    # Pragmatist Says:
    July 20th, 2009 at 8:05 am

    Before WW1 America was a third rate power who found it difficult to even challenge Mexico as it had such a small unequipped Army and miniscule Navy. After WW11 it was the richest biggest world power . So how did that happen well as I said by sitting on the fence and selling to both sides then only joining the fight in WW1 when it knew which way the war was going and in WW11 by having Germany declare war on YOU.

    That’s nonsense. Rising American military prowess and industrial strength was such that Spanish diplomats rushed to Congress after the US declaration of war in an effort to avert the Spanish-America by begging the US to accept what was in effect preemptive surrender by the Spanish.

    .
    Then there was the The Great White Fleet, which you may not have noticed because it was away circumnavigating of the globe before WWI. It consisted of four squadrons of four battleships each, with their escorts. Pres. T. Roosevelt sought to demonstrate growing American military power and blue-water navy capability.
    .
    And Mexico, the US could most certainly handled Mexico with dispatch in a war. Gen. Pershing’s objectives in Mexico were far more limited.

  34. nyomythus Says:

    Getting into Vietnam may have been questionably a criminal action, but what was less than questionable was Nixon and Kissinger’s role in undermineing the Paris peace talks on the eve of the 1968 election. The political elite already knew for some years earlier that the war was unwinnable but chose to go on letting young Americans die (Cronkite being in his position probably understood this and thus did what he could to undermine the political elite) so that Nixon could negotiate the peace at some future time on his terms, and most importantly all the glory goes to Kissinger — we know that in later years Ford and Kissinger gave the nod for the East Timor genocide. It was this reactionary reflex that lead to Carter, and thus lead to the stabilizing tenure of Reagan.

  35. Pragmatist Says:

    ‘Oblio’ seems its not me who needs a history lesson but you. But then we have come to expect this level of ignorance of world affairs from Americans. This is just an extract there is lots more so follow the link. You see my claim of American egotistical arrogance is proven thanks Oblio.

    http://libcom.org/library/allied-multinationals-supply-nazi-germany-world-war-2

    “How the Allied multinationals supplied Nazi Germany throughout World War II
    Submitted by Ret Marut on Dec 13 2006
    tags:

    * UK
    * North America
    * Western Europe
    * Germany
    * Cable & Wireless
    * Chase Bank
    * Coca-Cola
    * fascism
    * Ford
    * General Motors
    * ITT
    * Morgan Bank
    * RCA
    * Rockefeller
    * Standard Oil
    * World War II
    * I.G. Farben

    The following excerpts thoroughly document how capitalists really acted during the Second World War. Behind the patriotic propaganda that encouraged the working class to slaughter each other in the interests of competing national interests, international capital quietly kept the commodity circuits flowing and profits growing across all borders.

    Trading with the Enemy – war means business as usual for international capital.

    Excerpts from “Trading With the Enemy: An Exposé of The Nazi-American Money-Plot 1933-1949″ by Charles Higham;
    & “The Coca Cola Company under the Nazis” by Eleanor Jones and Florian Ritzmann

    Charles Higham is the son of a former UK MP and Cabinet member.

    We begin with some excerpts from “Trading With the Enemy: An Exposé of The Nazi-American Money-Plot 1933-1949″ by Charles Higham; Hale, London, 1983.

    This is followed by “The Coca Cola Company under the Nazis” by Eleanor Jones and Florian Ritzmann; From the “Coca Cola Goes to War” website; http://xroads.virginia.edu/%7ECLASS/coke/coke.html
    =====================

    From the “Trading With the Enemy” cover blurb;

    “Here is the extraordinary true story of the American businessmen and government officials who dealt with the Nazis for profit or through conviction throughout the Second World War: Ford. Standard Oil, Chase Bank and members of the State Department were among those who shared in the spoils. Meticulously documented and dispassionately told, this is an alarming story. At its centre is ‘The Fraternity’, an influential international group associated with the Rockefeller or Morgan banks and linked by the ideology of Business as Usual.

    Higham starts with an account of the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland – a Nazi-controlled bank presided over by an American, Thomas H. McKittrick, even in 1944. While Americans were dying in the war, McKittrick sat down with his German, Japanese, Italian, British and American executive staff to discuss the gold bars that had been sent to the Bank earlier that year by the Nazi government for use by its leaders after the war. This was gold that had been looted from the banks of Austria, Belgium, and Czechoslovakia or melted down from teeth fillings, eyeglass frames, and wedding rings of millions of murdered Jews.

    But that is only one of the cases detailed in this book. We have Standard Oil shipping enemy fuel through Switzerland for the Nazi occupation forces in France; Ford trucks transporting German troops; I.T.T. helping supply the rocket bombs that marauded much of London ; and I.T.T. building the Focke-Wulfs that dropped those bombs. Long and shocking is the list of diplomats and businessmen alike who had their own ways of profiting from the war.”

  36. nyomythus Says:

    Prag — at it’s very worst it reminds me of the European Oil-for-Food Scandal.

    But in everyone defense, just because one did wrong in the pass doesn’t mean that that same one can’t be a force for good now or in the future.

  37. nyomythus Says:

    OFFTOP:

    METAVID: http://metavid.org/wiki

    Archive of legislative video from both houses of the U.S. Congress, spanning from early 2006 to the present.

  38. waltj Says:

    So, Prag, because Higham is the son of a British MP, that’s supposed to convey some sort of credibility? Please. George Galloway is a serving MP himself, and he’s a stark-raving loon. You’re going to have to do better than that if you try dishing up wacky conspiracy theories on this site. And this gem:
    “..We have Standard Oil shipping enemy fuel through Switzerland for the Nazi occupation forces in France…”
    Last I checked, Switzerland was landlocked. Kinda hard to dock a tanker on top of the Zumsteinspitze. But thanks for playing.

  39. Occam's Beard Says:

    Now you must add to that America’s avowed intentions after WW11 to destroy British, French, Dutch and Spanish Empires which they considered as their rivals to world ECONOMIC domination. America had already taken most of Europe’s money by sitting on the fence for years and selling to both sides in WW1 and WW11 so now they had to finish the job by stopping Europe becoming financially viable again and preventing American world financial control.

    So…you defend imperialism?

    Before WW1 America was a third rate power who found it difficult to even challenge Mexico as it had such a small unequipped Army and miniscule Navy.

    Which is why Mexico defeated the US in the Mexican-American War 70 years earlier, and forced the US to take California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah off their hands so they could mow lawns there, which is where the big bucks are.

    Sheesh.

    The following excerpts thoroughly document how capitalists really acted during the Second World War. Behind the patriotic propaganda that encouraged the working class to slaughter each other in the interests of competing national interests, international capital quietly kept the commodity circuits flowing and profits growing across all borders.

    “Capitalists?” “Working class?” “International capital?” Whoa. The antennae are twitching.

  40. Baklava Says:

    Off topic:

    What to make of Obama’s quote in his weekly radio address???

    http://sayanythingblog.com/entry/whoops_obama_forgets_who_controlled_congress_in_2007_and_2008/

  41. nyomythus Says:

    Which is why Mexico defeated the US in the Mexican-American War 70 years earlier, and forced the US to take California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah off their hands so they could mow lawns there, which is where the big bucks are.

    When U.N. food supplies go to North Korean the crates are burned with words something this effect, of “A gift from the U.N.”

    The North Koreans accept this and tell their hostage population, “Look, even America sends tributes to the dear leader”

    Prag, you’re using logic in the same way, the only difference is you don’t have a gun to our heads say, “You’ll believe it or else…”

  42. ad Says:

    Isn’t that why he went to Vietnam—to find out more?

    And I’m sure he found somethings out. In 1968. Before the changes Mr Sorley extolled.

    And if I look at the testimony of observers who were in the war zone for several years, such as John Swain or Francois Bizot I have to conclude that they were a) anticommunist, b) in despair about the way the war was run.

    So I can’t see why Cronkite should not also have despaired about the way the war was run.

    And a wise man who has concluded that victory is unlikely should cut his losses.

  43. neo-neocon Says:

    ad: This is the last time I’ll say essentially the same thing—Cronkite was shortsighted and ignorant about the military, because those things can (and did) change. And his knowledge of WWII should have told him that was possible. Plus, his reasoning on Tet made no sense at all.

    He should have called for a change of strategy and tactics, not the end. He should have said he didn’t know what had happened in Tet or what it might mean. He was a newscaster and he should have stuck to the news.

  44. Oblio Says:

    pragmatist, you are right in one thing: I should have considered the possibility of fraudulent invoices and bills of lading and the opportunity to use neutral countries as cut-outs. That’s the way companies (including European companies and state-owned enterprises in places such as Russia and China) get around UN sanctions to this day. I have seen it argued that by this method, illegal Oil-for-Food profits were directed to al-Qaeda.

    I stand by my statement that there are probably no records of Standard Oil of New Jersey shipments of oil to Germany anytime after December 1941. If cut out shipments did occur, I can’t find evidence that they were material in terms of volume, and more importantly, that such shipments represented any kind of U.S. policy. If such things happened, the US Treasury was probably trying to track it and suppress it as part of our economic warmaking.

    Higham’s book seems to be read and reviewed mainly by crackpots, Communists, and, as best I can tell, Jewish writers interested in Holocaust reparations. A review by one professional historian (Jason Weixelbaum) complained about its tabloid style and its sloppy documentation for sensational claims.

  45. Oblio Says:

    Back on thread…

    De mortuis nil nisi bonum

    I don’t think that poor old Walter was really the issue: he was and remained a vector for conventional liberal opinion. Why he had an audience is more interesting, and why that audience found his death significant. I suppose his image fit somehow into a story about their own lives, and why they stand for all that is good.

    Much of Cronkite’s prestige derived from Ed Murrow’s, and probably ultimately from Murrow’s broadcasts from London during the Battle of Britain and Blitz.

  46. Augean Stables » Walter Cronkite: Avuncular Advocacy Journalist and the Origins of the MSNM’s Augean Stables Says:

    [...] Part II, Neo-con specifically addresses the details of Cronkite’s post-Tet Offensive reporting. [...]

  47. Jason Weixelbaum Says:

    Jason Weixelbaum here–

    I’m unsure if I commented on this blog or another, but I want anyone who may be paying attention to this conversation that I have investigated Charles Higham’s sources and it turns out he had far *more* evidence of American collaboration with Nazi Germany – not less.

    Yes, he was poor on the footnoting but ultimately, I can attest that his argument is stronger than ever. I will be posting a follow up to my book review sometime within the next few months.

    There are piles and piles of documents (that he is responsible for getting declassified through the Freedom of Information Act – thank you very much) that he did not even use for his book. This information presents a powerful picture of corporations who knew what they were doing before, during, and after the war.

    Since my name was mentioned in this discussion, I figure the readers of this blog might want to know where I currently stand on this issue.

  48. pedro Says:

    your article turned out to be a awesome read ! Thanks

  49. jinxx Says:

    lets not forget that 57,000 young Americans died and countless wounded mentally as well as physically. so was the war wrong? to bad we can’t ask them.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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