The Vietnam War: everything you know is wrong (Part One)
February 12, 2009
Photo credit: Eddie Adams (AP)
(This is the first of a multi-part series debunking liberal media myths about the Vietnam War.)
The Photo That Lost the War?
It’s one of the most famous images of the 20th century. Eddie Adams’ Pulitzer Prize winning 1968 photograph of an execution on a Vietnam street has been reprinted and reenacted countless times. In the film Stardust Memories, Woody Allen’s depressed character decorates his kitchen with a colossal mural of the image, to illustrate his angst. A post-modern artist recreated the iconic image in Lego.
However, few know the true story behind the photograph, which some cultural critics claim, then and now, “helped America lose the war.”
While lecturing on college campuses to promote his book Stalking the Vietnam Myth, author H. Bruce Franklin discovered that most students “were convinced the original photo depicted a North Vietnamese or communist officer executing a South Vietnamese civilian prisoner.”
However, the executioner was the chief of the South Vietnamese Police — an American ally. The victim was a captured Vietcong insurgent whose comrades in arms had themselves been summarily executing anyone associated with the South Vietnamese and the Americans.
After killing the captured prisoner, the police chief told journalists, “Many Americans have been killed these last few days and many of my best Vietnamese friends. Now do you understand? Buddha will understand.”
The photograph helped make Eddie Adams famous, but he wished he’d never taken it. Due to its notoriety, the photo ruined the police chief’s life, turning him into an internationally hated (and misunderstood) villain for all time. Adams never forgave himself.
“The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them, but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths. What the photograph didn’t say was, ‘What would you do if you were the general at that time and place on that hot day, and you caught the so-called bad guy after he blew away one, two or three American soldiers?'”
The Girl In The Picture
An equally infamous photograph snapped during the Vietnam War depicts a little girl running, naked and terrified, from her bombed out village, her clothing burned from her body in the blast.
Most people believe her village was attacked by Americans. It was not.
In fact, the village was accidentally bombed by the Vietnamese Air Force, who were nearby targeting communist North Vietnamese fortifications. In other words, this was an “all-Vietnamese” fight. Even the photographer was Vietnamese. No Americans were involved.
Adding to the confusion: in 1996, a Methodist minister publicly approached Kim Phuc, the “girl in the picture” and asked her forgiveness for ordering the strike. The trouble is: this man had nothing to do with the bombing. He was a lowly soldier stationed miles away.
Whie such stories of reconciliation are undeniably moving, Kim’s public “forgiveness” of this confused man, “must be viewed with the realization that while she is free to insinuate anything she pleases about the countries which give her refuge and support, she cannot freely criticize the Communist government of her former homeland. Although a political refugee in Canada, her relatives still live in Viet Nam.”
The minister’s motives are less clear or noble, but seem to be a blend of self-loathing and self-promotion.
These and other phony tales of American “atrocities” mar the image of the United States at home and abroad. Since the Vietnam War is constantly held up by the anti-war Left as an example of a failed, “racist,” “imperialist” conflict which only ended thanks to the “peaceful” protests of “courageous” hippies, getting the facts right is tremendously important.
Stay tuned for the next installments in this series.