By Craig Roberts
This article originally appeared in the December 1988 issue of Soldier of Fortune Magazine. The original title was "Two Minutes at Cam Ne", but the editorial staff renamed it "Fact, Fantasy and Film at Eleven."
I wrote this article in reference to one of the most famous Vietnam war reports done by Morley Safer and CBS News in August of 1965. In this piece, his camerman filmed a Marine lighting the roof of a hut with a Zippo lighter, and another shot of a flame thrower being used on a hut.
Roberts with VC at Cam Ne
His tone and condemnation of "burning the village" set the mode for anti-war reporting, no matter what the story actually was or what the facts bore out. In this incident, a vivid two minutes of footage showed him narrating the story while in the background a young Marine, was lighting a fire on a roof of a hut.
What safer failed to point out was that the "village" concealed the entrance to a massive Viet Cong tunnel complex, and had been discovered to be the headquarters of the Viet Cong R-60 Battalion that had plagued the Marines and the Da Nang Airbase. Some Marines on the operation said later that Safer had specifically asked the Marine to torch the hut behind him so he could get it on film. The result was a lasting impression on the home front that South Vietnamese civilians were helpless victims of unwarranted, wanton U.S. military aggression, which became a media blueprint for the way the news media handles the war in Iraq today.
The truth is different. I was there. Read the PDF copy and see what really happened.
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