Schieffer: 'Spin Machine' Makes It 'Hard to Tell Difference' Between Iraq & Vietnam

For the second week in a row, Bob Schieffer used his Wednesday “freeSpeech” slot on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric to forward a left of center outlook on the world. Last week (NewsBusters item), he denounced the Bush administration's “secret prisons,” arguing in establishing them the U.S. has adopted “the methods of our enemies.” This week, the network's Chief Washington correspondent and host of Face the Nation said he rejected equating Iraq with Vietnam, but “I am beginning to see parallels in the remarkably similar way the government then and the government now reports war news. During Vietnam, the government was on a never ending search for good news. Victory was always just around the corner. Over and over there were sightings of that light at the end of the tunnel. In 1964, a Senator returned from the war zone and declared: 'We are winning and everybody knows it, but Americans.' Sound familiar?”

Schieffer, anchor of the newscast until just a few weeks ago, cited some misinformation about Iraq and then argued: “Two different wars, but when the government spin machine starts spinning, it is hard to tell the difference.” (Transcript follows)

Schieffer did, however, separate himself from the far-left as he acknowledged “good intentions” behind the Iraq war, concluding his piece, “Sadly, there is no difference on one point: We went to Vietnam with good intentions and a bad plan. We may have managed to do the same thing in Iraq.”

Schieffer's “freeSpeech" commentary on the September 20 CBS Evening News with Katie Couric:
“From the beginning, there were those who saw Iraq as another Vietnam. I wasn’t one of them because I saw Vietnam up close. During the Cold War we chose Vietnam as the place to draw a line and tell the communists once and for all they could not cross it. Whatever Iraq is, it was never that.

“But I am beginning to see parallels in the remarkably similar way the government then and the government now reports war news. During Vietnam, the government was on a never ending search for good news. Victory was always just around the corner. Over and over there were sightings of that light at the end of the tunnel. In 1964, a Senator returned from the war zone and declared: 'We are winning and everybody knows it, but Americans.' Sound familiar? Mostly, the government just overwhelmed us with statistics to prove that we were winning -- body counts, enemy bunkers destroyed. Some were right, some wrong, but all proved irrelevant.

“I was reminded of that when the American command in Iraq released statistics showing the number of Iraqi civilians who had died violently in Baghdad had been reduced by half between July and August, but when questioned about it, conceded the numbers did not include those killed by bombs and rockets. Iraq and Vietnam. Two different wars, but when the government spin machine starts spinning, it is hard to tell the difference. Sadly, there is no difference on one point: We went to Vietnam with good intentions and a bad plan. We may have managed to do the same thing in Iraq.”
On its “freeSpeech” page, CBSNews.com will soon post video of Schieffer's commentary.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center