Friday, September 17, 2004

Memogate: Rathergate continued

Today I've tripped over another of the episodes in American journalism that will never again slip past the public: The Wall Within, a CBS program on Vietnam Vets that aired in 1988.

One of the most ingrained stereotypes that plague the 3.3 million Americans who served in Vietnam is the tainted image of the Vietnam vet as scruffy, jobless, homeless, mentally unstable, addicted, suicidal, and stranded on the fringes of society. It is an image that has been reinforced by innumerable TV dramas, movies, and newscasts. It is also usually tied to stories about the horrors of war, atrocities, and other dark deeds that, allegedly, have caused these personal problems for the tragic vet.

The highly hyped 1988 CBS program, "The Wall Within," purporting to tackle the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is a perfect example of the lies and distortions about Vietnam that have been fed to three generations of Americans. The program profiled six pathetic victims who it claimed were "representative" of those who served in Vietnam. It claimed that the symptoms suffered by these men were shared by hundreds of thousands of other veterans. The Dan Rather "documentary" became part of the CBS video history series on Vietnam and is graced with a formal introduction by liberal-left one-worlder Walter Cronkite.

This is how Dan Rather introduced his TV audience to one of his prize victims: "At age 16, Steve was a Navy SEAL, trained to assassinate. For almost two years, he operated behind enemy lines, then he broke. He came home in a straightjacket, addicted to alcohol and drugs."

According to the CBS propaganda piece, "Steve" had been trained to massacre and mutilate Vietnamese civilians and then blame the atrocities on the Communists. "You’re telling me that you went into the village, killed people, burned part of the village, then made it appear that the other side had done this?" Rather asked. "Yeah," Steve responded. "For propaganda purposes at home," Rather added. "That’s correct," Steve confirmed.

Terry Bradley, another supposed Vietnam vet suffering from PTSD, told a grisly tale of having, on one occasion, skinned alive up to 50 Vietnamese men, women and children. He told of cutting out hearts and eyeballs, of mangling and stacking their bloody bodies. The CBS program showed the mentally tormented vet at night in a dark forest howling at the sky.

Another PTSD victim, George Greul, told the CBS team that he had been traumatized by witnessing his friend’s gruesome death on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier while the ship was on a "secret mission" off the coast of Vietnam. He had seen his buddy accidentally walk into a spinning propeller blade and had been spattered with his blood.

That's right - Dan Rather sat there on-air and presented the adventures of a 16 year old Navy Seal without batting an eye. This kind of fastens my assertion that the left discussing what they know about war is like chimpanzees discussing architecture. With fingerpaints. When they wail and screech that they don't understand what our troops are doing or why they're doing it, they're not kidding - they really are without a clue. I think it should be explained to them, but where do you start? I don't know, but I do know that they understand it about as well as coral understands aerodynamics, and should not be allowed to talk about it. Hiring Dan Rather to talk about war is like hiring Michael Moore as a physical trainer.

The critically acclaimed "Wall Within" was a colossal fraud. The man identified as "Steve" turned out to be one Steve Southards, and through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, Burkett obtained his military records. The truth, he found, was that "Southards was not a SEAL, nor had he taken any SEAL training.... In reality, Southards was an ‘internal communications repairman,’ assigned to rear area bases and had no combat decorations. His only special training was a ‘motion picture operation course (16mm),’ at Subic Bay in the Philippines." What’s more, he had spent time in the brig for going AWOL six times. According to Burkett’s research, "Little that Southards had told Rather was true except that he had been in the Navy, and that his first name was Steve."

Terry Bradley was not a "fighting sergeant," as Dan Rather had described him, but another storytelling misfit who had spent 300 days either AWOL or in the stockade. No evidence was provided by CBS, and Burkett could find none either, from official sources or otherwise, to verify Bradley’s tales of mass atrocities.

George Greul’s carrier, the Ticonderoga, was deployed on a training mission off the coast of California, not a "secret mission" off the coast of Vietnam, when the fatal propeller accident he referred to took place. But Greul was not present when the accident happened; he was merely repeating what he had heard. However, his story had convinced the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that he had been sufficiently traumatized to receive a couple thousand dollars a month in compensation.

Having for some years contended that the stained images of both the war and the men who fought it were fashioned by the left and the left-leaning media, I can't claim to be less than intrigued by Stolen Valor either. Gosh, how could I have failed to have heard about this book? Maybe it was buried in all the Operation Tailwind coverage? MSM- your day is done.


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