When Leaders Hide the Truth

I have been watching the excellent documentary series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick called “The Vietnam War.” After just two episodes, a key conclusion can be made. When leaders hide the truth, people suffer.

American leaders, both military and in the White House, did not shoot straight with Americans and people died. There were numerous opportunities to realize what we should have known going in, that we were abetting a war effort that could not be won.

We backed a leader that was corrupt and who hired corrupt leaders all down the line. We were battling an enemy who was winning the hearts and minds of the rural people, who detested the corruption and Americans who supported it. We told Americans at home, things were going better than they were and tried to cover up the bad news.

As evidence, there was one battle after which the leaders in Saigon declared victory, but the leader in the field said it was a debacle. It was so bad, the Viet Cong was galvanized around their victory and no longer feared the Americans.

Leaders must not hide the truth. An American soldier said we were the first troops to realize we could not trust our leadership to tell us the truth.This battle was early in the Kennedy Presidency, so we could have saved many American lives had we been more honest with ourselves and the American people. What became apparent, we remained and expanded our efforts only to prevent the spread of communism as this was in the middle of the Cold War.

The sad truth is we do not learn lessons from history and are destined to repeat mistakes. Everything we needed to know, we could have gleaned from the French failure in Vietnam. Later, we went into Iraq and Afghanistan without full understanding of the issues and people involved. We should have known about Afghanistan as we aided the tribes to drive out the Soviets in the 1980s. We sided with the less than scrutable leadership in Iraq.

What frustrates me is people die when we don’t think things through and are not truthful. And, as John Fogerty sang, it is not the senators’ sons who are dying. This is what bothers me most about our current President who has a very hard time with the truth. Coupling that weakness with his lack of desire to learn what he does not know exacerbates his ineffectiveness. I just hope people won’t die due his limitations and behaviors.

14 thoughts on “When Leaders Hide the Truth

  1. This man not only has “a hard time with the truth,” he is bellicose and incredibly stupid. He actually thinks he could win a nuclear war with North Korea and/or China! No one “win” a nuclear war. That’s what bothers me the most. And you are right, of course, we ignore the past altogether and are destined to repeat its mistakes — except the mistakes get larger and larger!

    • Hugh, his speech today at the UN reminded me of Nikita Khruschev when he pounded the table and said “we will bury you.” They sad truth is the pariah now represents our country. And, Putin smiled once again over his joyous creation….Keith

    • JoAnn, indeed he is. What is very interesting is his interweaving the former North and South Vietnamese perspectives with interviews. It reveals how foolish we were. Ho Chi Minh understood the mission and people. One of the US reporters who tried to report the truth, but was vilified said we forgot that we did the same thing to the British. The North Vietnamese just wanted their own country and the guy who ran the south was corrupt. Keith

  2. Note to Readers: I don’t want to lay this all at JFK’s feet, as LBJ and Nixon ratcheted up efforts that should have been known to be futile. What they failed to heed is you can bomb people, but you cannot change their hearts and minds. Fortunately, today Vietnam is a good trading partner and ally.

    • Janis, I think you will enjoy it, but you will get frustrated by our lack of understanding of the country’s issues and challenges. A former vet said exactly what you said, we failed to learn the lessons of Vietnam and made the mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Senator Jim Webb said if we invade Afghanistan and Iraq, we should be prepared to stay there 30 years. Keith

  3. Note to Readers: The Vietnam War series continues to fascinate. Two key revelations that are telling. A Top Secret Memorandum is shown that said the US mission in getting more involved was 70% to avoid a humiliating loss, 20% to mitigate China and 10% to help the South Vietnamese. The other revelation was made by a South Vietnamese soldier. Americans were portrayed as invaders, making it easier for the Viet Cong to recruit new members from the south. Think about these two revelations together.

    In keeping with the theme of the post, a Vietnam vet who went over in 1968 was highly frustrated that the leadership (he referenced McNamara, the Sec of Defense) knew in 1965 that it was a lost cause. He said people died, as a result.

      • Rob, as one who has played a president, this actor understands what our current White Housr incumbent does not or chooses not to. To me, there is only one logical explanation. The winner of the past election was more than an unwitting participant at minimum in the Russian hacking of our election (this is a CIA operative term used under oath). He is guilty of collusion. I will not be surprised if Mueller’s investigation finds it to be true.

  4. Dear Keith,

    This explains why the US peoples are distrustful of what our government officials say.

    The lies around the Vietnam War is something we all live with. I remember all the protests against the Vietnam War and the story of Daniel Ellsberg with the “pentagon papers” which became public around 1971. These papers eventually proved that President Johnson lied to both the US peoples and US Congress.

    Then we have the lies about WMD which had us into a war with Iraq.

    Then we found out that President Obama had lied to us about NSA.

    I have been watching the republican Senator Bill Cassidy deliberately lie to the American peoples about his Graham-Cassidy bill with a straight face.


    It is no wonder that there is a lack of trust.

    Hugs, Gronda

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