The job was to find captured Viet Cong guerrillas and to interview them. Over the next few years, they came up with 61,000 pages of transcripts. Those transcripts were translated into English and summarised and analysed.
Goure took those analyses and he gave briefings to all the top military brass in the American military establishment. And every time he gave a presentation on the Vietnam Motivation and Morale Project, he said the same things:
- that the Vietcong were utterly demoralised
- that they were about to give up
- that if pushed a little bit more, if bombed just a little bit more, they’ll throw up their hands in despair and run screaming back to Hanoi
It’s hard to overestimate just how seriously Goure was taken in those years. He was the only man who understood the mind of the enemy. When dignitaries came to Saigon, their first stop would be the villa in Rue Pasteur, where Goure would hold forth at cocktail parties with insights into this strange, mysterious enemy they were fighting.
He’d be picked up by helicopter and whisked to aircraft carriers off the coast of Vietnam, so he could brief the top military brass who had flown in from Washington. They used to say that Lyndon Johnson would walk around with a copy of Goure’s findings in his back pocket. What Goure said formed the justification for US policy in Vietnam.
Everyone believed what Goure said, with one exception – Konrad Kellen. He read the same interviews and reached the exact opposite conclusion.
Years later, he would say that his rethinking began with one memorable interview with a senior Vietcong captain. He was asked very early in the interview if he thought the Vietcong could win the war, and he said no.
But pages later, he was asked if he thought that the US could win the war, and he said no.
The second answer profoundly changes the meaning of the first. He didn’t think in terms of winning or losing at all, which is a very different proposition. An enemy who is indifferent to the outcome of a battle is the most dangerous enemy of all.
Phi Beta Iota: CIA case officers and analysts knew the truth and were ordered to be quiet. The national political and military authorities made their decisions on the basis of lies and mis-representations, and never once asked for the truth. The intelligence world likes to claim they did not have an intelligence failure, they were just not listened to, but reality and ethics demand more. The fact is that intelligence is remedial education for loosely-educated and often terribly corrupt policy makers and politicians. Any intelligence community that cannot get the truth a hearing, should be retired. Truth is what we do. Intelligence without integrity is not intelligence. Of course we also have the special case of Henry Kissinger, who sacrificed 20,000 more US killed in action, and tens if not hundreds of thousands of Vietnames, Laotians, and Cambodians, by sabotaging the Paris Peace Talks (it takes two — the North Vietnamese were quite stupid to let Henry lie to them). Integrity is the one threat that connects us to reality. Lose your integrity, lose your mind, lose your soul.
Fedor Dostoevsky: A man who lies to himself, and believes his own lies, becomes unable to recognize truth, either in himself or in anyone else.
Daniel Ellsberg speaking to Henry Kissinger: The danger is, you’ll become like a moron. You’ll become incapable of learning from most people in the world, no matter how much experience they have in their particular areas that may be much greater than yours” [because of your blind faith in the value of your narrow and often incorrect secret information].
Carl Jung: The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic poison which alienates the possessor from the community.