It’s 1972. Coach “Bulldog” Dick Nixon is marching his team steadily toward the end zone. A few more yards and the game is won. Victory is ours! Hoping to fake the Vietnamese defense, Nixon calls for a quarterback sneak. Everything is set. The snap is delivered. But wait! The quarterback freezes. What?! Oh no, it’s just then that Nixon realizes his QB is a limp-wristed Democrat. Holy Hell! Rather than leaping into and over the defensive line, the QB appears to have retreated from it. A moment later he is blindsided by a linebacker half his size who strips him of the ball and runs 98-yards for a Vietnamese touchdown! Time has run out. The game is lost. And, the Democrats are to blame.
Some say there’s a link between America’s love affair with football and war. Others don’t seem to see a difference. Such is the perspective of former Nixon speechwriter Bruce Herschensohn in his PragerU video “The Truth about the Vietnam War.” A more fitting title would be “What we Wished was the Truth about Vietnam” or “The Fairytale that was Vietnam.”
Mr. Herschensohn is a skilled writer and orator. Much like Dick Cheney. You listen to him and – absent the facts or a desire to get to them – you believe what you hear. Articulate and bespectacled it’s hard to imagine Herschensohn not espousing the truth. Guys like this just don’t lie. Besides his conclusion plays to a common narrative: we lost in Vietnam because of limp-wristed Democrats – those weak-minded individuals who prefer life over death. What more needs to be said?
In under 5 minutes Herschensohn explains everything he thinks you need to know about the Vietnam War. For those serious about learning (some) facts about Vietnam, his pitch is followed by a 5-question multiple choice quiz. Nice tidbits of information for promoting the lore of America, regardless of how incomplete. I don’t mind bias; it’s human nature. It’s not so much that Herschensohn misinforms it’s what he leaves out that is most worthy of criticism.
Reading the text of Herschensohn’s video helps to strip away the man and lets his words stand on their own. Very quickly those words crumble under the weight of history. Here are six specifics to back-up my claim.
1. In his opening sentence Herschensohn says: “Decades back, in late 1972, South Vietnam and the United States were winning the Vietnam War decisively by every conceivable measure.”
By “every conceivable measure” I presume Herschensohn is referring to the metrics created by Defense Secretary McNamara and used by General Westmoreland and his successor General Abrams. Both men famously reported that they could “see the light at the end of the tunnel.” Then it was realized that tunnels in Vietnam were like the ground above – unpredictable and dark. Measured by bombs dropped, land controlled, and enemies killed, our measures showed that we were winning the war. The only problem was that one key variable was missing: the sentiment of the Vietnamese people and the determination of the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong.