A Texas Tech M.A. thesis in history from August 2006 purports to contain a critique of an old essay of mine from 1984 on the Vietnam War. I wrote that essay as an Op-Ed piece in the student newspaper at Montclair State College (now Montclair State University).
I think it would be astonishing if it did not contain some errors! I knew much less about the Vietnam War in 1984 than I do today, and in fact a lot less was known then than is known now.
Surely this old essay could be much improved by some careful, conscientious criticism! So I looked forward to reading Foster's thesis.
In vain! Foster failed to refute a single statement in that old essay of mine.
The present essay presents a brief review of Foster's failure.
It is also an indictment of the truly egregious dishonesty shown by Mr Foster in his dissertation. Time and again he claims to have proven that some statement in my essay is false, but in fact he fails to do so even once!
What follows is:
My comments are indented and in boldface. The quotations from Foster's thesis are in regular text justified at the left margin.
What's the result? Yet another example of academic dishonesty by a "conservative". False claims, name-calling, and an utter failure to even attempt to prove his thesis, or to establish any facts at all!
No wonder there are so few "conservatives" in academia! This incompetent and dishonest thesis should never have been accepted as partial fulfillment of the requirements for a degree in history.
Montclair State University
A STRANGE HISTORY OF VIETNAM: THE HISTORY OF THE VIETNAM WAR THROUGH FILM by JASON EVERITT FOSTER, B.A. Texas Tech August 2006.
[ The only article of mine on the Vietnam War that Foster discusses is "What Should We Learn From The Vietnam War?", originally published in October 1984]
p. 36 - Grover Furr is not a scholar on the Vietnam War. Instead he is a professor of Medieval Literature at Montclair State University, who also teaches a class on the Vietnam War, and maintains a webpage with articles on the Vietnam War.
p. 37 - At the same time, Furr is not the only academic with questionable conclusions about the origin of the war.
What "conclusions" about the origin of the Vietnam War are NOT "questionable"? Foster seems to imply that historians should not arrive at conclusions that can be "questioned" by anybody!
Marilyn Youngs work in the field of Vietnam history is well known. Her book The Vietnam Wars, 1945-1990 deals with the question of Americas "addiction" to Ngo Dien Diem in a slightly less inflammatory and more objective tone than Furr deals with the question of the election.
This is one of the best possible examples for illustrating how Impressionist history can be used by agenda driven scholars like Furr to create a false Impression of the past. The most obvious problem with his paper is that his most outrageous claims. For example he claims that the CIA was selling heroin in the US,
Foster is lying; I never said the CIA was doing the selling. Here is what I wrote: "For, to gain the support of anti-communist Laotian and Cambodian landlords who grew opium poppies, the CIA became the major supplier of heroin to the US market." This statement is very well documented by, among others, Alfred McCoys book The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia.
and that the CIA invented the 1968 Hué massacre and the 1954 land reform massacre to make it appear that Communist atrocities were worse than those of My Lai, which he claims to be the norm from US soldiers.
I wrote that these phony massacres were "faked by the CIA and South Vietnamese intelligence." I relied on Gareth Porters research on both topics. Edwin Moises work on land reform confirmed that the casualty figures in the land reform were faked, though he arrives at somewhat different figures than did Porters earlier work.
The truth of Porters claim that the Hué massacre was faked was later confirmed to a student of mine by Douglas Pike himself!
The point here, though, is that Foster does not even attempt to demonstrate that the statements I made are incorrect.
Therefore, he has no basis for assuming that the claims I made are "outrageous."
p. 38 - this section will only address his initial claim: was the US attempting, "to bring freedom and democracy to South Vietnam?" His answer: No. The US prevented the nationwide election scheduled for 1956 at the 1954 Geneva Conference. According to then-President Eisenhower: I have never talked or corresponded with a person knowledgeable in Indo-Chinese affairs who did not agree that had elections been held as of the time of the fighting, possibly 80 per cent of the population would have voted for the Communist Ho Chi Minh as their leader.55
This statement is an excellent example of how false Impressions of the history of the war are created. Furr mixes a little truth, that there was massive popular support for Ho and he might have won the election had it been held, with distortions of reality. It is true that, "[South Vietnam] almost certainly would not be able to defeat the Communists in countrywide elections."56
Here Foster claims I am "creating" a "false Impression of the history of the war" and then admits that the passage from my article he quotes is correct! That is, he admits that the "impression" it "creates" is NOT "false!"
For example look at the next two claims. Furr, quoted at length here so the reader will may understand his level of invective, first with regard to freedom and democracy:
The South Vietnamese Government was a US puppet régime forced upon the population. Of Premier Ngo Dinh Diem Look magazine said: Secretary of State Dulles picked him, [NOTE: Diem was appointed by
Emperor Bao Dai, this simple mistake calls into question the rest of Furrs research. Moreover this quote from Look Magazine is unconfirmed]
Foster makes many errors here.
1. Diems being "picked" by Dulles i.e. the US government, and being "appointed" by Bao Dai, are not mutually exclusive. Therefore he has not shown my statement was a "mistake" at all, "simple" or otherwise.
2. Since Foster has taken upon himself the job of critiquing my article, its his job to "confirm", or disprove, the statements of fact, such as whether the quotation I cite comes from Look magazine or not. (The quotation is in Look magazine of January 28, 1965)
3. The real issue isnt whether the quotation is to be found in Look magazine, but whether it is true or not. Foster is clearly confused on this point.
4. All researchers make errors. No human endeavor of any kind is without error. Therefore, no error "calls into question" anybody s research. Each statement has to be checked, and verified or disproven, by itself.
Senator Mansfield endorsed him, Francis Cardinal Spellman praised him, Vice-President Nixon liked him, and President Eisenhower supported him. So much for democracy. [sic] As for freedom, [sic] In June 1956 Diem organized two massive expeditions to the regions that were controlled by the Communists without the slightest use of force. His soldiers arrested tens of thousands of people. ... Hundreds, perhaps thousands of peasants were killed. Whole villages whose populations were not friendly to the government were destroyed by artillery. These facts were kept secret from the American people.57
Furr begins by restating the North Vietnamese claim that the Diem regime was a "puppet regime."58
The North Vietnamese may have claimed that Diems was a "puppet" regime But former South Vietnamese Vice-President Nguyen Cao Ki himself referred to his own regime, himself included, as "not nationalists but puppets and lackeys of America." So did some "pro-war" American writers.
The fact that Diem was selected as Prime Minister of South Vietnam in June 1954, just before the signing of the Geneva Accords, does not make his position less valid. It is not necessary to dredge up the "Hitler Law"59 to demonstrate that elections do not imply just or righteous leaders; nor does the fact that Diem was appointed Prime Minister make him a bad leader.
It does disprove the US claim to be supporting "democracy", however. This is the point, and Foster avoids it.
It makes him a man faced with a difficult situation, whose legacy is subjected to the epimethianism mentioned in
p. 40 - Chapter 1. Furr is judging Diem by standards to which he should not be subject.
What are the standards by which I am "judging" Diem? What are the standards by which Diem should be "judged"? How can appropriate "standards" of "judgement" be determined? Foster avoids all these questions and, in so doing, deprives his "criticism" of my essay of all validity.
Much of Furrs objection to Diems arrests and anti- Communist activity is no doubt driven by his Marxist sympathies. One needs only to look at his website to understand that his politics do not support anti-Communist activities.61 Perhaps Diems successes against the Communists creating, "the darkest period for the Party in the South" infuriated Furr. As Philip Catton notes, "The southern branch of the Communist party had almost ceased to exist in some areas, its members arrested or liquidated as the Diem regime dealt ruthlessly with real, and perceived
p. 41 - signs of opposition."62
Foster agrees with Catton that Diem created a reign of terror, and appears to approve of it! If the communists had done likewise, would he have approved?
But as Bui Tin pointed out the South Vietnamese governments corruption was:
[E]ffectively exploited by the Communist government in Hanoi, which at the same time tried to hide its own totalitarian nature and dependence on the international Communist movement. ...Thus, Hanoi was able to hold aloft the banner of patriotism, revolution, national sentiments, and the so-called righteous cause.63
p. 42 - Diem may have been a poor President, but the willful distortions of Furr and Young are irresponsible and antiintellectual.
"Willful distortions" are bad but Foster has not established that my article contains even a single "willful distortion." He simply asserts it!
And Furrs invective is abhorrent for a professional scholar.
The article of mine that Foster is trying vainly to criticize was an opinion piece in a college student newspaper, not a scholarly work. But Foster has not, in fact, established that my article contains any "invective." Of course, popular articles and even scholarly research by anticommunist scholars contain lots of anticommunist "invective." Fosters own dissertation contains a good deal of "invective."
He equates a publicly corrupt politician with the lack of desire by millions of Vietnamese to live, if not under a capitalist system, then at least free from Communism.
This sentence does not even make sense. How can I, or anyone, "equate" a politician with a "lack of desire"?
How does Foster know that "millions of Vietnamese" wanted to live "free from Communism"? He should at least have tried to prove it.
In so doing Furr attempts to create a history where the desire for freedom can only be defined by Marxists who, having formed a totalitarian state, can control the population through fear and intimidation.
Foster uses "invective" here: "totalitarian", "fear and intimidation." He makes no effort at all to argue that these terms are appropriate.
p. 151 - The section on Go Tell the Spartans cited Grover Furrs paper denying the Hué massacre. He is not the only "scholar" to deny the truth to fit his particular political agenda. D. Gareth Porter has attempted to refute the Hué massacre as well. He challenged the work of Professor Douglas Pike, the Texas Tech University author of a monograph called The Viet
p. 152 - Cong Strategy of Terror. In attacking the credibility of witnesses to the Hué massacre, Porter and those like him also challenged the fundamental assumptions under which the war was fought.
The Hué massacre was indisputable visual proof that the North Vietnamese Communists were de facto evil just like the Nazis, Soviets and Chinese Communists before them.
Porters well-reasoned and well-evidence study argues that the so-called "Hué massacre" supposedly exposed by Douglas Pike was, in fact, a fabrication. Foster does not even attempt to study the evidence around this important question. Much less, then, does he disprove Porters thesis.
How then can he state that it is "indisputable"?
(Incidentally, in 1987 Douglas Pike revealed to a student of mine that his study of the "Hué massacre" was completely wrong. )
p. 155 - In the US anti-war leftists were able to capitalize on Calleys crimes to tarnish the service of all Americans. For example, Grover Furr wrote "Such atrocities were typical of the US war effort. Many, many other similar massive killing operations were undertaken. Torture and war crimes were routine. To say, with knowledge of the facts, that the US was a lesser of evils is simply to apologize for Fascism [sic]."339 He also believes that these atrocities are "well documented but mainly in scholarly journals and books."340
Furr is not the only scholar with questionable statements about the My Lai massacre.
p. 160 - It is not remarkable that more than thirty years after the end of the Vietnam War, and after the allegations of mass atrocities by the anti-war crowd, that more evidence has not materialized, despite the allegations that it was the norm.
Many such stories of mass atrocities were available at that time, and many more have become available since then.
But heres the point: Foster makes no effort to demonstrate the truth of his claim here that "more evidence has not materialized." He just assumes it.
What is remarkable, though, is the fact that the anti-war crowd, including Furr, has not been held accountable for their smears.
What does Foster mean by "held accountable"? Exposed as wrong? Then why doesnt Foster do this? Evidently he is unable to do so.
Foster does not establish that any statement in my article constitutes a "smear" of anybody. This is simply "invective" of the kind Foster complained about above.
And no one has dared question their motivation for exploiting the dead Vietnamese for their own personal agenda.
What can this possibly mean? Does Foster mean that anyone who questions Douglas Pikes account of the "Hué massacre" or, maybe, anybody who disagrees with Foster himself is "exploiting the dead Vietnamese"?
Its just more "invective" by Foster.
p. 161 - Porter does not challenge the notion that civilians were killed; there is too much evidence that they were. Though some such as Furr vehemently deny that they occurred on the accepted scale see his website for more of his quotes.
Porter agrees that civilian members of the South Vietnamese governmental infrastructure were killed by the communists when they captured Hué. US and South Vietnamese authorities considered "Viet Cong infrastructure" i.e. civilians as legitimate targets of repression and assassination as well.
Several American sources remark on the huge civilian casualties caused by US and South Vietnamese forces in recapturing the city of Hué.
p. 175 - The film Full Metal Jacket does a decent job conveying some of the facts about the Tet Offensive; much more than many other films set in the same period. But because of the amount of historical revisionism from Marxists scholars like Young, Porter, and Furr it is difficult to sort fact from fiction.
Foster has failed to show a single example of "historical revisionism" in my article. Nor does he define "historical revisionism" either.
Once again, Foster assumes that which he claims to be proving. His work is more than incompetent. It is dishonest.
last modified 14 Feb 2007