Neil Sheehan

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Neil Sheehan NYT Reporter UPI? Hanoi Apologist.

Part of the problem in setting the stage during the first two episodes was the selection of Neil Sheehan and Mai Elliott as narrators. Neil Sheehan particularly presented the deeply prejudiced and self-righteous views from his book, Bright Shining Lie. An old Vietnamese friend complained about the film’s treatment of Diem. He thought the film in its treatment of the non-Communist Vietnamese was no better than Stan Karnow’s earlier effort. It is to be noted that he (my friend) was a nationalist opposed to Diem while Diem was in office.

Sheehan’s Bright Shining Lie accepted Ho Chi Minh’s murders of Vietnamese nationalists as a necessity, called Hanoi’s butchery of 50,000 in 1956 “an unfortunate mistake” performed by Ho’s renegade underlings, dismissed the communist massacre at as a “stupid mistake” and a public relations problem. As late as July 2002 Sheehan told CSPAN that Hanoi’s “reeducation camps” were not so bad (no less than 10% died there) and, falsely, that Hanoi “didn’t shoot anyone.” See: Bill Laurie, review of Neil Sheehan’s A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam;[1] In March 1969, Sheehan said, “In some countries a Communist government may be the best government. . . . Anticommunism [is] as destructive as Stalinism.”[2]

At the First National Convocation on the Challenge of Building Peace, Neil Sheehan said North Vietnam was a “modern dynamic society” and South Vietnam was a “dying post-feudal order.”[3] After the exposure of Pham Xuan An, Hanoi’s master spy, Neil Sheehan remained a gushing fan: “My friend, who served the cause of journalism and the cause of his country with honor and distinction—fondest regards.”[4] No regards expressed for the Americans dying because of An’s treachery, according to Honorable Ross Johnson, a college acquaintance of An. In late 1974, Neil Sheehan would tell his audience at the Army War College “The idea of fairness and objectivity is specious.[5]

This is a "stump" essay which will be revisited when time permits.

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  2. Alice Widener, “The Coo of the Doves: From Waldorf to Hilton, 1949-1969,” U.S.A. Vol. XV, No. 26,March 14, 1969.
  3. Thomas B. Morgan, “Reporters of the Lost War,” Esquire, July 1984, 52 cited in Berman, The Perfect Spy: The Incredible Double Life of Pham Xuan An, Time Magazine Reporter & Vietnamese Communist Agent, New York: Harper Collins, 2007.
  4. Larry Berman, A Perfect Spy: The Incredible Double Life of Pham Xuan An, Time Magazine Reporter & Vietnamese Communist Agent, New York: Harper Collins, 2007, 10.
  5. Lewis Sorley, A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America’s Last Years in Vietnam, New York: Harcourt, 1999, 427-8n8.