For people in my age cohort (early baby boomers,) the war in/against Vietnam was what broke our trust in information from "authoritative" sources -- politicians, the media, and the military. We were led along, promised the "light at the end of the tunnel" that always seemed to recede from realization, fed reams of reports that asserted that all was going just fine -- all the while we watched the images on TV and heard from the young men we knew a completely contrary story.
Many of us have never regained much faith in what government and leaders tell us. That's okay with me.
Two of the books I've been writing about lately -- Karl Marlantes' What It Is Like to Go to War and Thomas Ricks' The Generals tell the story of Vietnam as a war of lies from different points of view, the bottom of the military in the former and the top brass in the latter.
Here's Marlantes explains vividly how young soldiers learned to lie about body counts in Southeast Asia:
Having reported how lying became the norm, Marlantes has thought hard about why this happened:
Rick's book looks at Vietnam from the top, from the angle of the generals. He locates the ongoing adoption of lying in the particular weakness of the man who was the longest serving commander in that adventure. He's scathing:
Lies, lies and more lies ...
Photo: U.S. Army Flickrstream. Caption: An UH-1B[D] helicopter prepares for a resupply mission for Co B, 1st Bn, 8th Inf, 4th Inf Div, during the operation conducted 20 miles southwest of Dak To. December 10-16, 1967