war words glossed

Kathleen E. Miller millerk at NYTIMES.COM
Wed Apr 2 20:42:13 UTC 2003

At 03:07 PM 4/2/2003 -0500, you wrote:
>Mona Charen has a column on America On-Line News today in which she states,
>in a discussion of Peter Arnett:
><begin quote>
>Remember the phrase, "We had to destroy the village in order to save it"? It
>has become totemic. Arnett was the originator of the phrase. The trouble is,
>as first B.G. Burkett and then I discovered after a little investigation, the
>report was wrong. It wasn't the United States that destroyed Ben Tre (a town,
>not a village), but the Vietcong. And the soldier Arnett was most likely
>quoting remembers saying, "It was a shame the town was destroyed," not the
>fatuity Arnett made famous.
><end quote>
>Does anyone know if Charen is correct?
>               - Jim Landau

There is a contemporary report in the New York Times:

  "At Ben Tre, a once placid Mekong Delta river city with a population of
35,000, and unnamed United States major looked out last week over the
wreckage in which 500 and possibly 1,000 civilians dead and told Peter
Arnett of the Associated Press: "It became necessary to destroy the town to
save it."
Nothing happening in the world of finance, economics, or newspapering in
the week can compare to what happened at Ben Tre. Nevertheless, the
upside-down logic that brought down 500-pound bombs, napalm, rockets,
antipersonnel bombs, and 105 millimeter artillery shells on the city - "to
save it" - may have parallels."

Two Kinds of Warfare; Parallels Found Between Psychology Of Vietnam and
Defense of the Dollar; By ALBERT L. KRAUS; New York Times (1857-Current
file), New York, N.Y.; Feb 14, 1968; pg. 61, 2 pgs

But that doesn't mean that's the way it happened.

Kathleen E. Miller
Research Assistant to William Safire
The New York Times

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