Saturday, July 07, 2007

Removing Halberstam's Halo

Jules Crittenden links to a post at National Review Online by Mark Moyar that attempts to place blame for the American loss in Vietnam on Halberstam's reporting. I'm not sure I agree particularly when Moyar drifts into conspiratorial territory by overhyping Halberstam's influence.
Halberstam, Sheehan, and Karnow inadvertently caused enormous damage to the American effort in South Vietnam—making them the most harmful journalists in American history. The leading American journalists in Vietnam during 1963, they favored American involvement in Vietnam, in stark contrast to the press corps of the war’s latter years. But they had a low opinion of South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem and decided that he would need to be removed if the war was to be won. Brazenly attempting to influence history, Halberstam, Sheehan, and Karnow gave Diem’s opponents in the U.S. government negative information on Diem in print and in private. Most of the information they passed on was false or misleading, owing in part to their heavy reliance on a Reuters stringer named Pham Xuan An who was actually a secret Communist agent. The journalists convinced Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge to accept their reports in place of much more accurate reports from the CIA and the U.S. military, which led Lodge to urge South Vietnamese generals to stage a coup. Press articles suggesting that Diem had lost his principal ally’s confidence made the South Vietnamese generals receptive to coup plots — the Vietnamese elites generally misinterpreted American news reporters as official spokesmen of the U.S. government.
For another view on the late Halberstam see Seth Gitell's comment from last month.

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