And That’s the Way It Wasn’t

I’m bummed that I’m going to miss the AmCham Palooza Party on October 23.

This of course is the stellar, multimillion-dollar shindig sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and held at the Hotel Equitorial in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City.  It’s the primo networking event of the year in Southeast Asia, the perfect opportunity for captains of American business to mingle with Vietnam’s burgeoning entrepreneurial class and government budgeters.

This year, the Palooza occurs in the shadow of the death of Vietnam’s General Vo Nguyen Giap, a hero of both the French and American interventions in his country.  Giap, second only to late revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh as modern Vietnam’s most revered figure, was the founding father of the Vietnam People’s Army, whose guerrilla tactics inspired anti-colonial fighters worldwide.  As I write, his body lies in state at the National Funeral House in the city he predicted he would one day liberate from the colonialists, Hanoi.

Too bad Walter Cronkite can’t be at the Palooza.

Walter, you may recall, was ‘America’s Anchorman,’ the iconic news reporter who was familiar to Americans as the nightly news reader of the CBS Evening News for almost two decades.  At the peak of his career in the 1970’s, Cronkite was voted the most trusted person in country and remains today the paragon of American journalism.  Overlapping generations remember him as the person who wished John Glenn ‘Godspeed’ as the astronaut blasted off into space in a 50/50 crap shoot that his Friendship 7 capsule would ever return to earth.  Cronkite was the one who reported the sentencing of Nazi War Crime Trials at Neuremberg; he told the country tearfully that President Kennedy was dead; and that the Vietnam War was lost.

About Vietnam:  He was lying his ass off.

Cronkite’s reporting of the Tet Offensive in 1968 painted a picture of a disappointing effort to hold off the Viet Cong and the failed counter offensive of U.S. troops to regain control of urban areas and disrupt Communist supply lines with China.  After the offensive, Cronkite used his broadcast to tell the county, “Vietnam is lost.”  At the exact same time, however, Gen. Giap, after assessing the irreplaceable losses of men and ordinance from his brutal spring offensive and the recapture of critical urban areas by American GI’s, was telling his commanders that their forces — Charlie — had lost the war.

Following the Tet Offensive, facts meant squat to Cronkite.  Reporting regularly on the anti-war protests in American cities and college campuses, Cronkite then saw his job and that of fellow journalists as the unstoppable effort to replace the brute and oafish Lyndon Johnson with Bobby Kennedy as the nation’s Chief Executive.  If that meant downplaying reports of American tactical victories in the jungle war and routinely showing flag-draped coffins returning home, then so be it.

It worked.  In the midst of a surging military victory by GI’s, Cronkite and others in the media molded public opinion counter intuitively, which eventually compelled Congress to defund the war, in essence leaving American troops in the field of battle high and dry in the world’s largest swamp.  What’s more, returning soldiers became the object of the media’s ginned-up animus.  They came home and found themselves subject to contempt and ridicule by anti-war punks.

The rest is history, written by today’s college professors, poets, musicians, and fossilized progressives who spent their prime decades ago lighting fires in university buildings paid for by their parents and chanting scurrilous rhymes about their country, its soldiers and its president.  They were – and continue to be — the counterculture elites who condemn America as racist, a provocateur of death, enemy of the downtrodden and impoverished, and the primary source of evil in the world.

Since Cronkite and I won’t be at the AmCham Palooza Party, I have a question for those who will be there and for my contemporaries who share a personal history of the War in Vietnam.  It’s a question for Jane Fonda; for draft dodgers like Bill Clinton and campus radicals like Hillary Clinton; for bomb-making assassins like Bill Ayers and Bernadette Devlin; for all the one-trick-pony artists like Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez and Phil Oachs; the self-serving loudmouths like Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin; those failed politicians like Eugene McCarthy, Ramsey Clark and John Kerry; for the long-forgotten haters of American Exceptionalism like Noam Chomsky and Saul Alinsky; for the dinosaur hippie billionaires like Ben and Jerry who continually trash free-market capitalism on their way to the bank; and for the journalistic children of Walter Cronkite and others who today comprise the core of the Blame America First Club.

Here’s my question for them:

If the forces of Gen. Giap waged a guerrilla-style civil war to expell Western-style democracy and commerce from Southeast Asia, and today you can drive down the Nguyen Van Qua highway in Ho Chi Minh City and purchase —

  • A grande frappe with a double shot of espresso from Starbucks,
  • A number one Big Mac combo from McDonalds,
  • A Chevrolet Cruze and fill it with gas from ExxonMobile,
  • Wireless phone service from AT&T,
  • An assortment of Colgate toothpastes and mouthwashes,
  • Any shade of L’Oreal lipsticks,
  • And you can ship most of these in a package anywhere in the world with Federal Express,

Remind me again, exactly who lost that war?

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