Related Link The NYT story
On Saturday, Oct. 6, presidential historian Michael Beschloss was on Twitter early and often, tweeting and retweeting a front-page New York Times story about his new book, Presidents of War.
In the telling of veteran Times reporter David Sanger, the historian scored a spectacular discovery in the archives of the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin: a secret plan by General William Westmoreland to move tactical nuclear weapons to South Vietnam in 1968. According to Beschloss's account, an upset President Lyndon Johnson aborted the scheme, saving America from a potential nuclear confrontation that could have ignited World War III.
The story was sensational — and wrong or misleading on multiple counts.
Over the past 50 years, newspaper stories, journal articles and at least seven books, including one by me, have examined the Khe Sanh nuclear weapons discussions — just one of several relevant facts omitted by Beschloss and the Times.
The article was a publicity coup for the historian and his publisher, Crown/Penguin Random House, which also published Sanger's three most recent books. Yet the account distorts the actual events. It also creates the false impression that a reckless general brought America to the brink of nuclear war, only to be slapped down by a principled president.
How a muted one-page passage in Beschloss's book became a breathless article in the New York Times remains unclear. Sanger didn't respond to emailed questions about the Times story. Beschloss's publicist at Crown/Penguin Random House, Rachel Rokicki, responded to a detailed set of questions with a thirteen-word statement: "Presidents of War accurately represents Beschloss's research and Crown stands behind his work." ...