Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A conspiracy of wishful thinking

"A conspiracy of wishful thinking" is how Sebastian Junger described American military efforts in Afghanistan, and journalist H.D.S. Greenway borrowed the phrase to describe "What I Saw in Vietnam." It runs in today's New York Times.

I wonder why Greenway would choose to write about Vietnam now. Are his words just a journalist marking the moment when he saw war for the first time fifty years ago this month? Or does he want to offer a sideways commentary about the dangers of any government that is too willing to tell itself stories and urge us to believe them?

Greenway's job as a young reporter for Time back in 1967 was to try to make some sense of it all. Vietnam was so many things in so many ways to so many people.  He saw the gap between what the generals were saying and what he was seeing out in the field. Being out in the field was important to him. "I rode in Jeeps, trucks, four-engined transport planes and countless helicopters in and out of fire fights, often riding in with ammunition resupply and out with the American dead zipped in their body bags."

Oh, Vietnam.