Monday, October 23, 2017

From the Archives, 1967: Who dares criticize a 4-star general?

Editors' Note: The recent effort by White House Press Secretary and Girl Who Blackballed You from Her Sorority Because Your Name Ended With a Vowel Sarah Huckabee to elevate a retired general to the level of infallibility enjoyed by the Pope reminded us that there were other times when those who dared question the wisdom of four-star Generals paid a rich price for their effrontery, as this dispatch from 1967 shows.


By Douglas MacArthur
War Correspondent
with material from The New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 20 – General William Westmoreland, Commander of US Forces in Vietnam, today told Congress and the Administration that the United States was gaining the upper hand in Vietnam and at the current rate of victory more troops would be needed for another two years at most.

Westmoreland said he had “never been more encouraged in my four years in Vietnam,” as he stepped off his military jet in Hawaii on his way back to brief President Johnson and other Administration officials.

The New York Times reported that Administration officials had been hoping that Gen. Westmoreland's claims of steady progress would offset reports from fake-news media on the scene in Vietnam that the war was stalemated and victory was nowhere in sight.

At present there are 467,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam, with another 45,000 on the way.

Some are questioning Gen. Westmoreland's claims
of a great victory at Dak To
The optimistic assessments from Gen. Westmoreland come as news of the bloody, inconclusive battles in Dak To and the surrounding Central Highlands reached the U.S., with some questioning the value of sending U.S. forces into the back country as ambush bait and then withdrawing them from the militarily-useless hills and bases they had bought dear with their blood.

Appearing on Meet the Press, the highly-decorated four-star General told NBC News that U.S. and South Vietnamese forces were “winning the war of attrition” and said it was “conceivable” that troops could start to withdraw if the war continued at the same tempo for another two years.

His views were echoed by U.S. Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker, who also appeared on the venerable Sunday morning softball tournament.  Ambassador Bunker took the opportunity once again to bash the media for creating the “erroneous impression” that the U.S. was not winning the war.

The veteran U.S. envoy cautioned the media and anti-war protesters from second-guessing the statements or methods of General Westmoreland, saying that questioning a four-star general was disruptive, disrespectful, and arguably unpatriotic.  He praised the willingness of Gen. Westmoreland to take questions from reporters who were not themselves related to troops who had given their lives in Vietnam or elsewhere.

President Lyndon B. Johnson, in a testy news conference yesterday, relied heavily on Gen. Westmoreland's upbeat assessment in rallying support for the war, which has touched a new low of 23% in the Harris Poll.  The President responded to critics by citing the General, warning so-called “Nervous Nellies” not to question the judgment or integrity of a four-star general.

“There is nothing more dangerous in time of war than doubting the veracity of the generals who are fighting it, ” the President said.

Vietnam War boosters say that Gen.
Westmoreland wears his credibility
on his shoulders
But critics within the Pentagon point out that the North Vietnamese have committed only one-fifth of its 250,000-strong Army and think that up to 1,000,000 American troops may need to fight for five years to attain victory.

President Johnson told the nation that Gen. Westmoreland had personally assured him that such gloomy predictions were “about as stupid as thinking your landlord should run for President because you like the marble in the lobby.”

The public remains unconvinced that the Johnson Administration is on the right track, despite the optimism expressed by Gen. Westmoreland.  In fact, many appear to be largely oblivious to the war.  On Park Avenue, a young playboy of military age emerged from a limo, his arms under the minidresses of two young blonde women he introduced as as Svetlana and Tatiana, and said he wasn't worried about the war.

“I wish I could be in Vietnam fighting alongside all those schmucks who didn't have a rich father, but I got a deferment due to my sore bone.  Don't worry, it'll get better soon, believe me” said Donald Drump, 19, of Queens, N.Y.

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