Sunday, November 21, 2004

Destroying the Truth to Tell It

Michael Kinsley's column in the Los Angeles Times today makes a few interesting points about Iraq, but I disagree with the thrust of it. Kinsley also gives his version of the generally discredited Peter Arnett quote from Vietnam,

An American general in Vietnam famously said, "We had to destroy the village to save it."

This quote was probably faked by Arnett, now famous for his anit-Americanism and phony reporting. It's unusual to see it attributed to a general, as Kinsley does. Usually it's an unknown soldier or officer, or perhaps a major. In some reports, the mystery major can't remember saying it. You don't have to look far to learn that the quote is so doubtful it shouldn't be used; as examples, look here and here.

I suppose the quote is useful if you're trying to make a point and you don't care much about accuracy. In Kinsley's case, I guess he thought it would sound better if he invented a general to say it. In effect, he had to destroy the truth to tell his version of it.


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