Skip to comments.THE UNCOUNTED ENEMY: A VIETNAM DECEPTION (cBS & Gen Wm Westmoreland libel lawsuit)
Posted on 09/19/2004 6:19:29 PM PDT by GailA
The CBS Reports documentary The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception, which aired on 23 January 1982, engendered one of the most bitter controversies in television history. The 90-minute program spawned a three-year ordeal for CBS, including disclosures by TV Guide that the report violated CBS News Standards; an internal investigation by Burton (Bud) Benjamin; and an unprecedented $120 million libel suit by retired U.S. Army General William C. Westmoreland.
Westmoreland sued producer George Crile III, correspondent Mike Wallace, and others for alleging that Westmoreland participated in a conspiracy to defraud the American public about progress in the Vietnam War. The suit was dropped, however, before reaching the jury, with CBS merely issuing a statement saying the network never meant to impugn the general's patriotism.
CBS subsequently lost its libel insurance. The controversy was also drawn into the debate over repeal of the financial interest and syndication rules. CBS chairman Tom Wyman twice admonished his news division in 1984 for hindering broadcast deregulation. In part as a result of the controversies, fewer CBS documentaries were produced than ever before.
The lawsuit generated an abundance of literature, as well as soul-searching among broadcast journalists regarding ethics, First Amendment protection, libel law, and the politicization of TV news. Unlike the case for a similar, but lesser, controversy over The Selling of the Pentagon, The Uncounted Enemy failed to uplift TV news, and instead, contributed to the documentary's decline.
The program states that the 1968 Tet offensive stunned Americans because U.S. military leaders in South Vietnam arbitrarily discounted the size of the enemy that was reflected in CIA reports. Former intelligence officers testify that field command reports withheld information from Washington and the press, ostensibly under orders from higher military command, and that a 300,000-troop ceiling was imposed on official reports to reflect favorable progress in the war. This manipulation of information was characterized as a "conspiracy" in print ads and at the top of the broadcast.
The first part of the documentary chronicles the CIA-MACV dispute over intelligence estimates. Part two reports that prior to Tet, infiltration down the Ho Chi Minh Trail exceeded 20,000 North Vietnamese per month. Again, the report alleges, these figures were discounted. The last segment charges that intelligence officers purged government databases to hide the deception.
The most provocative scene features correspondent Mike Wallace interviewing Westmoreland. An extreme close-up captures the general trying to wet his dry mouth as Wallace fires questions. The visual image in conjunction with other program material suggests that Westmoreland engineered a conspiracy and, as viewers can see, he appears guilty. Westmoreland publicly rebuked these claims and demanded forty-five minutes of open airtime to reject The Uncounted Enemy assertions. CBS refused the request.
In the spring of 1982, a CBS News employee disclosed to TV Guide that producer George Crile had violated network standards in making the program. The 24 May story by Sally Bedell and Don Kowet, "Anatomy of a Smear: How CBS News Broke the Rules and 'Got' Gen. Westmoreland," stipulated how the production strayed from accepted practices. Significantly, TV Guide never disputed the premise of the program. The writers attacked the journalistic process, pointing out, for instance, that Crile screened interviews of other participants for one witness and then shot a second interview, that he avoided interviewing witnesses who would counter his thesis, and that answers to various questions were edited into a single response.
CBS News president, Van Gordon Sauter, who was new to his position, appointed veteran documentary producer Burton Benjamin to investigate. His analysis, known as "The Benjamin Report," corroborated TV Guide's claims.
According to a report in The American Lawyer, several conservative organizations, such as the Richard Mellon Scaife Foundation, the Olin Foundation, and the Smith Richardson Foundation, financed Westmoreland's suit in September 1982. One goal of the Smith Richardson Foundation was to kill CBS Reports. Another was to turn back the 1964 New York Times vs. Sullivan rule, which required that public officials prove "actual malice" to win a libel judgment. The Westmoreland case went to trial two years later and was discontinued in February 1985.
One of the significant by-products of the controversy is the "Benjamin Report." Benjamin's effort remains widely respected within the journalistic community for revealing unfair aspects of the program's production. Some observers, however, criticized the report for having a "prosecutorial tone," for failing to come to terms with the producer's purpose, and for measuring fairness and balance by a mathematical scale. In his conclusion, Benjamin acknowledges the enduring value of the documentary: "To get a group of high-ranking military men and former Central Intelligence Agents to say that this is what happened was an achievement of no small dimension." The production flaws, however, overshadowed the program's positive attributes.
The Uncounted Enemy helps explain an aspect of Tet and gives voice to intelligence officers who were silenced during the war. But the program tried unsuccessfully to resolve a complex subject in ninety minutes, and it fails to convey the context of national self-delusion presented in lengthier treatments, such as the thirteen-hour PBS series, Vietnam: A Television History or Neil Sheehan's book A Bright Shining Lie. CIA analyst George Allen, who was interviewed in the documentary, explained in a letter to Burton Benjamin in June 1982 his belief that the intelligence dispute was "a symptom of a larger and more fundamental problem, i.e. the tendency of every American administration from Eisenhower through Nixon toward self-delusion with respect to Indochina." Allen reasserted his support for The Uncounted Enemy as a valid illustration of the larger issue and subsequently used the program as a case study in politicized intelligence.
Although many works disprove the conspiracy charge, General Westmoreland did subsequently acknowledge the potential significance of a public disclosure of intelligence information prior to Tet. Appearing on the NBC Today show in May 1993, Westmoreland explained: "It was the surprise element, I think, that did the damage. And if I had to do it over again, I would have called a press conference and made known to the media the intelligence we had."
Someone ought to sue Rather. Not Bush, but Staudt. He'd have a pretty good case, I think. I'm a lawyer, so I have a little insight on this. Staudt is not a public figure. The only two problems he's got are these: What are his damages, and can he live long enought to take it to trial?
I didn't see where it said they were able to once again get libel insurance. If they don't have libel insurance, the results for CBS and Viacom could be devestating. And that is very good news!
I sincerely hope that Staudt files a whopping suit, and does not settle for a mere apology, as Gen. Westmoreland did.
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WOW! These Clymers have been at it for a long time! I hope the widow Killian, BGEN Staudt and everyone else that was defamed by Dirty Dan Blather sue their asses off after the election.
I mentioned on an earlier thread this evening, that I wonder what other fiction could be found if somebody went back and 're-researched' all the stories SeeBS and 60Minutes of BS have put out over the years.
BTW, Gail, thanks for the GW/Cheney 2004 yard sign, it's in my store window, and people are coming in asking if they can have one too! Hope you and yours had a good time this weekend.
Wouldn't the Killian's and Hodge's have cause for action? I would think so since cBS has caused defamation of their characters by using faked and forged documents.
Not sure about Hodge. Killian is dead. One of the fundamental rules of defamation law is that when the victim dies, the case disappears. That's why I said that one of Staudt's biggest problems is living long enough to take it to trial. He's 84, and you can bet that CBS's lawyers would drag it out in the hopes that he'd die.
And contrary to what the MSM would have the American public believe, we never lost a battle during the Viet Nam war including the Tet offensive on Da Nang!
THE LARGEST BATTLE IN THE VIETNAM WAR
WHAT HAPPENED IN DANANG
January 29 - February 14, 1968
For some time, the American forces had been aware that the enemy was about to launch some type of major offensive. General Westmoreland was convinced that this big push would come either just before or right after Tet, but not during the holidays and probably at Khe Sanh and in the DMZ sector.
At Danang, III MAF knew that the Communists were on the move.
THANKS TO THE MARINES AND NSAH, WE KNEW WHEN IT WOULD BEGIN
On the evening of 28 January, just west of Hieu Due, a Marine squad from Company C, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines ambushed a three-man Viet Cong reconnaissance patrol. The Marines killed two of the enemy and wounded the third. The Marines evacuated the survivor to the NSAH (Naval Support Activity Hospital ,Marble Mountain, Danang) where he died of his wounds. Before his death, however, the Vietnamese identified himself as Major Nguyen Van Lam, the commanding officer of the R-20 Doc Lap Battalion. From the recovery of Lam's notebook and a detailed sketch map of Hill 10, the location of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines' command post, the R-20 commander was obviously on a exploration mission to discover any vulnerability in the Marine battalion's defenses.
Lieutenant Colonel John F. J. Kelly, who was an intelligence officer on the III MAF staff, commented that General Westmoreland canceled the truce at "the request of LtGen Cushman, Commander III MAF, who also requested that the announcement be held until six hours before the scheduled beginning of the truce so as not to tip III MAF's hand
By evening on the 29th, the 1st Marine Division at Da Nang was on a 100-percent alert
January 29th, at Da Nang, the Marines remained tense. One experienced Marine noncommissioned officer, serving in his third war, First Sergeant Jack W. Jaunal of the Headquarters and Service (nicknamed "Heat and Steam") Company, 3d Amphibian Tractor Battalion, located below Marble Mountain, recorded his impressions. He remembered that before midnight "the alert sounded, and it was all hands to the wire [manning defensive positions]." Although Jaunal's sector remained relatively quiet, he recalled that "we could see flashes of other areas being hit" and heard mortars and rockets: "The Marine helicopter strip [Marble Mountain, MAG 16,] two miles to our north got hit... Also Da Nang Airfield got it."
TET 68 ROCKET ATTACK ON THE AIRFIELD JANUARY 29, 1968
After a lull of about an hour to an hour and a half, the enemy gunners renewed their assault on the airbase and also included the helicopter air facility at Marble Mountain. About 0330, perhaps to divert Marine attention from the ground assault on I Corps headquarters and the city of Da Nang, enemy mortars opened up on Marble Mountain. Approximately 16 rounds impacted in the MAG-16 sector and another four in the Army aviation company area. About the same time, from their firing positions on the western fringes of the Da Nang TAOR, NVA rocketeers let go with a fusillade of 122mm rockets aimed at the main airbase. Some 36 of the large missiles landed on the main base, including the airfield.
The Communist Tet offensive was in full bloom, not only at Da Nang, but throughout Vietnam. In the early morning hours of 31 January, Communist forces assaulted provincial and district capitals extending from the Mekong Delta in the south to Quang Tri City in the north. In Thua Thien Province in I Corps, two North Vietnamese regiments held most of Hue City and the Marine base at Phu Bai came under mortar and rocket barrages. Along Route l between Phu Bai and Da Nang, VC and NVA main force units on the 31st made some 18 attacks on bridges.
In the extensive Da Nang TAOR, the early morning hours of 31 January were almost a repeat of the events of the 30th. Enemy gunners fired rockets at both the Da Nang Airbase and this time also included the Marble Mountain helicopter facility on Tiensha Peninsula. No rockets fell on the main airbase but Marble Mountain sustained some damage. The enemy rocket troops fired in two bursts, one at 0342, followed by a second barrage three hours later. About the same time as the rocket attacks on the Da Nang base and Marble Mountain, enemy mortars bombarded the command post of the 7th Marines on Hill 55 south of Da Nang and forward infantry positions. These included Hills 65 and 52 manned by companies of the 3d Battalion, 7th Marines in the southwestern part of the TAOR and Hill 41 defended by Company D, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines in the central western sector.. The mortar attacks resulted in only five wounded and none killed among the Marine defenders. Countermortar fire quickly silenced the enemy tubes. The Marine staff speculated that the enemy launched the mortar attacks largely as a cover for the rocket attacks against Marble Mountain. Even at Marble Mountain the damage was relatively contained. The Marines lost l helicopter and sustained damage to 29 others.
The combined force then swept the general area where they found two enemy bodies and took three prisoners. According to the prisoner accounts, they were from the 3d Battalion, 31st NVA Regiment and confirmed that ". . . Da Nang itself was the ultimate objective.
The enemy offensive in the Da Nang sector had spent itself. During the next few days, Task Force Miracle conducted sweeps in its sector and encountered relatively little resistance.The battle for Da Nang was largely over. Despite limited attacks later in the month, these were largely, as a report stated, "an attempt to maintain the facade of an offensive."
During the Da Nang Tet offensive, both sides experienced heavy casualties, but the Communist forces proved to be no match for the allied forces. According to III MAF figures, from 29 January through 14 February at Da Nang, Marines sustained 124 killed and more than 480 wounded. Army forces in the Da Nang area including the troops from Task Force Miracle suffered 18 dead and 59 wounded. South Vietnamese and Korean casualties probably equalled or slightly exceeded the American. U.S. estimates of enemy casualties ranged between 1,200 and 1,400 dead. Colonel Smith believed that the 7 st VC Regiment alone lost about 600 men. The 2d NVA Division still remained intact, but obviously was not about to renew the offensive.
From almost every account, the Communist attack in the Da Nang TAOR was very inept. Despite the thinness of the Marine lines and the ability of both the NVA and VC to infiltrate, the enemy never capitalized on these advantages. According to a VC after-action report early in the offensive, the writer complained that the "commander did not know . . . [the] situation accurately . . . and that orders were not strictly obeyed." In a 1st Marine Division analyses, the author commented that the 2d NVA Division's approach was "along a single axis of advance so that his eventual target was easily identifiable." Moreover, once the NVA units arrived south of Da Nang they "made no further attempts at maneuver even while being hunted by Marine and Army units, and when engaged, seldom maneuvered, except to withdraw." General Robertson, the 1st Division commander, observed that the delay of the 2d NVA Division into the picture may have been because the Communist forces "got their signals mixed ...." The VC were supposed to be inside "when the NVA division came marching down main street. You get your timing off and you've got problems." Another possible explanation was that the Da Nang attack may have been a secondary assault-to cause as much damage as possible and divert allied forces from the almost successful effort of the Communist forces to capture the city of Hue."
** Brigadier General Paul G. Graham who was the 1st Marine Division Operations Officer (G-3) at the time disagreed with the last statement, writing "Hue had no military value to the NVA/VC. Da Nang was the prize-for success in that endeavor could have had a serious effect on the Allied efforts in the III MAF area." BGen Paul G. Graham
God bless my brothers who did not make it back.
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Why didn't they go to trial? I guess obviously they settled out of court... seems like he could have gotten a better vindicating result? I guess he didn't want to go through the ordeal of court.
Thanks, I miss so much when we go out of town. Hubby takes me to places that barely have talk radio. Of course camping means to FR, no FNC...so no news. This time it was even worse the only tv channel we could pick up what c-BS...doom an gloom, doom and gloom was all they reported.
Whether it went to trial or not, just getting Rather, his producer, CBS brass and some DNC people under oath might be worth it.
Can't answer your question. It would have been a long drawn out ordeal along with appeals.
I meant Lt Col Killian's wife and son...c-BS is defaming their dead husband and father who can't defend himself. RATS are real good at using dead people for the witnesses.
You are welcome I have 30 more. Terry Roland wants me to handle the yard signs for Millington. I'll go see him tomorrow. Have banking problems to straighten out tomorrow too, the bank with our van loan LOST my payment. Check register, coupon for the payment say I sent the thing in. They say they have 'problems' with their mail system. It's not cleared the my bank either.
YVW Stuck with only CBS, now that would be roughing it. I stopped watching network news over a decade ago. I'd watch CSpan during the day & then watch how the networks misreported things in the evening.
All they report now is doom & gloom? Doesn't surprise me in the least.
You need to learn two important words, "Room Service". Make it mandatory for a percentage of your vacations. :o)
I hope he torts the crap out of CBS; for libel, slander, stander and a stuning. Mea culpa, the devil made me do it. I do hope he sues. La, 78%!
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