A Monument to Deceit by C. Michael Hiam

C. Michael Hiam’s A Monument to Deceit: Sam Adams and the Vietnam Intelligence Wars, first published in 2006 under the title Who the Hell Are We Fighting? The Story of Sam Adams and the Vietnam Intelligence Wars, has been recently republished in paperback (ForeEdge, 352 pp., $24.95).

Hiam’s subject is what happened after Vietnam War CIA analyst Sam Adams discovered in 1968 that the U.S. was facing a Viet Cong army that was significantly larger than what other intelligence analysts believed—mainly because, Adams contended, Commanding General William Westmoreland pressured the top U.S. military leaders to overstate enemy casualty figures to make it appear that progress was being made in the war.

Kept quiet at the time, the issue burst into the national consciousness in 1982 when CBS TV aired the documentary “The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception,” in which Adams told his story. Adams and CBS accused Westmoreland of leading a conspiracy to misrepresent enemy troop strength. In 1984 Westmoreland filed a $120-million libel lawsuit against CBS. At the very last moment, just as the trial was about to go to jury, Westmoreland dropped the suit, and CBS issued a statement standing by its claims, but saying it never meant to say that the general was unpatriotic.

In his book, Hiam tells Adams’ compelling life story, complete with blow-by-blow accounts of his muckraking at the CIA, and fascinating details of the CBS-Westmoreland trial, which some people called “the libel trial of the century.” Adams died in 1988.

Sam Adams in 1984

Hiam makes a case Adams was correct—and General Westmoreland was guilty as charged. The death and destruction that resulted from the 1968 Tet Offensive (including the deaths of 3,895 American military personnel), as well as the American public’s turn against the war after it was over, Hiam says, became “the legacy of Westmoreland’s intelligence operation at MACV.”

Hiam characterizes that as “a legacy of providing estimates that were born of political expediency, and a legacy that, as Sam Adams would try to tell his fellow Americans over the next two decades, fatally undercut all of the sacrifices that they had made in Vietnam.”

—Marc Leepson

 

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