In A People’s History of the United States, 1492 - Present Howard Zinn excerpts an article I wrote for the New York Times in 1973. I always figured these few paragraphs would turn out to be my only durable literary legacy, and in an odd way this seems to be coming true.
Chasing down my old op-ed piece earlier today on Google, I discovered that Zinn’s brief excerpts have gone viral in the flourishing world of ghost-written student essays. The following paragraphs are the ones being heisted from Zinn’s book, repackaged, repurposed, and resold to student plagiarists as nuggets of original research. For whatever further service I may be to scholars, a pdf of the full text is here. The map below (you can steal that too; I did) shows where our bombs fell on Laos between 1965 and 1975.
The Pentagon’s most recent lies about bombing Cambodia bring back a question that often occurred to me when I was press attache at the American Embassy in Vientiane, Laos.
Why did we bother to lie? When I first arrived in Laos, I was instructed to answer all press questions about our massive and merciless bombing campaign in that tiny country with: “At the request of the Royal Laotian Government, the United States is conducting unarmed reconnaissance flights accompanied by armed escorts who have the right to return if fired upon.”
This was a lie. Every reporter to whom I told it knew it was a lie. Hanoi knew it was a lie. The International Control Commission knew it was a lie. Every interested Congressman and newspaper reader knew it was a lie....
After all, the lies did serve to keep something from somebody, and the somebody was us.