- Hardcover: 316 pages
- Publisher: Steerforth; First Edition edition (April 25, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1586421042
- ISBN-13: 978-1586421045
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,556,658 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Who the Hell Are We Fighting?: The Story of Sam Adams and the Vietnam Intelligence Wars First Edition Edition
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"In this time of White House obfuscation, it's a pleasure to be able
to read about the candor—against all odds—of courageous patriots like
Sam Adams." —Mike Wallace
"Will enlighten the general reader. ... Hiam does a superb job of
showing what happens when an idiosyncratic analyst finds himself
ensconced in that quadrant [analyst right / boss wrong]. Sam's very uniqueness means that Who the Hell Are We Fighting? brings fundamental questions about the relationship between intelligence and policy into sharp relief. Not only will it enlighten the general reader; it is worthy of inclusion as a case study in any curriculum for intelligence analysts."-- Studies in Intelligence
"A diehard CIA man, Adams was not against the war but was unwilling to stand by as the Pentagon "cooked the books," knowingly and significantly reducing the enemy's order of battle. . . . Hiam's book offers a rich oral history relying upon the recollections of many key players, friend and foe alike, as well as Adams's meticulous notes, court documents, and other relevant sources." — Library Journal
"Who the Hell Are We Fighting? is a definitive contribution to an understanding of the most acrimonious intelligence controversy of the Vietnam War. C. Michael Hiam skillfully leads the reader to a clear understanding of the issues involved in the debate over the strength and composition of the of enemy forces in Vietnam. He supplements this with a comprehensive and understanding portrait of Sam Adams, the capable and patriotic CIA analyst whose crusade for truth and honsety led to the "libel trial of the century", and made him a folk-hero in the intelligence community."
— George W. Allen, author of None So Blind: A Personal Account of the Intelligence Failure in Vietnam
"Sam Adams was a good friend, both to myself and my son James. We knew him for about 20 years — I, at least, found him always to be a haunting figure. He went at least once to the real cloud forest in Costa Rica but spent decades in the vast informational cloud forest of the American intelligence agencies. Michael Hiam has written an excellent book about Sam's attempt to finally post what he believed to be the true numbers about Viet Cong strength during the years of the Viet Nam War.
I saw Sam as being rather like some of the great explorers of the South American forests — Colonel Fawcett perhaps, battling on through the murk of American intelligence; it was a noble exploration and this book should bring it to the attention of many who know nothing of the passions or the conflicts of that time."
— Larry McMurtry
"Take up this book and let Michael Hiam lead you toward a final understanding of how military and civilian intelligence failed us during the Vietnam War. This biographical account of Adams's CIA career, and his subsequent roll as a defendant in the CBS v. Westmorland libel trial, lets the facts speak for themselves in a chronological progression that will, by turns, disgust and inspire you. It takes us a giant step closer to history's final word on that sorry season."
— John Rolfe Gardiner, author of Double Stitch
"In the late 1960s, CIA analyst Sam Adams was almost alone in showing what one honest person can do in the face of political and bureaucratic corruption that twisted the truth about America's enemy strength during the 10-year war in Vietnam. Now, C. Michael Hiam provides new insight into Adams's epic battle in "Who the Hell Are We Fighting?" Hiam's book offers a new look at the life and times of Adams, who died too young. It could educate Agency professionals who want to do the right thing without violating the security strictures that keep them silent. To some at Langley, Adams was a legitimate hero, and Hiam talks to CIA colleagues who were silent decades ago about what really happened at Langley. Boat rocking at the CIA can be scary. Here is what the No.3 boss at the Agency told Adams about exposing the rigged intelligence. "I would like you to know that if you take your complaint independently to the White House — and even if you obtain the results you desire by doing so — your usefulness to the agency will thereafter be nil. Let me repeat that : Nil." "
— Patrick J. Sloyan Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for Newsday
"If you like history, intelligence, and gossip, they're all here, in spades. Boldface names abound: Seymour Hersh, Mike Wallace, "Billion Dollar Charlie", Nesson of "A Civil Action" Fame, David Boles, and Renata Adler. And if you don't think these same debates about the number and nature of "enemy combatants" are taking place right now at the CIA and the Pentagon, you're kidding yourself."
Alex Beam, The Boston Globe
About the Author
C. Michael Hiam lives in Brookline, Massachusetts, with his wife and two daughters. Who the Hell Are We Fighting? is his first book.
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Top Customer Reviews
other documents were deliberate lies. Various military and administration
officials were, according to him, partners in a self deception to
"influence, exaggerate and misrepresent" to the American public
the situation in Vietnam It all involved "placing a ceiling on
Order of Battle numbers and dropping whole categories of the
enemy" in order to prove that the US was winning the war.
A much repeated statement was that there was light at the end of the
tunnel. This notion was thoroughly disproved during Tet.
It appears that the light was, in fact, a Viet Cong indivual
with a lantern and weapon heading toward you. Although he
continued to shed light on where the conspiracy originated,
he never achieved his goal. Many of his supporters were
blacklisted or shunned.
The book was excellently organized and written. It's a
very good example of " tell them what they want to know
and let the live with the consequences. " Sam decided
to tell the truth as he saw it.
Yet this book is considerably more than the account of one man's struggle to provide the best truth possible. It is a fascinating look at some specific aspects of the intelligence process and how that process can be subverted for political ends. This reviewer suspects that the current Iraqi WMD uproar if looked at in detail would be found to be analogous to the need by MACV to demonstrate military success in Vietnam by fabricating artificially low numbers of Viet Cong fighters and ignoring evidence to the contrary.
Sam Adams worked as an analyst in the CIA, Directorate of Intelligence and from the time he begin work in 1963 (on the former Belgian Congo) he was clearly an engaged and hard working analyst. As it turned out he also had a passion for accuracy which in the end ill-served him in his career. This reviewer was a contemporary of Adams, but at time was serving in Military Intelligence. Among those of us who were fairly far down the intelligence food chain, when Sam Adams engaged in his fight for accuracy with MACV, we all considered him a real hero.
This is the first book by C. Michael Hiam and it is a brilliant debut. He is an excellent researcher and a good writer. In this book he presents a fair and accurate picture of what is now a mostly forgotten controversy that is both relevant and vitally important to any discussion of reforming the U.S. intelligence system.
The Trial of Henry Kissinger
Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers
On the Psychology of Military Incompetence
Pathology Of Power
There are other books on this issue of "cooking the books" and the strategic consequences of falsifying or prostituting intelligence, but this book by a first-time author, C. Michael Hiam, jumps to the head of the line. This is one of the most exciting and absorbing books on intelligence it has ever been my privilege to read. It is not a substitute for Sam Adams' own book, War of Numbers: An Intelligence Memoir nor for George Allen's None So Blind: A Personal Account of the Intelligence Failure in Vietnam or Bruce Jones' War Without Windows or Jim Wirtz The Tet Offensive: Intelligence Failure in War (Stemme) or even Orin de Forest's book Slow Burn: The Rise and Bitter Fall of American Intelligence in Vietnam.
I am especially moved by this book because it treats Sam Adams, who was reviled as often as he was a hero, in a gentle fashion, and makes it clear that the bottom line was that Adams was right and Adams had integrity. The book is superb at explaining why General Westmoreland had to back down when he threatened CBS with libel because too many witnesses were prepared to say that it was Westmoreland who ordered that the number of "enemy combatants" never go above 300,000. The military officers who loyally but stupidly followed that order, and the CIA bureaucrats who unethically "folded" on this important issue of "who are we fighting and how many" are tarred and feathered by this book, and right so, as it applies to the run up to war in Iraq and the planned bombing of Iran.
There are other CIA heroes in this book, notably Ed Hauch who got it right on the first day--he and others who actually knew Ho Chi Minh knew him to be a nationalist and knew we could not win, but it would take us 10 years to figure that out. Same same Iraq only we did not have any CIA people with both the knowledge and the integrity to speak out, just George "slam dunk" Tenet, the world's greatest intelligence prostitute.
As we consider tactical nuclear weapons for Iran, it is instructive to read in this book that the military planned for nuclear missile batteries to be inserted into Da Nang and Nha Trang.
As we reflect on how the Army Chief of Staff was ignored when he spoke of the need for major land forces to stabilize Iraq, only to be ignored, it is instructive to read in this book that Walt Rostow and others knew full well the standard rule of thumb for insurgencies, the need for a 27:1 ratio.
McNamara was deceived by Westmoreland--fast forward to Iraq and we have on the one hand a prostitution of intelligence, and on the other a series of truthful wise Army generals whose advice was ignored by civilians.
The author has done a really first rate job of capturing the nuances of the CIA and the military. His discussion of the hours spent on chit-chat unrelated to work reminds me of the AIM system today, where CIA has discussion groups on everything from teen-age drivers to menopause--in my experience, most CIA headquarters people are actually working only half the time.
The author will be long admired for this book, and on page 122 he delivers the coup de grace in citing Sherman Kent, speaking to Sam Adams, and asking "Have we gone beyond the bounds of reasonable dishonesty?" What an incredibly good job the author has done with this book.
I have been energized by this book, which validates my long-standing fight to induce intelligence reform. I was called a lunatic in 1992 when General Al Gray and I gave up on four years of internal appeals and publicly brought up the need for emphasis on open source intelligence. 18 years later we finally have a few well-meaning but impotent individuals without a program, without money, without staff, and without a clue. We will march on, and the intelligence reform will be imposed now rather than induced. I anticipate legislation on an independent Open Source Agency soon--unlike secret intelligence, public intelligence cannot be manipulated nor ignored.
The book gave me new insights on Sam Adams and on the entire order of battle methodology. Those trying to understand the Global War on Terror and the issues of foreign fighters versus home guard insurgents would do well to read this superb volume.
The author points out that Tet was a huge military failure, one that could have been exploited by the US military had they not been so deficient in intelligence about small units and the guerrillas (immortal paraphrase: "here we are in a guerrilla war and no one is counting the guerrillas"). The author educated me on the work that Sam Adams did on the Khemer Rouge in Cambodia, and saddened me when he discussed how Sam Adams' next project was going to be Chinese strategy--now wouldn't that have been something?
For the Information Operations folks, the book briefly but ably covers the Viet Cong "Military Prothlesizing" corps that was responsible for POW conversions into agents, for running psychological operations against the Saigon regime, and for penetrating the South Vietnamese Army and government, with a success rate of 30,000 or 5%. When combined with what Jim Bamford tells us on Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency about North Vietnamese Signals Intelligence, we can only marvel as the manner in which they beat our ass in the intelligence war, in part because of our lack of ethics in both the military and at the highest levels of the CIA.
Viet-Nam unraveled the Johnson presidency; I fully expect Iraq and Iran to unravel the Bush presidency. This book could not have emerged at a better time, and I recommend it very strongly to all intelligence, military, and policy professionals.