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Monday, January 18, 2010

Tet in Kabul...

This morning over breakfast I am watching reports about the battle in Kabul on CNN International. I have no way of knowing what is really happening, which reports are true, exaggerated, or misleading. I am not accusing CNN of anything, nor praising them. But the resemblance to discourses surrounding the Vietnam war is striking, despite the evidence that this is, at least in scale, nothing on the order of the spring, 1968 Tet offensive, involving only a few dozen Taliban at most.

- One reporter speaking live from Kabul made the point that the Taliban has shown that it can go on the offensive in Kabul and penetrate deep into the capital and secured areas. This is precisely the claim made during and after Tet. The U.S. military claimed, quite plausibly, that they had won the battle militarily (and that will probably be the case this time as well). They thwarted all attacks and the Vietcong made no permanent gains. But it was the demonstration of offensive capability, after months of U.S. military claims that they were winning and breaking the Vietcong, that supposedly turned Tet into communist/nationalist victory. Thus, according to the mainstream American narrative, the media turned a military victory into a military defeat by interpreting it as a defeat (for example in this blog story about media coverage).

- There are vague and speculative reports on CNN about where the Taliban penetrated and how far they got in. How far into the presidential compound did they get? How many layers of security did they penetrate? This sounds exactly like discussions about how many Vietcong got into the U.S. embassy compound and how far into the compound they got (how many meters beyond the wall, whether they got into the building, if so which story they reached, etc.). Together with coverage of the My Lai massacre, reports from the media which exaggerated Vietcong successes in the U.S. embassy in Saigon are now the centerpiece of claims that the U.S. media lost the war for the United States and the Republic of South Vietnam, for example in the 1984 documentary, Vietnam War - The Impact of the Media, hosted by Charlton Heston.

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