Many of us are watching, or have watched, Ken Burns and Lynne Novick’s extraordinary documentary on the VietNam war. One of the permanent casualties of the war, the documentary tells us, is public confidence that our military generals and elected officials tell the truth.
Watching retired General Kelly, now Chief of Staff, take the podium at the White House to assure us that everything is fine, that the reports of his being unhappy and of Trump unraveling are not true, was a huge disappointment. I think he was doing damage control, which in this grave situation is flat-out lying.
A lot of big and important and smart people lied through their teeth during the VietNam war era, for a multitude of reasons: they thought being honest that the war was un-winnable militarily was too politically toxic, they grew to believe their own myth of U.S. invincibility, they wanted to be promoted or re-elected and didn’t want to say the Emperor had no clothes.
More than 58,000 young Americans and millions of VietNamese lost their lives to these falsehoods.
And now, we see a retired senior U.S. military officer doing it again. I expect Trump to lie. He does so reflexively, as if he doesn’t know the difference between his grandiose imagination and the truth. But I have some hope that military generals steeped in a tradition of honor and integrity will hold onto the truth even in the political sphere.
Not this time.