Dennis Rogers: " A war tale touches a nerve "
The most irritating thing about CNN
and Time magazine's bogus nerve gas
story is how eager the national media were to believe the worst
soldiers in Southeast Asia.
If you didn't know any better, it
was a corker: American Special Forces
soldiers were said to have swooped into a Laotian village in September
and killed everyone.
If that were not bad enough, they
were there to execute American
defectors. But then came the really ugly part: Deadly nerve gas
was used on
the village -- not once but twice -- to soften it for the massacre
and then to
help wounded Green Berets escape.
The story was just the most recent
in a long array of dark images to
haunt us from that time: innocents slaughtered by cruel Americans,
soldiers hunted and slaughtered for their beliefs, shadowy soldiers
murderous missions in a neutral country. And then nerve gas.
The entire story, top to bottom,
was a monstrous lie, according to
everyone who has investigated it since it was first broadcast. CNN
to save face, have said they are looking into their coverage and
"You'd think CNN and Time would have
the resources to check out a story
like that," said Paul Campbell, a retired Special Forces soldier
who pulled five tours in Southeast Asia. "I don't know if anyone
it but just think what it could do to foreign relations. Saddam
What apparently happened was that
reporters, even after having been
warned, confused tear gas with sarin, the nerve agent made famous
terrorist bombing of a Tokyo subway in 1995.
It is tempting, being one of their
own, to excuse the writers by saying
they were misled by an unreliable source shoveling war stories.
But they were
told, time after time, that the story was not true. Their willingness
believe the worst about those who sacrificed so much for their country
them to ignore the warnings and go with the story.
Those who really know what happened
on Operation Tailwind say the
village was an enemy stronghold, not a civilian village; there were
defectors (the government can account for only two turncoats in
war); and no nerve gas was used, period.
There are any number of true hair-raising
stories involving the
commandos of the Studies and Observation Group in Vietnam. The men
their lives on those dangerous secret missions performed with valor
dedication. Yes, they killed people -- a lot of them. They were
best-trained warriors. Killing was their job and they were good
In another time they would be legends.
Instead, hardened by a war they
were not allowed to win and slandered by a culture they neither
felt part of, the men of SOG have mostly slipped back into anonymity.
Stories like this demean not only
those who served during those
difficult times and have tried (without success, it seems) to erase
killer" image, but they also shame the profession that I love. When
reporter gets something so wrong, that taints the credibility of
all of us.
CNN and Time not only owe Vietnam
vets -- in SOG and out -- an apology
and explanation, they also owe one to those of us who must now slog
the slime they have left in their wake.