Truth, the integrity to speak it, the necessity to demand it, and the requirement truth be firmly rooted in objective, evidence-based reality, no less…is never a mere intangible that can fluctuate with time, by situation, or filtered to reflect ill – preconceived perspectives. In us brothers view, albeit in embedded in our Vietnam War combat experiences, there is no ‘post-truth’, there is only truth, microtized to each combat action.
When my brother and I served as combat infantry soldiers in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970 respectively…he in a mechanized unit with the 25th Infantry Division in south central regions, and Cambodia, and I with the 173d Airborne Brigade in Bin Dinh Province’ central highlands. There, then, at our respective platoon level, truth, objective fact, and reality, ala non-fiction, were consistently demanded and in your face. We attribute this, at least in part, to the close-proximity conditions which ‘infantryism’ and combat occurred in Vietnam, minimizing the margins for embellishment and fictionalization by the few who may otherwise be inclined – predisposed for doing so.
Sadly, but interestingly, there was some inevitability that a small percentage of combat soldiers…perhaps one or two per unit, would choose to import fiction to their role in or contribution to a combat action which their unit became engaged. Such remarks, as we recall, were seldom the basis for discussion. More likely, most ‘first person singular’ embellishments were interpreted by others who were present and in positions to directly observe what did or did not occur, as being uttered for the purpose of seeking some level of self-aggrandizement. But, who knows for sure what the influencers were. Our observations suggest most combat soldiers elected, in most instances, to not call those individuals out in ways that would humiliate them and certainly not because of fear, instead combat was such a uniquely personal experience which we believed contributed to mitigating one’s inclination and temperament to personally engage in ‘calling people out’. After all, combat and infantry units which routinely were prepared for and engaged in (offensive, defensive) combat action, were relatively small in number wherein ‘calling people out’ could manifest in various ways, absent direct verbal-physical confrontation. Most rational thinking soldiers, albeit 18-20 year old’s, possessed the necessary (inner) ability modify their behavior without ‘first person singulars’.
Generally, their characterizations involved variants of…soldiers contribution to, role in, or circumstances, conditions, and preludes to and perceptions preceding and/or during a firefight, a patrol, a night ambush, the composition (number-size, weaponry) of the adversary, and whether the adversaries, on this occasion, were Viet Cong or North Vietnamese Army regulars.
Whenever a combat soldier (in our respective units) elected to fictionalize and/or embellish combat-related events…all soldiers in the unit were aware. Some chose, at least in the immediate post-action, to ‘tune the words out’ applying the time-honored cliché of ‘consider the source’.
But, just as frequently, there would be an immediate and corrective rejoinder, uncompromising rejoinder in content, tone, and intent…usually executed by a squad or platoon leader which unequivocally described the embellishment and the soldier’s failure to recognize events and actions of participants in an objective and truthful reality.
Based on ‘us brothers’ collective memories – experiences in combat in Vietnam, rejoinders such as these carry similar themes…(1.) there is no first person singular, (2.) embellished or fictionalized accounts of one’s conduct during combat circumstances is not to be tolerated, (3.) the application of ‘woulda, shoulda, or coulda’ that conflict with reality and (human) emotional-behavioral maximums are irrelevant.
Therefore, we suspect then and today…those who persist in engaging in embellishment, lying, and/or the manufacture of ‘alternative facts’ about war and combat, yes, may hold emotional – psychological predispositions for doing so, which perhaps manifest, at least in part, as self-coping mechanisms under extraordinary circumstances which barely one tenth of one percent of the U.S. population have and, hopefully will ever have to experience. Still, there should be no confusion or equivocation as to reaction and consequence. That said, we recognize such inclinations – predispositions existed long before any combat soldier arrived ‘in-country’ (Vietnam) and reached a unit that could expect to be regularly engaged (offensively-defensively) in armed combat.
Sadly, the phrase ‘post-truth’…was assigned Oxford Dictionaries’ 2016 word of the year. It is explained as a condition where facts are less influential in shaping opinion than emotion, and personal belief. Those who are inclined to engage in ‘post-truth thinking’ are likely to minimize (a.) the value of experience and expertise, (b.) the centrality of fact, (c.) personal acceptance of humility in the face of complexity, (d.) the need for study, and (e.) the respect for ideas – perspectives, other than your own. Readers who may interpret this post, as true as it is, as having relevance to the current administration, may be correct.
Note: Inspiration for this blog is attributed to General Michael Hayden’s recent Op-Ed recently published in the New York Times.
Michael D. Moberly May 4, 2018 St. Louis email@example.com ‘The Intangible Asset Blog’ (http://kpstrat.com/blog) where attention span and action really matter!