Media Roundtable Discussion
East Auditorium, George C. Marshall Conference Center
September 29, 2010
- Convened by: Assistant Secretary P.J. Crowley, Bureau of Public Affairs
- Moderator: Marvin Kalb, Murrow Professor Emeritus, Harvard University
- William Beecher, Adjunct Professor, University of Maryland
- Edith Lederer, Reporter, Associated Press
- Morley Safer, Correspondent, “60 Minutes”
- Barry Zorthian, Partner, Alcalde & Fay
MR. CROWLEY: We’ll call the last session of the evening to order. You’re the hardcore survivors of a very full and informative day as we complete the first day of our two-day conference on Vietnam. I’m P.J. Crowley; I’m the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. The shorter title is the State Department spokesman. And this is my contribution to the program.
When Ed Brynn and John Carland came to visit me a little over a year ago and said, “We’d like to do this,” I thought it was a great idea. I looked through their ideas on the program. I said we couldn’t do a retrospective on Vietnam without including a panel on the – on how the media viewed the war because it obviously had profound impact, not so much on the result, but certainly on the debate that is continuing even 35 years after the last soldier left Vietnam.
For someone of my generation as I reach the end of my sixth decade, on my list of transformative events in my lifetime you got a variety of things – the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the exploitation of space, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the synergy of the personal computer and the internet, 9/11, of course. These are events that have shaped the life that I’ve lived, but certainly on everyone’s list, perhaps in this room, are two events – Watergate and Vietnam. And together, they fractured the relationship between government and the governed, and transformed the relationship between government and the media. Whether one participated in the war, demonstrated for or against the war, or reported on the war, Vietnam grabbed hold of everyone in America who was alive in the ‘60s or ‘70s.
And Vietnam has made an appearance even in the last five presidential campaigns. It has loomed in the shadows as we have debated and executed our strategies in Afghanistan and Iraq. What is perhaps ironic about the ongoing debate is that strategically the U.S. intervention, regardless of the reasons and whether or not those were valid reasons or not, the intervention evolved to the benefit of both the United States and Vietnam. Asia is, broadly speaking, today, peaceful, stable, prosperous, and integrated.
But Vietnam was the last war that we fought with a conscript army, which perhaps explains why going to war in Afghanistan has not had the same effect on the American people as going to war in Vietnam. And notwithstanding the 24/7 coverage of the Gulf Wars of 1991 and 2003, Vietnam was the first television war and the media were asked to cover both facets of it: the battlefields there and the battlefields here.
Some within the military felt and perhaps still feel that the media somehow lost Vietnam. It is a charge without merit, but the media impact on public opinion was undeniable, which is why we have convened a panel of journalists to provide their perspective this evening. And in the aftermath of Vietnam, it took 15 years and some hard work by people including Bill Beecher and others to reestablish a functioning relationship between the media and the military and government, two vital institutions to any functioning democracy including ours.
At this point, just to introduce the distinguished lady and gentlemen to my left we will turn the panel over to Marvin Kalb, the Edward R. Murrow Professor Emeritus of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and the founding director of the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, and he’s now finishing Haunting Legacy:Vietnam and the American Presidency from Ford to Obamawhich will be published next spring.
He’s joined by William Beecher, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former Washington correspondent for the Boston Globe – as a Bostonian I’ve read your stuff for many, many years – the Wall Street Journaland The New York Times. He also served as a senior official at the Department of Defense during the 1970s and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and he is currently an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland.
Morley Safer hardly needs an introduction but I’ll give him one anyway. Joined CBS News in April of 1964 as a correspondent based in the London bureau and he opened CBS News’ Saigon bureau in 1965 and served three tours in Vietnam. It was his 1965 report on U.S. Marines burning the villages of Cam Ne caused a firestorm of controversy when it was broadcast by Walter Cronkite. And he’s now, of course, still a correspondent for 60 Minutes and he’s the author of the best-seller Flashbacks: On Returning to Vietnam.
Edith Lederer is The Associated Press’s chief correspondent at the United Nations and she has been with the AP for 44 years. God bless you for staying committed for that long as we watched the – kind of the hemorrhage away from the industry. And she was the first woman assigned full-time to the AP staff reporting the Vietnam War. She also covered the 1973 Middle East War, as well as Afghanistan, the first Gulf War, Northern Ireland, Bosnia, and Somalia and Rwanda. So if you tell us where you’re going next, we’ll be ready.
And finally, Barry Zorthian is a communications consultant in the government and public affairs firm of Alcalde & Fay here in Washington, D.C. He – a former foreign service officer and vice president of Time, he has extensive background in government, journalism, and communications. He served 13 years with the Voice of America, is a retired colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, but he spent a good deal of time in the foreign service in India, Vietnam, and was a counselor and director of the Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office, in charge of country and media relations there.
Gentlemen, thank you very much, and I’ll turn the panel over to Marvin.
MR. KALB:P.J., thank you very much. For those of you who have come here expecting Christiane Amanpour to serve as your moderator – (laughter) – I have an enormous apology to offer. (Laughter.) You’re getting me during a time when you all should be having a cocktail, but stick with us for the next hour or so; it may even be interesting.
This morning, we heard two senior officials, one a former official. One of them, Secretary Kissinger, spoke with controlled enthusiasm about the media. (Laughter.) He spoke about the big shot journalists who didn’t even read what it is that he actually said during that news conference. And then there was Holbrooke who spoke with, I thought, genuine admiration for what it is that the media gets paid to do, and that’s probably because Dick really, deep down, still wants to be a journalist. (Laughter.) He just got detoured into this world of diplomacy.
I think that you have to have lived on Mars to have missed the central role that the media played during the Vietnam War. I don’t think there’s any question about that. Whether you covered it from here in Washington, D.C. or you covered it as Morley did from the field. Whether you’re among the first women who ever served as a war correspondent or whether you were a journalist who then flipped and went into the government and found himself in the uncomfortable position of having to represent what it is that the government meant to say during the 5 o’clock follies in Saigon, but actually didn’t.
So I think what we’ll do here is start with Barry Zorthian. And the question for Barry is: How did a nice boy like you get stuck with a job like that? (Laughter.) And try to keep these opening comments – this is for everybody across the board – to roughly five minutes so we’ll have more time for Q&A.
MR. ZORTHIAN: Thank you, Marvin. We’re dealing with events of 45 years ago, so if I pass up on some names and dates and events, please forgive me. You’ll all find as you get up in age that memory is not always responsive.
I want to refer to, very briefly, four documents which provided the foundation for Uncle Sam’s responses to the media. The first is a personal one, a letter from Ed Murrow when he was director of USIA and he assigned me to Vietnam. And when they give you assignments on troubled places like that they say all kinds of nice things. But on the second page there was a paragraph which in, view of my subsequent duties, you might find of interest. This quotes Henry Cabot Lodge, then ambassador to Vietnam, telling Murrow, “Mr. Zorthian should understand that he will not, repeat, not have responsibility for press relations, newspaper, magazine, television, radio, as I do this work myself.” Mr. Joseph C. (inaudible) embassy press officer with his office in the USIA building, et cetera.
That was in February ’64, at a conference in June of ’64 chaired jointly by Secretary Rusk and Secretary McNamara. General Westmoreland, who had come in with three stars his shoulder – on his shoulders to take over from Paul Harkins and Henry Cabot Lodge, recommended to the chairman that I be given responsibility for the both the military and the civilian side effort. That was followed by another typical cable of all the nice things we’re asking you to do, signed off by State, Defense, AID, USIA, and not on here, but CIA. And the key sentence as far as I was concerned, “Barry Zorthian, presently, the country public affairs officer, will assume the responsibilities of overall press counselor. He will retain the title of Country Public Affairs Office with jurisdiction over the total information effects.” Things go on there, but the key sentence in that is that the President has approved this decision.
In July, came our basic directive, our guidance, and the key sentence there – this was written by a working correspondent who had gone into government service, Bob Manning of Time Magazine was at that time at the NSC and came up with this guidance approved again, joint State-DOD-USIA message saying, “It is essential public affairs activities of all elements of the mission to Vietnam be aimed at maximum candor and disclosure consistent with the requirements of security.” The effort to put that life to that sentence and concept is what absorbed me for four years.
Finally, we have a post-Tet communication and this is the only other one of this broad guidance to us from the White House, George Christian, press secretary to the Presidency, “We are facing in the next two days a critical phase in the American public’s understanding and confidence towards our effort in Vietnam. And then he calls on us to activate a program using the assets we have in the form of ambassadors, combat generals, and so on.
That’s the framework in which I was asked to operate, tried to operate with, I would say, mixed success.
MR. KALB:Why was there a credibility gap?
MR. ZORTHIAN: The credibility gap grew out of a lot things. Let me make the point that I think talking about the Vietnam War is too great a shorthand. There are at least four Vietnam wars, quite different –
MR. ZORTHIAN: Well, I think it was a hangover from the pre-Lodge period of the so-called Young Turks – Dave Halberstam, Nick Turner, Neil Sheehan, Peter Arnett, who became very critical about the war. At that time, the Vietnamese were not very effective, but General Harkins thought it was important that we not challenge our allies publicly. So even though the Vietnamese had some – God knows, how distorted reports on particular battles, the casualties claimed and so on – Harkins, with some internal difficulty, nevertheless insisted on we accept Vietnamese judgments about the nature of a battle, the result of it. Reporters, these Young Turks, very good journalists, would go out to the field and talk to the people on the spot – the John Paul Vanns, a name many of you may not remember – and hear the exact opposite of what the official version, both Vietnamese and the Americans, was saying.
The credibility gap was very – we tried to get rid of it. I don’t think we succeeded completely. But I think we did pretty well on that.
MR. KALB: Well, there’s a question about that and we’ll certainly get to it. But Edie Lederer, you were, without any doubt, one of the first women to be covering the Vietnam War, and I’m wondering whether that made any difference to you at all or to the people you had to cover.
MS. LEDERER: Well, I – it certainly made a difference to me. I was shocked when I got asked to go to Vietnam, and I got shocked for a really – a reason that was very reflective of the 1960s and ‘70s. I did not go to Vietnam until 1972, and I was the first woman that AP assigned full-time to cover the war. And the reason that I was shocked was that when I joined the AP in 1966, every year you would get one of those forms that asks you: What do you want to do when you grow up? And I would always write that I wanted to be a foreign correspondent. But that was impossible because in order to be a foreign correspondent in the AP, you had to work on the Foreign Desk. And the AP had a foreign editor at the time named Ben Bassett, who refused to have a woman on the Foreign Desk. He did not believe that women had what it took to cover wars, disasters, and really go abroad. And I think that that was a view that was not just held by Ben Bassett.
So I got to Vietnam in a very strange way. In 1971, I was based in San Francisco. I had been covering a lot of anti-war protests and a lot of the opposition to the war. And I had been to Europe. I had never been to Asia. And with one of my girlfriends, we decided to use a lot of accumulated vacation that I had and we got an around-the-world ticket on Pan Am. And in those days, you could stop every single place that Pan Am stopped, and Pan Am went to Saigon. So we decided, hey, I’ve been writing about the war; she’d – we’d been sort of so involved with it, let’s go stop and see what it’s like.
So we went to Vietnam as war tourists – (laughter) – and we – the AP Bureau was terrific to us. We went to the 5 o’clock follies, we got – went on a helicopter ride over the Mekong Delta, and we got back on the plane and then went off to Bangkok. (Laughter.)
MR. KALB: Edie, those war tourists were not unusual. They’d come up the Saigon River and get off the cruise ship – little old ladies with cameras, saying, where’s the war? Where’s the war? (Laughter.)
MS. LEDERER: So that was the summer of 1971. So, imagine my shock the following – the end of the following summer when, out of the blue, I got a phone call from Wes Gallagher, then the president of the AP, and a legendary war correspondent himself from World War II, asking me if I wanted to go to Vietnam. And I said yes, of course, and I went to Vietnam, never having worked on the Foreign Desk.
I only found out in the – in 1991 at the end of the first Gulf war, where I ran the AP in Saudi Arabia, my former boss from Vietnam, Richard Pyle, was also there. And at the end of the war, we went out to dinner one night and he said, “You know, I’ve been waiting a long time to tell you this. Do you know why you ended up going to Vietnam?” I said, “Yes, because Wes Gallagher called me and asked me to go and somebody had read that I wanted to be a foreign correspondent.” He said, “No, no, no, no.” He said, “I had been looking to send a woman to Vietnam because there were quite a number of other women who had been in Vietnam – Gloria Emerson. There were a lot of – not many, but a lot of the major news organizations had women in Vietnam by them. He said, “And when you and Nancy showed up in 1971, I wrote Gallagher a letter and said that’s the woman I want in Vietnam.”
MR. KALB: Thank you, Edie, very much. The two gentlemen to my right – one covered the war, as I said before, largely from here and the other largely from Vietnam. And I’d like to start with Morley Safer, and I know that you sort of opened a bureau for CBS at that time, but there are a lot of CBS reporters who had been in and out of Saigon and in other parts of South Vietnam before. So what was it like when you first got there? How were you taken up by the story itself?
MR. SAFER: I first got there In January of 1965, and you’re right. Peter Kalischer had gone in and out from Tokyo, Kalb had gone in and out – your brother Bernard Kalb – not the other Bernard Kalb. But clearly, as we were setting up a real bureau hiring cameramen – setting up an establishment in Saigon in 19 – in January, February of 1965, so was the American military building what looked like a permanent establishment there. So it was quite clear to me and to many, many others that this – whatever you want to call it, counterinsurgency, police action, whatever that had reached the point of about – I don’t know – 15 or 20,000 advisors, was preparing for a big-time war. They were widening streets. They were building 6,000 foot runways out in nowhere, so clearly, there was a plan afoot.
And the first step in that was the arrival of the Marines in Da Nang in February of 1965. And at that point it was clear, or should have been clear to everyone, that this was the real thing. That America was going to war. America was not advising Vietnam or helping Vietnam; America was fighting a war. And it was something that many of us – some of us reported, and many others did not. This was an action from which the United States could withdraw almost at will, at any time once the – to give you an example, Ralph Paskman, who I’m sure you remember who was a senior editor at CBS News, when he asked me to go Vietnam, he said, “Look, this thing is not going to last probably more than three months, maybe six.”
MR. KALB: He was our foreign editor. (Laughter.)
MR. SAFER: And it was clear to me that – I may only last three months or six, but this – CBS is in this for the long haul. And it was also very clear that this advisory role was really finished. It was a sham. And the only place the advisors really maintained a very important position was in the Delta, because the Delta was the last part of Vietnam to be occupied – if that’s the word – by full-scale American units.
I had not been to Southeast Asia before. I had not been to Vietnam before, certainly, but I had covered a lot of wars at that point in my career in Africa and Cyprus and the Middle East, and it was nothing like what I saw in Vietnam, I mean, in terms of preparation for major, major warfare.
MR. KALB: Morley, tell us about that famous story. Is it --
MR. SAFER: That was in, I think, July or August of 1965. Barry might remember. And we maintained a small bureau in Da Nang from which we would cover Marine Corps operations. And we then had, I think, two or three correspondents in the bureau, and we each took turns spending a week or so up in Da Nang, and it was my turn to go up. And we did – you did what the demand by New York was huge for war coverage shoot-‘em-up coverage, that was – their appetite was almost limited to that.
So you went down to – went to various units – I didn’t – one afternoon and asked if they were planning any operations. And a particular unit said, yes, we are going to have an amphibious operation beginning at 5 tomorrow morning. I said can we come along? Sure, come along. We went on – we went –
MR. KALB: Let me interrupt you for a second. Was that a decision reached by the local military chief – in other words, the American in charge of the operations?
MR. SAFER: Yeah, it was –
MR. KALB: It’s nothing that had to be checked with the Pentagon or anything like that?
MR. SAFER: No, no, no, this was a lieutenant colonel. It was probably a battalion-sized – a reduced battalion-sized operation. We went on the – in these amphibious vehicles, these Amtraks (Editor’s Note: Amtraks were amphibious tracked vehicles – armored and used to transport troops), and I asked a (inaudible) major what the operation was about. And he said, well, it’s a search and destroy mission. Search and destroy was the common phrase for destroy. (Laughter.) And we landed on dry land, moved ahead, Marines in line. There were a couple of single-round shots, which is unusual in a battle situation, and – I mean, we clearly weren’t taking fire. Well, the whole line went nuts and starting pouring bullets into the – there was a young soldier wounded who was beside me who was – and he clearly was wounded by one of his – by friendly fire because he was shot in the ass and that’s – (laughter) – the enemy, so-called, was over there.
So that – and that was the only American casualty that I saw. We got into the village and there was a wholesale destruction of the village going on, by fire, by Zippo lighters, as Marvin said, flamethrowers. And clearly, this was the purpose of the mission. And the village of Cam Ne is really a series of Hamlets. There was Cam Ne 1, Cam Ne 2, Cam Ne 3, and Cam Ne 4. We reported the story. The Pentagon denied it, saying that a couple of hooches, as they called them, these huts caught fire and, of course, so (inaudible) – denied the story.
And like every Pentagon denial, it comes back to bite them because the next day, Charlie Mohr of The New York Times, who had been in the helicopter above this, had described this wholesale destruction that was going on. Tell me if I’m going on too long here.
MR. KALB: No, I’m going to cut you off in a second.
MR. SAFER: Okay. In any case, it should be said – and I think this is really important for you to get an understanding of how we covered the war – that there was virtually no communication with New York, was impossible to get a phone call through. We had something called a slow scan machine, which was a kind of a telex machine that would print a letter about every four seconds. And you could die waiting to find out – (laughter) – what the weather was.
But in any case, the reason I tell that is I had no idea of the --
MR. KALB: Effect.
MR. SAFER: -- effect, impact of the story that I had reported.
MR. KALB: Let me interrupt you at this point, because that is an example of one major story done by an American reporter covering the war in Vietnam. Another major story was done by Bill Beecher covering Vietnam here in Washington, D.C. And that story I want Bill to tell us about, but that was another one of these large things that produced official denials that ended up to be silly because they were absolutely accurate stories.
Tell us about yours, Bill.
MR. BEECHER: Notwithstanding the fact that this morning, Secretary Kissinger said the 1969 bombing of Cambodia was no secret, no secret whatever, The New York Times said it was. I wrote the story. And at that time, believe me, it was a secret. Years later, when I was an assistant secretary of defense, someone showed me a document signed by Henry Kissinger at the time, early during the Vietnam War, specifically denying to William Rogers, the secretary of state, any information on the bombing of Cambodia. He had no right, no need to know, according to this document. Secret? It was kept from the secretary of state, signed by Henry Kissinger. So it was certainly a secret.
I’ll take a moment to tell you how that story evolved. It might be of some interest to you. During the presidential campaign, it was clear that President Nixon was determined to get out of Vietnam, but under what he considered honorable terms. And so I went to several very senior planners at the Pentagon and I said, “Assume you get a call from the White House and you’re asked to give your short list of viable options to convince Hanoi that this is a tougher group coming into power, and that we’re prepared to do something that the others weren’t, and that maybe the game is not worth the candle. What would be on your list?” And the lists were different, but on every list appeared saturation B-52 bombing in Cambodia, where there’s a buildup of arms and manpower. And so I watched and waited and in May of 1969, early in the administration of – Nixon Administration, there came news reports of heavy B-52 raids on the South Vietnamese side of the border. I had been there. That made no sense at all. There weren’t targets there for saturation bombing, but there was on the other side.
So, no matter how secret any operation is, as any reporter will tell you who covers Washington, there are always people who know about it who aren’t supposed to know about it – executive assistants and this and that, and so – as well as planners and people who carry out policy. So I went to a series of people who were involved in carrying out pieces of the action; didn’t know the whole story, but involved in pieces of the action. And I asked questions and I built a mosaic that clearly told me, speculatively, that this is what was going on.
So I went to two very well-plugged in people, one at the State Department, and I laid it out to him and his face took on the agony of somebody going through the birth process. (Laughter.) But he said, “No comment.” And then I went to someone at the White House who was also well-informed and I told him my – what I thought I discovered. And he said, “I’ve never lied to you, Bill, and I won’t start now. Let’s change the subject.”
So I knew I had the story. I wrote it, it appeared on page one of The New York Times. And it wasn’t denied by the Pentagon; they said, “This is speculative.” And when reporters went to their best sources – bear in mind, very few people knew the details – when they went to their best sources and said, “Is this going on,” and the sources honestly said, “If it were, I think I’d know about it, and I don’t.” So the story went nowhere initially, even though it had all kinds of detail. It said that Sihanouk had been briefed. It said that the South Vietnamese army had been briefed. It told the whole strategic concept of why it was happening.
Anyway, that’s the story.
MR. KALB: Barry.
MR. ZORTHIAN: Footnote on that to indicate the outlook, attitude in Washington by a very good source. I’m told that at the secretary’s morning’s meetings, one day, my name came up. And Dean Rusk, in this kind of language that was typical of him, said, “Zorthian? Zorthian? Isn’t that that SOB out in Saigon who think that people have a right to know?” (Laughter.)
MR. KALB: Who told you that story?
MR. ZORTHIAN: I’m not going to tell you. (Laughter.)
MR. KALB: All right. I want to add one other story to --
MR. BEECHER: I want to add one other story. Could I just add one thing, just --
MR. KALB: Go ahead.
MR. BEECHER: -- for perspective’s sake? I did work from Washington, but I made five reporting trips to Vietnam, so I had that experience in the field as well.
MR. KALB: Right, and those of us who did “cover the war,” – quote, unquote – from Washington, D.C. would come upon it in many different ways. And we were, in a sense, closer, because as Morley was indicating, you could barely get through to the office in New York. But if you were here, you were in the bureau, you were right there, the decisions were made as to whether you were going to get on the air or not.
In early October of 1969, Richard Nixon did one of his very famous speeches on television explaining American policy in Vietnam. At 3 o’clock in the afternoon, State Department reporters and White House reporters were given copies of the speech. And at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, we were briefed by Kissinger, who was our national security advisor, and he briefed us for a full hour. The president did not go on the air until 8:00 p.m. that night, so that anything that he said, you had an opportunity and a three-hour period of checking with people to see not whether the president was accurate – that was not the thrust of it – but if something seemed very interesting to you and you had already been officially briefed at the highest level and it still stuck in your mind with a large question mark, you had three hours to go ahead and check.
One of the issues, then, was the question of a letter from Ho Chi Minh to the president, indicating whether or not we were serious about negotiating. The president was to say in his speech that night that Ho Chi Minh flatly rejected the president’s overture for the opening of a peace conference. It struck me as the beginning of a good story.
So I called two friends of mine – good sources, but also friends – who were working at the White House. Each one said the same thing to me. The reason I’m telling you the story is it sort of follows up on what was told to Bill. Both said the same thing: “Marvin, you’re a good reporter. If you think it’s a story, that’s your business. I’m not going to go there with you.” I knew them well enough to know that when I was wrong, they would stop me. When I was right, they didn’t confirm it. They’d just say go ahead. There were two guys at the White House who did that.
And then I talked to a couple of people here at State who knew about the exchanges, were part of it, and they, in effect, confirmed it so that when, after the president spoke, we did what was called on CBS instant analysis, we – I told them. I spoke about this. Well, this got the White House so furious that the following day, the president sitting there – the reports were very positive coming into the White House – and he said, “How were things.” “Well, they were just great, except for that son of a bitch Kalb who said blah-blah-blah about the Ho Chi Minh letter.”
Following up on that, there were – Bill was subjected to this, too. There were government folks listening in on private telephone conversations, checking up on my income tax, being on the cherished enemies list of Richard Nixon. All of those things came to me, I’m told, as a result of that one story. So that when you were covering something, there was the raw coverage that Morley just told us about and there was the other kind of coverage here.
And I’d like to go back to Barry’s last comment when he said that we seem to have taken care of that – the credibility gap. My impression, Barry, is that that lasted for most of the war. Why would a nice boy like you allow such a thing to happen?
MR. ZORTHIAN: Most of which war?
MR. KALB: The Vietnam War.
MR. ZORTHIAN: Well –
MR. KALB: The one that you were explaining to the American people.
MR. ZORTHIAN: I say to you there is no single Vietnam War. There’s that post-Tet period where things fell apart and I think the government got back into bad habits of distortions or exaggerations. I will say flatly the information that came into my hands may have been doctored, but I never put out or authorized disclosure of information that I thought was false.
MR. KALB: And I think we all believe that, those of us who benefited from your information.
MR. SAFER: I’d say – may I just interrupt? I want to second what Marvin said about trusting Barry. At least if you couldn’t trust what he said in the briefing, you could trust what he said over a drink. I’ll put it that way. (Laughter.)
MR. ZORTHIAN: As long as it’s good gin. (Laughter.)
MR. SAFER: But I think there were times when he unwittingly gave disinformation when he was given false information and perhaps was neglecting to check his own sources, to be polite.
MR. KALB: Bill. Is that a fair comment, there?
MR. ZORTHIAN: Yeah, I think it’s a fair comment. I’d make one other point, which I think is essential. We keep talking about the media. There was no cohesive media. There were critics in the media, there were analysts in the media, and there were some very strong supporters of what the U.S. was doing. So that any image that this was a hundred percent reaction by the media just doesn’t stand up when you analyze it.
MR. KALB: No, that’s a very good point, that the media was never and isn’t today a cohesive whole reflecting a single political point of view. And I would like to believe that most of the people, good reporters who work in the media and covered the Vietnam War, were not there to project any point of view, either pro or con, but were there to cover the story as best they could.
Bill wanted to have --
MR. BEECHER:I just wanted to add something to what you said a moment ago, Marvin. You mentioned that several of us had our phones tapped, other things. I’ll reveal something that I didn’t write about at the time, but there came a period when the FBI went to offices in the State Department and the Pentagon to secretaries with my photograph, and they showed it to secretaries and they said, “Does your boss know this guy? Does he see him personally or professionally?” It was an attempt, frankly, to me out of business, because it was like I was a child molester and they were showing my photograph around. And I’d never heard of anything like that happening before, but it happened to me. And I remember talking to my bureau chief and he said, “Well, Bill, why don’t we put you on the desk for six months until this cools off?” And I said, “No, they’d win that way. I’m going to work twice as hard,” and I did, and they regretted it.
MR. KALB:Absolutely. Thank you for that story.
MR. SAFER:I can just – another small anecdote. After the – I reported this Cam Ne story which caused its own little firestorm –
MR. KALB: Big firestorm.
MR. SAFER:The FBI went to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who are the Canadian FBI – I’m dual citizenship; I am a Canadian citizen as well – and they went to my sister’s house and they asked such questions as, “Does he read communist books?” (Laughter.) “Does he – did he ever have a copy of Das Kapital in your library?” This was – this is farce, really.
MR. KALB:Edie, were you ever subjected to the credibility gap in the sense that you were told something, you reported it, only to find that it simply wasn’t true?
MS. LEDERER: Yes, I was, but I’d like to just say one follow-up to what Barry said about what happened post-1968. Because, for instance, I was in Saigon during the Christmas bombing of Hanoi and there was a news blackout by MACV on what was happening. And journalists then were using – trying to call all over to try and actually find out the impact, and some of them actually succeeded.
And I’d just like to make one point to answer some of the critics like Henry Kissinger about the media in Vietnam. The thing that was terrific for the media in Vietnam was that the media was given basically free and open access to all of the battlefields. You could go down to one of the helicopter bases, get on a helicopter – if there was an empty seat – go out to one of the battle zones, stay for as long as you wanted, and then get a ride back.
This changed – this has changed dramatically in every conflict and war that the United States has been involved in ever since. Because the media was blamed for losing the Vietnam War, the next major conflict the U.S. was involved in was the first Gulf War in 1991 and the media was totally encircled; nobody was allowed to go out anywhere without an escort. There were limited pools. You were watched all of the time. I still remember interviewing a general who was sitting facing me, and his PR guy was sitting behind him basically giving him hand signals of whether he should answer the questions or not. To answer –
MR. KALB: Credibility.
MS. LEDERER: -- credibility. Look, being a woman correspondent – a female correspondent at that time wasn’t very easy. It was a very sexist era and people were always trying to sort of take advantage of you or to use you, and I actually got sold a hoax story by a captain – an army captain who claimed – this is when we were all waiting for the release of some of the Viet Cong prisoners, that he – that his guys had picked up some prisoners of the Viet Cong in the jungle, and it turned out to be a total hoax. And why did he do it? Because he thought I was young and cute and he was putting me on.
MR. KALB: That’s fascinating. I had a – (laughter) – I had a conversation the other day with Morley about, not necessarily disappointments in your life as you were covering the Vietnam War, but revelations – events that that happened where you can look back upon it 30, 40 years later and say, “Wow, that really did happen.” And I’d like to ask each member of the panel now starting with Morley and just tell us the story about this, and the other three think about yours.
MR. SAFER:Well, I can think of two and I’ll do them both very quickly. One – I don’t know if you ever – you know about this, Barry, but when Bill [Colby] called me – he went on to become director of the CIA, was doing his second tour in Vietnam as a deputy ambassador, I believe.
MR. BEECHER:Deputy (inaudible) commander.
MR. SAFER:Deputy –
MR. BEECHER:Frank (ph) was an ambassador.
MR. SAFER:And who’s still working for the CIA. I got a call to come and see him in his office. And I walked in – and I had met him; we had no strong relationship at all – but – and he said, “Look, can you disappear for three days?” (Laughter.) And I said, “I guess.” (Laughter.) And he said, “Well, be at the airport – be at (inaudible) at the airport tomorrow morning at 5:30.”
MR. KALB: With a camera crew?
MR. SAFER:No, no. And I showed up and he said, “Okay, here are the rules. You can see that I’m going on a tour of all the stations. You can’t take notes and you can’t report anything you hear.” And I spent three days – made – first of all, down in the delta and they were really, really revealing. There was only one meeting that he would ask me to leave the barracks. And it was fascinating because the stuff that these guys were reporting through whatever filters to you had been so doctored by the time it got to you – I mean, to this day, I still feel constrained in terms of talking about.
As Telford Taylor once said to me, he said, “Once you know a secret – one you swear to keep a secret, you keep it to the grave.” Well, I keep most secrets to the grave but – and I so I don’t want to go into detail, but – and I’ve often wondered what his motivation was, being a skeptic, why is he doing this, what’s the real story. And to this day, I don’t know unless he was – wanted an uncommitted witness, some – I just don’t know.
MR. KALB: Well, at least Colby did it with you for three days. Think about McChrystal inviting a reporter from the Rolling Stone in for a month. (Laughter.) Tell us about McNamara.
MR. SAFER:When Secretary McNamara finally published his – shall we call it his mea culpa– I was asked to do this kind of thing with him at the Y in New York and in front of an audience. And the essence of his answers to my questions – and he was a very, very hard man to impress, but I did my best – was, “If only we’d know – if only we’d known that – the nature of the Vietnamese people and their committed resistance. If only we’d known.” And I kind of went nuts with him there because – so what, doesn’t anybody in the State Department read history, or in the Defense Department? And the truth of it was they don’t. Not the people who are there on the ground. The last books any of them read, anyone I knew in Vietnam, including some very learned senior commanders – the last books they read were Bernard Fall’s books about the French failure in Vietnam. And essentially, they came away with the message, “Well, what do you expect from the French? We can do better than this.” No (inaudible) into the history that the nature of the Vietnamese people, their resistance to outsiders, their sense of independence, their resistance to the Khmers, their resistance to the Chinese, their resistance to the French – this, I think, is something in their bones and I don’t think we had a clue about the nature of the people we were fighting.
MR. KALB: Dean Rusk told me several years after he left office that he totally underestimated – we totally underestimated, he said, the tenacity of the Vietnamese people and the tenacity of the Vietnamese leadership. And that went up above Rusk and down below Rusk, as well.
Bill, do you have a story to share?
MR. BEECHER:Well, one thing that comes to mind – I was a target, often, of the FBI trying to figure out where my sources were on various stories, some involving Vietnam, some involving arms control negotiations and such. They assumed when they did their investigations that these were silver platter stories, which means some source who knew all the information would hand it on a silver platter to the reporter. And this – like the story I told you earlier about the secret bombing of Cambodia, it doesn’t work that way in Washington or anywhere that I know if in my experience, except once.
Once, I got a call from someone I did not know. It was the dark of night and he said, “William Beecher, you don’t know me, but I want to come to your house tonight to tell you about something.” And I was a little nervous about it. I had a – (laughter) – wife and four little girls at home and I didn’t know who this was. Frankly, I had a pistol in my back pocket. I didn’t know this man, but I said, “Sure, come on ahead.” I sent them out of the house to go to a movie or something, and he wanted to tell me – this is a silver platter – about a secret plan, a covert plan to provide an awful lot of arms to the Cambodians. At that time, we were not overtly or even covertly supplying them a significant number of mines – the Cambodian army.
And I took notes and I said, “I have to confirm this before I write it.” And he said, “Go ahead.” He said, “You won’t find very many sources who know about this.” But I did and I wrote this story and it made a fuss. But in all my experience in Washington, over 25 years, it’s the only time anything like that ever happened.
MR. KALB: That’s fascinating. Barry, level with us for the first time. Come on. (Laughter.)
MR. ZORTHIAN: I’ll tell you one story. It’s a little coarse, but I hope you’ll excuse me. Every –
MR. KALB: We’re totally off the record, aren’t we? (Laughter.)
MR. ZORTHIAN: Well, this has been in print. But every so often I’d be called back to Washington for consultations – the highlight of which would usually be sitting in on some meeting with President L.B.J. and just getting chewed up because of the performance of the media. One time when we were there – Bill Moyers was then press secretary – we were meeting in the Roosevelt room, door opens, secretary came in and said the President wants to see both of you right away. Up we went to the family quarters; this was shortly after the lunch hour and there’s the President taking his afternoon nap in bed. We open a door, walk in, we don’t get a chance to say, “Good afternoon, Mr. President.” He takes off on the media, “Why can’t you handle them better? Why don’t you get them in line?” et cetera, et cetera. In the middle of one these sentences he threw his blankets off. He only had on half of his pajamas. He went into the restroom, the bath and john that was in that room, relieved himself; it sounded like a horse went. (Laughter.) He came back, got back into bad, dismissed us. We didn’t even have a chance to say “Yes, sir.” (Laughter.)
MR. KALB: Barry, you keep telling us stories like that, we’re not going to invite you back. (Laughter.) Edie, what is your story?
MS. LEDERER: Oh, come on, this is too tough. I can’t top that story. (Laughter.) Look, I was very young. I had – this was my first assignment overseas. I had been working for the AP for six years, so I covered crime; I had seen bodies and that wasn’t a shock to me. I think what coming face-to-face with the realities of war had a really lasting impression on me, particularly the impact on civilians.
Probably right after Henry Kissinger declared, “Peace is at hand,” I got assigned to go and find a Vietnamese family that had suffered great loss during the war. And I found this woman who had lost three sons in the war and her only surviving son was out fighting and she hadn’t heard from him for months. She had no means of support and she was living in a shack that was so poor that the walls were the walls of the neighboring flat and the only thing that she had put over it was one of those corrugated roofs.
And I think that, for the first time, really brought home to me the real impact of war on civilians, and it’s something I’ve never forgotten in all of the wars that I’ve gone on to cover. According to the UN, more than three-quarters of the victims of conflict today are civilians, the vast majority of them women and children. And it is – it was a lesson that I saw over and over again in Vietnam, and that I have never forgotten. And I would also, as denouement to my previous story about the hoax, I did learn a big lesson from that, and I am happy to say that in my nearly 40 years since then, I have never been the victim of another hoax.
MR. KALB: That’s great. That’s great. Thank you all very much for those stories, and if you all have questions, this is an opportunity to ask them. I know that there are people, two people I can see, who have microphones. So just raise your hand and I will call upon you.
One of – anybody? Up there, please, on the right. Got a hot mike?
QUESTION: Working? Okay, it is.
QUESTION: Okay. I have a – sort of a narrow question to ask William Beecher and then a somewhat broader question to the rest of the panel.
On the question of the U.S. bombing of Cambodia, you were describing in some detail how that initial story came to be. But I’m wondering about whether you followed up on that story over the next year, if you had any information about the continued bombing of Cambodia? And then in particular, at the point that the U.S. sent troops into Cambodia, President Nixon said that we had been scrupulously neutral up until that moment. I mean, obviously, that must have perked your curiosity.
So I’m wondering, at that – if at that point or any point, you were continuing on that story. And I guess a related question is really not just on Cambodia, but also in that same time period – I’m doing research right now. I’m very impressed by how important a part of the story is Laos. And I wonder if others on the panel might comment on the media coverage of Laos and the U.S. role in Laos and the bombing of Laos during that period and clarify that.
MR. KALB: Okay. Thank you very much. Bill.
MR. BEECHER: I did follow it to some extent, but I should point out that in Washington, I wasn’t just doing Vietnam stories. I was doing stories across the whole spectrum, the whole global spectrum. As I mentioned earlier, I did a lot of stories on the negotiations on arms control and a half dozen to a dozen other issues. Yeah, I did some follow-up, and yes, when it was announced when we went into the Fish Hook – what was called the Fish Hook part of Cambodia, that this was the first time that we had violated the sanctuary. That was, shall I say, BS, and – but a lot of reporters at that point realized that.
MR. KALB: As far as the Laos story line-bait is concerned, I can just tell you a brief anecdote. Sandy Socolow is a very good reporter and he was the number-two guy on the CBS Evening News with Cronkite when Cronkite was anchor. And as diplomatic correspondent, I would run around and try to get stories, and when I came up with stories about Laos, they were always rejected. And once at lunch, I asked Sandy, “Why are all the Laos stories being rejected?” He said, “Well, you have to understand, in our minds, it’s the gulf of Laos. It’s just a gulf. There’s nothing there. We don’t want that story.”
And it was shot down for a totally silly reason, but it was not considered important enough. If you had something of importance to say on Vietnam, that could get on the air, but Laos did not get on the air even when there were good things happening with Laos resulting in the Geneva conference.
Did you have a --
MS. LEDERER: Could I just add a quick note on Laos? I actually went to Laos in 1973 and the thing that fascinated me most about Laos was that it was the one place in Southeast – it was a spy haven. It was the one place in Southeast Asia where you had the North Vietnamese, the South Vietnamese, the Russians, the Chinese, the North Koreans, the South Koreans, the Americans, and everybody else. And the prime occupation of everybody in Vientiane was spying. It was to try and sort of network. And there was a lot of diplomacy that went on in Laos very, very quietly.
MR. KALB: Thank you. Thank you very much. Yes, please, right –
MR. SAFER: Just one more.
MR. KALB: Sorry, Morley.
MR. SAFER: I never covered Laos, but I was reading something recently that there were more bombs dropped in Laos than in all of World War II. It is the most bombed country.
MR. KALB: Ho Chi Minh Trail.
QUESTION: The Ho Chi Minh Trail.
MR. KALB: Ho Chi Minh Trail.
QUESTION: There was the Ho Chi Minh –
MR. SAFER: Right.
MR. KALB: Go ahead, please.
QUESTION: Can I ask --
MR. KALB: Is there a microphone for him? We don’t want you to feel bad. We’ll get a microphone.
QUESTION: I just wanted to ask if the relationship with the media – and particularly, I was struck by Mr. Beecher’s comment about finding out, of course, that – or the idea that you would go on six months away made you even more determined to cover. If you feel like the Nixon Administration ultimately became its own worst enemy in terms of the media, that whatever goodwill or that that – in some sense, it turned and created something of the adversarial relationship?
And here, I was also thinking of the Agnew speech and the attack on the networks and whether you feel like that – in your own career before and then after, if you feel that was at all a turning point in relationships with – your relationship with the government.
MR. KALB: Bill.
MR. BEECHER: I didn’t take the six months on the desk. I continued to work twice as hard as before. But objective as we tried to be as reporters – and we literally do try to be objective and it’s always been part of our credo – you can’t help but react to some of these excesses. I mentioned the use of the photographs. I mean, that’s a Gestapo-type tactic. That’s not an American democracy. That was just dreadful. I mean, it shouldn’t happen in our society. So it had to affect your attitude.
MR. KALB: Also, I think your comment about the Agnew speeches, as far as those of us who worked at the networks were concerned, it was a declaration of war. And there was also something ugly about it. It wasn’t just a disagreement or an unhappiness with coverage. It was an effort to say that a certain part of American society was somehow foreign, they were different, they were not us. And I smell a lot of that going on today, by the way, and I don’t like it. And from my appreciation of that ugliness, that I found in that initial Agnew attack.
In the back, please.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) today about – hearing so many things in the Vietnam War they said were supposed to be secret but yet they weren’t secret at all to anybody. And just hearing your story you relayed about how an individual you didn’t even know just came to you to give you information. With so much we hear about leaks to the media today, being reporters and having your sources, what motivates people? What do you find maybe today or back in the Vietnam era, what was the motivation behind a lot of the leaks?
MR. BEECHER: In that particular occasion, I told you it was an isolated case, the only one like it in my entire experience as a reporter in Washington. He really wanted the story out so that the secret program would be spiked. He wanted the story killed. He wanted the covert action killed. It was apparent to me in asking him questions that was his objective. But that – to me, I was just trying to find out what are the facts. And so I went to elsewhere and I wrote the story and it was spiked.
But in most cases, it’s not that way at all. Reporters talk to sources, they develop sources over a period of time. There’s a mutuality. There’s a respect. A lot of sources, even with very sensitive information, want the public to be well-informed, and they feel that as citizens, they have a responsibility – sometimes a small one, sometimes a big one – to help inform the public through a reporter. And that frequently, more frequently than anything else, is how a reporter gets information.
MR. KALB: Barry Zorthian.
MR. ZORTHIAN: In my – very briefly –
MR. KALB: Let Barry – go first.
PARTICIPANT: Go ahead.
MR. KALB: Oh, no, wait a minute. Wait a minute. (Laughter.) I’m the moderator. You go.
MR. ZORTHIAN: Let me say a word about secrecy in Vietnam. There were a lot of so-called classified operations that were known to any competent correspondent – Cambodia incursions, the Udorn air base for B-29s in Thailand, on and on. The media, I have to say, was very responsible in protecting that. They did not write – Saigon was like a sieve. The leaks from particularly Vietnamese sources went on and on.
Censorship was proposed repeatedly. It was never applied for reasons that were very practical. The Vietnamese Government was the sovereign government in Vietnam. They would have had to exercise the censorship. Vietnam was not made for 600 correspondents’ copies. You have to control the correspondent if you’re going to apply censorship. You have to control him physically. You have to control his communications. There was no way we could have done that.
Furthermore, correspondents have never, even back to World War II, been censored on political, substantive writing. The only thing the media has accepted and the American public has accepted is protection of tactical military information. And they did agree to observe a number of ground rules – when is an operation going to take place, who’s involved, what are the casualties, and so on.
In four years of Vietnam, based on those ground rules, I think we only had six violations, most of which were inadvertent. There was one or two deliberate violations to see what we would do. We lifted back the credentials on some of them. But media’s respect for classified information – in Vietnam, at least – legitimate, classified information was very good. And I don’t think we ought to ever leave the impression that they kept violating.
MR. KALB: Thank you very much, Barry. Morley.
MR. SAFER: In my experience in Vietnam, I had some very good sources in the – among the special forces. And a number of the guys I knew had come to me with stories, several of which were reporters, some of which I couldn’t confirm, because they were appalled by some of the excesses of their colleagues.
So you – I think that for the most part, in – unlike whistleblowers in industry who MAY do it out of some of their own venality or getting even, anything I’ve ever had in any kind – in any combat situation. I think the motivation was always pretty noble by the people who came to me.
MR. KALB: Okay. And Edie, your story, please.
MS. LEDERER: I actually wanted to talk about one issue that really faced not me, but my female predecessors, my female journalist predecessors in Vietnam, because when they arrived, they really had to fight to get on the battlefield to go out and cover the war. And my colleague Denby Fawcett, who worked for the Honolulu Advertiser, happened to know William Westmoreland because his family had a house not far from her family’s in Honolulu. So she’s out happily covering the war and Westy shows up to visit the unit that she was with and he threw a fit that there was a woman out covering this unit from Hawaii and he banned women from the battlefield.
And there was a fight that went all the way up to Robert McNamara and he rescinded the order, but it took quite a few months and every woman who was then in – this was in 1967. Every woman who was in Vietnam then really went to bat to try and reverse this. I have to plug the book that nine women who covered the war, starting in ’65 with Denby, wrote together. And it is very interesting because it’s sort of the history of the war seen through the eyes of the women who covered it.
But as somebody who has gone on to cover many other wars, I would like to really pay tribute to the changing times, because by the time the first Gulf War came around, there were women covering the war from many major news organizations. And by the time the war in Bosnia came around, the majority of war correspondents in Bosnia were women.
MR. KALB: And there are a lot of women covering the war in Afghanistan today. We have five more minutes, so those of you who have a question –
MR. BEECHER: (Inaudible.)
MR. KALB: I’m sorry?
MR. BEECHER: I want to ask a question –
MR. KALB: Bill, go ahead.
WILLIAM HAMMOND: -- of the group. Morley – and you may be aware of it and you may not – despite all the grief that you endured because of the burning of Cam Ne, it had a profound effect on the military. And after it was all over with, General Westmoreland went out there and he issued rules, rules of engagement. People didn’t go into villages after that and just start burning. They had to announce they’re coming, which is kind of crazy but that’s what was set. They had to have, in theory, a Vietnamese translator with them at all times and so on. And what you did was you actually changed the way the war was conducted. And it didn’t always happen that way, but it was on the books from then on, and I put that in my volume for the army years ago.
And I’m just wondering if other people have seen stories either that they did or that other people did that actually had a real influence on government policy.
MR. SAFER: All I know as I say – I had very little feedback. All I know, and I can’t remember whether it was Barry who told me or Tappie (ph) at – that they had to scrape Westmoreland off the ceiling when he saw the story, and then – and he flew up to Da Nang and, I gather, tore many strips of many marine commanders. But that’s all I know.
MR. ZORTHIAN: I’ll give you a case where a story had a real effect on operations, and that was use of tear gas to insert into underground fortifications and so on. Military decide to try it, see if it was effective, and authorize one of these units up towards the north to do so. It just happened, pure accident, that Peter Arnett and Horst Fos --
MR. KALB: AP reporter and cameraman.
MR. ZORTHIAN: -- were in that area and ran across the usage of tear gas. They wrote a story that day without asking anyone or clearing it. I’m told the Tokyo bureau, through which their copy went, changed their terminology and talked about nonlethal gas being used as an instrument of war that went out worldwide, story to that effect. It led to riots in Europe, very negative coverage in the U.S. Nonlethal gas was interpreted as poisonous gas, dangerous gas; God forbid it be identified as tear gas.
Two weeks later, you couldn’t get a paragraph in the – because once it was revealed MACV started using it, it was not very effective. But it never got straightened out. It’s the type of thing that the military just isn’t used to communicating in advance. If we had briefed the correspondents in advance, if they – we had put them through a trial use of it, they might not even have covered the story because it wasn’t that well known.
MR. KALB: Barry, thank you very much for that story, and to all of the other members of the panel, thank you very much for your stories and thanks to the History Department – is that what you’re called here at the State Department?
MR. CROWLEY: The Office of the Historian in the Bureau of Public Affairs. But I could use the convener’s prerogative to ask one last question for you to be able to sum up, and I’d like to draw from what Barry talked about with the issue of the credibility gap. For each of you in your various experiences in Vietnam, at what point in your judgment did the gap become so wide that if “tipping point” was the right term – I know there’s a school of thought that the war pivoted when Johnson lost Cronkite.
But – and Morley said that there were – there was – the credibility gap might have been visible as early as 1965. But is there a point at which that gap became profound enough that it – the turn in public opinion became almost inevitable?
MR. SAFER: I think the best answer to that question is going to be given by Barry because he was on the receiving end of – and I think that to a large extent, by ’67 and by ’70, which was the last time I was – I went back to Vietnam, we didn’t even bother with stuff that came out of the briefing process, largely because it was – it really wasn’t very interesting, true or false. You still could – you could really get much better stories by being out in the boondocks and talking to even young PIO guys in some of the units. And so Saigon was a rumor mill capital of Vietnam and you really had to go out. And once in the field, there was no credibility gap at all, in my experience.
MR. KALB: Okay. But two quickies here: One was that the CBS Evening News found that the credibility gap had reached a point of such acceptance by the American people that it became a source of humor. And quite often, there would be a piece from the field – Morley or somebody else – doing a piece from Vietnam. And I would do a piece from Washington and it would be about the same issue and it would be two worlds. There would be one world, the Morley world, which was real and then I would say, “And this is what the State Department and the White House are saying today,” and it was unreal. But that’s how bad it became. It became a source of humor.
MR. BEECHER: And they both made a point that I would like to add to, and it’s a matter of coloration. When I would talk to officials in Washington, there was great optimism about what was going on, body counts and all that. When I went on the way to Vietnam and stopped at CINCPAC headquarters at Pacific Command and there was a slightly more accurate view but still highly colored, I’d get to Saigon and official spokesmen – not necessarily Barry – but official spokesmen would tend to be a little bit more accurate and a little less saccharine. But you go out to the field and you get a straight story, and it was a matter of coloration that was different from Washington at each step until you got down to the grunts and the officers.
MS. LEDERER: I’m going to give Barry the last word. The only thing I wanted to say was that by the time I got there in 1972, there was no credibility. It was gone. And it was more of a joke. I mean, the 5 o’clock follies were really viewed as the follies, and because reporters could go out in the field and see for themselves, that, by that time, is the only thing that news organizations were relying on.
MR. ZORTHIAN: My last word is I get a feeling sometimes – this is, what, 45 years after I left Vietnam – that the Vietnam War is going to be like the Civil War. There will be books coming out on it analyzing these questions for the next hundred years.
PARTICIPANT: Well, let’s hope we’re all --
PARTICIPANT: I hope so.
PARTICIPANT: -- here for it.
PARTICIPANT: That’s all right. (Laughter.)
PARTICIPANT: That’s fine.
PARTICIPANT: We’ll convene a hundred years from tonight.
PARTICIPANT: P.J., one point, please?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
MR. KALB: If it turns out that the same kind of reporting begins to take place – and I see signs of it already – in the coverage in Afghanistan, where there is a difference between what’s going on there and what’s being said here, I would suggest that you’ve got a problem.
MR. CROWLEY: On that as the last word. (Laughter.) As the State Department Spokesman, I’ll take that question. (Laughter.)
Join me in one more round of applause for our panel. Thank you very much. (Applause.)