David Kaiser, writing in the blog History Unfolding, has a piece today called Truth Marches On, which is about how we come to know more and more about what actually happened in the past -- if the event was important and if new information can be had.
As Kaiser points out, these conditions are fulfilled with respect to the termination of the war in Vietnam. He says:
It has been my good fortune to have begun life in a family obsessed with news, and then to have become a professional historian. One wondered, in the 1960s and 1970s, what the real story was about Vietnam, Watergate, the Kennedy Assassination, the Nixon pardon, and much more, and now, little by little, we can find out. At the same time, one must face a somewhat painful paradox: by the time the truth comes out, few people care about it, and if the topic (such as Vietnam) still has political implications, it may easily be shouted down. Today's New York Times includes two revelations about matters I have wondered about for decades.Well I also wondered what the real story was, and I agree with Kaiser that when we finally get the facts we want, there aren't too many people who care.
When I read the paragraph this morning, I got stuck at the phrase "the truth comes out" since truth -- at least truth in the usual sense -- very rarely does finally come out. There are always further facts to emerge, further ways of looking at them, further significances to point out, and further rationales for differences of interpretation. I see the painfully slow emergence of facts as analogous to the method of exhaustion which Archimedes used to measure the circumference of a circle.
But that's not what I want to write about now. Only that the truths that Kaiser points us to are profoundly disturbing. They show Nixon's eagerness to rain death down on South Asia, killing Asians and indirectly bringing about the deaths of many of the Americans who carried out his orders. This we knew, though lacked proof back then. What's newly disturbing to me is Kissinger's toadying to Nixon, bringing the war to an end -- a necessesary end -- through deceitful "handling" of his boss.
Read the post and see if you see my point.
Image source: Guam to Nam, Operation Arclight: South Vietnam, 18 June 1965, by: Don Poss