Saturday, April 27, 2013


A reporter’s love for the wounded people of Vietnam

By Uwe Siemon-Netto

Đc is the Vietnamese word for German, and Đc was Uwe Siemon-Netto’s nickname during his time as a Vietnam War correspondent. Exactly four decades after America’s withdrawal from that conflict, Siemon-Netto has chosen Đc as the title for his book about his five years of covering the war for Germany’slargest publishing house.
In the words of Peter R. Kann, the former publisher of the Wall Street Journal, “Uwe Siemon-Netto, the distinguished German journalist, has written a masterful memoir… He captures, as very few others have, the pathos and absurdities, the combat, cruelties and human cost of a conflict, which -- as he unflinchingly and correctly argues -- the wrong side won.
“From the street cafes of Saigon to special forces outposts in the central highlands, from villages where terror comes at night to the carnage and war crimes visited on the city of Hue at Tet, 1968, Uwe brings a brilliant reportorial talent and touch.  Above all, Uwe writes about the Vietnamese people:  street urchins and buffalo boys, courageous warriors and hapless war victims, and the full human panoply of a society at war. 
“As a German, Uwe had, as he puts it, ‘no dog in this fight’, but he understood the rights and wrongs of this war better than almost anyone and his heart, throughout the powerful and moving volume, is always and ardently with the Vietnamese people.”
Bestseller author Barbara Taylor Bradford called Đức  “one of the most touching and moving books I have read in a long time. It is also hilarious… I did cry at times, but I also laughed.” Former UPI editor-in-chief John O’Sullivan, described Đức ” as an “angry account of a betrayal of a nation,” adding, “But there is hope about people on every page too.”
Partly as a result of his Vietnam experiences, Siemon-Netto turned to theology, earning an MA and a Ph.D. in this field and writing a textbook on pastoral care to former warriors, titled, “The Acquittal of God, A Theology for Vietnam Veterans.”
Written in English, Duc will be available on by the end of May. It is also on offer in Vietnamese and a German edition is expected to be ready by early 2014. “This brilliant book reminds me of Theodore White’s In Search of History,” commented Maj. Gen. H.R. McMaster, author of Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs and the Lies that Led to Vietnam. “Uwe Siemon-Netto challenges facets of our flawed historical memory of the Vietnam War,” McMaster continued.
 In his epilogue, Uwe Siemon-Netto raises the timely question of whether contemporary democracies are politically and psychologically equipped and patient enough to fight guerrilla wars to a victorious conclusion. Citing the former North Vietnamese defense minister Vo Nguyen Giap’s assessment that they are not, Siemon-Netto observes in Đức with an eye on Afghanistan, “Even more dangerous totalitarians [than the Vietnamese Communists] are taking note today.”

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Cronkite's Betrayal

Letter to the editor of The Wall Street Journal, Wed. 04/10/13

The Tet Offensive and Press Conduct
Reader George McKenna is right in citing Walter Cronkite as an example of how a new form of journalism gave distorted narratives due to liberal ideology (Letters, April 6). As a West German combat correspondent, I was with Peter Braestrup in Hue during the 1968 Tet Offensive. Like Braestrup, I stood at a mass grave filled with the bodies of civilians slaughtered by the Viet Cong; like Braestrup, I also witnessed the destruction of the VC as a fighting force. Like Braestrup, too, I was enraged when Cronkite declared the war unwinnable, thus prompting President Lyndon B. Johnson to remark, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America."

With that Cronkite betrayed the very principle of journalism he had once stood for, namely, that a reporter should report and not opine. Once an honorable war reporter himself, he thus placed himself at the head of the new narcissistic media movement dominated by self-important pundits. This was both Cronkite's personal tragedy and a catastrophe for journalism as an indispensable pillar of democracy—all democracies, not only America's.

Uwe Siemon-Netto

Laguna Woods, Calif.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

FAITH MATTERS: On "gay marriage," consider natural law


It’s hard to say what is more depressing about the same-sex marriage madness: Is it the huge triumph of its proponents who have turned this into a human rights issue in the befuddled public mind? Or is it the profound inability of its opponents to argue in a coherent manner that would appeal not just to Christians but all people with commonsense and a sense of right and wrong?
Take Bill O’Reilly, the incarnate proof that ignorance in areas where knowledge was once considered essential for being part of the educated class -- theology, philosophy, the law, logic and ethics, for example -- has become a formula for success in this era of massive media moronization.
Here is O’Reilly’s opinion on whether homosexuals should wed:
The compelling argument is on the side of homosexuals. That’s where the compelling argument is. We’re Americans. We just want to be treated like everybody else. That’s a compelling argument, and to deny that, you have got to have a very strong argument on the other side. The argument on the other side hasn’t been able to do anything but thump the Bible.”
O’Reilly is of course a child of the execrable Sixties; still, I wonder who taught him critical thinking in his Catholic school, at Boston University, my Alma Mater, and, Heaven help us, Harvard. Arguing irrelevantly that “gay marriage” should be a matter for the states to settle, he gets it wrong on virtually every point except one, which he articulates crudely and insultingly by calling it “Bible thumping.”
He is right in as much as Christians are ill advised to argue in the public square on the basis of Scripture, which is meaningless to nonbelievers. But he doesn't know the real reason why what he calls Bible thumping makes no sense in this context;  it has not occurred to him that Christians would have an infinitely stronger argument if they appealed to natural law. It is to the shame of O’Reilly’s Catholic teachers in the nineteen sixties as much as many catechism instructors of today’s evangelicals, and most practitioners of the legal profession, that they have simply discarded natural law thinking, which had guided our and other civilizations for millennia.
It is a catastrophe with enormous genocidal consequences that this universal ethical code no longer applies, to wit Roe V. Wade, which prompted the slaughter of 56 million unborn babies in the last 40 years. By and large natural law parallels Mosaic Law but is independent of it.  It is not part of what theologians call the revelatio specialis (special revelation), which is only found in the Bible. But it is definitely part of the revelatio generalis (general revelation) that has been given to all of humanity. It is what Martin Luther called the lex inscripta, the law written upon everybody’s heart, according to the Apostle Paul.
You don’t have to be a Christian, a Jew or a Muslim to know that it wrong to suck the brains out of an unborn child’s head in order to make the skull collapse thus facilitating the little corpse’s removal from the mother’s womb.  You know it’s wrong because Natural Law is inscribed in your heart regardless of whether you are a Christian, a Buddhist, a Hindu or a nonbeliever, which is why there exists an Atheist and Agnostic Pro-Life League.
By the same token, no belief system other than the tyrannical confusion governing the minds of declining empires would consider the physical union of two people whose parts don’t fit and who therefore cannot procreate a “human right.” Let these two negotiate other rights for themselves, but please don’t equate this with marriage and family, the keystone of any healthy society since time immemorial. Call marriage an order of creation, as Christians would, or call it just commonsensical, as the rest of mankind will affirm. Both are valid arguments. So why drag the Bible, which is holy to us, into the hyperbolic sewers of narcissistic politics?
What the “gay rights” agitators demand is as insane as would be the claim of plumbers to the “human right” of being called dentists. It’s time to wake up, take a cold shower, shake ourselves and realize that this cannot be so, even if Fox commentators, who are supposedly of the side of the traditionalists, insist on the contrary.
If Christian theologians wish to contribute to the survival of a sane and free system, they should urgently begin teaching natural law again: to the public in general and specifically to media stars such as O’Reilly and his entourage of beautiful blondes and brunettes, almost all with law degrees but apparently with scant knowledge of the lex inscripta governing human conscience. As for the rest of the mainstream media marching in ideological lockstep, allow me to sigh: God help them!

Dr. Uwe Siemon-Netto, a veteran foreign correspondent, is director of the Center for Lutheran Theology and Public Life in Capistrano Beach, Calif.